Saturday, 30 August 2014

Hypersensitive? Try tattoo cream

You can't generalise about people. I told my mother thus after my second Tattoo Convention. But they look so scary, she said.  But honestly, I said. Everyone I've met has been so nice. You never know,  if you asked someone about them, they might be really pleased to tell you their story. 

I went to Spitalfields Market today and I didn't get what I wanted. Nothing I wanted. So I sat in a coffee shop and felt a little bit sad. Then I went on my way, before I spent the money I'd set aside for the purpose.  As I headed back towards Liverpool Street station, I saw a very pretty lady sporting the perfect rockabilly style.  She was a delight: magnificently swept up hair, held high with a shock of red blossoms; high-waisted jeans, and nipped-in blouse showing arms carved from tattooed alabaster. 
As I passed her I caught her eye and smiled - warmly, the way I do. 'I just want to admire your arms!' I said, 'your tattoo work is so beautiful!'
'Awww,' she replied - a good start - but then came the metaphorical kidney-punch: 'It's a bit weird, though, isn't it, stopping someone on the street to admire their tattoos.'
It was a statement. Not a question. 
'Is it?' I said, then added, 'well, I shan't then, if you'd rather I didn't.  But they're very lovely, anyway.' And the encounter was over.

Is it? I go to London fairly often,  especially during the Globe season. I like to dress up and look pretty - fifties style, funnily enough,  like her. Dozens of people stop me and tell me I look nice.  Some ask to take my picture. Most of the time I don't feel very attractive, and I'm certainly not young - so quite often I am touched by this almost to the point of tears. So today, I wanted to pay it forward. I saw a pretty young woman who had taken great care over her appearance, in a way that was elegant and edgy. It backfired: c'est la vie. I wanted to be philosophical, even though I had the feeling of having been bitten by a puppy. I didn't cry, or anything, I'm a grown woman; but as I emerged from London Bridge tube station,  a dead town crier held out a London Dungeon leaflet to me and said, 'Have you had an electric shock?' (This, I should explain, for any one who does not follow me on Instagram, was on account of my notoriously tousled, um, 'hairstyle'. Post-coital is perhaps the best description.) 
I looked him in the eye. Looking past his pallid, bloodied complexion. 'Street drunks say that to me. You're unoriginal, at best.' 
'No, I like it. You're - look at your nails! They're really long - are they real? Oh no - they're not are they?  They're fake. You know, you look like - '
'Who? Who do I look like? You've had two shots at me now. What's your third? Come on - bring it! What have you got left?'
He paused, and looked me up and down. 'You look like - no, you're too young to remember.'
'Well? Who?'
He put out one finger and touched my arm. 'Dzzzzt,' he said gently. 'Have you - no. You won't have heard of Twisted Sister.'
'Dee Snider! I was expecting Mötley Crüe, or Whitesnake!' Or Billy Idol, I added silently. But thank you for thinking me too young, I added, also silently. Out loud, I told him what had just happened, with the pretty lady. 
Oh no, he said, We're not like that in London. That was mean, he said. We're friendly here. 
She was Northern, I said, and he beamed. 'Ah! You see? Londoners wouldn't ever say a thing like that! You were trying to be nice - Northerners, they don't get it...'  
I wasn't about to be drawn on that one. After all, you can't generalise about people. Some of them are just -

Never mind.

So anyway, I smiled at the dead Town Crier - warmly, the way I do. 'Nice chatting to you. Don't go letting your mouth talk you into any more trouble today.'

Or mine, for that matter.

Monday, 25 August 2014


 MY GRANDMA is ninety-eight today. She broke her hip recently, and the Doctors didn't think she'd make it. But she bloody did. So they gave her a new hip. Then she had a fall and broke her nose, and the Nurses named her Miss Independence and she recovered. 
My Grandma is amazing. My Grandma renews her circle of friends every ten years or so: not that she outgrows them; she out-lives them. My Grandma likes Bombay Sapphire and Grey Goose. My Grandma can still beat me at Scrabble.
My Grandma is still beautiful. My Grandma will not be beaten.

Here is a poem about birthdays. I've just noticed it's one of three that I've written where the last line is nicked from Shakespeare. I didn't write it for my Grandma, but I like it and it's got a Hello! style magazine cover to go with it, which is at the bottom, and you can scroll down and look at it, but read the poem first, please, because it's fun, and it's got fairies in and that.

