20 Apr 08

Month 4

My routine – roll out of bed, cook cheese on toast, stare at the computer all day except to eat, take a shower, stand on my head – was interrupted for ten days by a visitor from Canada, Cat Eyes, a reader of this blog who sent books to Tucson prison, and introduced me to such authors as Gabriel García Márquez, Yann Martel, and Gil Courtemanche. For ten days I endeavoured to immerse Cat Eyes, a French-speaking graphic-design graduate, in the cultural offerings of the English Northwest.

“It’s interesting to see the moss and plants growing on the roofs,” Cat Eyes said as we travelled to Liverpool (the European Capital of Culture for 2008). “The chimneys look like terracota plant pots. And the pointy-roof train-station houses remind me of the Gingerbread House from Hansel and Gretel.”
At the Albert Dock we spent three hours at the Tate Liverpool pondered paintings, including three Picassoes. Cat Eyes relished the exhibition of the work of the only female member of the Nouveau Réalisme movement, Niki de Saint Phalle, a self-taught artist who used to shoot her paintings and sculpures with a .22 caliber rifle to make them bleed from pockets filled with paint and foodstuffs.
Having served time at the supermaximum prison in Florence that houses Arizona’s death row, I preferred Electric Chair over Marilyn in the Andy Warhol room. To me it symbolised the barbarism of a justice system whose corruption DNA evidence continues to expose.

At the International Slavery Museum we learned that the Manchester-Liverpool railway we had used that day was financed by the proceeds of slavery, and that the Penny Lane popularised by the Beatles was named after the slave-ship owner James Penny.

In the Walker Art Gallery a suspicion I had formulated at the Tate Liverpool was confirmed: gazing at art for hours on end causes my brain to ache. Out of all of the galleries we visited, I appreciated the Walker Art Gallery the most, especially the painting of Henry VIII by a pupil of Hans Holbein, and I related to the mood evoked by James Campbell’s painting Waiting for Legal Advice.

At the World Museum Liverpool we met up with Gary, a former lecturer colleague of Mum’s, who’s now the curator demonstrator in the museum’s Natural History Centre. He prefers to be called the “bug man,” a title conferred on him by the swarms of visiting children because he’s in charge of showing them the dangerous spiders. With his white hair, black trench coat, and Irish brogue, I’m surprised Gary hasn’t been typecast as a hit man. Rare are the sentences to come out of his mouth without the word “shite” in them – a vocal aberration he credits his lack of success at job interviews to. Which is surprising because his portfolio of degrees includes two PhDs (Psychology and Animal Behaviour), two MScs (Neurobiology and Information Services), a Psychology BA and a PGCE in Mathematics.
“All these qualifications I did years ago, that seemed important at the time, are shite now. I was a different individual and part of another era. All I ever wanted to do was act, write, talk and have my own TV chat show where I make fun of politicians, entrepreneurs, celebrities, religious loonies, right-wing tossers and all those who create the shite society is in. Sadly, here I am in the museum and in the council, being told what to do by those very cretins I despise.”

Gary treated us to lunch at the vegetarian restaurant, the Green Fish. On the streets of Liverpool, an assortment of characters greeted him. In the café at the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, he introduced us to Hal Lever, the author of a book that couldn’t be about Hammy: I'm Not Drunk, Honest! Following a traffic accident, Hal suffered a coma and a tracheotomy. He slurs his speech, so the police often arrest him for drunkenness. During one arrest, he fell forward and was charged with “trying to headbutt a policeman.”
When Hal left we were joined by Gary’s friend, Hamish, a giraffe-sized astrologist who can tell your star sign by looking at the back of your neck. Hamish plays the guitar and lives entirely off nuts.
At the Philharmonic pub, Gary said, “Hamish inhabits that special place accessable only through pseudoscience and mysticism. A kind of latter-day John the Baptist who’s relaced religion and bath day with astrology and hocus-pocus. Frank Zappa’s son’s name Moonunit, would be a better label for him. He’s not of this earth, but another star system in the constellation Sagittarius where cranberries, nuts and lentils are held in highest esteem as part of the godhead. He’s wonderful and I can listen to him for minutes in small doses. Like that gobshite, George Bush, it takes a few minutes to realise he’s not speaking English as we know it, but the fun is thinking that he does and trying to interpret what he’s saying.”

