Fast-forward through to the divorce, Boy and I were living at the university in family quarters. There the lecturers and students were pierced and tattooed and I wanted both. I was lucky enough to hang around with a group of people who were willing to give good advice about body art. I wanted a tattoo but I could never make my mind up what and where. Then there was the rebound relationship with a straighter-than-straight financial adviser who loathed even henna tattoos and would rub off any I had.
When that collapsed, I gathered my courage and had my nose pierced. I loved it. As soon as I could I had a nose stud popped in and contrary to the finger wagging, it never got in the way of any employment I've pursued.
Fast-forward sixteen years: it's now about a year since my melt-down and what I call my mid-life crisis. Last October, I had my first tattoo. I did write about it, but never posted pics. Well, here it is. Boy came with me to have it done, I'm so glad he did. I was so nervous. I ended up having it in two stages, the first was the outline. As time went on, it felt unfinished to me. In May, I had the shading done and I went by myself for that one.
A symbol of female divinity and strength
I've been thinking about how to mark the anniversary of my mid-life crisis and I had been considering a small phoenix to go on my inner right arm. After all, I have a history of rising from the ashes.
It never ceases to amaze me how life unfolds. About ten days ago, Dave tells me Strangers at Large were booked to do the Norwich Body Art Festival.
The weekend was brilliant. My coffee-making skills are steadily improving and the venue was awesome. Dave kept telling me not to get used to it! We weren't in a field getting soaked or baked, with portaloos flushing sticky blue and access to running water in an actual kitchen! Total bliss, in fact.
As soon as we set up on Saturday, I had a walk around and approached a tattoo artist with the design I'd found on the internet. He looked at me and it, and then sat me down. His name is Terangitu Netana and he is a traditional Maori tattoo artist. We talked about my heritage, where I am now, what I am trying to achieve, where I want to be in the future and what the tattoo would represent for me. He showed me the image of what he had in mind and then talked me through the design and what each aspect of the strokes, what they meant, where it fit in the Maori tradition. We agreed that I'd come and have it done first thing, so Dave wasn't left to fend for himself.
I woke up in the middle of the night and thought things through. The design was beautiful, but it wasn't from my culture. I've got fairly strident opinions on cultural appropriation that are informed from growing up in a former British colony and living over here in jolly old England. I thought about the aspects of the design and how appropriate they are to my creative journey. The more I time I spent with it, the more right it seemed. In the end, I concluded that with my mixed race heritage, the very complicated family history and the fact I moved from Trinidad to the UK, mean I don't belong anywhere; I straddle too many cultures. Therefore, I belong everywhere. I chose where I want to belong.
I didn't want this design when I started considering my second tattoo, I didn't know it was even possible. Life and the way the weekend unfolded, made it happen and I am so very glad it did.
In the twelve months of profound insights and experiences, this touched my soul. I was tattooed with prayers and song, there was laughter and friendship and an exchange of history. The tattoo I now have, I look upon as a gift.
This is a kotuku, the white heron. She is a shy bird, inconspicuous until she spreads her wings, it's only then her size is truly known. Within the design, there are references to the gaining and passing on of traditional and ancient knowledge. She belongs to no one, only herself. She is a creature of beauty, grace, wind, water and solitude.