He sat down on the chair, the London Midland clatter on the tracks reverberating in the background as the carriage pulled away from Blake Street Station. It was busy but he had been able to select a window seat, this was his habit…window seat first and if not then at least a seat that was forward facing. He placed his bags down by his feet and then started to select the playlist for his outward journey. Completing his task he looked up from his phone and was immediately met by the glare of a middle-aged woman with wide piercing blue eyes, just staring at him...just staring. She looked like she was about to speak but instead just averted her gaze by moving her head round so that she could view the outside world as it sped by in a blur. He could see that peripherally she was still taking notice of him and it was slightly unnerving. He didn’t know her, he was sure of it but he still wracked his brains for some semblance of a memory that might identify her. Why was she staring? Who did she think he was? At various moments throughout the journey he caught her gaze and when they finally reached New Street he alighted before her but couldn’t help looking over his shoulder and, as he had suspected, she was behind him…still just staring. SWITCH The door hollered out a familiar creak; he stepped into the dark and hit the light switch…the studio blinked with a verve that immediately settled him. It had seemed like a lifetime, he’d had a week off from the studio and, now returned, he reflected upon the series of images that were attached to the surrounding walls. He filled the kettle with fresh water and flicked the switch before quickly scribbling down the list of tasks he’d set himself for the day. The collection of clothes that made up the ‘slapstick’ costume hung on the hooks along the wall behind him. Moving across to the oversize trousers he ran his hand along the seems and tentatively felt the buckles on the braces, they had dug into his body through the shirt during filming and, although he hadn’t bothered at the time, the resulting welts that had appeared on his torso a day or so after shooting the film had been significant enough for him to want to check and confirm the cause. He now walked over to the desk and turned on the laptop, he had to sort through the stills from the filming that Jack had prepared for him. Selecting shuffle on his studio playlist he walked back to the kettle and started preparing tea in his Villa mug, Arthur Lee’s distinctive voice reached out from the speaker as Love’s “See Myself In You” burst into the room. SWITCH He sat prone in front of the screen in the studio, his tea was going cold and he felt an unsettling weight to the day, he considered where this temporary stasis might be coming from…he had every reason to be firing on all cylinders today. The film was being edited (and the rushes had looked really good), he was ahead of schedule with the residency work and his list of tasks for the day were set (with experimenting on a new idea highlighted)…maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the melancholic sound of “Rainy Changes” by Steve Marriott pouring from the speaker, maybe it was because Donald Trump was now the President elect of the USA, or maybe it was the disconcerting experience with the blue-eyed woman on the train…whatever it was he needed to shake himself free or the danger of an indolent and wasted day could ensue. He reached for his phone, looked at the picture of his wife that he had permanently as a screensaver and smiled, the ground under his feet was solid when he looked at her and it’s all he needed to break out of the gloom. He selected Syd Arthur’s “Sun Rays” on the playlist, rose from his seat and danced over to the kettle, the movements were somewhat forced but it shook him out of the stasis as he sang along, “There’s a trapdoor to my heart…” SWITCH Liverpool had been fantastic…but it had been a long day. The Open Eye show was really good and Matt Finn’s talk about his work ‘Mother’ had been a highlight. His bones ached now though and, almost falling, he slumped into the chair at New Street with a thud. The 21.35 to Lichfield City via Blake Street was due to depart and he couldn’t wait to be home now that he was safely seated in one of its carriages. He put his bag down by his feet and reached for his phone so that he could select an appropriate soundtrack for his homeward journey. The soothing tones of Marvin Gaye started to fill his head…”What’s happening brother?” He looked up and had to stop himself from gasping…it was her again…just staring at him with those wide piercing blue eyes. For the next few stops they observed the same ritual as the previous encounter…him unnerved and uncertain, her looking at him whenever she felt that he wasn’t aware of her gaze. “Hiya!” the impasse was broken, but not by the woman with the blue eyes, it was a twenty-something hipster. He bore all the hallmarks of the latest subculture trend, short hair…long beard…ill-fitting trousers and shoes without socks. “How are you doing? Haven’t seen you