bookmark_borderMy beautiful Geisha

Many years ago my Mum, an avid crafter, completed two large tapestries depicting Japanese Geisha. From the moment I saw them I loved them and they kick-started my fascination with Japanese culture. I loved the style of them, the scenes they depicted and the era they represented. They hung in my parents living room for many years and I’ve always coveted them.

Recently, my parents sold the ‘family home’ to downsize and as part of the decluttering my Mum asked if I’d want the tapestries. I’m still not sure she realises how much it means to me to have them; memories of my childhood, the house I grew up in with the ever present needles and threads in one corner of the living room (she always has something on the go), and the daydreams they inspired (what was the story behind the scenes? what was life like in feudal Japan?).

Geisha tapestry

Around the same time I was swithering over what to get as my next tattoo, I’ve always got a few ideas in my head and a geisha was on my list but receiving my Mum’s tapestries confirmed it. The hunt was then on for an artist, although I already had half a mind on who I wanted to tackle it.

Given how pleased I was with the work he did on my arm, my first thought was Kevin, but then his new apprentice Rachel started posting some of her sketches and designs on Instagram, I loved her style and wondered if she’d be the right person for the geisha. She posted this sketch of a geisha a while ago and I knew I wanted her to tackle mine.

I popped in to Lucky Cat*, mostly to let Kevin take some photos of my now healed arm and as Rachel was there I ended up talking her through what I’d like and without a second thought I booked in for the first session.

Sidenote: Once you’ve gotten past your first tattoo nerves, it becomes almost a little TOO easy to just book up for another one…

About a week before the first appointment Rachel emailed me and after a little back and forth to tweak the design it was all set. Six hours later (two sessions of 3 hours) and it’s finished and it’s almost healed.

I am absolutely thrilled with the result.

Geisha Tattoo

** It was a lovely coincidence that Jane, who introduced me to Kevin in the first place was in getting more work done by him at the same time!*

bookmark_borderDeconstructing my tattoo

Some people get tattoos because they think a certain design or image looks good, some tattoos are about collecting art from an admired artist, and some tattoos are chosen because they have meaning or intent. Most of my tattoos fall into the latter camp but I’ll admit that the first two tattoos I got, many years ago, were purely because I thought it was cool and ‘different’ (which, to be fair, it was at the time). More recently though I’ve considered my choices a lot more.

I hadn’t planned on getting a half-sleeve done when I went in to Lucky Cat. I was there on the recommendation of a friend who already had some of Kev’s work on her arm, I’d checked out the website and loved what I saw so I made an appointment for a consultation.

In progress

On my left arm, near the shoulder was my second ever tattoo. It was of a two headed dragon/serpent curved in a circle. It had no meaning other than I thought it was cool and the person I had a major crush on was getting one that day as well so I was trying to impress her (I was 18 and yes, it was a stupid reason).

It was old and faded so when I asked about covering it up, Kevin said it shouldn’t be a problem but when I told him I wanted a Daruma he pointed out that it wouldn’t work. The shaping and colouring wasn’t right… he thought on it a bit and suggested I could place the Daruma lower down my arm on the bicep and have a traditional Japanese flower above it.

Kiku-no-hana (Chrysanthemum) *

Probably the only piece of my half-sleeve that was originally chosen purely for decoration, I loved the style that Kevin used to draw it and trusted his judgement that it would be in-keeping with the Japanese theme. Thankfully he knows his stuff as this flower is a used as a symbol for the Emperor of Japan.

Daruma *

I can’t recall where I first saw a Daruma, probably wandering through Chinatown in London, but the bright colour caught my eye as did the various expressions and variations I saw.

Traditionally these dolls are given to people as a good luck charm. Once received the owner decides on a goal and colours in one eye, colouring in the second when they have achieved the goal.

I’m very goal oriented and I love Japanese culture so this seemed like a perfect fit for me. My Daruma only has one eye coloured to allow me to continue to strive for new goals.

