J-Ro Goes Solo…In Edinburgh! (part 3)

Keeping my cool on the way to meet Amanda Palmer. Should probably work on my poker face. (click on pic for my Instagram)

Keeping my cool on the way to meet Amanda Palmer. Should probably work on my poker face.
(click on pic for my Instagram)

I began my last day in Edinburgh by waking up to a juicy, squishy, throbbing mass of inky corned beef that used to be my arm. The first 24 hours are always a bit messy; after I cleaned it, I was pure delighted with myself, checking out my new upgraded HD colour arm in the mirror every ten minutes. Apologies to Mags & Bryan for leaking my tattoo-goo on your duvet. I wrapped my arm in 3 meters of cling film in an attempt to keep it airtight before I went to sleep. Once it was all taped up, I couldn’t help thinking it resembled a plastic-sealed tattoed ham; a vacuum-packed part of a once-badass pig. Oh yes. I was in my sexual prime. Form a queue lads…

So on into town I went, having been dropped off on one end of Princes St, before realising it was the wrong end. If there’s one thing I LOVE to do, it’s running or power-walking down a street that’s – and I’m not prone to exaggeration as you well know – twenty-five miles long, while a gale-force wind bitch-slaps me in the face and I try and avoid people who all seem to want to shoulder me at full force into my supremely tender freshly-inked upper arm. It was quite the sight that met the staff of Waterstone’s fifteen minutes later. I looked like the ‘before’ picture for a Goth heart attack prevention campaign. I know. There’s too much sexiness in this post…

The queue was fairly substantial by the time I got there, with all sorts of folk waiting to meet the fantastic Amanda Palmer and get her book The Art Of Asking signed. If you haven’t heard of the book, I’d highly recommend giving it a go. It’s a wonderful work; part memoir, part guide on how to get over ourselves and reach out to ask for help when we need it. That and she’s also just a very cool interesting person with many great stories to tell from her days earning money as a living statue on the streets of New York. Check out her Ted Talk in the link below, it’s well worth a watch.

While we waited in line, I got chatting to the two girls behind me. Danielle and Cass were from Ottawa, Canada, and had been travelling around Ireland and the UK for the last few weeks. We had great craic, chatting about Dublin and their Edinburgh experience so far. They were SERIOUS Amanda fans, even knowing her PA (Whitney, who told me my outfit was ‘super-cute’ – legend) on a personal level. The Waterstone’s had a café directly above us in an open-plan area up a set of stairs, so we kept ourselves comfortably refreshed with giant coffees & teas all round. I tell you what; if you’re going to be stuck queueing anywhere, a bookstore like that certainly isn’t the worst. I had a ball before I even got up to get my book signed.

Me armed with my copy...

Me armed with my copy…

When the time came, Amanda Palmer came down the steps looking relaxed and happy and glowy as hell with her baby bump proudly on display. You’d never know that she’d done a massive show the night before, and she was delighted with everyone who showed up. Next thing she took up her ukulele, and before she started to play, she said “If all you guys want to huddle up and stand closer to hear this, I know everybody will keep their place in the queue and not jump, right?” With that, she played one of her lovely tunes, and it was like listening to a friend serenade you. Stopping, laughing, having little jokes with the crowd or bemused Waterstones customers who had no idea what was going on, and one really cute moment where a mother walked past her with a baby in her arms and she slightly melted and we all laughed, because Amanda being the open soul that she is, blogs and updates FB talking about impending parenthood and how excited she is, and what a great father her husband Neil (Gaiman for those who don’t know!) will be to the new arrival. Here’s a clip I took of her playing:

Believe it or not, EVERYONE went back to their original places in the queue! I guess that’s more a testament to the nature of her fans, everyone is pure sound. Imagine that happening in Limerick?? Doesn’t bear thinking about. THE HORROR…

One of the best things to happen was as we got closer to the signing desk, I sent Neil Gaiman a tweet with a pic of Amanda singing, only to find he had replied to me a minute later. Delighted, I was. Announcing it to a giant queue full of artsy nerdy bookworm-types who have quotes from his books tattooed on their bodies wasn’t my wisest move if I wanted to not have the arm thumped off me in disbelief as they said “Fuck off. SHUT UP. No way!” To which I only made the situation worse by responding “Oh God yeah, sure I’ve spoken to him a few times. He’s such a legend.” Well, in for a penny….

