Behind a squat, ugly dog – all muscle and jowls – strode its owner. This was to be Rambo’s tattooist, recommended by a Copenhagen barman the night before. A key was
turned, we entered a dingy affair near Parken stadium and Rambo rolled up his trouser legs.
Thigh-high Skull Tattoos
Besmirching of the skin? Sexy as hell? An arty contrivance, or the preserve of sluts and sailors? ‘The preserve of queers, more like,’ quipped legendary trucker Blomeley before we left. ‘What’s he going to have done? “Mild” and “Bitter” on each tit? Ha ha.’
Well, whatever one’s opinion on tattoos, it seemed plain as a pikestaff – to me, at least – that an adroit manoeuvre would now be to retreat. Swiftly. The tattooist, you see, had a deficiency in what I’d regard as a crucial facial department. He was short-changed to the tune of one eye. Now, neither of us had anything against his left eye; the trouble is, neither did he.
Odysseus, God of Tattoos?
Rambo looked confident, however, as this man I’d hesitate to let loose with a pencil, busied himself with a nine-needle tattoo gun and a cigarette. I didn’t catch his name, but let’s call our myopic chum “Polyphemus, Cyclops son of Poseidon.” Or perhaps Poly for short would be easier?
Meanwhile, fellow trucker Simon was puzzling over an A4 sheet. ‘How do you spell Jacqueline?’ he asked. ‘I’ve been with her 15 years, but imagine if I made a mistake with the letters. I’d better just double-check.’ Crumbs, what a debacle this was turning into. But Simon had noticed Poly, too, and was already having second thoughts.
Five minutes later, Simon was pondering fonts, sizes and designs in a nearby internet cafe – in preparation for another tattooist. As he left, Poly rolled the gigantic stone over the front of his cave, I mean shop, and prepared to devour Rambo for elevenses. Well, what he actually did was got out some Vaseline.
‘Anybody who says it doesn’t hurt is lying,’ said Rambo. ‘It’s like a little bee sting.’ What, a little bee? Or a little sting? (The last time I got stung by a bee it bloody well hurt.) ‘Or like the scratch of a bramble. Yes, that’s how it feels – it’s a mixture of pleasure and pain.’ Ooh, how Fifty Shades.
As we spoke, Rolf “Poly” Harris, our human, one-eyed kaleidoscope of reds, greens and blacks, was painting his dot to dot picture, occasionally looking up at me to answer questions. (When I say at me, obviously I mean looking at the wall six feet or so away.) The gun whirred, colouring in blue sky above an eagle on Rambo’s shin; the first droplets of blood appeared; and Blomeley’s incisive rhetoric flitted through my mind: ‘He doesn’t want a little prick in his leg, he wants it in his arse.’
There have been huge advances in tattoo technology: fading is not nearly so much of a problem as it was 20 years ago. But the issue of getting started remains. As a novice, a mannequin isn’t any good to practise on; a real person is needed. ‘And there is no tattoo school as such,’ said Poly. ‘You need to be good at drawing and then find a master.’
Wax on, wax off, Grasshopper…