Sunday, March 27, 2011

MI FIRST TATTOO ©

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I was about 13 now, so I decided it was time for mi first tattoo. You may wonder where such a strange thought would come from, especially from a 13-year-old. Well, I'd grown up looking at tattoos all mi life see, 'cause mi dad had three on his arms. He'd had them put on when he was a young man, just after he came out of the army. I guess he was so pleased to be alive after going through WWI, that a tattoo was a way of celebrating life. On one arm he had a young woman wrapped only in a Union Jack flag. Her right leg was slightly raised as she balanced on a world globe. On the other arm, he had another nude woman, standing straight-legged, holding two flag poles in front of her so one couldn't see her breasts. Underneath that, on the wrist area, he had a heart with two hands in the "hands across the water"pose.

I'd asked mi dad many a time, "Did those tattoos hurt, Dad?"

"Not much,"he sez.

"How did they put them on, Dad?"

"With sharp bamboo needles,"he sez.

"How long have they been on, Dad?"

"Fifty bloody years!"he sez. "I put 'em on when I was young and bloody stupid."

The following week I met a 16-year-old boy who used to go to Ryburn school. When I saw that he had a new tattoo on his arm I asked him where he got it from. "Rex Stokers in Bradford,"he sez.

"Why's it all covered in scabs?"I sez to him.

"All tattoos do that,"he sez. "But you haven't got to knock the scabs off, 'cause the colour will come out if you do."All I needed to know was where the tattoo parlour was. So, I made sure I had the directions right before we parted company.

By this time, I'd been allowed to get a pair of denim jeans, after much arguing and many fall outs with mi mum. Had it been up to her, I'd have been in short trousers until I was 21. This way she probably thought it would give her control and power over me.

That week I took a day off school. I waited until Iris had gone off to work, then I came home from where I'd been hiding out. I got into my jeans and put on a pair of hobnailed boots, a white T-shirt and mi old donkey jacket. Slicking mi hair back in the Teddy boy fashion, I now looked a couple of years older, or so I thought! That's it, I thought, as I stood in front of the mirror, putting the final touches to mi hair. I made mi way down to Sawerby Bridge train station and bought a cheap half return to Bradford.

It took me quite a while to find the place because: number one, the boy I'd met didn't give me very good instructions, and, number two, Bradford was the biggest city I'd ever seen, up 'til that point. I stopped a working man outside Bradford station and he sez, "The street you're looking for is way up the other end of town."

"How long will it take to walk there?"I sez.

"It'll take about an hour if ya walking, but you'd be better off taking a bus ?cause it's a bit difficult to find from here."I'd saved up mi shillings and mi dad had given me 5 bob which to me was a small fortune. So, it wasn't a case of not having the bus fare, it was more a case of value for money.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided to get the bus halfway and I'd walk the rest of the way. Eventually, after about 1 1/2 hours, I found myself sanding outside the tattoo parlour. The sign read:

REX STOKER TATTOO PARLOUR

In the window there were three large boards with tattoo art all over them. The only problem was that the shop window was so dirty from all the coal dust and smog that I could not see them in any detail. I spat on his window and rubbed it with the sleeve of mi old donkey jacket, but all that did was smear the greazy grime all over the place and make it worse.

I was having a few doubts now, 'cause I'd been pricked by needles before when a couple of mi friends and me tried to put on a home-made job with the school nibs and the Indian ink out of the desk ink pot.

Five or six times I tried to go in the door but, each time I tried, Fear stopped me before I could push the door open. "What are you going to do if it hurts?"said Fear. "And what happens if you get halfway through it and can't stand the pain any longer? And if you can stand it and get it on, what's your mum going to say?"The voice of Fear was in full swing now, trying desperately to control me.

Then the voice of Freedom sez, "Screw him, of course you can stand the pain. You're a tough nut just like ya dad, and who gives a shit what Iris sez. Once it's on, it's on. How's anybody going to get it off? And how long do you think you could live with yourself if you chicken out now? Just think what it would be like going home on the train with no tattoo. Screw Fear and screw your mother too!!! It's not her arm. So what say does she have in the matter, anyway? Screw 'em all! If you want to get a tattoo, then get one and that's all I have to say about the matter!!!"

