Miraculously, once the tattoing stopped, the pain completely went away and the worst that was left was a little soreness. Before we left, both Ange and I took pictures of my big tattoo, and she and Lal gave us instructions on how to care for our new tatts. All the tatts were dressed with ointment and a covering of cling film held on with micropore, to stop any inky ooze getting onto our clothes. We were to keep them covered for about four or five hours, after which the tattoos should be washed thoroughly with warm water and mild (not medicated) soap and patted dry. Ange recommended that I redress the big tattoo with cling film overnight to stop gunk getting on my sheets, and that I kept my bra off until the next day to avoid rubbing and irritating the fresh tattoo.
Lal explained that in a day or two the tattoos would dry up and start to scab; at this stage we MUST NOT scratch or pick at them, no matter how itchy they felt. This is because the ink isn’t fixed until the skin heals, and if you scratch you could damage the tattoo. The tatts should be washed twice a day and redressed with ointment afterwards; the ointment would keep the skin supple and aid healing, as well as preventing infection. Lal suggested that if I couldn’t reach the tattoo on my back, I smear some ointment on a piece of cling film and rub my back with it, rather like drying yourself with a towel after a bath; this proved to be an invaluable piece of advice, and probably saved me from putting my shoulder out in a vain attempt to reach over my opposite shoulder.
Lal recommended we buy “tattoo ointment” from the convenience store next door, which turned out to be Bepanthen nappy rash cream – as soon as we appeared, the proprietor grinned and asked “Tattoo cream?”. (It’s another sign of Lal’s approach that, despite being relatively well known in the world of tattoos, he doesn’t sell expensive tattoo aftercare products, his own or others’, and doesn’t even bother selling Bepanthen, but is happy to let the shop next door have the trade.) After a couple of weeks the scabs would drop off and the tatts would be covered with ‘onion skin’, a stage of healing which makes the tattoo look a little dull; in a couple more weeks this too would drop off and reveal the tattoo in all its glory.
Both Lal and Ange stressed several times that we should call them if we had any concerns, particularly if we saw any signs of infection. They reminded us that an unhealed tattoo is an open wound and must be kept clean and looked after properly. And if, once it was healed, we had any concerns, we should call them then too. Sometimes ink doesn’t quite take in some places or the healing process produces a less than perfect effect, and they would be happy to fix any problems for free, it was all part of the service.
And that was it! We paid, thanked them both again, and parted with, as they say, expressions of mutual esteem. More tomorrow.