Half-sleeve *

My original intention for the tattoo was just the Daruma but with it being quite a large piece, plus the flower above it, Kev asked if I was going for a half-sleeve and if so what else might I want? The first decision was what to put on my inner bicep, another large area to fill but an easy one as I already had half a mind to getting a separate tattoo featuring another piece of Japanese culture so why not just include it in now?

Koi *

I decided on a giant koi for my inner arm and with the main components decided I left Kevin draw things up.

The koi symbolises a lot of how I try and live my life, best summed up by Dory from Finding Nemo, ‘just keep swimming’. I’m old enough to know that life will always throw you a few curveballs, and all you need to do is keep going, doesn’t matter if you aren’t making any headway, as long as you are trying to go forward. Koi tattoos symbolise the battle upstream the fish undertakes as it heads to its mating grounds.

I was starting to get excited about how it was all coming together and the minute I saw the first sketches I excitedly booked in for my first session.

Completing the design

As I hadn’t planned a half-sleeve, there were some gaps so after the first session we started to discuss what else to put on my arm. There were some obvious candidates.

Maneki-neko *

These cute little guys are told to bring good luck and have been a part of Japanese culture since the turn of the century. There are some great folktales about where they originated (check the Wikipedia link) but no-one is really sure.

In a nice bit of circumstance, the tattoo parlour that Kevin owns is called Lucky Cat so I was more than happy when he used his logo as part of my sleeve (hmmm maybe I should charge him advertising fees?)

Lotus *

Buddhist symbology states that the lotus represents rebirth; that can be a change of ideas or the adoption of new beliefs. In my ongoing quest to learn and adapt my behaviours to be a better person in this world, it was perfect to include in the design. Kirsty has one on her forearm for similar reasons, and as we’ve both learned a lot from each other it seemed fitting to get on too.

Kokeshi doll *

Whilst they don’t have the same symbology associated with them, Kokeshi dolls are an integral part of Japanese culture. My Mum has a small collection of Kokeshi style dolls, so there is an element of tribute to her in there as well. Plus, they look so cute!

Getting inked

We started the first 4 hour session and completed the cover up of my old tattoo and the outline of the Daruma. The next session outlined the lotus and koi, the session after that coloured in the Daruma and started on the koi, and so on. In total it took a little shy of 24 hours to complete the half-sleeve, and whilst I won’t say I loved every minute of it (inner-arm section was pretty close to my pain threshold, next time I’ll look to some of the pain-numbing gels I think) it was wonderfully to watch it evolve. Very much a collaboration, deciding what to put where, what colours each element should be and so on.

Finished Tattoo

I am absolutely thrilled with the results and, several months later with everything nicely healed, I continue to get compliments and questions about it. I was so happy with the service I got I’ve since gotten another tattoo by a different artist at Lucky Cat… more on that later!

bookmark_borderMy time as a Clydesider


‘A life changing experience’, is something we were told during our induction. ‘Exhausting but rewarding’, ‘it’ll stay with you for a long time’ and so on. It was all a bit superlative heavy and a little bit unbelievable.

It’s been a couple of weeks since my involvement in the Commonwealth Games ended and since then I’ve been reflecting on the experience, but I’ll admit that I’ve been struggling to put my thoughts and emotions into any sort of verbiage that didn’t include many superlatives.

I kept a small journal to remind me of it and I’ve pulled some of that into this, an overly long post about my experience as a Clydesider.

Day One

What a fantastic day!! Full of nervous energy this morning, and it was a wee bit disorganised but had so much fun!

Today I was in the Support role with another two team members. Our job was to be available and help out where needed which meant we got to do a wee bit of everything!

We got shown inside the pool first, lovely venue, and then we were asked to help at the Accessible entrance, waiting for people on the shuttle buses to get through security screening then we checked and ripped their tickets then took them down to the spectator plaza.

