“The thing about growing up with Fred and George is that you sorta start thinking that anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.” J.K. Rowling

Since I had to wait for my son’s name change, I booked this trip only two months in advance, limiting my flight options to the Saver Awards availability on the United website. Because of this, there was only one booking available and I had to reserve a twelve hour layover in London following a five hour layover in Zurich. However, the forced downtime wasn’t going to stop me and I immediately jumped at the booking. After sampling the chocolate in Switzerland and enjoying their airport playground we were off to our final city before returning home.

We had an extremely long layover, so we made plans to maximize our time in London. My wife and I are self-proclaimed pop-culture nerds, volunteering at comic conventions every year, dressing our kids up in cosplay, operating a movie poster art gallery, and playing the Rains of Castamere at our wedding, but while my passion has always been Marvel, my wife’s is definitely Harry Potter. 

Don't group her into the people who buy the scarves at Hot Topic either, my wife has read every book at least ten times and could tell you every detail about every character. 

Since I’ve known her she has always wanted a Deathy Hallows tattoo, and while we were in Mexico she came extremely close to finally pulling the trigger. However, we decided against it because it was Mexico and we weren’t even allowed to drink the water. So when I found out we’d be near Kings Cross station in London for several hours I knew that we needed to follow the omens and make this dream happen for my wife, I couldn’t think of a more perfect place and time.

I sent out the following message to every tattoo parlor in the area with a subject line of “Late night tattoo? Will pay an extra 200” hoping that I could bribe an artist into helping us.

I was hoping to set up an appointment for a late night tattoo at your shop. My wife and I are from the US and have been traveling around Europe with our kids for the past few weeks,  we’re flying home now, but we have a 10 hour layover in London and would like to use that time to get my wife a Harry Potter tattoo while there.

It’s a simple design (a small deathly hallows on her upper back), but it would be amazing to have it created in London by a British artist. 

Our plane lands at 9:40 PM on June 28 and our flight leaves the next morning at 7:30 AM on June 29.

Anything you can do to make this dream come true for my wife would be much appreciated.


After several negative responses I received the following email and it was a go!

Hi Matt, 

Thank you for your email, hope you’ve enjoyed your visit to Europe! 

We would normally not open up the shop late at night but as I’m a big Potter fan I would be honoured to do your wife’s tattoo. 

What time do you reckon you would be able to be at the shop? What airport are you travelling from?

Kind regards,

Inkaholics, London
Instagram: jopsy_daisy

Josefine and her boyfriend met us at London Inkaholics after our Uber slowly drove us through London, passing Kings Cross on the way. We were worried after our plane was delayed and hitting traffic in London, that Josefine would cancel. Thankfully, we kept in constant contact and she was very accommodating to our erratic schedule. When we arrived and I saw Josefine standing with her male escort, I realized why every other female artist I contacted denied my after hours request. Once my daughter stepped out of the Uber with her unicorn backpack and cat fedora I could tell her concerns quickly faded.

Josefine had cats tattoos on her knee caps, and my daughter was fascinated by them. She led us into an empty barber shop with rows of antique chairs as she closed the large metal gate sealing us in. She greeted our children, looked at the clock and saw it was now after Midnight, and commented on how unique of an experience this was going to be. My wife concurred as she led us upstairs to the tattoo parlor with our three sleepy kids in tow.

We were surrounded by walls of African masks and other eclectic artwork as my wife and Josefine digitally designed the tattoo on a tiny couch not made for five people. My daughter was the most interested in the process and I enjoyed watching her learn about a new profession performed by a talented self-made woman. My sons talked soccer with her boyfriend, and I discussed domestic school shootings with him while he fetched us some drinks, but my daughter sat glued to an office chair in the reception area watching the artist apply a wax-paper design to my wife’s back in preparation. 
“Does it hurt Mommy?!”  “No sweetie, it’s just paper right now”

My wife was nervous, but the entire tattoo took less than an hour and she was very happy with the results and experience, she even commented how she felt a bond to Josefine and was proud to have her be the artist. She thought it would hurt a lot more to which Josefine responded, “it only hurts if the artist doesn’t know what they’re doing.”  It was an experience none of us will soon forget and my wife was happy to have both the memory of the trip, and the wizardly badge of honor immortalized on her back.

We ordered an Uber and Josefine let us wait inside until it arrived. My wife hugged her goodbye, we piled our kids into the vehicle,  and headed back to Heathrow Airport. It would be an hour drive back to the airport so my wife and kids quickly passed out in the back while I struck up a conversation with our driver.

We noticed Big Ben was under construction on the way, and our driver took a detour through Buckingham Palace giving me an immigrant's perspective of the Queen on the way. He had lived in London for eight years and was very knowledgeable of its history and landmarks, when I mentioned all the places in Rome we had just visited he rebutted that London might have less historical monuments than Rome, but Rome was never firebombed from the sky. Good point.

He asked me about my thoughts on Trump and despite my preconceptions of British people, he seemed to be a supporter. He was from Bulgaria and asked me to name one bad thing Trump had done since taking office. I brought up his increase of troops in Afghanistan after campaigning on promises of withdrawal, but also mentioned John Mulaney’s “horse in a hospital” analogy which speaks more to his erratic tendencies as a head of state. After he was done with politics and telling me about how his cousin could do my wife’s tattoo for much cheaper (if he wasn’t in prison) he moved on to the lighter topic of religion and said he was an Orthodox Christian.

I brought up my issues with organized religion, but told him that my wife was a Christian as well. We found common ground when discussing catholicism and settled our debate agreeing that a person should not be able to pay a priest to resolve their sins, and spirituality in general is more important than how you pray and to whom.

I never expected to have such an existential conversation with a stranger while on my way home from getting a tattoo for my wife in London, but traveling is all about those times. The moments where there’s nothing left to plan, there are no more responsibilities, and your phone is dead from using it all day so you can’t distract yourself. The moments when you can share your soul with another human or just stare into the distance and ponder how people might remember you someday. Will they remember this? Will it affect who they become? Will they return to it someday when you’re gone?

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