I realised as soon as I glanced up that making eye contact was a bad idea. I couldn’t help it, the Tattooed Man cycling through Bradford’s City Park exuded intrigue. Not dangerous exactly, but not safe either.
“What’s yer name?” he asked, eyes hidden by sunglasses, body language relaxed as he leaned over the bike, the security chain chinking against the padlock and the lighter in his top pocket. I was flummoxed, there I was, faffing with my camera, I thought I was still covered by the special cloak of invisibility all photographers have so we can sneak around snapping away. He could see me. How could that be?
“What’s yours?” I asked, reverting immediately to my in-your-face journalism mode. Shaun introduced himself and offered his hand, which I shook, it was warm and soft, not like the harsh lines on his face, or sharp steely eyes revealed when he took off his sunglasses. I told him my name.
“How old do you think I am, Anne?” he asked. A strange question from a stranger, but we were in full view and the CCTV were doing their twirly focusing thing so, others were no doubt watching. Guessing a man’s age isn’t as risky as doing the same with a woman, it’s OK to go higher, though being British I didn’t want to offend and Shaun looked like the kind you didn’t want to get on the wrong side of.
I thought he looked 50, so said 47. He’s 44. He smiled as I turned the question on him, he was waaaay out, it’s a long time since I’ve seen 30, we both knew it was a joke and laughed, I’m not sure he laughs much.
Shaun had cycled from Halifax, nine miles and many hills away. He had been on a mission elsewhere which involved meting out summary justice, with the other fella coming off worse. It may or may not have been true, but he certainly believed it.
Looking at my camera he asked if I wanted to take his photo. Did I? So much character and back story, it showed in his face right down to the tattooed tear on his cheek and the light was perfect. He seemed pleased with the result, maybe no-one’s taken that much interest in him before. Though when he asked if I wanted his number, I told him my husband, a double black belt in C++ programming wouldn’t like it and you don’t want to make a coder angry, I think he was impressed. It was a very long shot and he knew it, so we shook hands and off he went, and so did I, but quickly and in the opposite direction.