The great day did not dawn auspiciously. I had to take the Northern Line way up to Highgate, that mythic land, and then get a bus. I had a bit of time, so before I got on the bus I hiked up to Highgate Village for a coffee. Have you ever been to Highgate Village? If not, my firm advice would be, don’t. A more entitled, arrogant place I have rarely been to. I judge this solely on the basis of a complete failure to get served in their Pain Quotidien and a less than enjoyable experience in their Café Nero, by the way, so it’s a whopping and unjustifiable generalisation, but that was my experience. Late and grumpy, but at least caffeinated, I hiked back down the hill and got on the bus, which took me through Muswell Hill, a lovely unpretentious villagey area ten minutes from Lal Hardy’s stuffed with nice-looking independent coffee shops. Berm, as they say in La Belle France. Oh, well. I’ll know for next time.

Arriving at the salon I was warmly greeted and asked to wait for a couple of minutes. The wait was enlivened by the arrival of an Irish woman with a tattoo she was extremely keen to get rid of. She had the look and air of a woman who makes it her chief business to have a boyfriend (not that I’m judging), but in her case it seemed to have gone a bit wrong as she was desperate to have the tattoo covered as it was causing problems with her current boyfriend. The tattoo, from listening to her, was the name of a previous boyfriend and it was on her lower stomach, where heher current beau could see it every time they had sex, which upset him. “Upset” appeared to be a euphemism for “make furiously angry and prone to violence”, as she was apparently so terrified of his reaction that she had sneaked off for two hours while he was at work to get it covered without his knowledge.

Unfortunately for her, neither Ange nor Lal could do it, as both had full days of appointments, but this didn’t stop her from trying for twenty minutes to persuade first the receptionist, then Ange, to fit her in. I got the impression that neither Ange nor Lal were particularly keen to get involved; I guess when you’re a tattooist you probably see a lot of people like this who get tattooed on impulse and it’s probably not an ideal scenario to get in the middle of. Mind you, I wish the very best of luck to anyone who tries it on with Lal, a large, bald, heavily tattoed gentleman with a VERY large dog out the back. The fact that both Lal and the dog are gentle souls and extremely courteous in no way detracts from the sense that they could both look after themselves quite nicely if they wanted to. 

The Irish lady eventually had to go off untattoed but with the promise that if she came back at ten am the next day, Saturday, when they do walk-in work, she would be the first in the queue. Neither Ange, I or the receptionist thought she would come back. We were all very sorry for her, but on the other hand it did leave me profoundly grateful for the sort of life which has largely kept me out of the claws of abusive men.

And then it was my turn! More tomorrow.