Tony’s First Tattoo

Yes, he did it. While we were in Malta. And it was the most romantic thing ever.

Because he did it on holiday, you might think that it was a spur of the moment (and possibly regrettable) decision. But he’s actually been planning and talking about this particular tattoo for years. So when he saw a snazzy looking tattoo shop just down the street from our AirBnB, he figured it was a sign. From the inside, the tattoo shop was even better. There’s so much of the weirdly wonderful going on here, from the guy sitting to the right–who is not a guy, but a ghost–to that piano/shrine/home bar with all the candles gloriously melted over it

Maybe all tattoo shops are this cool; I had never been in one before. But I was quite impressed.

Tony’s tattoist was great, and very indulgent of my excessive giggling and photo snapping.

I also took a video of the process.

Here he is, after the deed was done!

And no, that’s not what it looks like happening in the background. The other guy was getting a tattoo too. I swear.

Here it is from an angle where you can actually read it.

And now you’re probably wondering, what in the world it means

Unless you are somehow serendipitously a literary kindred spirit and obsessed with the same obscure book. In which case we really need to get together and gush about it.

Well, the short answer is, that tattoo is Tony’s love for me, permanently scrawled on his body in my handwriting.

The long answer is, the Liralen is a mythical white bird from an early novel by one of my favourite fantasy authors, Patricia McKillip. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld was perfect fodder for my teenage mind: a powerful but vulnerable sorceress living on her mountain alone with her enchanted beasts. There’s adventure, intrigue, and passion, all wrapped up in a literary package of extraordinary depth and lyrical beauty. The Liralen is the magical thread that runs through the entire book–a lovely creature of absolute goodness, but with a secret, darker side.

I could go on for paragraphs about McKillip’s underappreciated artistic genius, and all of my favourites of her novels (and I have in other posts). Whenever I visit a particularly beautiful place, like Hohenzollern Castle or the Cathedral of Sevilla, I feel like I am walking into a Patricia McKillip novel. Because she does to language what fairytale settings crowned by fantastical architecture do to space.

Suffice it to say that when email addresses were invented during my impressionable teenage years (back during the depths of the dark ages, according to my children), it seemed obvious to me that the choice of a name was a matter of great import and should represent the essence of one’s very soul. And what better to represent mine than the Liralen. Unfortunately, although it was during that golden time when many actual words were actually still available as @yahoo or @hotmail or .com addresses, someone else must also have been a fan of The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. Liralen was unavailable. Undeterred, I made it unmistakably my own by switching the spelling to Lyralen. And it’s been my regular alias in all sorts of online situations ever since.

So in case you’ve ever wondered why my email address isn’t “” like a normal person, that’s the reason. And you could say Tony has my email address tattooed next to his heart. (Although I did remark that if it got too painful he could just stop halfway through and be left with a tattoo of our dog’s name instead.)

When he was coming up with the concept, he asked me to write out Lyralen in cursive so he could talk to the tattoo artist about the font he wanted. I thought it was just because my handwriting is more legible than his. But then he and the tattoo artist decided it would be best to skip the middleman and actually use my handwriting. Which if I had known in retrospect would have caused me to be a bit more painstaking rather than just dashing off the first Lyralen that came to pen. In the end, though, I think it turned out nicely. And Tony loves it, which is after all the most important thing.

And now we know what is going to be the next book we read together during our Amsterdam weekend morning coffee dates.

2 thoughts on “Tony’s First Tattoo

  • March 15, 2017 at 3:02 am

    I love everything about this. I’m putting The Forgotten Beasts of Eld at the top of my to-read list and adding “looking for someone who wants to read books over coffee and vacation together in Malta” to my Tinder profile. 😀

  • January 16, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    Well, i now know what I’m going to be reading next out here in the forest! I haven’t heard of this book before.


What do you think?