We watched two plays at the Liverpool Playhouse: Arthur Miller’s The Man Who Had All The Luck, and a play I had to study at St. Joseph’s High School: Romeo and Juliet. Every seat was full for the latter, and in the gallery I swooned in the heat as if I were in a jail cell in Arizona. During the intermission, the playgoers mobbed the bar and toilets rendering peeing a social occasion, and at high rates of speed schoolchildren zigzagged everywhere including up and down the fire escapes – if only the Bard of Avon could have seen it. At the Everyman we saw Samuel Beckett’s End Game, and the acting of Matthew Kelly – playing a blind man in a wheel chair wearing dark glasses, thus limited to voice inflexion and gestures – was a tour de force.

My friend and former punk-rock partner from the Seventies, Julian, who lectures on art and graphic design, showed us around Manchester. We visited some smaller galleries, and took a tram to the Lowry Centre, a touring venue at the Salford Quays.
Not quite the same Salford I used to brave regularly nearly twenty years ago to visit a girlfriend. I remember blocks of dilapidated and graffitied council flats, and the Salford Skinheads chasing me back to my car, but their Doc Martens always failed to catch up with my British Knights.
Fast forward to science fiction. Crossing the footbridge to get to the Lowry, I admired the arc-shaped glass facades of the waterfront highrises and the penthouse rooftops. Further away, the nine cranes piercing the sky seemed to be guarding over all of the colossal new constructions.
The Lowry building is a cluster of geometric shapes, including a curved piece of mirrored metal on A-shaped pillars, which floats above the entrance like a ship’s sail. The colours of the sky – dirty clouds bathing in lavender water – were captured by the reflective metal and glass exterior. Indoors, purple walls and electric-orange stairwells greeted us. Ascending the elevator, I felt hypnotised.
Much art debate poured forth from Julian and Cat Eyes in what seemed to me a foreign language. Julian even penned criticisms of the Lowry and posted them in the comments box. I didn’t think Lowry could paint until I saw the Man with Red Eyes, which is what I saw in the mirror after a weekend of partying.

Despite tearing through all of the sports shops in the Manchester Arndale Shopping Centre and interrogating many a salesperson, we could not meet the demand of Cat Eyes’ son: a football with the name of his favourite team on it: Manchester United.
In the Cornerhouse we viewed art pertaining to the problems faced by women in India, and devoured pita bread and hummus in the café.

We travelled to North Wales with three professional walkers: Mum, Dad and their friend Paul. As if running late for a siege, they blitzed up the gentle slopes of Conwy Mountain, whereas I lagged behind, panting, amazed at the prowess of the sexagenarians. The surface of the mountain was a quilted blanket of grass in many shades of green. Below us, yachts dotted the estuary of the River Conwy, and the breaking waves kaleidoscoped patterns in the golden sands. Three hours later, I longed to be laid out on a massage table somewhere, or at least to be stooled and in the company of my computer. Near the summit, the walkers settled on flat stones and picnicked on Kitkats and thermos coffee. While Cat Eye’s sketched, I ate a banana.
We visited Conwy castle, built for Edward I (also known as Longshanks) between 1283 and 1289, as part of his “iron ring” to contain the Welsh. We ascended the stone spiral staircases of two of the castles eight round towers. At the top, Cat Eyes sketched the castle while the pigeons and seagulls hiding in the crevices eyeballed her suspiciously. On the wall adjacent to us, a jackdaw landed.

