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The award-winning writer of H Is for Hawk talks about her post-lockdown tattoo, the climate emergency and living alone in middle-age
Helen Macdonald is very excited to show off her tattoo. It was one of the first things she did when lockdown eased and no one else has seen it yet. It is a seraph inspired by the gilded angels on “a completely over the top 19th-century screen by Sir Ninian Comper” in St Peter’s Church, Ely. He has a sword, “an expression of tender solemnity” and, most importantly for the author of H Is for Hawk, six wings, “which is very cool. I love him to bits.”
Her parrot, called Birdoole (“slightly Games of Thronesish”), is wandering over the kitchen table. “Tattoos are all about mortality and getting old,” she says. “They are all about who you are.” The writer, naturalist, poet and illustrator, who turns 50 this year, insists it has nothing to do with a midlife crisis: “I’ve had loads of those already.” Instead, it goes back to her earliest days and the death of her twin brother soon after he was born. “It has taken me many years to realise that was a very important loss for me.”
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