Skin Deep

We finally fulfilled one of our childhood dreams. No, we haven’t opened an animal sanctuary or become famous writers – we got our first tattoos.

Valkyrie tattoo, C L Raven

positioning Cat’s design

We’ve always wanted tattoos. We love them, we give them to our characters, and we’re always envious of people who have them, but we’ve never had the courage to get one ourselves. Despite the numerous injuries we’ve collected over the years, we actually have a strong fear of pain. We’ve had a folder on our laptops for about 5 years, filled with images of ravens and skulls that we’ve collected, in case we ever decided to go through with it. We’ve always felt our arms look bare without a tattoo, like there’s something missing. Most of our friends in real life and online have tattoos and everyone told us it doesn’t really hurt, that the upper arm was one of the least painful places and we’d only feel a slight scratch.

Valkyrie tattoo, C L Raven

the design in colour

Our online friends and Neen gave us the kick up the arse we needed and before we knew it, we were standing inside Valkyrie on Crwys Road, Cardiff, being booked in. We’d only gone with Neen to chat to the artists! Neen was also booking to have her fifth tattoo. She was going with Justin, who did the tattoo on her arm. We chose to go with Ali, who does a lot of black and grey artwork, which is what we wanted. Us “We know exactly what we want – a raven on a gravestone.” Ali asked if we wanted the ravens with open wings, closed wings, what we wanted the gravestones to look like – old, new, broken, with writing. Us *stares blankly* This was going to take some thought. Our decision making skills are so bad, we eat the same food at the same time every day, just so we don’t have to choose what to eat. We started following Ali on Instagram. The more designs she posted of her work, the more we knew we’d picked the right artist. Follow her here.

Valkyrie tattoo, C L Raven

Ali starting Cat’s tattoo

But we were booked in and these tattoos are going to be on our arms for the rest of our lives. We spent the next few days sending Ali images of ravens and graves and the style of gothic artwork we like.

Valkyrie tattoo, C L Raven


On Wednesday, the big day dawned. We were so nervous, we sat in the car doing the breathing exercises our MCT therapist taught us. We’ve conquered social phobia, lain in a morgue fridge and done lone vigils in very haunted places. Yet the thought of being tattooed terrified us. Neen came with us for moral support. And to mock our pain. We spent the next hour finalising our designs with Ali. She’d had the great idea to add ivy and smoke. A lot of the gravestones in our books are covered in ivy, so we thought it would be perfect. Cat chose an open winged raven, Lynx went for closed wing.

Cat went first. Six hours later, she was tattooed. Yes, she sat still still for 6 hours. This was the biggest shock, considering we can’t even get through a film without fidgeting. And due to popular demand, we filmed it. We thought we could make a Calamityville tattoo special with a montage and some catchy music. Some bits of the tattoo, Cat didn’t feel at all, other bits were painful. Round the sides of the arm were stingy areas and when Ali added the white to the ivy at the end, that hurt, as she was going over skin she had already tattooed. We found gripping a can of Red Bull helped. And people say it’s bad for us! Most people when they get their first tattoo have something small. Us – half sleeves with massive amount of detail and white. But the design wouldn’t be suitable for a small tattoo. And our arms are so tiny, you wouldn’t see them. We never do anything by halves. People warned us we would get addicted and would soon be planning our next one. We laughed.

Valkyrie tattoo, C L Raven

almost done

Valkyrie tattoo, C L Raven

Ali positioning Lynx’s design

But what people forgot to mention was that putting the cream on hurts like a bitch. It’s far more painful than having the tattoo done. Sitting there for 6 hours getting scratched with multiple needles, that’s fine. Rubbing cream in afterwards – dear god. That pain has got to be one of the circles of Hell. Cat felt a little light headed afterwards, but otherwise felt fine.

Valkyrie tattoo, C L Raven

drawing board

On Friday afternoon, it was Lynx’s turn. Hers only took four and a half hours, but was more painful. Cat filmed some good shots of her grimacing bravely through the pain. Though Lynx finds putting the cream on less painful than having the tattoo done. Lynx felt sick afterwards, but we had tickets to go see Atomic Blondie, a Blondie tribute act in the Globe. Lisa, one of the women in our zumba class, is Blondie so this was a zumba outing. We had enough time time to go home, get some ice cream then dash out to Neen’s to pick her and her wife, Zoe up before heading to the Globe. Being in a small, crowded venue two hours after having your first tattoo isn’t something we’d recommend. We stood on the stairs, where we wouldn’t be jostled. Apparently we’d spent the night standing beside a woman from BBC Wales. We had no idea. Dear god we hope she didn’t glimpse some of the tweets we were posting.

Valkyrie tattoo, C L Raven

ivy detail

The day after the tattoo was a particularly painful day. Again, no-one warned us about that. It feels like sunburn. No, worse than sunburn. Every movement of the arm caused pain. Dressing and undressing hurt, which isn’t much fun when you have to put cream on every 3 hours after removing 4 layers of clothing, or put your coat on as much as we do (we work outside).

But we’ve finally got our tattoos. And people were right. As Lynx was sitting in the chair, we were chatting to Ali about designs for our next ones. Horsemen of the Apocalypse perhaps. We don’t do girly. And now they’re starting to itch. So if you see us slapping our arms, this is not a coded message or a new dance craze, though feel free to join in.Valkyrie tattoos, C L Raven