Alien invasion

Hey. So. Quick question: say an alien came to earth, right? Took you aside. Wanted a few words. Say this alien wanted to make a whole new world somewhere out in the galaxy based on only the good bits of this world. You totally get an invite, but they need your help compiling the list of good things for the reboot.

I’m guessing you’d quite sensibly be listing important stuff like love and friendship and world peace and antibiotics and Netflix and so forth. And that’s great. Good for you. Those things are important. But it’s always good to be prepared. The worst thing would be to be beamed up onto this brand new planet you’ve helped invent, and to feel a longing, a nostalgia, for something left behind.

So look around you. What’s worth saving? You’d be surprised how many people, when confronted by an alien, forget the little things. Don’t be that person. Seek out the quietly delightful. This is a Public Service Announcement.

Don’t forget lemon zest icing.

Don’t forget reading in the bath.

Don’t forget the improbability of passionfruit. Wrinkly brown balls that grow on vines alongside the most incredible 3D flowers that appear to have been made by teams of Japanese designers and which, when sliced in half, leak a syrup full of seeds which you can spread on ice cream to make it taste even better for heaven’s sake. How did the universe come up with that? So make sure you get the alien to write down “the improbability of passionfruit” as an essential ingredient for a new world. Who knows where it will lead? That’s called innovation.

Don’t forget how, when you swim in the ocean and then look in the mirror afterwards, you can see how the salt has organised itself in line with your eyebrows. Eyebrow sea salt. An important component of the universe. 

Beach hair is a related but important factor in the world as we know it. The best beach hair is the beach hair where you barely recognise yourself in the mirror and the possibility begins to present itself that if you continued like this you could, in fact, become a different person entirely.

Don’t forget that thing where you see something someone has left somewhere - a pair of spectacles on a newspaper or a configuration of toys that makes sense only to the child who left them there - and their whole personality seems to be echoed in the way those objects are placed in the world. The fact that those objects, placed like that, make you quietly smile in their absence.

The inner peace achieved upon the completion of a desk clean.

Sideways grins.


The feeling of wanting to exclaim out loud about an outrageous twist in a book you’re reading.  

Accidental dozing.

Animal friendships.

The kind of laughter where you genuinely worry you might not be able to breathe and then you start thinking about the laughter itself and it’s the act of laughing that makes you laugh more.

Intergenerational hand-holding.

Expressions like “it dawned on me” and “I changed my mind” which we use every day but which are actually really clever when you think about it.

Watching people do really skilled things that don’t happen in your life because your life has no call for them but then you see the skilled people do the thing and you can’t stop staring and vaguely wondering if your life would be better if you too were a glass blower/circus clown/diving champion - and also just quietly the more you watch the more you think you’ve actually got this figured, this glass blowing/circus/diving business. You watch a backwards pike dive with a twist and you know, for sure, that the Canadian will be disappointed with that one, because watching skilled people teaches you things too.


The mutual glee of sitting in an audience electrified by excellence.

Lying in the grass looking up.

The feeling of pride rising up through your chest that happens when someone you love excels themselves and you have to watch from a distance so all you can do is stand where you are in silence while they play the recorder or win an award or say something smart or take a splinter out of a dog’s foot or whatever it is. Silent, lonely pride. Keep that too. 

You’ll have others. Look around you. Or don’t. Close your eyes. Think of the little things. This has been a Public Service Announcement.

This originally appeared in The Big Issue. Buy it from vendors whenever you get the chance.