Happy Birthday, Fairy

Happy Birthday!  Being nine
Is super fun – it’s just divine!
And so last-year, now, to be eight:
Quite vieux-chapeau (that’s ‘out of date’)
But: with age comes duty, too
And every fairy knows it’s true
So in between the cake and tea,
And all good things your day should be
A moment, please, to think about
A fairy’s work indoors and out
Wave your wand about like so
To make the pretty flowers grow
In brightly-coloured dainty crowds
Shine the sun and pink the clouds,
Shake the trees to fill the air
With perfumed cherry-blossom fair,
Smile to lift the sky – and just
Remember all that Fairy Dust
Won’t get sprinkled by itself
And never ask a passing Elf
To help – they simply can’t be trusted

To get a single daisy dusted -
Let alone a Fairy Dell
(Do that yourself, it’s just as well);
Bollocks to all that – it’s too
Much like hard work, I think – don’t you?
Sit your arse down, have a fag
A quick flick through a gossip rag
And gloat at all the trash you read
About Peaseblossom, Mustardseed
Cobweb, Moth and all the others
A-List Fairies, like Godmothers
Down through all the woodland folk
Like talking rabbits (what a joke:
Who on earth cares what they say?
They’re high on clover anyway
Check out those photos! What the fuck –
Somebody’s had something tucked
I can’t believe it’s Tinker Bell!
Mavis Cruet’s diet hell
Is all behind her,she looks grand
(She’s fitted with a gastric band)
In his column, saucy Puck
Rakes through all the fairy muck:

Turns out Oberon has fathered
Quite a clutch of fairy bastards
When it broke, as scandals must
Titania hit the fairy dust
Never one to take things lightly
The fairy queen, it’s said, was nightly
Found sprawled upon a bed of Moss
Til Kate herself was at a loss
There’s only so much you can do
Men will be men, and fairies too
Lay aside such trifling leaves
There’s yet an arc of spells to weave
So polish up your fairy shoes
And then, the magic evening dews
Will need a very generous sprinkling
Drip drops until the garden’s twinkling:
For many a Princess’s true-love spell
(A few enchanted frogs’, as well)
Have sadly never come to pass
Because some sprite could not be arsed
Enchanting every nook and cranny
Granted it’s a proper fanny
If the job’s done properly

But all the fairy folk agree
Far worse if we were stuck inside
At office desk and chair confined
Screen-gazing til our temples bleed

Lord, what fools these mortals be
© Muriel Lavender
September 2011

Rubbish artwork © Muriel Lavender using Paintbox and a rather cool tattoo I found on the Internets

Sunday, 17 August 2014


I'm doing this in the car. Bear with me. Hyperlinks will go in later: they're proving to be a f**king fanny on a Samsung Galaxy S4 mini. Any photographs I manage to upload are by Bertrand Vessier.

FIRST THINGS FIRST – THE FUND IS STILL OPEN, so if you want to donate you still can.  Let me remind you who you’re supporting: the two chosen charities of the British Beard and Moustche Championships, which are Dorothy House and Depression Alliance. I maintain that there is not a person in the UK right now who will not, at some point, need the services of one charity or the other; or have a loved one who will. Give some money at Mu's Big-Ass Charity Tattoo - if you give £25 I’ll send you the signed photo of my –

- Never mind. I’m getting to that. This is what happened.
Somehow (I know not how) I made the decision to get a tattoo. Not my first; though I may be forgiven the youthful foolishness which planted a marsupial on my backside like a little ass-hickie. No, this would be my first proper, serious, grown-up tattoo.

But I can’t tell you all that, either. Because I told it to the editor of Skin Deep Tattoo Magazine after I had the almighty front to send him an email containing the following - just days after being introduced to him at the Great British Tattoo Show:

“Let me get to the point: In a nutshell (deep breath), do you think [the magazine] would consider it a matter of sufficient interest to feature between its covers the occasion of my inking? I should simply adore it if you would.

Good God, I shock myself sometimes. If I thought it would sway you, I’d send you a picture of the proposed canvas; but fortunately, I actually do know when to wind it in. Sort of.”

Obviously, I’d explained about the charity fundraiser as well. So that makes it perfectly ok*.  But you can read the full story in Issue 241, out in September.

  • So far, £1820 donated to the cause. 
  • A total of 7.5 hours of tattoo work by a woman I admire so very, very much – I hope I may be allowed to call her a friend. 
  • Genuinely the worst pain I’ve ever felt, and I’ve had two children. 
  • A nude photoshoot with a photographer I trust completely, and whose work I love. 
  • Countless messages of love and support from all over the world.
This year has brought yet more wonderful people into my life, and I am constantly overwhelmed at the capacity of ordinary people to act kindly for others. Thank you, all of you, who have supported me in my hare-brained scheme to raise money and promote the Beard Championships. And yet it’s so much more than that: I feel as though I have a new friend. 

William Eight-Speare. He’s got my back.

*No it doesn’t. Siôn, I am so sorry. You didn’t deserve that, based on an hour’s acquaintance. Sorry. Sorry.

Sunday, 10 August 2014


...and I didn't take it. I held the camera, and I held the World up to the light. But a sleepy eight-year-old girl clicked the shutter.

I have no words to add. I'm just leaving it here.