Ah, you know...regular day. (click on the pic to head over to my Twitter)

Ah, you know…regular day. (click on the pic to head over to my Twitter)

Finally, I got to get my book signed and meet the woman of the moment. She’s so frickin’ nice! She didn’t even look bored or freaked out when I gabbled at her nervously as she signed ‘To @JayRow’ on the inside cover. She pulled me in for a hug / picture like she hadn’t been spending all day doing the exact same thing to everyone, we all really felt like we’d had proper time with her, which, given the size of the queue, was no mean feat.

IMG_5768

I skipped out of Waterstones (metaphorically – nobody needs to see that) pure delighted with myself. For the rest of the day, I packed and got my shit together, planning on how I would handle the sudden anticlimax of coming home and not getting selfies with world-famous authors for a change. I didn’t feel like getting off the rollercoaster just yet, and wondered what the Universe had in store for me next that I could see myself saying ‘YES’ to.

Later on that evening, I found out…and it was going to be a real ‘drag’.

Tune in next time to find out what J-Ro did next!

J-Ro Goes Solo….in Edinburgh! (Part 2)

Seriously, like. People see this view on the way to WORK.

Seriously, like. People see this view on the way to WORK.

After all the craic of Saturday, where I went to the Edinburgh Dungeon and made a new pal, I was all set to rock out the door on Sunday to hop on an open-top bus and go Full Tourist around the city. I was pure excited, having visions of dressing up like a victim in an anti-mugging campaign; neon fanny-pack, Edinburgh Castle novelty baseball cap, my passport in a stupid-looking yoke around my neck, and my phone in a clip belt. Alas, this unnerving vision of sexuality was never to come to fruition – for two reasons.

The first being that when it comes to weather, the ‘Burgh can be a temperamental finicky bastard, so grey skies and wetness in the air were all around. The second reason being that I was completely wrecked. I seem to have a very short shelf-life for the outside world, and it gets shorter depending on how I am in myself. When I’m out, I enjoy every minute, and do my best to soak up the experience of whatever has lured me from the comfort of a couch-fort and a computer screen. But after a while I reach a very definite point where my brain turns on a dime, and the urge to run screaming back indoors is almost a physical one.

It’s a strange sensation to explain to those who don’t suffer with mental health issues. Christ, it’s difficult to explain to myself at the best of times. It’s not a panic attack as such; rather it can feel like the energy level bars on a video game screen depleting into the red and you’ve limited time to get back to base to recharge, or it’s Game Over. It comes out of nowhere, but it makes its presence known. It has no real logic, but your physical brain tries to attach it to something tangible to try and make sense of it. Which, cruelly enough, adds to the weight on your shoulders. I’m aware enough now (thank the Gods) to read the signs and know when to tap out of a situation and retreat to base camp where possible. Jaysus, I’m very high maintenance. It’s all a bit of a cunt really. But, I digress.

I also ate food while I was away. Sometimes as much as three times a day.

I also ate food while I was away. Sometimes as much as three times a day.

So after being sensible and staying in on Sunday and, as my sister says, ‘having a serious chat’ with myself, I woke up on Monday seriously excited to be getting tattooed for the day. There’s nothing more handy at keeping you in the present and worry-free than sitting for almost seven hours while someone etches ink of many assorted colours deep into your skin with needles. It’s not for everybody, I’ll give you that, but God I fucking love it.

Click this pic to go to Semper's FB page!

Click this pic to go to Semper’s FB page!