That was all I needed to hear. So, I marched up to his dirty, half-glass door and pushed it open. The door opened into a long passageway and the walls were covered with large drawings of tattoos. I didn't take much notice of them so I wouldn't get distracted, which I knew would give rise to hesitation and, in turn, the voice of Fear would try to grab me again. So, I just kept going until I reached the far doorway where I could hear the radio and the low buzzing sound coming from inside.

There was only one door which was in the left-hand corner of the passage. It was wide open, so I puffed out mi chest and walked straight in. "What can I do for you?"sez Rex Stoker looking up from the tattoo he was wiping with a dirty old rag.

"I come for a tattoo!"I sez to him.

"How old are you young 'un?"he sez.

"Just sixteen,"I sez. "Why? How old do I have to be before I can get a tattoo?"

"Sixteen,"he sez. "Are you sure you're sixteen? You don't look sixteen to me!"

"I'm sixteen,"I sez. "I'm working as a driver's mate. I've been left school for twelve months now."
"All right, lad, if you say you're sixteen, then you're sixteen. I'm asking because I don't want your mother coming down to my shop and getting me into trouble, all right?"

"All right,"I sez.

"Have a look around and see what you want on. I'll be done here in about half an hour."

Rex Stoker was a man of about sixty years of age. He was mostly bald and had a fat face with large jowls and a couple of double chins. He wore thick bifocals and a cigarette was always hanging out of the corner of his mouth, with a long bent ash just about to fall on his ink-covered trousers.

The young Teddy boy who was sat in the old barber's chair was having an eagle tattooed on his right arm. As soon as Rex's cigarette was too small to hold between his lips, he spat it out on the floor and with one hand he lit up another. The rag that Rex was wiping away the blue ink and blood with, looked to me like a piece of old pajama leg. There was no such thing as Kleenex tissues or paper towels in those days. Even the toilet paper was rough and hard. So, the old rags served the purpose quite well. The fashionable Teddy boy who sat in the chair kept wincing his face in pain every so often, usually when the needle went into the skin.

"Does it hurt?"I sez.

"No, can't feel a thing,"he sez, his fingers trembling on the arm of the chair.

"It's a good job it doesn't hurt,"I thought, or you'd be hanging off the light bulb by now!

"Have you found something you like?"sez Rex Stoker, as I look up at all the small ink drawings that are hanging on the walls.

"How much is this swallow?"I sez, pointing to a beautiful red and blue swallow.

"I'll do that one for half-a-crown,"sez Rex.

"All right, that sounds good enough for me,"I sez.

When Rex had finishes the Teddy boy's arm, he sez, "All right, lad, sit ya self down and take off yer jacket. Roll ya sleeve up as far as it will go. Don't want to get ink all over ya white T-shirt,"he sez. "Now, whereabouts do you want it?"he sez.

"On mi left arm,"I sez. "You can put it about there somewhere."

Next, Rex got out an old cut-throat razor, then dipped an old worn shaving brush into a pot of cold water. "I'm going to shave off whatever bit of hair ya got growing there!"he sez, as he sloshes the soapy shaving brush around mi arm in small circles. Next, he gave the old cut-throat razor a few slaps up and down the old leather strap. "I've got more hair on mi arse than ya got on ya whole arm!"sez Rex, as he scrapes off a few blond hairs.

Next, he smeared some white Vaseline on mi arm. Then he picked up the tattoo gun and turned on the radio. The louder he turned up the radio, the faster the needle in the gun seemed to go. When the volume was just as he wanted it, he dipped the tattoo machine in the dirty water and swished it around a few times. Then he shook the machine up and down at his side to get the murky water out of it.

"Don't you need a tracing?"I sez.

"I've done more swallows than ya've had fucks!"he sez as he dips the needle into the ink pot. "Now, this might hurt a bit, so hold still if you want a good tattoo!"he sez.

Oh, shit, I thought. Why did mi dad have to have tattoos on his arms? If he didn't have any, I probably wouldn't want one. But it's too late to turn back now!

