Taking a deep breath, I winced in pain as I felt the needle prick my skin.
‘All done,’ the tattooist said eventually.
Standing up, I looked in the mirror at the small of my back.
‘Looks great,’ I grinned.
Then I walked out to the waiting room where my partner, Dorothy, was sitting.
‘Babe, it’s awesome,’ she beamed when I showed her.
I was 24 and had just gone for my first ever tattoo – Dorothy’s name.
We’d been together for eight months and I wanted to show how much I loved her.
I’d only planned to get one, but a few weeks later, I decided to have a tribal design tattooed onto my
‘Then I’ll be done,’ I said to Dorothy.
Chuffed with the results, I was gutted when we caught up with Dorothy’s mate Andrew a few weeks later. He had the exact same tribal design on his leg.
I wanted to be different, so I decided to get a woman inked onto my other shoulder.
‘If you’re going to keep getting them, go big or go home,’ the tattooist said when I went back to him.
So, along with the girl, I had a huge sprawling dragon etched onto the left side of my ribs.
By now, I’d got the bug.
‘I want to be covered in them,’ I told Dorothy.
‘Let’s keep it under your T-shirt for now and see how you go,’ she said.
Dorothy and I got married the following year, so I didn’t have much cash for new ink.
But I put a little away from each pay, and soon enough I was adding colourful designs to my arms and torso.
My original tattoo artist moved, so I found a new one, who he recommended to me, called George.
After etching out a stunning angel on my back, he soon expanded to my lower arms.
Dorothy loved my tatts and was encouraging when I decided to do my legs next.
I wanted Japanese anime girls on my right one, so Dorothy spent ages finding characters for me.
On the left leg, I opted for another giant dragon.
George reckoned it would take 150 hours for both legs, so I spaced it out with six-hour sessions.
And as soon as they were finished, I was thinking about my next one.
I’m addicted, I realised.
Despite my body art growing, my workplace – where I was a printing machinist – didn’t mind.
By this point, I was also a dad to Michael, 14, and Anamae, two.
They weren’t bothered with how their dad looked either, and on the school run, no-one seemed to care.
Twelve years after that first tattoo, I made a decision.
‘I want to do my head and face,’ I told Dorothy.
‘No, it’s not happening,’ she said.
Understandably, she was worried about other people’s opinions and how it would affect my employability.
But I explained how I was already in a good position in my career.
‘And who cares what others think?’ I added.
It took a while for her to come around to the idea, but eventually she agreed.
‘As long as it’s nothing offensive or rude,’ she said.
It was George’s first time tattooing a head and I’d chosen a tiger. The pain wasn’t different to other body parts, but the vibrations of the machine on my scalp did feel strange.
From there, I covered my entire face in tattoos – even getting etchings on the inside of my ear.
Each time, Dorothy would admire the new addition.
As the face was a gradual process, it was easy for her to get used to.
A few years ago, I decided I wanted a job change and retrained as a nail technician.
Working from home, I’d have women pop by for a mani or pedi.
They loved my tatts and we’d chat away about my ink while I painted their nails.
In total, I’ve had 750 hours of work and 99 per cent of my body is tattooed – the only bit untouched is my private parts!
Dorothy is a little apprehensive about that.
I have considered it, but I’d have to find a female tattoo artist to do it. George and I are close, but not that close!
As a kid, Michael, now 24, always said he wouldn’t get tattoos, but he’s since started his own sleeve.
Sometimes Anamae, now 12, says she wants them, but other times she doesn’t.
It’s fine if they want as many as me, but only once they’ve got a career.
Our little one, Bastien, 18 months, loves looking at my tatts and will point out the girls on my leg.
There’s still some stigma attached to tattoos, but the majority of reactions I get are positive. When I’m in the supermarket, old ladies will still ask me to pass them items from a high shelf – proof they’re not intimidated.
People may sometimes stare, but I love it.
Getting inked is my way of expressing my individuality and I still love all my tattoos as much as when I first
When Brett got his first tattoo, I never imagined he would end up with so many. It was quite gradual and it didn’t bother me.
But I was a bit sceptical when he wanted to ink his head and face – it took me almost a year to agree.
I love him, so I didn’t care how he looked. We get lots of stares in the shopping centre, but I’m oblivious to it now.
And if Anamae sees photos of Brett before the tattoos, she says he looks strange without them!
Friends who meet him for the first time always say after, ‘Brett’s so lovely.’
He’s just a friendly giant and proof that you should never judge a book by its cover!