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By William Shaw
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Alongside the new food outlets, Bill’s and Wagamama, catering for Brighton’s newer middle-classes, a few older tattoo shops remain. Blue Dragon Tattoo, 96 North Road
In the Blue Dragon, Adam leans forward in the chair; the needle buzzes. Jason concentrates on the face of an angel. He’s fixing up the shoddy work of another tattooist.
Adam’s a born-again Christian. He wouldn’t have anything like naked women or a skull-and-crossbones. "Nothing against people that have got them," he says. "I just wouldn’t myself."
Jason eyes the fuzzy ill-defined faces. "It upsets me," he says. "There are people who don’t take care. You can see it’s just been rushed." Two angels, both curvaceous, one good, one bad, kneeling either side of the crucifix.
People can go one way, or the other. Adam could have been one of those down the park, drinking White Lightning. Before he was born again, he smoked a hell of a lot of cannabis. Hasn’t touched
"Not that taking drugs automatically makes you a bad person," he philosophises. His back red from the needle. It doesn’t hurt that much: "To be honest though, once you’ve had your sternum broken and your heart cut in half this isn’t going to hurt that much."
The cross on his back was made by a needle, the cross on his chest by a scalpel. At 21 doctors told Adam he’d be dead if he didn’t have the operation.
"My dad didn’t know I had any tattoos until I had surgery. I was shitting myself. When I woke up I asked my sister, ‘What did he say?’ She said, ‘I can’t believe you were worried about your tattoos’."
"What was it you had done?" Jason asks.
"I had to have my aortic valve replaced. The valve is made of titanium. You can hear it."
Adam tells him to turn off the electric needle. The buzzing stops.
At first he can’t make it out, but when he puts his head near Adam’s chest Jason can hear the tick tick tick of the metal valve; it’s like an old clock. Jason, eyebrows raised, says, "You’re like the crocodile in Peter Pan."
"I can hear it all the time," says Adam.