"Here we go!"sez Rex, as he pushes the needles in mi arm and proceeds to draw a curved blue line. "How's that feel, lad? Ya all right?"

"Aye,"I sez. "It's not half as bad as I thought it would be!"

"Oh, it will be over before ya know it, lad. This is only a small tattoo."

"How do you know where you're drawing? All I can see is a big patch of dark blue ink everywhere,"I sez.

"I've been tattooing for nearly forty years,"he sez. "I could do it in mi sleep."As the tattoo needle bit into mi skin, I could feel a slight burning sensation, but I kept mi arm motionless because I really wanted a good tattoo. "Yer doing much better than that bloody Teddy boy who was just here,"sez Rex. "I thought he was going to climb up the back of mi old barber's chair for a while there."

After a while, he sez, "That's it, lad. That's the outline done. Have a rest for a minute while I light another fag and wash out mi machine. Then we'll put a bit of colour into it."

"Can you spare a fag for me, Rex?"I sez.

"Aye, all right lad, but I don't usually hand out mi fags. If ya'd have asked for mi missus, that would have been no problem, but mi fags are more important. Here ya are then, but don't ask for another one!"

"Thanks, Rex, you're a real pal,"I sez, as I lit the Senior Service.

"All right, hold still again, and we'll put a bit of red on its chest and a bit more red at the end of its wing feathers,"he sez. "And that should just about do it."Rex smeared on a bit more Vaseline and started to add a touch of red to the now swollen tattoo. A few minutes later he sez, "That's it! That's good enough for me."

After he cleaned up mi arm with his dirty old ink rag and then cleaned it all off with soapy water and a dry towel, mi first tattoo looked great! The lines all looked perfect to me, and the touch of red on the swallow's chest made her come alive.

"That'll be half a crown,"sez Rex. "Chuck it in the tin so I can pay mi rent again when it's due."

"Thanks, Rex,"I sez. "It's a real beauty. I like it a lot!"

"Try not to get it dirty and put a bit of cream on it every day for a week and don't pick the scabs off when they come or some of the colour may come out. Have ya got that?"

"Aye,"I sez, as I put mi old donkey jacket back on.

Just as I was about to walk out of his shop, he sez to me, "Hey!"

"What?"I sez.

"I know yer not sixteen, so if your mum hits the bloody roof, don't tell her who did it for ya. I'm an old man now and tattooing is my only source of bread and butter. If they closed me down, I'd be knackered. I put the tattoo on for ya because I like ya and I know how much it meant to you. So, not a bloody word to anyone, eh?"

"Not a bloody word to anyone, Rex,"I sez, walking out of his shop.

Soon as I was back out on the street again, and I'd checked to make sure no one was watching, I jumped up in the air as high as I could, clicked mi hobnailed boots together twice and then landed on both feet again.

Seeing as I had quite a bit of time to spare, I bought five Woodbines and walked all the way back to Bradford Station and still had forty five minutes to wait for mi train home. As I sat on the wooden green bench in the station, I smoked a Willie Woodbine and slipped mi arm out of mi donkey jacket so I could take another look at mi new tattoo. It was such a great tattoo that I decided to call her ?Susie.' I was still staring at her when the guard yelled out, "The Bradford-Halifax train will be leaving in two minutes! All aboard!"

Jumping off the bench, I found the smoking carriage and climbed aboard. I found miself a good window seat and made miself as comfortable as possible. I took mi old donkey jacket off and put it across mi legs so I could stare at mi new swallow tattoo all the way home.

I'd timed the whole trip so I would get back to Sawerby Bridge about 4 p.m. This was the time Ryburn School got out, so it would not look out of place, a schoolboy walking around the street instead of being at school.

As I walked up the street to Boston Hill, I ran into a boy I knew from mi class. "Where you been today, Dick?"he sez to me. "Have you been sick?"

"Don't be daft,"I sez. "I went to Bradford."

"What did ya go to Bradford for?"he sez.

"To get a tattoo, of course! Why else would I go all the way to Bradford?"