Cat Eyes brought Hammy a gift: Neige Ice Cider 12% alcohol.
“Thanks a lot, mate,” said Hammy to Cat Eyes over pints at the Ring O’ Bells. “I’m saving this for St. George’s Day. It’ll be the first drink I have at eight in the morning. I’m up at five cooking beef stewed slowly in Newcastle Brown Ale.”
“Your accent is difficult,” Cat Eyes said.
“I’ve been drinking. If you think I’m hard to understand go in that room over there we call the cage. You wouldn’t understand a bloody thing they say.”
“You should hear the pirate voice when he’s really drunk,” I said.
“What’s the whole point of drinking so much?” Cat Eyes asked.
“The whole point! To get drunk basically. There’s no point.” Picking up on Cat Eyes French accent, Hammy said, “I can read French. About eighty percent. I can read it. I was reading Sartre at the Sixth Form College in French.”
“I didn’t know you read Sartre,” I said.
“He wrote Huis Clos,” Hammy said. “I read it a lot more when I started smoking pot heavily.”
“Isn’t that where his hell-is-other-people quote comes from?” I asked.
“The characters in Huis Clos are in a room they can never leave,” Cat Eyes said. Forced to face each other. No escape even when they get on each others nerves. I wouldn’t mind reading Huis Clos again, to see how I interpret it.”
“It’s a child’s book,” Hammy said. “Like Janet and John.”
“A text that simplified doesn’t mean it’s childlike,” Cat Eyes said. “You have to read between the lines, you know. It’s not an easy text. I would qualify it on the same level as Beckett’s End Game, with the sense of subtle and absurd.”
“Are you an existentialist, Hammy?” I asked.
“I dunno. Maybe. My philosophy is this: if you can sit down, you sit down; if you can lie down, you lie down; and if it’s wet, you drink it.”
We laughed.
“Are you still worshipping Dionysius?” I asked.
“Yes! The grape, the wheat, the rye, and anything else. I’m thinking of making my own religion up anyway. I’ll call it Hamas.”
“A drinking religion?” I said.
“Yes, going back to the old pagan times.”
“What will the sacred drink be?”
“The way I look at things we celebrate the coming of something or other. Actually, I’m going to celebrate the coming of the new day. It’s guaranteed every night, so I can promise me followers it’ll happen.”
“Will you celebrate the arrival of the day with Stella or spirits?” I asked.
“Whatever. Cows blood if you want.”
“I feel buzzed,” Cat Eyes said after drinking a quarter of a pint of cider.
“That’s good,” Hammy said. “That’s the way it should be. Let it develop. Don’t fight it. That’s the whole point of it”
“I’m very sensitive,” Cat Eyes said. “Just a sip of wine spreads throughout my body.”
“Excellent!” Hammy said. “I’ll have to go to Canada and try whatever you’re drinking. I want a pint of it.”

Cat Eyes had booked her trip to England before I met Posh Bird. I told Posh Bird that Cat Eyes was coming for a cultural visit, and she seemed to understand. Until last Friday.
“You’ve turned my life into a chick flick,” Posh Bird said.
“I didn’t mean to,” I said. “Are we still going out this Saturday?”
“That’s what I’m calling about. I’m going out with my friends on Saturday.”
“Well, actually, I’ve met someone.”
“Met someone. Just recently?”
“Yes. While she was here visiting you, I met someone. And what's funny is I met him at the gym when I was sweaty and minging. I really like him.”
The next day I emailed Posh Bird: “You shot me through the heart with an AK-47 yesterday.”
Today Posh Bird rang. It seems to be over.
I am applying to do a MA in Contemporary Literature at Liverpool University.
And finally, here's the link to my new website, which is still under development:
Email comments to writeinside@hotmail.com or post them below
Copyright © 2007-2008 Shaun P. Attwood


Anonymous said...

You're life is getting more and more interesting. Was there a romance between you and Cat Eyes? If so you can't blame Posh Bird for dumping you. She's getting her own back. Hell have no fury!

Love your blog.

Anonymous said...

when you do your masters degree you'll meet lots of people who are interested in the same thing you are ie literature students and tutors. you'll soon forget about posh bird.

Anonymous said...

Damn homeboy. I am sory to hear about Posh getting all twisted just because you had a visitor. The way I see it, she'll be back. Watch. -Jose in San Diego.

Anonymous said...

Posh Bird is playing mind games, but what do you expect after spending 10 days with Cat Eyes? She's letting you know how she felt, which means she still likes you.

Anonymous said...

Damn Shaun,

I'm sorry about Posh Bird.
I loved reading your post - bit of nostalgia there for this ex-pat.

Sue in OC

Sue O. (aka Joannie, SS) said...