I was greeted at the door of a gorgeous Georgian building just off Princes St by one of the coolest guys I’ve ever seen. David Corden, one of the most talented tattoo artists on the planet, is working out of his home studio while he gets ready to open his shop, Semper Tattoos & Piercing, in the next couple of months. Big smile, all style, he grabbed me in a massive bear hug and introduced me to Michelle Maddison, the unbelievably talented woman who was going to be using me as a human colouring book for the day. She normally didn’t work Mondays, she told me later as she worked away using pretty much every gorgeous colour on the spectrum on my upper arm, but my subject matter was what sold it. “It was Jem And The Holograms, how could I not?” she laughed.

Chopper and Bronson. Best. Dog. Names. Ever.

Chopper and Bronson. Best. Dog. Names. Ever.

We were kept company outside the sterile studio area by Dave and Kelly’s French Bulldogs Chopper and Bronson. A pair of four-legged, big-eared happy-out goofy legends who loved hanging with humans who gave them loves and attention. I loved them! We had Netflix on in the background while Michelle worked, and she gave me Dealer’s Choice, so just for something to focus on when the pain got a bit iffy, I stuck on some Alan Partridge. Not my smartest move. Can’t be laughing while someone is doing some precision-level permanent needlework on your skin. Thankfully, Michelle is steadier than a neurosurgeon, and I’d seen all the episodes before, so it was less of a guffaw and more of a knowing chuckle to myself.

Michelle and I were BUZZIN', so we were. #SorryNotSorry

Michelle and I were BUZZIN’, so we were. #SorryNotSorry

In the end, I broke my own personal sitting record for getting tattooed. Previously having sat for three and a half hours at a time for larger pieces, this one clocked in at a whopping six and a half hours. I was very glad of the Mars Bar I’d scoffed just before we began. I was quite proud of myself, but I think I’ve found my limit now. By hour six I was sweating and drawing inspiration from Tyler Durden in Fight Club and trying to find my cave and my power animal, who was hopefully a cheeky foreign-sounding meerkat armed with a cold water spritzer to douse my arm and bring sweet relief.

By the end of the session, I was rewarded with the most colourful, awesome eye-catching tattoo on the planet. It’s a tribute to my childhood in the Eighties, and my adoration for Jem And The Holograms, which, to me, was the ultimate feminist cartoon for young girls. Who needs Girl Power when you had Synergie and could fool your fella into two-timing you just by wearing extensions and giving him a different name? (Poor Rio. Mensa was never going to have his number on speed-dial, that’s for sure.) Michelle is one of the coolest, most lovely people I’ve ever met, and her eye for colour is almost painful, it’s so beautiful. She has a blog of her own talking about her tattoos and showing her work, as well as detailing her experience of upping sticks and moving to Edinburgh to start a new life for herself, with all the perils and pleasantness and pitfalls in between. Click on my Jem tattoo pic below to head over to her fantastic blog.

Pic courtesy of Michelle Maddison Instagram - click to visit her personal blog!

Pic courtesy of Michelle Maddison Instagram – click on Jem to visit her personal blog!

In a side-development, I discovered that both Dave and Michelle were both massive fans of the artwork of my first cousin and veritable Instagram royalty Morgan, whose Instagram profile (@c0dex) is a showcase of some of the most gorgeous animation-style artwork you’re ever likely to see. Fucking hell, this Interweb is small. But mighty. Check out one of her awesome drawing pieces below:

That night I headed back to the apartment, with an arm twice its normal size but a hundred times more colourful. I’ve always hated my upper arms, they’re the features guaranteed to ruin my enjoyment of any pictures where they inadvertently show up. Why would I draw attention to them so, I hear you ask? Well precisely because I hate them. Why not paint them with something that brought me so much joy as a child and turn that hatred on its head? It’s a lovely experience to look into the mirror and instead of feeling despair at my shape, feel happiness and remember the excitement of getting up at 7am on a Saturday morning as a kid to watch a girl band kick ass and make me feel like I could do it too. It’s not for everyone, this business of getting inked, but it’s what does it for me.