"Yeh, sure, Dick,"he sez in disbelief.

"Oh, you don't believe me then?"I sez.

"Course I don't. That's an outright lie. You're not old enough for a tattoo, for a start, and your mother would never let you get one!"

"Oh, you think so, eh? Well, what does this look like to you?"I sez, as I slip mi arm out of mi jacket.
"Oh, shit, bloody hell, that's a real tattoo, Dick!"

"Of course it bloody well is. I don't tell lies. Why should I? I've got no reason to."

"What's your mum gonna say when she sees that?"

"I'm not going to show her,"I sez. "Not until it's all healed up, anyway."

"Did it hurt, Dick?"

"No, didn't hurt a bit. It was a piece of cake,"I sez to him.

"Shit, wait until I tell the boys about this. They'll never believe me!"

With that, he ran off to tell all his mates, and I thought to miself, "That'll teach him. Call me a bloody liar, would he? He won't call me that again in a hurry."

Before mi mum got home, I did mi jobs and put a long-sleeved shirt on and buttoned the cuffs down so there was no chance of her seeing mi arms.

After tea, she sez to me, "You can wash up the dishes tonight. I've got another little job for Sheila to do instead of the dishes."

"But that's her job!"I sez. "I've done all my jobs, so why should I do more work?"

"Do as you're bloody well told!"she sez. "And don't argue with me or you'll get what for!"She walked out of the room with Sheila, so I filled the sink with water and put some liquid soap in it, then proceeded to wash the dishes.

When she came back in the kitchen she sez, "Get that bloody long-sleeved shirt off! How the hell can you wash the dishes with that on?"

"I can do it easy!"I sez, keeping mi eyes down towards the sink.

"Get that bloody thing off, I said, before I rip it off!"

Oh, shit! Now what do I do? She's sure to see mi arm now! Maybe, if I keep mi arm towards the wall, she won't see it. Very carefully I removed mi shirt, then slung it over the back of the chair that was behind me. "Don't just throw your bloody shirt like that! Now go and fold it up proper,"she sez. There was naught to do now but to turn around. Maybe she won't notice it, I thought.

"What the bloody hell is that on your arm?"she sez.

"It's a swallow. I drew it on mi arm at school today."

"Then why's your bloody arm so swollen and red?"she sez. "Give me that bloody arm here. Let me have a damn good look at it!"As she grabbed mi arm, I jerked it away.

"It's a tattoo!"I said.

"That's not a bloody tattoo. Tattoos are not swollen like that. Show me your bloody arm before I belt you one!"She grabbed my left arm again and took a closer look. "Where's mi bloody scrubbing brush?"she sez. "I'll soon see whether it's a bloody tattoo or not!"With that, she grabbed the scrubbing brush, dipped it in the soapy washing-up water and proceeded to scrub the fresh tattoo.

"Owwww!"I sez. "Stop it! You're hurting me."

"I'll bloody well hurt you in a minute if I find out that bloody thing won't come off. I'll make ya say bloody ?Ow,' you rotten little bugger!"She scrubbed at it again and now it started to bleed.

So, I yelled at her, "Stop it! You're hurting my arm and now you've made it bleed again!"

"That's a bloody tattoo!"she sez.

"That's what I've been telling you for the last five minutes!"I sez. "You can't scrub it off, 'cause it won't come off. It was put on with a machine and ink!"I sez. With that bit of knowledge I gave her, she flew into a fuming rage. She grabbed the bamboo cane and started to lay into me, everywhere and anywhere she could.

After she tires herself out, she sez, "Who the hell did that to you?"

"I'll never, ever tell you!"I sez. "So you're wasting your time asking me!"

"Right, lad! I'm going to see your teacher tomorrow and then I'm going to see the police to see what can be done about whoever put that thing on your arm!"

"You can't do a thing to him!"I sez. " 'Cause I told him I was sixteen and I have no intention of telling you or anyone else what his name is, so you can do what you like!"With that, I ran out of the house and stayed out 'til ten o'clock that night.

When I got home, the door was locked, so I had to knock on it to get their attention. Jim Bailey opened the door and let me in. "What time do you call this?"he sez, as I walk past him.

