It’s been at least ten years since I first thought that I would like to get a tattoo. That time was spent mainly resisting the urge to get the first thing that popped into my head and trying to work out something ‘meaningful’ to put on my body. Something I am eternally grateful to myself for, seriously – in 2006 I was about one beer away from a large ‘Babyshambles’ logo on my chest. I knew I wanted something personal and something that would reflect my personality (a bit silly). However, invariably I would decide that if I was finding it so hard to decide upon something which had meaning to me then, perhaps, I was not yet ready for one. I stopped thinking about having one for a while after this, the vague notion popping into my head from time to time, but no serious thought about it.
This all changed after I started to think of my love of penguins, a creature I have found adorable and hilarious in equal measure for as long as I can remember. I’d looked at the Penguin Books logo, thinking that may reflect my love of reading and penguins at the same time and several designs – but none of them seemed quite right. So again I decided to leave it, but this time at least I had an idea of what I wanted. About a month after my initial decision on a penguin based tattoo, I ended up having to go to a&e. Sitting in the waiting room with Sarah we started messing about and drawing silly pictures – first on a notepad and then on each other. Sarah drew a small penguin on my arm, which I thought looked pretty cool, then she drew a rubber glove on his head. Genius, Feathers McGraw! I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t thought of him before – the villainous plasticine penguin diamond thief from Wallace and Gromit! The more I thought about it the more I liked it, until I was absolutely certain that this was the design I needed!
The next step was finding somewhere to get it done, surprisingly I didn’t know too many people who would be able to recommend a place to get it in Manchester. So instead I found a selection of recommended places in the centre of town and Sarah and myself decided to make a day of checking them out. The first few we visited were pretty unfriendly, responses ranging from “it can’t be done unless you go for a much larger piece” to “£40 and it will take twenty minutes” neither of which inspired much confidence. The last place we tried was Manchester Ink, the response was brilliant! The woman behind the desk was excited straight away by the design, having the same childhood memory of McGraw as me – adorable and terrifying, she passed the design to Roman – one of their artists, who discussed various styles and such and I booked myself in for the next available slot.
I’m the first one to admit, I am crap with needles – I’m always having to warn doctors of my ability to pass out in any position during a blood test… So obviously I was getting a little bit nervous when my appointment finally came up. Thankfully Sarah was on hand to calm my nerves and stop me from having a full blown freak-out. Roman was the one who would be tattooing me, and after pretty patiently putting up with me indecisively moving the design he had put together an inch up and down my arm for about twenty minutes we began.
I’d spoken to a few people an had been told to expect a weird kind of pain, like a long scratching feeling… To start with it was okay, then as the needle got closer to my armpit and more sensitive skin it started to hurt like hell! I thought I was doing okay with it – but Sarah told me after that I didn’t just look white but almost transparent for the first twenty minutes. Roman was awesome, once the outline was done he explained that things would be a lot less painful from here on – and was only lying a little bit! For most of the colouring it actually felt quite relaxing, like scratching a deep itch. It was at this point we started talking about who feathers McGraw was, Roman wasn’t familiar. Sarah had found out earlier in the week quite how ridiculous it is to explain him to someone who isn’t familiar with the character. When explaining what design I was having tattooed to a colleague she told me she was met with a totally blank expression when she said “he’s a penguin, who becomes a lodger to help the man and the dog pay the bills – but he’s actually a criminal, but everyone thinks the criminal is a chicken because he wears a rubber glove on his head.” Thankfully Roman was a little more into the idea, laughing and joking about the master villain I was getting on my arm.
All in all it took about two hours to get feathers finished, Roman kept perfecting the shading. But it was time well spent. looking at him now a week later and almost fully healed its hard not to smile. After six years of wanting one, and having finally decided on it I couldn’t be happier – it’s a perfect mix of fun, silly and nostalgic. I am just looking forward to having some adventures and exploring the world with the feathery fiend on my arm from now on.