I find myself going into an almost meditative state, getting in ‘The Zone’ while you and the artist reach a certain level of peace and quiet as the picture starts to take shape…which Michelle and I then smashed to smithereens by reading the holes off various exes who had done us wrong and comparing horror stories. It was fantastic.

Click on this pic to go to my Instagram!

Click on this pic to go to my Instagram!

And with that, my last night in Edinburgh was upon me. Without knowing it, my friends Bryan and Mags had given me the gift of a proper break away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and I’d been able to assess some stuff and sow the seeds of ideas and plans for the future on a professional and personal level. To me, that was priceless, That, and I had the company of Arthur, the cuddliest and most affectionate cat in the United Kingdom. I’m very grateful to know the people (and animals!) that I do. They’re the cat’s pyjamas, so they are. (I’m not sorry for that)

I miss Arthur, my little furry holiday therapist.

I miss Arthur, my little furry holiday therapist.

All excited and gooey from tattoo juice, I wrapped my arm in cling-film (unpleasant and a complete head-wreck for the night) and threw myself head-first into a fitful sleep. For I had one more Edinburgh adventure ahead of me the following morning….

Tune in next time for another instalment of J-Ro adventures!

<3

J-Ro goes solo…in Edinburgh! (Part 1)

Swear t'God, that's my halo.

Swear t’God, that’s my halo.

If there’s one thing that I absolutely love, and I haven’t done enough of, it’s travelling solo. Don’t get me wrong, group holidays or taking a road trip with pals are great craic in their own right, but if you want to know yourself, I mean really know yourself when you’re not surrounded by all the people and things that define you back home, then head off on your Tobler somewhere for a few days, preferably somewhere you’ve never been before, where hardly anyone knows you. I say ‘hardly anyone’ because God knows, this social media-ridden planet can be tiny.

You find all sorts on Daft these days...

You find all sorts on Daft these days…

There’s something really nice about having an city to yourself, on your own schedule, at your own pace. It’s very self-indulgent. I guess it’s because I’ve been single in my adult life for so long (don’t feel in the least bit sorry for me, I’m only killing time until Tom Hardy gets that vial of blood and personal dating profile I sent him). Years ago, I decided that I didn’t want to wait around until I had a partner to go on mini-breaks and other adventures. Good thing really – otherwise I’d have mummified myself out of sheer boredom.

Now to date, my solo trips have been few and far between – and fairly local. Apart from that ten-day trip to Israel five years ago, but I’ll save that for The Book. The UK and Ireland have been my go-to destinations, and I’ve played it safe. There’s always been people I know within a text’s distance. This time the chance came up to be in Edinburgh for over a week in the form of cat-sitting for two really good mates who were coming back to Ireland for a visit, so off I went. Lucky for me, this cat is the best of craic – all he’s missing is opposable thumbs and he could look after ME for the week. One smart cookie, is Arthur.

Arthur touching my foot - and my heart.

Arthur touching my foot – and my heart.

I’ve been to Edinburgh twice before with friends and seen a few different sides to the place, all of them really cool. Unfortunately for my waistline, but fortunately for my sense of direction, I use restaurants and anything food-related the way Google Maps uses red pins. So when I arrived in The ‘Burgh, I had a calorie-based sixth sense about where to go and what to do. Plus, it’s probably one of the best cities ever to get lost in, because it’s jam-flippin’ packed with mad stuff like history and shit. I love me some history…

Some history; just lying in the middle of the road like a mad bastard.

Some history; just lying in the middle of the road like a mad bastard.

So in went the earphones and on went the shades (just so I’d look like I was pure one of the locals and not a – *GASP* – tourist.) I strolled around the main streets and lanes, hitting up Gregg’s to get something pastry-ish and drowning in fondant icing, and my disguise as a local was complete. I gave the game away a few times up around the Castle when I stood still to take pics and fought the urge to hug identically-dressed elderly American couples who stepped off giant shiny tour buses nearby and just scream “IT’S SO FUCKIN COOL!” Instead I fought the urge to tell them all that Sean Bean lives there and actually dresses like Ned Stark all the time in real life. I probably should have acted on that urge. And filmed it.

