Thursday 31st March: (BEN)
The alarm goes off… Nope. Not having it.
The alarm goes off again…. Can’t be time already!
It goes off a third time…. Yep, it really is 12:30 already. Well that was a cracking hour and half power nap after finishing work, doing my washing and finally packing.
I drag myself off the sofa bed I’m asleep on, so as not to to wake the mrs, and promptly trip over the dog knocking everything off the table and waking the mrs. Glad i put up with the torture device called a futon. So with a corker of a headache I drag my clothes on and set off to the studio. This isn’t the best start to my first convention but as i continue down the street, past the first of the drunken revellers to be leaving the clubs, the fog in my head begins to clear, my thoughts focus and i find myself grinning. I’m off to Zurich Ink Days tattoo convention with one of Lincolnshire’s best artists, Jason Bird (Don’t tell him I said that). I arrive at the studio to find Daniel Neal (the inkee ) waiting at the door looking slightly annoyed and cursing at his phone. It would appear that Jay, who has the least distance to travel to the studio i.e. downstairs, had not yet managed to rise.
Dan too, has not managed to achieve much rest and has the wild look in his eye that one gets after a 5 day cocaine binge or when one stubs ones little toe on the radiator.
We hear a rumble and finally the studio door opens. Jay, who looks like he has forgotten we are leaving this morning, blinks at us wearily rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He looks genuinely confused for a moment whilst we stand shivering on his doorstop like two lost Dickensian urchins. The events dawn on him and he stands back to invite us in, we enter the studio and stop in shock and fear at the sight before us.
My once beautiful, tidy and organised studio is in a state of absolute and ultimate chaos. Jay leaves Dan and I standing there shaking our heads in disbelief as he saunters to the back area shouting over his shoulder, “I’ll just be a sec, I gotta pack.”
Dan looks at me. “Did he say he hasn’t packed yet?” I snort derisively. “This surprises you?” Jay returns to the room and dumps a pile of clothes roughly into his suitcase and begins to struggle to squash the lid closed. I sigh and usher him out of the way to double check his tattoo supplies as these are the most important items and only he knows what he needs entirely. Frankie shouts down to us to be quiet as she and the kids are in bed.
I quietly hand him the list of packed items, only the tattoo machines, needles and ink remain to be done. I re-pack the rest of his suitcase neatly and we load up and set off but not before Jay bellows “goodbye” at the top of his voice and slams the door shut with a bang that sends local wildlife scattering in every direction.
We blast on the music to drown out the inhuman abuse flowing to us out of the upstairs window. So here it is that i find myself squashed into the back of a Corsa, with Susan Boyle causing my ear drums to vibrate more violently than Jays rampant rabbit at 1 in the morning heading south…
After a few caffeine stops, a near collision on the A1, more cheesy music than an 80’s wedding and 3 laps of a round-about whilst the sat nav flips out and we argue as to which way we are going, and we arrive at 5:15AM at Gatwick long stay car park.
For once things go our way and the automatic barrier recognises our licence plate and allows us to enter. We drive round the crowded car park until we finally find an empty spot and park up. B48, “Someone should write that down I say.” We stretch and wait for Jay to have his 20th piss of the trip on another car. Serves him right for driving an Audi!
A quick bus journey, straight through security minus a £60 fine for over packing and having to completely unpack my hand luggage because they didn’t believe that a 30 year old man would have a betty boop and kisses suitcase, and we are crammed in to our seats.
Of course being the, ahem, largest of the three of us and the last to enter the plain I am rather perturbed to discover that they have given me the seat in the middle.
It’s like sitting with a couple of kids, neither Jay nor Dan have thought to bring anything to do and so they spend the entire hour and half trip looking over my shoulder at my game, shutting the screen and flicking my ears. Twats!
We exit the plane to the both of them moaning about the lack of space they had in the seats and how I hogged the arm rests. Again TWATS!!!
At Zurich airport I leave Jay and Dan collecting their luggage whilst i go and organise the transport. We find out that in Zurich they actually speak German and not French like we had been told they speak in Switzerland. Oops! We somehow manage to book tickets and get the tram and rock up at the hotel. After checking in we ask the assistant how to get to the convention hotel, she says, with a smile, “It is easy, just a walk, a tram, a train, a bus then another short walk and you are there.” Upon questioning it turns out that we are actually at least an hour away from the hall. Jay laughs, and says “enjoy sorting that out,” and saunters of for breakfast. I could cry, it wasn’t even me that booked the hotel in the first place!
A mere 20 minute conversation in 3 different languages later and we have cancelled our reservation and booked in to the actual hotel of the convention for a cheaper price. Happy Days!
We set off to navigate the ‘easy’ journey of a walk, a tram, a train, a bus and another short walk. However when we get to the bus part of the journey we have decided that rather than waste the money it isn’t far to get to the hotel on foot and that we can walk it.
I point the way and start to lead when Dan produces his phone sat nav. Snappily he asks me, “We could follow you, or we could follow the sat nav which has an actual map on it?” Jay looks to me and I shrug and follow Dan in the opposite direction. It is around the point that we are carrying our luggage down and almost vertical hillside on what appears to be the start of a Swiss motorway, then find that we have spend a half hour in blistering heat circling an industrial estate that i begin to doubt the directions.
After and hour of walking and the largest suitcase, containing the tattoo equipment’s, wheels have broken so that we our taking turns carrying it on our backs, that we arrive back at the sodding train station. Dan suddenly goes rather quiet and looks away as a red faced tattooist and his PA glare at him. Jay says “Fuck it!” and we load up into a taxi. Amazingly it is a straight road all the way to the hotel, and what a fucking shock, it is exactly the way I said that we should walk originally.
Hot, sweaty, aching and now carrying the wheeled suitcase we collapse in the entrance hall. The receptionist takes one look at us and tall glasses of ice cold water miraculously appear for us on the counter. Jay proposed to her on the spot. I attempt to tell her our names but all that comes out is a dry croak. I hold my finger up signalling to wait and down the water in one. Rooms…Two…Bird…Neals…. This is about all i can manage for now, I gladly accept the new glass of water that has been offered and manage to check in to the rooms.
Jay, paying very little attention to the details, grabs the key for the fourth floor and we enter the lift. I explain to him that Dan and I are in the fourth floor room and he is on the second and they have just mixed up the names, he disagrees. The doors to the lift close and we press 2nd and 4th floor….
We are chatting about the design and the upcoming convention for about 3 minutes when we finally realise that we are not actually moving and that we need to insert our cards to get the lift going. We are Uber smart!
Dan and I depart at the second floor and leave Jay to head up to ‘his room’, I open the door and look at the single bed. “Big or little spoon?” Dan asks me with a wink. I shake my head, consider fucking up Jays room as retribution and decide instead to just leave him a surprise in the toilet.
We find him sheepishly sat on one of the TWO beds in our actual room on the 4th floor and switch keys. It has been a long day and many to follow so we agree to meet in an hour and get ready to shit, shower and shave.