Saturday, August 01, 2015

Oseberg Sleeve–days 3 and 4

2015-07-31 Bornholm
The amount of work involved in doing the tattoo on a large “canvas” my arm spun out an extra day, giving me a total of about 32 hours on the table. Day three saw my upper arm completed and then the shoulder work on the last day. These sections involved working through my original “Fais que ton rêve …” armband done in Paris back in 2006 (seen above) and then my most recent work higher on the shoulder.

What is terrifically pleasing above and beyond the artistry, is that these photos taken within minutes of completed sections show absolutely no bleeding or other irritation.
Pretty good for what is about three to four A4 pages of work. I didn’t have time to grab post-able photos of the shoulder work before we dashed across the island to put me on the last afternoon ferry back to the mainland.

On the Friday evening I asked to be dropped off in Nexø to do some food shopping. A small jazz festival was in progress, but the only musical activity I saw was by the waterfront. It was the end of the holiday season, but a run of bad weather had seen off most of the tourists, although when I reached the ferry I could see that the belated 36 hours of sunshine had produced an abundance of sun-burnt Nordic faces.
Nexo waterfront
Nexo muralI’m not sure that I was ever taken on the same road twice as I was chaUFFEured around, although I did note from the signs that “all roads lead to Rønne”.
All roads lead to Ronne - 1All roads lead to Ronne - 2
Once back on the mainland at Ystad, I switched to the train for Malmö and then again to Ängelholm where Gustav’s sister Isabel picked me up.

It’s a pity there such a final rush as I missed out on having a more relaxed post-tattoo talk with Uffe, who have enormous respect for as an artist and person. I would endeavour to re-connect with him in Copenhagen before I left, possibly to have his official photographer record my work, the Oseberg sleeve.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Oseberg sleeve–days 1 and 2

sketching on the bodyWhen I arrived on the island yesterday I spent some time with my tattooist Uffe Berenth, going over the themes which would shape my tattoo. This is the first time I’m having work done where artist and executor are one and the same, and for such a large canvas it’s really necessary for the topology to be taken into account. So, for the first few hours, I stand shirtless and arm-shaven as Uffe sketches over the natural lines of muscle and joint on my left arm, the natural contours eventually morphing into the major figures you see above and below.

The chief design inspiration is the Oseberg ship, a Viking ship found preserved in a Norwegian burial mound about a hundred years ago. and in particular, the set of “gripping beasts” which characterise the elaborate wood carvings on the ship. This Oseberg style is earlier than the Ringerike and Urnes styles used to create the “dog in surf” tattoo I had done early last year.

Uffe is working around that tattoo and the one below it – my armband done in Paris in 2006. Since I’m a big guy, the initial three day project is likely to spill into four, so I have a lot of “ouch” to get through to earn this sleeve.

End of day 1 - outline work doneAt the end of the first full day, all of the outlining, from wrist to shoulder had been done. It’s the end of this second day that the real genius of Uffe’s design and execution reveal themselves with the combination of Nordic dotwork and the elaborate texturing that fills in the bodies of these two beasts. The original Oseberg beasts are wolfish-to-ambiguous at best, but Uffe has gone over various malamute pictures to steer the profiles into a broader set.

…and speaking of malamutes, I’ve started imagining that Munson is lying on the floor by the table, spine pressed against the wall with legs extended. My phantom Munson occasionally turns his head to me, assesses the likelihood of a walk, and then resumes the slumbering position with a sigh.

1-2015-07-30 Bornholm
Midway through the second day I take advantage of some pain-killers and a book to drag my mind way from the pain. I’ve read through most of my other tattoos, but I need this external focus more than ever for such a long project. By the end of the day, the fore-arm is basically done, give or take some texturing around the inner elbow which is one of the more painful sites.

In the evening I’m taken to dinner with Uffe and family at a town a little way up the coast – it reminds me of a Cornish fishing village like Mevagissey, even down to the odour of fish and chips wafting across the harbour.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015


1-Denmark-Skane-BornholmOh look, I’m on an island. In the Baltic. Without a malamute.

I’m not sure which is more surprising: me being an island I hadn’t even heard of a month ago, or travelling without a dog.

On Monday, Gustav and I flew to Copenhagen for a vacation and to attend a family celebration. Unfortunately a brief long-distance trip meant leaving Munson behind, but he’s in good hands, and undoubtedly enjoying one of Sydney’s coldest winters in recent times. Our travel time, including Singapore stop-over was only 24 hours, depositing us in Denmark about 6am amidst a brief squall of summer rain.

For the next few days we’ll be apart – Gustav hopped onto the train to Sweden, and I have this side-trip to Bornholm until the weekend. Perched off the SE coast of Sweden and north of Poland, the island is actually a part of Denmark albeit connected to the Swedish electricity grid by one of the longest submarine cables in Europe. I got here via the 866 bus across the Øresund Bridge to Ystad (home to fictional detective Kurt Wallander) and then a ferry to Rønne on the island’s west coast.

I suggested to someone that because of its location and popularity during summer vacations, I was visiting “the Hawaii of the Baltic”, but was quickly corrected with a “so, not like Hawaii at all”. However I am not here to enjoy the Whitehaven-like sands of Snoegebeck but to get a tattoo in the Nordic style.

Time to sleep.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Munson’s Fantasia

Munson's chorus -line (1)Gustav and I were doing some shopping on King Street this morning, but our main destination wasn’t opening for another forty-five minutes, so I took Munson down to Sydney Park for a spell to fill in time.