After that we roamed around the spectator plaza, chatting to people making sure they knew where to go and just being available for the spectators. What a blast! Without realising I also got chatting to Bert Le Cloc, lovely big South African guy,

Spent about 20 mins in the pool subbing in for some people to get their breaks, then it was time to help spectators leave… then it was done!!

Feeling completely knackered and a little bit emotional to be part of this, already unforgettable and it’s only day one.

Day Two

Up at 5am and, as I headed out at 6am to get the train, a fellow Clydesider pulled up and offered me a lift! So random, but there is a real sense of ‘knowing’ whenever you see someone with a red uniform on, a nod of the head and a smile every time, it’s awesome!

Today I was positioned on the Last Mile – the route from the train station to entrance. It was a beautiful sunny morning so, with foam finger in hand, we spent a few of hours welcoming people arriving and pointing them in the right direction. A big part of the Spectator Services role is to get the excitement going so we were getting people high-fiving, or “Foam Fiving!”, cheering and laughing.

I had a good spot at a crossing so frequently had a group of people waiting for the lights to change, so much fun kidding with them… “Enjoy the hockey! Ohh wait… no, swimming!”, and everyone seemed to be in great spirits.

After my break it was back down but to a different corner, thanking people for coming and making sure they got to the train station or bus stop. More high-fives and doing our best to make sure people left with a smile on their faces!

As we were near the train station we and my partner in-crime Annie resorted to ‘Chooo Chooooo!’ calls which seemed to work!

So, not so much walking about today, but all day on my feet, definitely early to bed for me! The pattern seems to be set now. Up at 5am, train at 6.20am, walk up to security by 7am then check-in and it’s time for our morning briefing and team allocations. On to the venue by about 7.45 to get ready for the day ahead!

Starting to get to know some of the people I’m with too which is really helping make the days more fun!

Day Three 

A slightly overcast morning but still a muggy 22C or warmer so thankfully I was still outside today! My role was to check tickets at the main entrance, we got issued some snazzy pinnies to collect the ticket stubs and got ourselves set only for our team leader – the awesome Maddie who never stops smiling! – to ask if I could help the accessibility team as they needed someone to walk in front of the buggy as it made is way up through the crowds to the venue.

So off I trotted and spent my morning walking up and down a pretty steep hill, asking all the people on the path to keep to their left (or their right) getting confused on the way back down the hill as we were going against the flow and I kept forgetting to reverse my instructions, and generally thanking people and high fiving all the kids – the foam fingers are a real attraction!

Got a full break today, then back out to prepare for egress. With 5,000 people all leaving at the same time it’s our busiest period, and we wave them off with a thank you, a smile and directions to train stations and buses. Given that inside the venue is so warm, we also made sure people helped themselves to some fresh air! That got a few smiles and laughs 🙂

Another quick, but fun, day. My feet ache, my legs are sore, I must be drinking about 3 litres of water on my shift at the moment but I’m so so glad I’m doing this.

I think today the entire team was a bit more relaxed, still a few hiccups (the security guys have a bit of an attitude problem) but it’s just so much fun! Such a buzz!!

Day Four

Can’t believe there are only two more days to go, it’s flying in!!

Nice moment during the team brief when Ellie (SPS Manager) played a video of the reception Mike (SPS Coordinator) got at a venue meeting, everyone was cheering him because he figured out where the lights were (yeah I know), so we ended up repeating it again to film it, poor guy was mortified but played along!

Back at Plaza 10 today, on ticket duty but again I ended up roaming behind the lines trying to keep things moving, wee bit of banter with the incoming spectators and getting them on to the venue. It was a little bit wet but nothing major.

Just before the spectators started coming through, I spotted Mike coming back through the security scanners, so we quickly organised ourselves and, with one of the girls filming, gave him a great big cheer. Not quite sure what the spectators waiting in the queue thought but hey, we were having fun!

Another good day, not so much walking about which was a nice change but loving being outside, really don’t want to be inside the venue for a day! It’s also good that we are all starting to relax into what we need to do so you’ve a little more time for chatting to people and getting to know them. A few of us have been in the same team a few days now so that helps too.

