It was during this period of cruising the internet that I came across Lal Hardy and New Wave tattoo. Lal is somewhat famous amongst tattoo cognoscenti as one of those tattoists who tattoo celebrities. There is a FAQ page on his website which starts with the question “Are you the Lal Hardy who has tattooed footballers and celebrities?”, to which the answer, rather sweetly, is “Yes I am – but I should point out that all of my clients are celebrities in their own right – including you.”
Looking at the website for the shop was reassuring, too. At that point there was a fashion for pretty young women to have stylised Celtic flower garlands tattooed over their feet or at the base of their spine. Lal is very good at designing these, and there were a lot of pictures on the site of delicate and intricate Celtic flower tattoos, all beautifully done, along with a lot of other tattoos. Lal does a lot of Japanese style work as well, and there were many gorgeous carp and chrysanthemum tattoos, and numerous others besides. It all looked like fantastic, skilled work.
I also liked the list of instructions on How To Care For Your New Tattoo, now sadly gone from the site. For some reason Preparation H used to be very big in tattoo aftercare; Lal’s instructions stated merely that you should use a mild lubricating ointment. The rest of the instructions were sensible too, every other one being “Do not pick at your new tattoo”, and finishing with “And finally, do NOT pick at your new tattoo”.
I also liked the system for getting a tattoo at Lal’s. Despite tattooing celebrities, Lal is not a “celebrity tattoist” and still works out of the shop he founded in 1979, which is not in Soho or Shoreditch or Islington or somewhere trendy and central like that, but in Muswell Hill. And not in the centre of Muswell Hill, either, but in a residential back street a bus ride away. Despite this, other than small non custom pieces which they do on a walk-in basis on Saturdays only, if you want to be tattooed at Lal Hardy’s, you have to go and see them first. You go to the studio, have a chat with the tattoist, agree together on the design, pay a deposit and make an appointment, usually for about a month’s time, and, in a month, you come back and get your tattoo. Given that New Wave Tattoo is not in any way on the beaten track (unless you live in Muswell Hill, of course), this betokened on Lal’s part both a confidence in the quality of his work and an unwillingness to compromise on his professionalism which was deeply reassuring. I picked up the phone.