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Back in May of last year, I wrote about tattoos, in the context of the temporary South London Swimming Club tattoos we wore in Rovaniemi. They inspired me to write about some tattoos I was planning to have. Now I have had them, and can tell you about them. But first, I have to tell you about my first tattoo.

When I was 39, my cousin, who is the same age as me less four months, suggested we should have a tattoo each to mark our fortieth birthdays. This seemed like a fine idea to me. We were recommended to a tattoo shop in Bristol, and went to stay with my brother and sister in law for the weekend to have our tattoos. We were both having what is known as walk-ins, small pieces of work done from flash, ie from pre-prepared designs. Slightly nervously, we went in, accompanied by my sister-in-law, who was a tattoo veteran, and told the receptionist what we wanted. She invited us to tame a seat, and to choose our designs from the many they had on the walls and in big folders.

I already knew I wanted a dolphin (original!) and there were lots of designs to choose from. I examined the various sheets and eventually found something a bit different to the sheets of Disneyfied dolphins jumping through waves which were then appearing on every shoulder, in the shape of a stylised outline of a leaping dolphin which looked a little like a Maori tattoo. Ali had chosen a sea horse. We were set!

More tomorrow.