Han­nah Jane Parkin­son

Al­ways look­ing up is life-chang­ing: try it. Plus Cross­word and Quiz

The Guardian - Weekend - - Contents -

I want to ad­vise you some­thing: and that is al­ways to look up. Oh, the cor­nices and the eaves you might have missed! The kites in trees! The tall, hand­some strangers with long, smooth necks. The pat­tern in the clouds that looks like a pig – or is it a bear? The out­line of the UK, while the union lasts. The old brick­work ad­verts on the sides of Vic­to­rian build­ings. The un­ex­pect­edly witty graf­fiti on the rail­way bridge. The as­cend­ing, spi­ralling, iron balustrades.

Al­ways look up. If you live in the coun­try: look up for the stars and their con­stel­la­tions, or the book-lined stud­ies of farm­houses, peeked through win­dows. If you live in the city: look up for the glass and the steel stretch­ing higher and higher. I even like the Shard. If you’re abroad and walk­ing through dusty, nar­row streets some­where, look up to see the pat­terns of rugs thrown over bal­cony rail­ings to air.

Look­ing down yields fewer re­wards. The same feet you have known all your life, even if shod in spec­tac­u­lar shoes. Per­haps a gor­geous, red­den­ing au­tumn leaf, but look over­head and there’ll be more. Dogs and cats, of course, are the ex­cep­tion to the rule here. But look­ing up re­veals new trea­sures and plea­sures all of the time.

It took me a few years to no­tice the Antony Gorm­ley fig­ure on top of Ex­eter Col­lege on Broad Street in Ox­ford. It took me rid­ing on the top decks of buses (the best way) to no­tice mul­ti­ple mu­rals of but­ter­flies in Cam­ber­well, south Lon­don, be­fore learn­ing about the species of but­ter­fly they all cel­e­brated, orig­i­nally na­tive to the area (look up, too, to see ac­tual but­ter­flies). I fo­cused on the cafe at the top of Mount Snowdon, scram­bling up the scree as my bare knees be­came pat­terned with tiny stones, to will me on. I stum­bled across a tree slap bang in the mid­dle of Lon­don – in Hyde Park – home to glo­ri­ous lime green para­keets. They will swoop down and peck at slices of ap­ples if you of­fer them. In Liver­pool, where I am from, an­other type of bird. The two Liver Birds, 18 feet tall with a wing­span of 24 feet, called Ber­tie and Bella, atop the Liver Build­ing ( built in 1911), watch­ing over the city and the sea.

Look up in ware­houses in Berlin, and mar­vel at the Bauhaus light fit­tings – if you’re into that kind of thing, which I am. In Moscow, the fa­mous or­nate ceil­ings of sub­way sta­tions are as much a tourist at­trac­tion as the Red Square. Lift your head to push on through a dif­fi­cult run. Give your shoul­der mus­cles a break from bend­ing dou­ble over a phone when sit­ting at a desk or mak­ing an ob­sta­cle of your­self on pave­ments. Some­times all it takes to re­ally ground one­self, is to tip one’s head back and take in the vast­ness of the in­escapable sky

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