Just before Christmas I got myself tattooed. Why? Well, why not, I guess. Life’s too short not to, etc…

I’ve told this story to a number of folks in the last few months since getting inked, so if you’ve heard it before, tough tits, you’re going to hear it again. Between 2001 and 2007 I lived in Preston, where, at the end of Friargate nearest the university, there was a coffee shop named Wise that I used to frequent on almost a daily basis. On the opposite side of Friargate to Wise was a row of establishments that comprised what I then considered to be the perfect microcosm of Preston and, indeed, any urbanized, highly populated, area found within these fair isles. From right to left there was a pub, a sex shop, a tattoo parlour and a florists. I’ve since revised my opinion, realizing that I was probably doing the tattoo parlour something of a disservice lumping it in with the other three.

There I sat in the window with my panini and a cup of tea watching the comings and goings of the people visiting each of these places (oddly, I don’t think I ever saw a single soul enter or leave the sex shop though, which is a little strange when you consider how much sex there is in the world…) and I always found myself drawn to the tattoo parlour thinking about what kind of tattoo I’d have done were I to one day venture across the street and cross the threshold into a world that I knew absolutely nothing about. Gradually the idea of having a tattoo began to take root and I began creating concepts and designs in my head that I thought would a) look good and b) carry some continuously relevant meaning for me throughout the rest of my existence on this blue ball.

At the time I was studying for a degree in Contemporary Music Studies at Uclan and was having something of a musical awakening, having been exposed to the minimalist composers such as Steve Reich, Phillip Glass and Terry Riley amongst others, so it seemed pretty obvious to me that there should be a musical inspiration behind anything that got permanently embedded into my skin. What though? I was buggered if I knew.

Fast forward 12 years or so and there I was approaching my 40th birthday thinking to myself, if not now, when? I’ll admit, yes, I am a chronic procrastinator, that it took me 12 years of trying, on and off, to come up with a design that I liked to finally decide to let go of the reins and let somebody who actually has artistic talent have a go. So, I took the bull by the horns (the bull having starved to death while waiting 12 years for me to get my shit together) and began my search for a tattoo artist in whom I could entrust my most precious thoughts and philosophies to be rendered visually upon my upper left arm (the upper right has a skin tag on it, which ruled that one out).

Having done quite a lot of research I had discovered a liking for a style of tattooing named ‘Trash Polka’ (very graphic and predominantly in black and red) and decided that that was the style I would go for as it seemed to sit well with the source material, two compositions I created in my third year as companion pieces for my end of year performance that provided the inspiration for the tattoo. A quick Google search ‘trash polka tattoo west yorkshire’ later and I had, miraculously, found the artist pretty much at the first click, a thoroughly decent bloke named Daniel Hartley (Dude Skinz) working out of The All Seeing Eye Tattoo Lounge in Heckmondwike.

Dan and I sat down to discuss my tattoo design last August and I was really pleased to see that he was obviously quite enthusiastic about the concept behind it, it being something he could get his teeth into design wise. So I paid my deposit, booked a date, went home and got on with my life for six months. In the meantime, Dan came up with what I think is a work of genius. He’d obviously taken on board everything I’d offered him regarding what I felt the tattoo should represent and the concept behind it and came at it from angle I’d never even considered. When he emailed me a copy of the design about a week before I was due in the studio I was speechless. I just sat there looking at the screen, taking it all in. Any concerns I’d had previously regarding the permanence of what I was about to do disappeared immediately and I couldn’t wait to have a needle stuck into my arm repeatedly, over and over and over again…

I know what you want to ask. Did it hurt, right? The short answer is yes, it fucking hurt. The first couple of hours weren’t too bad but the 5th and 6th hours were hard work. Still, it can’t have been too bad because I’m planning my next one already, for just after my 52nd birthday.

Thanks to Dan.