"Call it what you like!"I sez in an angry voice. He slammed the door and came after me, so I bounded up the stairs onto the first landing. Then I bounded up my flight of stairs to mi room. As soon as I got inside, I leaned the back of an old chair under the door knob so he could not get in.

"Open this door, lad!"he sez when he's finally ascended both flights of stairs, huffing and puffing.

"Go away!"I sez. "I'm just about sick to death of you and her. Why don't you go and call the police and when they get here I'll tell them everything about you two. By the time I'm finished, you two will get done for cruelty!"

Then mi mum's voice sez, "Open this door, Richard!"

By this time, I was in tears and really upset, so I sez, "Go away, you're worse than he is. At least he's got an excuse 'cause I'm not his son, but you, you've got no excuse whatsoever. I'm sick to death of both of you two. You're both a right pair, and if you don't go away and leave me alone, then I'll open the skylight window and jump off the roof. You'll have to find another mug to take your bad temper out on then. Now get lost! Both of you, 'cause I mean it."

Not a word came from outside mi door for ages. Then mi mum's voice sez, "Come on, open the door, Richard. I'm not angry with you anymore."

"Go away!"I sez, and with that I laid down on mi bed and cried miself into the darkness. As I lost miself in the darkness, nothing seemed to matter anymore. I forgot all about Iris and Jim. I forgot all about mi new tattoo and the police and the headmaster. In mi inner world nothing and no one existed. It was full of miself. It's always been like that for me. Even as a child I always knew the difference between dreams and reality.

The next day at school I was the talk of the playground. "Swindells has got a tattoo on his arm!"someone sez.

One boy sez, "Can I see your tattoo, Dick?"

Another sez, "You think you're a smart one, don't you, Swindells?"

Another said, "My brother has got a tattoo and it's better than yours!"

Another said, "They're all jealous, Dick. Take no bloody notice of them, 'cause they don't have the balls to do it!"

Even some of the teachers sez to me, "Someone told me you have a tattoo, Swindells. Can I see it?"After I show them, they sez, "You've ruined your life now. Why would you do such a stupid thing like that?"

My answer was, "Mi life was already ruined, so what difference would a tattoo make to me, anyway? It's only stupid in your eyes. In my eyes it's all right!"

That first week at school with the tattoo on mi arm pushed a lot of buttons. Some of the girls who used to speak now made a wide berth. Only the tough ones who refused to bend to the teachers' whims, said, "That's a great tattoo. I'm going to get one soon!"

At the end of the week, four boys came up to me and sez, "Hey, Dick, will you take us to Bradford on Saturday so we can all get a tattoo? We'll pay your train fare and give you a few fags."

This request from the boys really pumped mi heart, so I sez, "Sure I will. You don't even have to give me any fags if you don't want to. You can just pay the train fare. I'd love to go with you anyway."

That Saturday, we all went to Bradford on the train. The boys were all talking excitedly about what design tattoo they were going to have put on. When the train arrived, we all walked out of the station and waited for the red double-decker bus which would take us to the other side of town to where Rex's Tattoo Parlour was. When we arrived at Rex's shop, before we all piled inside, I reminded the boys that they were all sixteen-years-of-age now, so not to act childish while we waited for everyone to get a tattoo.

I led the boys back down the long old passageway and, after a sharp left at the end, into Rex's Tattoo Parlour. Rex was sat in his usual position, fag in mouth, machine in hand and busily doing the coloring-in of a small arm tattoo. As soon as we all entered his small room he looked up from his work. "What are ya doing back here so soon? Did yer mother boot ya out of the house?"he sez.

"No, Rex,"I sez. "She wasn't thrilled, but it's not her arm, so there wasn't much she could do about it."

"Where'd ya find this motley crew?"he sez to me.

"They're all mates of mine, Rex. They all want to get a tattoo after seeing the good one ya put on mi arm. So, I brought 'em all here."

"I suppose they're all sixteen as well, are they?"

"Every one of them, Rex,"I sez.

