In which I space out

London is beautiful at Christmas, especially when we get proper winter weather. In this lame-duck week in the run up to the 25th, many people in the metropolis have downed tools and taken off work early for the holidays – even scientists. The streets are full of shoppers, far more relaxed and good-natured than is typical for the usual murderous commuting hordes. Snow swirls down, lights glint, and each famous street competes for the honor of having the most elaborate decorations.

Carnaby Street

A few days ago I was cutting through Soho and stumbled into Carnaby Street, resplendent in retro-chic astronomical décor. Vast glowing heavenly bodies floated overhead as far as the eye could see – planets, stars and the Moon – and snowflakes gently brushed my face as I gazed upwards. I overheard a small toddler say, “Daddy, what’s that big planet called, the one just behind Saturn?” Pretty impressive for a five-year-old.

It is a relief being out of the lab – because of the way the dates worked out this year, I will end up having more than two weeks off, which is the longest holiday I’ve managed in several years. I have been under a lot of stress recently, what with an urgent manuscript needing attention, a long-haul trip to the American Society for Cell Biology meeting in Philadelphia, and the fact that my father remains critically ill in hospital more than 4,000 miles away. I crave, in no particular order, sleep, decent meals and the chance to relax and work on my fourth novel, which has just now started to kick in agreeably. And – unavoidably – I also need to do lot of hard thinking about what might lie beyond the termination of my fellowship twelve months from now, and how best to capitalize on the time I have left. I want to follow my dreams and stay in the lab, but on the other hand I have a mortgage to pay, finances are tight and I’m not getting any younger. In other words, I need to do the sort of honest thinking that the usual working routine does not permit.

But for now, I am practicing avoidance. Christmas is good time for living, like children do, in the moment.

About Jennifer Rohn

Scientist, novelist, rock chick
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11 Responses to In which I space out

  1. rpg says:

    Sophie said, “Why is the moon bigger than Saturn?” I said, “Because it’s closer.”

    Didn’t wash.

  2. Ooh, it looks lovely.

    I’m working all week (and next week, but from home), having used up all my vacation days already this year, but we’ve had lots of evening activities to get us into the Christmas mood! (Doing Christmas shopping on lunch breaks hasn’t been helping much – the shops are way too crazy for my liking).

    I hope you both have a lovely relaxing Christmas!

  3. cromercrox says:

    Why has Richard’s left hand turned into a potato?

  4. steffi suhr says:

    Yesterday was my last day at work, I barely made it to my vacation… now the cough and cold that I could feel coming on are kicking in. Works every time.

    I wish you a very relaxing couple of weeks off!

  5. Jim Hutchins says:

    You’re coming to Science Online 2011, right? I have many things to say about your next career step (and more things to listen to, I suspect) than can be contained in a blog post or comment.

    If you feel comfortable bending the ear of a stranger, I’d certainly be happy to listen. I’ve been bench scientist, administrator, teacher (and before that, many other things as well), so I can comment on each of those roles.

  6. Jenny says:

    Hi Jim, happy to chat in NC. I’ve also worked outside of research, and could easily rejoin those ranks, but my problem is that I love bench research more than anything else I’ve done.

  7. Bob O'H says:

    Christmas is good time for living, like children do, in the moment.

    The Beast approves of this sentiment (especially as it normally means constantly stuffing your face).

    No snowball fights for us this Christmas, unfortunately. We’ll have to make do with sitting around watching videos and eating chocolate.

  8. ricardipus says:

    You know, you really shouldn’t post photographic evidence of tree choppery and purloinery on teh intarwebz. Just sayin’.

    Oh, and that bit of London looks like something out of a magical historical era, if you know what I mean.

    Happy Holidays both of you. :)

  9. Jim Hutchins says:

    I hear ya, sister. I had really good “lab hands”, and a preternatural ability to make experiments work for me.

    My wife, the biochemist who taught me molecular biology, was even better.

    Each of us had to make the unfortunate decision to leave the bench: she to a journal editor position, and me to administration and then teaching.

    Thinking about it was painful, and I still wince to this day when I recall how panic-stricken I felt to even consider it. In the event, it turned out to be less of a trauma than either of us had anticipated.

  10. Jenny says:

    @ricardipus : we got the tree off a perfectly respectable white-van man in the local Tesco car park. There are only a few spruce trees in Russia Dock Woodlands, and when we’re done with ours we’ll take it to the park people who chip them up as mulch for the evergreen groves.

    @Bob Does the Beast like stuffing?

    Happy Christmas all!

  11. ricardipus says:

    Hm… seems the evidence has disappeared anyway. Happy New Year!