I love the opening graphic! Chuckle!! Good for you-some much needed interruption. Sounds like you saw enough art to last the rest of your days. I love Hans Holbein-not surprised that was a fav. He was like the Norman Rockwell of his day. A friend of mine recently stayed in Salford Quays and sent me pictures. It looks so beautiful.

All in all it sounds like a great visit happened, some good feedback and stimulation for your writing, so excited to see the new website! Excellent. And fantastic on the school decision!!

No worries on the female score. Such is life, m'dear. You can't live wit' 'em, can't live wit'out 'em as the Northeastern version of an old saying goes. Can't wait to hear more. Take care-you've been missed.

Sue O. (aka Joannie, SS) said...

p.s. The AK-47 remark seems a bit over the top...how 'bout a cap gun? You've only dated the woman for two months. Be realistic.

Rachel said...

I am outraged that you’ve portrayed posh bird as being desperate for attention. Posh bird is my friend and I know that she wasn’t upset about this girl coming to visit you; in fact she wasn’t even phrased by it. The comments that have been made by you and others are appalling. This comment in particular upset me
'I am sorry to hear about Posh getting all twisted just because you had a visitor.' Posh bird twisted? you must be joking! Posh bird is the least twisted person I know... I think you need to put people straight because she isn't bothered about this visitor, why would she? she is mature and intelligent and understands the word visitor. Therefore, she has no need to be twisted.

You shouldn't be treating her like this and all because she has met somebody new. Oh and for the record you were never together!

Anonymous said...

The picture at the top of the blog, one assumes, is of you, Jon, in total despair at being 'set aside' by Posh. You need to get out more, and not down to the Bells.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget you are an ex-con living in your parents garage. Not exactly a great catch at the moment. Get your life together and maybe it will work out with her.

~:*:*:Sparrow:*:*:~ said...

Shaun, I'm really excited about your new site!

It sounds like you had a fantastic time with Cat Eyes... It's always great to have someone from another place come to visit... to play "tour guide"; I've learned much about my own home state that I might have never known without 'company'.

It's good to see you - you've been missed.

Shane says, "hi!!!"

Anonymous said...

Wow, a lot of action over this post, particularly the end of it, which by no means defines the entire post. A downright nasty and ignorant comment at the end there, particularly!

I'm with Shaun on this one, I think his writing was objective and not at all sensational or one-sided.

Shaun, no worries buddy, you're obviously an intelligent, talented and capable individual with a strong sense of self direction.

Don't let this temporary setback hold you down, it ain't nothing but a thing...

Anonymous said...


I think getting particularly mean-spirited barbed remarks are an unavoidable consequence of blogging openly about your personal life.

Chris Phoenix said...

So you traveled with a visiting acquaintance for several days, and Posh Bird started looking and found someone else.

Posh Bird might have had many perceptions and interpretations about how important she was to you, versus traveling with Cat Eyes. Some of those perceptions may have been correct, some incorrect. With you being gone for a while, she probably had less information than usual, and had to extrapolate more.

If she knew how you felt about her, and left you anyway, then she simply was not the right person for you.

If she did not know how you felt--if she misinterpreted your being out of touch, for example--then you might communicate better next time.

Either way, you can learn something. But it's a different thing to learn in each case.

Anonymous said...

shut the f up, ok! So he's an ex con living with his parents? I dont' see the problem. Shaun is trying to get out of his past. As for you, I think you're posh birds new fella. Or posh bird.


Anonymous said...

Reading your BLOG ........quite dramatic guy.....another game player this posh bird guy...... you won't get rid of her that easily......remember, you are on the upswing.......she is nothing more then a temporarystatic guy that is looking to throw you off course.......it will be a conquest for her...........don't let the static interupt guy.........

pish posh guy.........

Seth in Texas

Anonymous said...

Posh Bird's attention so soon after coming out of prison must have given your ego a boost. Just be glad of the experience and let her get on with her life.

Anonymous said...

The way posh bird dumped you was way harsh pal. You don't need someone in your life who will get cross because you are friends with members of the opposite sex. If she felt insecure about a girl visiting you then she should have explained to you how it made her feel. If thats the way she is then you don't need her in your life pal. I'm sorry youre upset though.