"That little fucker doesn't look like his balls have dropped yet, have they?"This little display of Rex's sense of humor made all the boys laugh a bit. It was just as well because a couple of them I could see were now starting to look a little bit worried as they watched Rex fill in the colour of his customer's tattoo.

Rex's arms were completely covered with the old style tattoos. They looked very much the same as mi dad's tattoos, faded and blurred with age. After Rex finishes colouring in the customer's tattoo, he cleans it up and then sez to me, "Which one of these fuckers is first?"

One of the boys called Johnny Brown, who was considered at school to be a bit of a "toughie,"sez, "I'll go first 'cause I know what I want on."

"All right, sit down,"sez Rex. "Ya got any hair on yer balls yet, lad?"This made the boys laugh out loud again. Then Rex sez to him, "I know none of ya fuckers is sixteen, but if ya tell me ya are when I ask ya, then it's none of mi business from then on. Do ya understand me, lad?"

"Aye,"sez Johnny Brown.

"So, how old are ya, lad?"

"Sixteen,"sez Johnny.

"What tattoo do ya want on?"sez Rex.

"Same as Dick got, but put it on mi right arm, in about the same area,"he sez.

Soon as Rex had shaved his arm and lit another fag, he sez to Johnny, "Hold still and don't move yer arm around if ya want a good tattoo."

"Don't worry about me, Rex,"sez Johnny. "Just make sure ya draw it on good."

Johnny could be a bit of a clever one sometimes, because he was used to pushing kids his own age around, but old Rex just ignored him and started to slide the machine across Brownie's arm.

"Bloody hell, that hurts a bit!"sez Brownie.

"Shut ya fucking winging, lad. I've only just started. That mate of yers who brought ya here never moved a fucking muscle from beginning to end. I haven't got going on ya and yer already fucking crying."This embarrassed Brownie a bit, 'cause Rex never knew of his fighting reputation and Rex didn't give a hoot either. He was a real good old gentleman was Rex. I grew quite fond of him in the relatively short time I knew him.

As Rex was drawing a line for the swallow tail, Brownie yelled out, "Ow! That bloody hurts,"and jerked his arm back a bit.

"Now look what ya've fucking gone and done,"sez Rex, as he wiped away the dark blue ink with his old dirty rag. The swallow's tail had a down bent line instead of a slight upward straight line. The other three boys jumped up to see what had happened to Brownie's tattoo. "Do ya want this fucking tattoo on or not?"sez Rex.

"Course I do,"sez Brownie.

"Then sit fucking still!"sez Rex. "Yer arm has been moving up and down more in the last two minutes than mi dick has moved up and down in the last two years!"This little joke made me and the other three boys laugh out loud again. But Brownie could not see the joke in it, because now he had a swallow with a bent tail feather. By the time Rex had finished Brownie's tattoo, he was not too cocky. He put his money in Rex's tin and sat down quietly on one of the wooden benches, asking one of the other boys if his tattoo still looked all right with a bent tail feather.

"Who's next?"sez Rex.

Tony Steal, who was probably the youngest and definitely the smallest, sez, "I'll go next. Put a swallow on mi arm. Right there will do, please."

"What fucking arm?"sez Rex. "Mi old lady's dog has got a dick fatter than yer arm! How the fucking hell do ya expect me to tattoo bone?"

"Come on, Rex, it's not mi fault I've got skinny arms ya know!"

"The fucking things I do for people,"sez Rex, as he spread some Vaseline on Stealie's arm.

"Aren't you gonna shave it first, Rex?"sez Tony.

"Shave fucking what?"sez Rex. "If I shave a layer of skin off yer arm, there'll be nothing fucking left to put the tattoo on."This made Tony laugh. He was a good kid with a great sense of humor. From the beginning to the end of the tattoo, Tony never hardly flinched. "That's good,"sez Rex.

One of the boys chickened out and decided not to put one on, so the remaining boy, whose name was Selwyn Cheetham, sez, "All right, I'll have one put on."

"What do you want on?"sez Rex.

"How much is that sword up there?"sez Selwyn.

"That's gonna cost ya fifteen bob, 'cause there's a lot more work in that than a small swallow."