Completely knackered again but actually getting used to it I think. Will be genuinely sad when this is over.

Day Five

The past few days are a blur! Can’t believe tomorrow is the last day.

Anyway, this morning kicked off with the now traditional cheer for Mike and more great feedback that we are the most upbeat venue! Hell yes!!

Was assigned to Support again today, requested anywhere but inside, and ended up mostly out on Mile 20 – guiding people inside the park to the PSA/ticket lanes. Great fun standing at the top of the hill, congratulating everyone for managing it!

A quick break and back out to see a lot of people leaving early. The 1500 metres (which takes ages) obviously wasn’t holding people’s interest so much so egress started early! Again no team lead as she was on her break so a couple of us hustled some team members into position (I totally should’ve been a team lead!).

Same drill on the way out, smiles, high fives and congratulating people coming back up the hill on the way out!! I was filmed at one point too… wonder if that’ll surface anywhere!

As the last few spectators trickled out I got chatting to some Canadians who were waiting on someone coming out, turns out it was Ryan Cochrane’s Mum & Dad (he won gold 3 days ago!) and lo and behold up the man himself sauntered! I left them to it and headed home. Already feeling a bit sad it’s soon to be over….


They are looking for people on Sunday to help out in some other venues… sorely tempted!

Day Six

Weird day, so much emotion, so happy to have been part of the Games, but so sad it’s all over!

Morning briefing was fab, group photos and everyone so happy and up for it on the last day. We got to thank the team leads, and set off doing a conga out to our posts!! Yup, clearly SPS are a bunch of loons.

Anyway, asked to be outside so ended up on Mile 30, the last point before security screening. Got a shot of the megaphone, welcomed people in, soft checked tickets and pretty much had a blast, I think ‘last day’ fever set in with everyone, we all seemed to be being extra cheery, extra helpful and extra encouraging of the crowds.

As ever, lots of smiles and good chat with the spectators, and same again as yesterday on the way out, cheering people up and out of the venue and then, all of a sudden, our last shift was over!

We then had a Wrap Party in the check-in building, buffet, music and chatting to team members from both shifts. Was great to get some pics with people and reminisce about the last 6 days. We were all knackered but still smiling and laughing.

There was a chance of getting into the venue for the evening session so a few of use were hanging around, we nipped out to a local pub (the Waverley in Tollcross, pretty much as expected!) and then back in to wait and see if we got in.

Did we ever! I was in the third batch of 15 to get taken over and got straight into the VIP area! We did have to wait for Prince Edward to walk in past us mind you… Our seats were great, just below the BBC broadcast point.

What an amazing atmosphere in the venue, never been in a swimming event but wow!

And so, I’m home, my uniform is strewn across the floor and I’m exhausted and more than a little bit emotional (I’m welling up just writing this bit). I’m almost speechless, it’s been a whirlwind, full of laughter and with so many people thanking us, full of amazing energy and love and happiness. So so glad I volunteered.

And then it was over

Closing ceremony tonight, all the emotions that it’s over even though I’ve not been involved since Tuesday.

Had a fun day on Wednesday, hockey in the morning and then a wander through Glasgow in the afternoon. Caught four of the swimmers at Merchant City atop the Irn Bru store. City centre was busy but everyone seemed in such great spirits.

I’ve been trying to sum up my thoughts about my experience as a Clydesider. Life changing? Perhaps (time will tell). It was amazing, so much fun and I feel so proud to have been involved, proud of everyone who volunteered, and proud of Glasgow because, bar some rain, the whole thing seems to have been a massive success.

They are looking for volunteers for the swimming championships next year and I think I’ll apply for that, Rio Olympics and Gold Coast Commonwealth Games might be a stretch too far but my experience was so rewarding I will maybe look for something more local if I can.

So maybe, after all that, it has been life changing. Not a massive change, perhaps, but a positive one.

Thank you Glasgow 2014!