Once the tattoos were done, two separate but concurrent processes began; the process of healing and the process of becoming used to my tattoos, of incorporating them into my own personal body kingdom, my map of myself. The healing was a doddle; all the tattoos healed up without any problem. The Cross Tree symbol and the turtle were healed within two weeks. The big tattoo took a bit longer, but the only thing that meant was that I couldn’t wear a bra for three weeks, since the healing tattoo started to itch as soon as I put one on. Fortunately it was February, which meant I could substitute vests without boiling alive.

The second process, of incorporating the tattoos into my body, of having them as part of me in my own worldview of myself as well as in reality, took a bit longer. Weirdly, with each tattoo I went through phases of not being sure about it, of thinking it wasn’t quite perfect. With the symbol, it’s tiny things that probably wouldn’t be visible to anyone else – a minute break in the ink line in one spot, a tiny bit of blurring in another. These are probably things which happened during the healing, and can easily be fixed, if I want them fixed.

With the turtle, I loved the tattoo itself, but became mildly obsessed with the fact that it was on the “wrong” side. I had originally intended to get it on my left breast, but because I’d been looking at photos of the fake tatts from Rovaniemi, I’d put it on the right. I kept thinking in annoyance that it would be better on my left breast, more balanced, in a more appropriate place. I would catch sight of it in the mirror when I showered and feel irritated with myself for getting it wrong.

With the big tattoo, I loved the position and the inking, but I wasn’t sure about the shading. Ange had put grey shading around the branches and pine cones in certain areas and it annoyed me; I kept thinking how much better the tattoo would be without the grey shading. I hatched a plan to get rid of it, to go and see her again and to get her to tattoo some more leaves over the shading.

Fortunately as the weeks passed I calmed down and went back to loving my tattoos. The turtle might be in the “wrong” place but it was only wrong according to my original plan. The right is just as good a place for it as the left, better in some ways. As for the big tattoo, when I was obsessing about the shading, I would look at it and only see the shading. Now I look at it and see the whole thing and I think it’s stunning. The shading is just part of it. I may change it, I may not – it feels irrelevant.

I think this feeling of not being quite happy about the end result may be part of the process. Having a tattoo, specially a big one, is a big deal and it changes your view of your body. It’s as if the queen in her castle had ordered a big national art work and after all the excitement of competition and selection of the final design, discussion and construction, comes the part when it’s unveiled and everyone critiques it and talks about whether they like it or not. There are bound to be a few naysayers, a few critics. But gradually people accept it, get used to it and fall in love with it, warts and all. It becomes part of the landscape.

More tomorrow.