"All right, put that on mi left arm,"sez Selwyn. Selwyn only had one sister and his mother and father were not poor, so he always had quite a bit of money in his pocket.

"Put ya fifteen bob in the tin, lad,"sez Rex. "And sit down. It'll take me a few minutes to draw out a transfer, 'cause there's a good bit of detail in that tattoo."

When the transfer was finished, Rex wet Selwyn's arm a bit and pressed the new transfer into place. After about thirty seconds, he peeled the transfer off and it left behind a blue print of the curved sword that Selwyn had picked out. Rex rubs a light film of Vaseline over the transfer and sez to Selwyn, "Are ya ready?"

"Ready,"sez Selwyn.

Rex started to tattoo the ornate head of the sword on Selwyn's arm. Selwyn just sat there, not moving his arm a bit, so I thought, good for you, Selwyn, you're gonna get a great tattoo that way.

After about five minutes, Selwyn started to go white in the face. He was quite a rosy complexioned boy, so I knew something was about to happen. About a minute later, he sez to Rex, "Can you stop for a minute, 'cause I don't feel too well."

Rex looked up from the tattoo and when he saw Selwyn's white face, he sez, "Are ya all right, lad, or do ya always look like that?"

"No,"sez Selwyn, "I think I'm going to be sick!"

"Fucking hell!"sez Rex. "If yer going to be sick, then?"

"BURRRRRRRRP!"Before Rex could get the words out, Selwyn chucked his guts all over Rex's dirty floor!

"Fuck me dead!"sez Rex. "I'm a fucking tattooist not a fucking nursemaid! Take the fat little fucker outside for some fresh air!"he sez to me. Then he points to the other three boys and sez, "One of ya little fuckers had better clean up that fucking mess. There's a mop and bucket over there in that back fucking corner. Now fucking hurry up, 'cause I'm quickly running out of fucking patience!"

Outside, sitting on Rex's window ledge, I sez to Selwyn, "Are you all right, Selly?"

"OHHHHH!"he sez. "I'm not feeling real good. Mi stomach is a bit upset."

It was really difficult for me to stop laughing, so, between laughs, I sez to Selwyn, "Come on, Selly, you've got to pull yourself together or you'll have wasted your money and you'll only have the handle of the sword on your arm and no blade to go with it."

"Maybe Rex can make the blade look like it's disappeared under the skin?"he sez.

"No, it's too late now,"I sez. "Look at it, there's not really a great deal left to do. Come on. Let's go back inside."

When we got back inside, Rex was sat in his chair smoking a new Senior Service. The puke had been mopped up and there was a strong smell of Detol on the floor. It was obvious where Selwyn had spewed-up because there was a large clean spot on the floor. The rest of it was dirty. When Selwyn sits back down in the chair, Rex sez to him, "Can we carry on now, or would ya like a fucking bucket at the side of the chair?"This little joke made me almost pee miself with laughter!

Selwyn sez, "I should be all right but I'll let you know if I'm not."

"That's really fucking kind of ya,"sez Rex. "If everybody else that came into mi shop was as kind as ya are, mi whole fucking floor would be clean. I'd never have to fucking mop it again! Bring that mop bucket over here! I don't fucking trust this fat little fucker."

Once the bucket was in place next to the chair, Rex started the machine and carried on with Selwyn's tattoo. There were a couple of close calls throughout the process but somehow Selwyn got himself through it all right. Before we left Rex's Tattoo Parlour, I thanked him very much and apologized for Selwyn on his behalf. All Rex could say was, "I appreciate ya bringing me some business in but don't bring anymore fuckers like that. Those fuckers shouldn't have been let off their mothers' apron strings. Not for at least another five years!"

Going home on the train from Bradford, we all had a great laugh at the rerun of the afternoon's fun. The four boys teased each other mercilessly for the whole of the train journey.

No one else ever put shit on me at school over mi tattoos from that day forward because the four boys told the other kids just how painful it was for them. But by the time I left Ryburn School, at least twenty boys had a lifelong memory of Rex Stoker's Tattoo Parlour in Bradford City.