“Hmm…a very melancholic little piece that…” Sam turned slowly in his seat with more than a hint of reddening and moisture around his eyes. “We’d be happy to show this work at Flatpack.” Exchanging a triumphant glance with Dr Connie he stayed calm on the surface and responded to Sam with a controlled affirmative. He’d been hoping for one of the residency films he’d created to be included in the festival but the discussion had centred upon both films and the photographic stills taking a place…this was more than he could have hoped for. BREAKING NEWS…FLATPACK FESTIVAL CONFIRMED…APRIL 2017...SWITCH It had been a whole week since he had seen her, since those eyes had cut through him. SWITCH Sitting in AceFace was something he always enjoyed, Craig was one of the few people he would trust to cut his hair and it was his kind of place. The walls in the salon were adorned with artworks and music memorabilia, all the things that he knew. Once seated in the barber’s chair he realised that he was struggling to look at the reflection in the huge salon mirrors that sprawled the entire space in front him. Craig worked skilfully with the scissors on a bonafide mod crop whilst they talked, and this talking helped, he found it easier to look at Craig’s reflection rather than his own and the conversation flowed steadily as the two old friends caught up and discussed what each other had been up to since their last meeting. He hoped this haircut would recover something for him…that it would somehow return something that had been slipping away since the first moment that he had put that hat on and his head had connected with the concrete pillar in the John Lee Theatre. SWITCH The sketchbooks had been the primary focus for the day and he had maintained a rhythm and pace throughout that had completed the first volume and instigated the second. Starting a new sketchbook always provides a boost, the work is moving and has some depth to it when you close out one and open up another and he decided that a break for tea had been well earned. He reached for the switch on the kettle just as the ‘ping’ of a Whatsapp message arriving on his phone distracted him. It was from the Legendary John Brown in Dublin City and the message had a three-year old image attached. He studied it for a second, he was sure he recognised himself in the foreground but he couldn’t remember having a fringe as straight as that…was that how he looked? Did he look like that now? He reached for a teabag, tea always had a calming effect and he needed to look away from the Whatsapp image and get back to the sketchbooks…SWITCH Kaye watched the screen as the “Act III” film neared its completion. He’d worked with her on the “About Town” show for Ikon and he trusted her judgement. “That’s really nice. I always say this to you, but it doesn’t look like you on screen. You’re not as old as that in real life, you just don’t look like that.” It wasn’t just him then…Kaye could see it too…or not see it too. SWITCH He looked long and hard up and down the carriage, once, twice, once more…he couldn’t see her. The sigh he emitted as he sat down betrayed a nagging series of questions that had been floating uncomfortably in the back of his mind following the incident on the night train home from Liverpool. Who did the blue-eyed woman think he was? Who was the blue-eyed woman? Was she even there or had he imagined her? If so, why? What part of his brain had invented her and why couldn’t he recognise his reflection any longer? What about the hipster? Where did he come from? Whilst these questions were drifting in and around his head he gazed out of the window at the external greys and greens, blurring in momentary line. He reasoned that if he had imagined her it would be easier to forget the whole thing and just move on. Surely that was the best way forward…just forget her…she was fiction…created by a tired mind to fill a gap forged by the work he had been making. Yes…that’s who you are…artist in residence…everything else, old blue eyes and the hipster, is imagined. His reflection in the glass suddenly sharpened and he couldn’t see any make-up…still vague but somehow he felt that a recovery was taking place, he was recovering…his hair, Craig had done a good job, the cut was sharp. Eased slightly he picked up the free Metro paper and leafed through it with cursory focus. Arriving at the pages near the centre he saw the purple banner of the box that often amused him. Rush-Hour Crush provided a space for commuters to play out some kind of virtual courtship as they bare their feelings and pledge love to strangers…strangers on a train…often desperate, often funny, often sad but always entertaining. He read down to see what the latest nascent romances looked like, signed off by figures such as ‘Bloke in Check Shirt or ‘Blond Guy, Glasgow’, ‘Man in Black’ or ‘Red-Haired Woman in Adidas Gazelles’. His eyes suddenly shot to the word ‘Parka’ and any feelings of recovery he may have been experiencing were dashed in an instant as he read and re-read the message. “To The Guy with the Fishtail Parka on the late train from New Street (Wednesday Night). I know who you are. - Blue-Eyed Lady.” SWITCH He thought about his old English