Look sideways

We’re into the thick of it now, aren’t we? Eh? Good luck looking sideways!

Actually though, have you looked sideways lately? Sideways can be quite interesting. All kinds of things are happening just outside the frame. Stop what you’re doing. Have a quick look around. Go on. You might be surprised. This is a Public Service Announcement. 

Look sideways at someone you don’t know. Notice how they organise themselves. How their bag is packed or their clothes are tucked. What do they do with their hands and feet when they’re not using them? Are they watchful or wary? When do you think they’re most gentle? When did they last talk to an animal? Who likes them the most? The way a person sits or stands or packs a bag says a lot about who they are.

Notice nature. It’s usually somewhere, even if it shouldn’t be.

Find some wattle. Catch the smell of it. The puffy big yellow pom pom wattle, the skinny little weird sticks of it. Listen to it. Is it humming? Bees know where all the great wattle is.

Have a look at some clouds. Actual, legitimate old-school clouds in the sky. Drifty and also hurtling like the clappers. 

Sometimes, just out of frame, you notice little weird things that don’t mean anything but they’re nice anyway. The other day, my sunglasses fell down my face a bit and it was a cold morning and I was doing something with my hands so I left the glasses perched down the bottom of my nose for a minute and I could see my breath making clouds of condensation on my lenses, just in the bottom bit of my peripheral vision while I focused on something else. While I finished rummaging in my bag I realised what it was reminding me of, the breath clouds ballooning and disappearing, ballooning and disappearing. It was mimicking, I realised, the tide. In. Out. In. Out. The tide was going in and out on my sunglasses in fast forward. It felt, then, rather than annoying, pleasantly relaxing, and I found myself feeling a bit rude interrupting the tide to push the glasses up my nose.

Sideways hugs are nice.

Take a shortcut to a place you’d never go on your own accord: read a book you’d never select for yourself. Maybe not the whole thing. Give it a chapter. Maybe all it will teach you is that you prefer watching Netflix. So what? Good to have your instincts confirmed, right? Maybe, though, you’ll find yourself still reading it, stiff from having not moved, hours later, in a whole other world you never knew existed.

Go for a walk a dinner time. Listen to the sound of cutlery. Smell the neighbours’ lasagne.

Think of a person who wasn’t in your life seven years ago, and is now, and it’s good, and seven-years-ago-you had no idea. 

Contemplate the lovely things humans make with their hands like ceramic bowls and quilts and and home-made football scarves and cubby houses and tea.

Hear a far off siren not as an alarming or depressing sound but as a symbol of society at is best. People have developed an ingenious system whereby they can rush to the the aid of each other, notifying others to move out of the way, which, for the most part, despite everything, they do. What a bunch of champions we can be when we put our minds to it, eh? Good on us.

Sometimes, light does interesting things, even in ugly or boring places. Like how sometimes when you’re sick in bed and you wake at night and use your phone as a torch and the light pings off the silver lozenge packaging and through a half-empty drink bottle and suddenly there’s an accidental kaleidoscope made of unpretty things projecting spectacular light puppetry on your wall.

Any moment you get to witness two friends greeting each other in a back-slapping hello is a privilege and a pleasure and I don’t care who knows it.

Also: apples are excellent. If you need to be shifted out of yourself and also you’re hungry, you can do a lot worse than an apple. It’s a gorgeous aesthetic bulb of perfection, into which you may bite or slice, and which contains a magical combinations of enzymes, natural sugar and vitamins that actually has the effect of waking you up.

Look sideways. It’s interesting, even when it isn’t. This has been a Public Service Announcement.

This is from a fortnightly column I write for The Big Issue. Buy it when you can. It’s full of lovely things.