So when tattoo parlours were given the go-ahead to reopen on the 13th of July – along with beauty salons and tanning studios – people returned in their droves to get the ink they'd either been booked in for before the pandemic hit, or a new design that came to them at some point over the last four months of doing absolutely fuck all.
Photographer Chris Bethell went to a couple of tattoo parlours in east London this week to talk to freshly-inked people about just that.
"I'm from Italy – I came here for two days to get this tattoo. The tiger symbolises strength, it's a strong animal. The woman at the top is the warrior, representing strength again, and passion. The wolf is freedom, and it's howling because it is the conductor of nature. I got the sleeve done because I had a hard life that I'm now free of, which is what the tattoo shows."
"To be honest, I guess I had a lot of time to reflect on it – it's my first tattoo, which I got just after my first piercing. The first day after the parlours opened again I came in and put a deposit down. The reason for the triangle is because the Nazis used to brand gays with the upside down triangle in the concentration camps – that's how they identified them. Obviously the Jews had the star. So it's a self identification and a pride-type thing."
"I got it just because I wanted to get inked again, and Antoine, my tattooist, is a great friend of mine – almost for ten years now. So it's become quite a regular thing that we do. The piece is a medieval lily symbol that represents purity and love, femininity and grief in different cultures."
"I got it because I booked it before lockdown. Steve is a sick artist, and obviously after seeing that [Sang Bleu is] reopening, you want to come back and pay the people that haven't been paid for the last four months."
"I love it. I love the art, I love the artist and it's something that I couldn't wait to get done. The tattoo isn't an expression of how I feel, it's done by an artist I've followed for a while – and I just really like their work and wanted it on me."
"Why did I get it? Just 'cause I felt like it, really. I had the design for a while – it's a logo for the party I throw. I was supposed to get it before lockdown, and then I was going to get it while I was on tour in America. But lockdown happened, so as soon as it was lifted I wanted it done."
"So basically, they're all the important women in my life's favourite flowers. I always wanted a half sleeve, so there's a daffodil, a carnation, a peony, bluebells, lavender, lilies of the valley and a water lily."