FeaturesAlex Farnham's Soapbox

Alex Farnham’s Soapbox

Being alternative, or ‘taking part in activities that depart from or challenge traditional norms’ is, I think, important to everyone. We are all a bunch of unique, strange, ugly looking creatures – and I can prove it by telling you all to put your phones to the front camera whilst you’re lying down.

Well, truth be told I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I open my camera and it’s in ‘selfie mode’ it makes me wish I’d never been born. It looks like somebody ran over a fart in a tractor. I’m not showing you a photo, you’ll just have to trust me, we are an odd bunch. The subject of being alternative interests me, because it implies the existence of ‘normality’. I don’t really care for the word ‘weird’ as an adjective, because I don’t think it means anything. For example when people see a movie and come out saying ‘that was so weird’, I just don’t understand what they mean? Weird compared to what? A normal movie? What’s a normal movie and in what way does that sound like something anyone would want to watch?

I guess there are social norms that we all adhere to, like getting dressed, eating, covering our mouth when we cough, sighing and talking about how bad your life is just because it’s Wednesday… you know, that sort of thing. I’ve noticed that there are certain ‘rituals of normality’ that we follow that, when looked at out of context, seem extremely bizarre:

Shaking hands

What the hell’s this all about? “Lovely to meet you, Sir… Let’s hold hands and move them up and down, together.”

Scaring people when they get hiccups

‘BOO!’ Jesus… leave these people alone, they’ve got enough on their plate without you making them jump then taking the credit for curing their ailment.


“I like you. Before we have sex, let’s put our lips together and exchange mouth juice.”


“I’m tired, look down my throat.”


A lot of hand stuff goes on in the world of social normality. “I appreciate your talent; let me slap some of my skin together to show it.”


“These are my teeth. Don’t worry, it’s a good thing.”

Everything that we take for granted as normal can be construed as ‘weird’ if you look at it from a different angle. I think that’s my problem with it – if you think of the world in terms of normal and weird, usual and unusual, you first have to establish the former – but what if you treat everything you do as unusual? I think a big part of opening one’s mind is learning to see things from a different angle (hopefully not the lying down selfie angle) and appreciating the oddities in normality. Do you ever get that thing where you say a certain word lots of times and it ends up sounding like it doesn’t make sense? I love it when that happens. I love it when that happens. I had it with yoghurt the other day. Yoghurt. Yoghurt, yoghurt, yoghurt. Cool.

At my place of work we have a set of ‘core values’, and one of them is ‘unconventional’ – which I really like. It’s pretty similar to alternative I think. For us it means, don’t just do what’s expected, look at things from another point of view and find its uniqueness. I’ve been here a year now and the ability to be unconventional is one of the main reasons I love it so much. It doesn’t mean ‘be weird’ or ‘do things in an odd way just for the sake of it’, but rather it’s more of a focus on how to think outside the box and see everything slightly differently.

I think it works for life in general as well. I guess it’s a more evolved ‘glass is half full’ thing. If you don’t confine your judgement to yin and yang, normal and weird, you can appreciate the unconventional and, like I did previously, appreciate, love how bloody ridiculous we all are. Think about this magazine for example… who’s idea was it to gather a bunch of people together, to gather a bunch of words in a specific order to tell you all about things and stuff? How weird is it that ‘flicking through magazines’ is just a normal thing to do. All other animals just seem to be happy with eating, sleeping and shagging, but for us it’s different… well, I guess these things are pretty crucial, but where has all this other nonsense come from? Why don’t we see horses shaking hands, and why don’t giraffes cover their mouths when they cough*? Also, I don’t know about any of you, but I’ve never received a round of applause from a goose.

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