teacher Kevin Melia. He didn’t know why, somehow the thought had jumped into his mind. Was Kevin Melia still alive? Mr. Melia had been one of those teachers that every pupil liked, he had a way of making seemingly irrelevant (difficult) material important…accessible. Often beginning the lessons by updating his class on the current state of his divorce proceedings followed by tales of the boredom he experienced incarcerated in the desperate one-roomed bedsit that he had found himself in following the breakdown of his marriage and then (seamlessly) gently manoeuvring his captivated pupils into the world of Shakespeare. Kevin Melia wasn’t quite John Keating from ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ but to the kids in his English classes at Great Barr School in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s he offered something that no other teacher seemed either capable of, or, inclined to. Was Kevin Melia still alive? With a little time on his hands during this Christmas break and with all shopping done, all presents wrapped, he stared out of the window from the back of the house and recalled a conversation he’d had with his old English teacher. “You like The Jam then?” The young lad recoiled slightly in surprise at the question from Mr Melia, “erm…I…” He faltered as he suddenly became visible in front of his classmates. They didn’t know him, he didn’t speak to them, he was new in the class and invisibility suited him fine. “It’s alright, don’t panic. I saw the drawing you did in the back of your book and the lyrics to ‘Standards’ that you wrote out.” Mr. Melia sat on the edge of the boy’s desk and the boy shifted uneasily in his chair…was he in trouble? What would the other kids in the class say to him now that they had some information on him? “’We’ll throw you out of your houses if you get too much. If we have to we’ll destroy your generation.’ I love those lines, the way Weller paints pictures with words, bit like Ray Davies before him.” The teacher was suddenly aware that the boy in front of him was blushing and paralysed by the attention he was receiving and acted to end the ordeal swiftly. “Right everyone I’m meant to prepare you for your essay on ‘Romeo and Juliet’ today. Anyone ever been in love?” The half smile and sarcastic expression on Mr Melia’s face elicited a few titters from around the room and the embarrassment for the boy was relieved with the lesson now underway. “Don’t talk to me about love. I got a phone call from the ex-mother-in-law last night…bleeding me dry…that’s where love got me!?” The winter’s day was bright outside the window; he smirked as he recalled his former teacher’s sardonic tones. Recalling the memory from his youth had motivated him to go to the shelves of records that he had painstakingly alphabetised over many years of collecting. He moved his fingers across the multi-coloured array of spines and stopped at ‘J’ pulling out “This Is The Modern World” by The Jam. He moved his hand over the front and then flipped the sleeve to the back. Finally he gently fed the inner sleeve from the cover and looked over the words and illustrations adorning the protective square that housed the vinyl itself. As he read the words to ‘Standards’ with older eyes his mind returned to the English lesson that had lead him back to them. The kids all rushed their books into their bags and poured out of the room as the sound of the lunchtime bell came to a close he found himself alone. This always was the case and he actually contrived it to be that way by slowly putting his books away and making sure that he was the last to leave the room. He reasoned that by doing this he wouldn’t have to speak to any of his classmates and could seclude himself away somewhere for lunch before heading for the afternoon lesson. Mr Melia looked over, “Could you imagine a day without listening to music?” Again the boy was slightly wrong-footed by his teacher’s question, “Well…no…no sir.” The words were delivered quietly and nervously but the boy felt compelled to respond. “I couldn’t either.” Said Melia walking over and fixing his reticent pupil with a look that seemed stern yet reassuring, “This essay you’ve got to write on Shakespeare…if Paul Weller is your Shakespeare then write it on him…OK?” The boy’s eyes betrayed a mixture of surprise and disbelief. “Words should mean something to us. English should mean something to you,” the teacher patted his chest to emphasise the point, “I guess Shakespeare doesn’t float your boat at the minute…maybe it will…just not yet. So give me your best essay on the works of Woking’s finest.” The boy smiled as he left the room, probably for the first time that year and the adult that the boy had become smiled also as he dextrously managed the vinyl onto the turntable and lifted the needle into place on the spinning disc…”Der-na-der-na-duh…This is the modern world… Der-na-der-na-duh…This is the modern world…” He spun around and started to jig across the room and as his spirit soared he thought again about his former teacher. Kevin Melia knew who he was…if he could talk with him once more then he knew that all of this uncertainty could be cleared…where would he be? Was Mr Melia still alive?