for ages.” Now this was really confusing because he didn’t recognise this person either, “What is it with these trains?” he thought to himself. He felt compelled to remove his earphones as the guy, now seated next to him, was eagerly awaiting a response. “I’m sorry…do we know each other?” The hipster was quick to answer, “Wolverhampton, a couple of years ago now. Do you see anyone else, are you still in touch with anyone?” He looked across at the woman with the blue eyes; she was suddenly alert to the conversation as if hopeful that some precious information may be gleaned from it, and then he looked at his reflection in the window of the train before turning back to the guy. “I’m sorry…I’m not him.” The hipster smirked as if being part of a joke. He turned again to the reflection in the window and studied how pale he thought the face looking back at him seemed to be, he caught the gaze of the woman opposite one more time before gathering his bag and standing up. The hipster’s expression was now a quizzical one and the young man’s uncertainty was tested further by what he heard next. “I’m sorry, I’m not him…whoever you think I am…I’m not him… not him…not anymore.” He stepped over the exposed legs of the guy and walked to another carriage. The rest of the journey was managed in the haven of the door space. As the journey came to an end he stood and examined his reflection again…pale…much paler than he remembered. SWITCH The door to the studio flung open and he hit the light switch without so much as a sideways glance, he’d greeted the cleaner on the way up the stairs and now felt guilty that he had not asked her name. They spoke about cups of tea briefly and if it had not been for the burning desire to get started this morning he would have stayed longer and acquainted himself properly. Throwing down his bag and sketchbook onto the desk he rushed to the kettle and clicked the switch before heading to the costume that hung on the opposite wall. Today would be the day that he confronted the face in the mirror, the day that he would remove the make-up and see it come off. SWITCH The figure stared back at him in the mirror as he rubbed with the cloth to remove the mask of make-up on his face…it wasn’t coming off…he rubbed again and then stopped, agitated, frustrated, why wouldn’t the mask come off? He rubbed more vigorously…but no…the make-up wouldn’t budge. He gently raised his arm and placed two fingers on his wrist to check for a pulse. SWITCH “Mirror is my best friend, because when I cry it never laughs.” - Chaplin SWITCH Dr. Connie had been really positive and really supportive in response to the film that he’d made just hours ago. They talked about the intensity in both making and watching. “Let me show you this. If you haven’t seen it, you’ll see the connections I think.” Quickly selecting YouTube he typed in three words…chaplin keaton limelight and then pressed play. In the next five minutes or so they watched the final scene together. He knew it inside out but revelled in introducing Dr. Connie to the climax of one of his favourite films. “Mmm…yeah, I get it,” she said. They sipped the last of their tea in silence. SWITCH He stood in the dressing room in front of the camera…he had reasoned that he needed a recording of the transformation into the slapstick character…for him…to see. If he could witness that transformation then he would be able to separate himself from the figure and just maybe work out who it was that the blue-eyed woman and the hipster had mistaken him for. He looked into the lens. He stood in nothing but his underwear with the costume hanging next to him. He had deliberately put Bowie’s “Who Can I Be Now?” on repeat as it seemed to provide a perfect soundtrack to the experiment. The camera shutter started to click and he looked sideways at the costume before slowly reaching for the trousers…SWITCH Print workshop…Mono Prints…draw yourself…blank space where the face should be…SWITCH “Yes, the blog is really a new territory. It’s such a wonderful thing. You can talk immediately to people you don’t know. You don’t know their background and they don’t know your background.” Ai Weiwei speaks. SWITCH Blake Street, 07.24am. It was cold...winter was moving in. Today more than ever he was vigilant on the platform, would the blue-eyed woman appear? Was she already on the train? What of the hipster? Who was he and whom had he mistaken him for? Would he see either of them today? The questions swirled uncontrollably in his head…he had work planned for the studio today and was genuinely excited about the possibilities ahead. He couldn’t get those staring eyes out of his head though…his internal voice regurgitated the same enquiry every time he thought of that piercing gaze, ”Who does she think I am?” He caught sight of his reflection in the glass as he waited for the amber light to signal that he could press the button to open the doors. Pale…still paler than he thought he was…he stepped onto the carriage and looked both ways, was he about to see the blue-eyed woman and the hipster again?