I took a Friday afternoon off work to get my tattoo fixed and drove up to Muswell Hill. When I arrived at New Wave Tattoo I felt like quite the old hand and had no qualms at all. Lal was tattooing a young woman, so one of the other tattoists took on my dolphin, which I dare say felt like quite an easy job for him. He explained that he would start by tattooing over the dolphin itself to crisp it up, and then do the waves. He also explained that it might hurt a little, as he would be tattooing over skin which had already been inked. He made a carbon of my sketch, transferred it carefully onto my hip, checked the positioning with me and got on with it.
It did hurt a bit, but not too much. Lal’s girl, however, was apparently in agony, judging by the fuss she was making. She was quite upper class, a bit of a Sloane Ranger having a fashionable Celtic flower garland at the base of her spine, and she was constantly moaning and complaining about how much it hurt. Actually, the base of the spine is quite a painful place to have a tattoo, but, my goodness, she was making a meal of it. Lal was being sympathy itself, and after a bit he suggested she take a break. “Take a few minutes, darling. Go outside, relax, talk to your boyfriend, have a breather. You’re being very brave.” The second she was out of earshot he leant back, stretched, and said to my tattoist “Oh my god, she is doing my head in.” It made me smile, and made me a bit smug that I wasn’t making a fuss.
My tattoo didn’t take long, and once I was done I paid up (I think it cost about £50) and drove home. I’d been instructed to keep the dressing on for two hours, and then wash it and dress it again. When I got home, I waited the prescribed period, then nervously went to remove the dressing. This was the point at which, last time, I’d seen that the ink had blown. I lifted the dressing off carefully and gently washed off the inky mess of cream and fluid that collects over a fresh tattoo. It was perfect. The lines were crisp and clean, the colour was bright and fresh and the untattoed skin was clear. It was beautiful. New Wave had made it into the tattoo I’d imagined.