In between being an Agony Aunt and a cat-sitter, I explored bits of Edinburgh I hadn’t had the chance to. I also found the most brilliant vintage boutique and hair salon called Miss Dixiebelle’s just up the road off Prince’s St, and they fixed my neglected dejected mop of misery and gave me back a bangin’ set of Bettie Bangs. I was born again, in the light of flamingo wallpaper and rockabilly tunes. What a time to be alive!

I could well get used to this pampering lark.

I could well get used to this pampering lark.

The after shot. God bless Miss Dixiebelle.

The after shot. God bless Miss Dixiebelle.

On my first day a-wandering during the week, I’d gone completely arseways direction-wise, getting everything mixed up and thinking up was down. Normally I’d have been murdering myself for being such an idiot, but because I had given myself permission to enjoy the trip and treat it like a holiday, I actually found it quite liberating. So, thanking the Gods above and below for the good weather, i just began strolling. I saw this vintage shop that took my breath away. It was like an Aladdin’s Cave, where I seemed to suffer serious sensory overload. Such colours, and stuff and things and petticoats and lovely bits… *sigh* I basically wanted to do this the entire time I was in there:

This veritable Vintage Nirvana was Armstrong’s in Grassmarket, and I want ALL THE THINGS in there. That’s if they let me back in after the noises I made when I clapped eyes on a frilly blue vintage dress, and the worse noises I made when I realised even my left arm wouldn’t fit in the waistband.

The retail experience, I won’t bore you with. But suffice to say I got some things. Frocks for two weddings, so my one specific mission was accomplished. Some bits I got hold of can be seen on my Instagram, and wait until you get a load of the Bettie Page figure-hugging dress I got. I’ve never felt more sexay, and that’s saying something since I’ve put on a truckload of weight the last year. That’ll be up in a few weeks when the wedding bash is upon us. SERIOUSLY. Best dress ever.

Today (Saturday) I decided to head to The Edinburgh Dungeon by myself, Billy No-Mates that I am. Figured I may as well commit to being creepy Forever Alone girl. Great craic altogether. The feckers put me in a cage in the torture chamber. Sound. However I got chatting to one of the staff members while we waited to begin the tour, and when I went in for the official pic, Stevie (my new bestie) was only mad to get in on the action. So in he hopped, and he became my accomplice. By the time our tour was over and I went to get my picture souvenir, I was famous. The lads working told me they had a great laugh when they saw the pics of their mate and some mad Irish one waving an axe and acting terrified on a boat. I got a keyring, so now me and Dungeon-Stevie (totally his name now) are immortalised forever, bound by plastic and metal.

Pantomime terror - NAILED IT.

Pantomime terror – NAILED IT.

So now, I’m flippin’ wrecked, but clear-headed and happy at the same time since I can’t even remember when. So tomorrow, I’m buying into the whole tourist thing proper-styles, and getting on an open-top double decker bus for a big sightseeing tour all around the city. Can’t fucking wait! I’ll doll myself up good and proper so I’ll stick out like a sore thumb sitting with all the couples in matching windbreakers and fanny-packs; a goth among the pigeons.

Then on Monday – I’m getting tattooed. YES…

On Tuesday, because life is awesome – I’m going to get a book signed by the legend that is Amanda Palmer. My mission is to get a selfie with her to add to my collection. Well, it’s more a pair of pics than a collection, but hey. You gotta start somewhere right?

Jen Ronan & Jon Ronson - or

Jen Ronan & Jon Ronson – or “When J-Ro Met J-Ro”

Me and Irvine Welsh - soundest Scotsman since Robert The Bruce

Me and Irvine Welsh – soundest Scotsman since Robert The Bruce

Tune in for Part 2 in the next few days! It’s gonna be a good ‘un….