Gemma xxx

Anonymous said...

I count four museums (plus smaller galleries), three plays, a castle, two friends met, two friends made, shopping, hiking with parents, and drinking with Hammy. In ten days. Anyone who thinks this might have been a romantic visit should surely know otherwise after this post! Come on.

The thing with Posh has been on-again off-again and will probably continue to be :>.

- Mary in NC

Anonymous said...

The blogs are quality reading as always.


Anonymous said...

Hey Shaun,

Just read your update about your week with Cat Eyes--must have been a great time. It seems you have adjusted nicely to regular life. I'd love to get my ass over to England.

I'll keep watch for your new website, and I look forward to Xena part 3 (with legs crossed) as well as FINALLY READING MORE OF YOUR FICTION!!!!! (your are a great writer).


Anonymous said...

Great post. I firmly believe that things happen for a reason. So Posh Bird wasn't meant to be. That doesn't mean its going to be any less painful. But the good news is, the right girl is out there still looking for you. We have your back!

Anonymous said...


Pardon me, I didn't mean to offend you. I had no idea you were so overly sensitive. My comments were directed at Shaun, and I can post what he deems fit on his blog. Start one of your own titled "Posh bird is my friend so be nice". There was nothing demeaning in my comment. Learn to take criticism like a grain of salt. If you are managing her emotions then be prepared to deal with the barrage of other individuals' comments and try and deal with them in a more appropriate manner other than a hissy fit. -Jose in San Diego

Sue O. (aka Joannie, SS) said...

One final observation-perhaps a combined profile of all your loyal bloggers is what you're looking for in a woman! Seriously, doesn't it come down to someone who hangs around long enough to be ok with your red eyes and cheese on toast morning after morning? Well, you'll always have us...small comfort, right? Love from Nanticoke-on-Flannel! (Our neighboring town to the south, Berwick, was named after your Berwick-on-Tweed, but we're not quite classy enough for that...)

Anonymous said...

if posh bird ditches gym hunk and asks you out agaun, what would you do? she may have put gym hunk on the ten days program like you and cats eyes

Anonymous said...

Good to see that you are out and about the galleries which will educate as well as being therapeutic. Good luck with your course.

Terry B

Anonymous said...

LOL!! I suspect you have no real need for sympathy or advice for your future with women. Forgive my insensitivity if I am wrong. But I can't help wondering if you are getting a good chuckle out of all this.

"where cranberries, nuts and lentils are held in highest esteem as part of the godhead."

"and the breaking waves kaleidoscoped patterns in the golden sands."

That, and your descriptions of Hal and Hamish and the others too, made me sigh and smile. I closed my eyes and could see the jackdaw.

Thank you.

Noelle said...

Oh Crickey!! Away for 4 days and see what I miss?? Alright, let's see? For one, I agree with Posh-any guy who is interested in you when your sweating (& it's not during sex) is probably worth looking into-go for it Posh Bird. 2nd-it was a casual relationship in the first place right? (sorry if that hurt Shaun) 3rdly, doesn't mean it is off for good?! One day at a time. Things got a little hairy there when Rachel came to PB's defense-it's all good. I think it is hard sometimes to read peoples feelings or moods on these blogs. I don't believe anyone meant anything badly-WE JUST LOVE OUR SHAUN!! Everybody good on that??
Your visit with Cat Eyes sounded incredible to say the least-I got no worries that it was a romantic time. Most people do not know how to just be friends when it comes to the opposite sex. It's all good. (Romance is over rated anyway) :)~ I have to go check out your other site now. As far as the Zena post ..... OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OH!! wait! That anon post about an "ex-con living in parents garage"~that is your opinion and you have every right to claim it BUT YOU ARE SOOOOOO WRONG. So very wrong. Luv you Shaun! Sincerely, Noelle

Anonymous said...

Shaun may be an ex con living with his parents but he has courage and determination and with his family's love and support he'll be successful in any direction he goes and probably become a famous author.All he needs is the right woman by his side. I don't think he's met her yet.

Anonymous said...

hey, speaking of your women friends, ever hear from royo girl? Did you part amicably enough to still be in communication?

and HOW is poor Xena??????