Diary of a Guide…Dazzling Tattoos

Work-wise, it’s been a bit of a quiet week. January and February tend to be the quietest months for tour guides, with ‘the season’ picking up around Easter. However, what the quiet period does do is give you time to catch up on exhibitions, update your knowledge and seek new business. So this week was all about meetings and ink!

20160208_112023 (2)Tuesday saw me back at The View From The Shard, and sometimes I really do feel like I live there. Not that I’m complaining, as the view from the top is different every time I see it. No the landmarks don’t change, but the weather does and that changes the view. These days I am there so often that they’ve now given me my own name badge and pass to get in!

Today I was accompanying a small group of Blue Badge guiding colleagues on a familiarisation visit, so that they could meet the Travel Trade Team and become familiar with the logistics of guiding inside Western Europe’s tallest building. It was a beautifully sunny day, the view was wonderfully clear and we had a lot of fun ‘landmark spotting’ from the observation floor on Level 72. And trying to outdo each other with stories and facts about each one!

Following a meeting on Bankside (fingers crossed for more about that in a few weeks if an exciting initiative comes off), I strolled along the South Bank to Westminster on my way to another meeting and happened upon what was HMS President’s last day moored on the Thames.

HMS President (1918)

HMS President (1918)

Built in 1918 as the Flower-Class sloop HMS Saxifrage (saxifrage is also known as the flower London Pride), she was an anti-submarine ship and spent the last days of World War I hunting U-boats. Her name was changed to President when she took up a permanent mooring on the Embankment in 1922 as a reserve ship. Now in private hands, and used as an event venue since 1982, HMS President was repainted in 2014 by Tobias Rehberger to commemorate her World War I service.


On Friday morning she was due to sail down the Thames and then the River Medway to Chatham, in order to clear the way for works on the new Thames Tideway Tunnel (or Super Sewer). During her time away, HMS President will undergo a refurbishment, and it is hoped that she will return to a new mooring on the Thames.

I was lucky to catch the old girl on her last day, although she did look slightly odd with her wheelhouse and funnel removed so she could fit under the bridges on her journey downstream.

HMS President - minus her funnel ready for her journey down the Thames

HMS President – minus her funnel ready for her journey down the Thames

HMS President’s dazzle camouflage was used to confuse enemy ships in the First World War, and her current ‘inking’ is similar to a full skin tattoo, which is what I encountered on Friday.

12647507_1032285440161991_5118489040148449478_nA trip to the Museum of London for another meeting gave me time to take a look at their new free exhibition: Tattoo London (on until 8th May – www.museumoflondon.org.uk)


Now whether you like tattoos, hate tattoos or are thinking of getting a tattoo, this is worth seeing. The exhibition covers the history of tattooing in London and also features contemporary London tattooists and life in tattoo parlours today.

As the proud owner of ink (got a tattoo for my 30th birthday), I had never really thought of tattoos as art nor tattooists as artists or craftsmen. But the exhibition showcases the skill and workmanship that goes into each design, and the Museum has commissioned some fabulous new designs by the tattooists featured in the exhibition.

'Domine Dirige Nos' by Mo Coppoletta

‘Domine Dirige Nos’ by Mo Coppoletta




As a City of London Guide, I particularly like Mo Coppoletta’s reworking of the City of London coat of arms








'Ave A Butchers' by Lal Hardy

‘Ave A Butchers’ by Lal Hardy



And, as a Londoner, I enjoyed deciphering the Cockney Rhyming Slang design by Lal Hardy.





It certainly beats my doodling when I’m in all those meetings!

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