We haven’t been there in a good while, partly due to time of year (it’s dark when I get home from work), weather (intermittently freezing) and public works (long fences blocking off regions of the park).

Munson was pretty excited to be there: sunny, cold and lots of space smelling of dog is his recipe for play.

I saw a minibus labelled “Zoomobile” across the main square and headed towards it. A display of small animals (reptiles?) was being set-up by folks from Taronga Park Zoo. The centre of the largest dog off-leash area in Sydney was probably not the best place to put it, and I got the sense that whoever organised this otherwise excellent outreach hadn’t really thought it through.  It was pretty close to where the highest concentration of dogs would be found, and at the crossroads of paths defining the main east-west thoroughfare. So, really really not a good spot. I clipped Munson’s leash back on to his collar and took him away from all the interesting little cages.
Munson's chorus -line (2)
We passed a tent making bird-costumes, and so we were not surprised to find people actually wearing them  a little further on. A cluster of photographers circled this trio of emus – Munson headed right over to say hello – cue much clickety click from the photographers as he posed with his chorus-line, almost a cosplay tribute to Fantasia.

I was quite surprised that we would do a spontaneous pose of this type as it’s really not his style. Bondi was the master of sitting in a picturesque location, inviting any number of excellent photos. I hope we look forward to more camera-love from Munson.

There was also a lady in a spoonbill costume hovering behind Munson, but they seemed rather disinterested in each other.

Avoiding the spoon-bill

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ten years of El Loco & El Lobo

10yrs - with a very silly pictureOn May 27 2005, I made my first blog post, having two days earlier taken off from Sydney for “a year or so” of European travel. Nothing special in that, other than my principal companion being a 75kg Alaskan Malamute by the name of Bondi, who I had adopted at eight weeks in Seattle just before Xmas 1998.

The blog took off slowly – I didn’t take or post many pictures, partly because it didn’t occur to me that I might get a following, or as it turned out, to inspire others to bring a malamute into their lives.

This will be post #1765 which is a pretty good output over that ten years, not counting extra material published on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube. YouTube itself is only three months only than this blog, with Google Maps appearing at the same time, albeit in a pretty sketchy form. When I was travelling around Europe there wasn’t all the amenity of street-views and route maps, nor the luxury of using a smart phone to summon up that detail. I found my way around by following a leash attached to a large creature with a powerful wet nose.

Posting peaked during years of intense travel 2006-2007 and the years in France 2010-2012. Bondi’s premature death in 2009 and Munson’s cancer scare in 2013 put some brakes on. Our first year back in Australia was quite hard for all us (Michael, Gustav and Munson) as we looked for work and dealt with Munson’s illness.

Since the middle of last year however, things have really picked up. Each of us has moved on from very temporary work situations to more secure and rewarding positions; Munson’s health has been great and he has become the king of the local dog park. Never has the role of ruler and jester been so well combined in a single fluffy suit.

Until post #1766: a bientôt, hasta luego and see ya later alligator.Sydney Park Feb 2 2009
PS I’ve filled in the missing gap from late Feb – early March 2013 when we left the farm, spent a few days in Paris and went on to the UK.  Start here.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Munson the Malamute at Mulga Mural

Munson with Mulga gorilla mural

I discovered the work of Joel Moore aka “Mulga” via Tumblr last year. His presence across Sydney is becoming more widely known thanks to murals like this one in Surry Hills.

This mural is known as Rainbow Ronnie.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

King’s Landing

In memory of Bondi leaving us six years ago today, some pictures of him in Croatia – notably in Dubrovnik and Split in April 2007, brought to mind by the use of these cities as settings for The Game of Thrones.

I’d also like to pay respects to my friend Richard Squire who passed away unexpectedly last week. I worked with Richard on and off from Sydney through Seattle and back in Sydney; he was an avid follower of our adventures around Europe. You are missed.
IMG_0349-351 Bondi at Dubrovnik Beach
IMG_0250-251_stitch ice 2015
IMG_0474b Mike & Bondi Dubrovnik
IMG_0504 IMG_0521-522 Bondi at Dubrovnik fort [ice]
IMG_0619-22_stitch ice 2015 Diocletian's Palace IMG_0599-600_stitch ice 2015
STA_0339-344_stitch ice 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Hail to the king

Gustav got another taste of extreme Sydney weather today with a furious mid-afternoon rain and hailstorm. For Munson however, it was the closest thing he’ll get to a snow-day here.

And how else do you know you’ve got a malamute? First instinct is to lie down in in the faux snow.

The only bad thing was that all my trees and shrubs were lacerated by the hail, the shredded leaves left on the branches looking rather pitiful. The frangipani and bromeliads were the worst hit.
shredded frangipani leaves Gustav's first Aussie snow-ball

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Last of the summer waves

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Twenty-nine kitesurfers, one malamute at Silver Beach, Kurnell.
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DSCF1120 DSCF1122 copy

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Two Chaps


There’s a cafe in our neighbourhood that opened last year and has gone from strength to strength. The owner alerted us to the fact that Munson appears in a few photos used in an online article in


Monday, January 26, 2015

Australia Day Gothic

2015-01-26 17.06.25 Enmore Park was alive with all sorts of groups celebrating Australia Day. One group stole Munson’s attention for pictures and a group howl.
2015-01-26 06.09.33  2015-01-26 17.09.072015-01-027