My Rebellious Tattoo for my Badass Nan

My Nan was the good old fashioned Scouse matriarch of the family. What she said was law, you did as you were told. She was also a total badass.

Many of my friends have had the joy of hearing about the time a stoner was starting on her in the supermarket and asked “what are you looking at?” to which she responded “not you, sunshine” and proceeded to threaten to hit him over the head with the bottle of port which was one of only two items in her trolley at that point (the other was an iron). I knew she’d butted heads with her father (my Great-Grandfather) when he’d returned from the war because she was a fierce young woman who wouldn’t be told what to do.

I learned from my Granddad when we were talking with the celebrant who delivered her funeral that she’d defied the nuns at her Catholic high school and ran out with a friend once after a particularly serious ruler knuckle rapping. She once tried to argue with airport security about them taking off her the set of darts she’d forgotten were in her handbag. She told a family member at a funeral, with all the love in the world, to “get a grip, soft sh*te”.

“She was a fierce young woman who wouldn’t be told what to do”

Between her and Mum (her daughter-in-law, who ‘stole’ her son to go “live in sin with that woman” when my dad moved out: prompting my parents to have Living in Sin by Bon Jovi as their first dance song) I was pretty much destined to be a badass. A loud woman who wouldn’t be told what to do. Even in ways that dear old nan disapproved of.

See, she HATED tattoos. You’re probably thinking “oh, yeah, my nan too” but no, she really really disapproved every time we came back with fresh ink. It became something of a running joke in my family that nan and granddad would give Christmas and birthday money to my mum and I, and then we would go out and spend it on tattoos, just to see what she said. And, by a running joke, I mean we did it at least twice each before we worried she’d just stop giving us any money.

My Nan died this Christmas Eve just gone. It was very sudden, completely unexpected. She’d been ill, but only ill in that way old people just tend to be from time to time. Her skin had been bothering her for years, she would get swollen legs and feet, and she’d had one actual knee replacement.

I felt like I’d been robbed of Christmas, robbed of my family time, robbed of the Nan I knew and loved. Then, in a moment of grief – grief which was lovingly shouldered by many of the other Nopebook writers – I came to a realisation:

She’ll never disapprove of another of my tattoos.

I received some inheritance money as a part of the life insurance money that came through, and that’s when I had the thought. The troublemaker in me felt like I owed it to my fearless and dedicated Nan to do one last thing that she would have disapproved of with her money, in her name. And so I booked in at the tattoo studio.

Now, a lot of places will put some of the ashes of your loved one into the black ink before tattooing, so that you can carry around the person with you at all times. Problem is, I think if I’d have asked my granddad if I could do that, he would have hit me over the head with the urn. I didn’t go down this road, but I did pick something that inadvertently represents the kind of woman that my nan was.

My deer tattoo, the beautiful but strong symbol of being this powerful woman that I’d become. She has to take at least some of the credit for that (or maybe some of the blame).

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