Hands Full (At the Still Center of the Spinning World)

Cabinet of various pigments. Zanse Schaans, The Netherlands.

Cabinet of various pigments. Zanse Schaans, The Netherlands.


The Universe rolled the dice and they came up strongly in favor of the House of Glass. It must be said that they usually do. Dr Glass is now a university lecturer. I am leaving the laboratory to edit an exciting, inspiring science journal. We purchased a narrowboat. We purchased a Volkswagen. We flexed our new responsibilities and purchased a pair of goddamn iPhones, because we had a pair of pay-as-you-go Nokias around somewhere that we never bothered to charge, or top up, or answer, or even look at.

Some obscure line was crossed here. I feel as if we have suddenly, mysteriously Leveled Up somehow, catapulted into a new stage of development. We were adults before, but now we are, by virtue of getting here, capital-A Adults. Our lives, always rich, have Filled Up.

Pigment from cabinet labeled "Filling Up."

Pigment from cabinet labeled “Filling Up.”

And it’s always good to have your hands full.

We went to the Netherlands with a pair of dear friends. My advice to you is to not let traveling with your friends make you hate your friends. Some friends are just not for traveling with and that is perfectly okay.

Here’s a familiar fool doing a comedy bit on Science Showoff:

sci showoff

My bit was inspired at the last minute by the discovery that Reddit thinks it can tell that I’m not a scientist from a photo of me. As science is possibly only for the prettiest of people, I dressed as a Blonde Bombshell (note radiation symbols) to lend legitimacy to my standup.

Members of the Awkward Army showed up, like the wonderful stars they are, and were good-natured about the whole thing – even the mysterious Alex, who I claimed that I would take with me onto a dinosaur-infested island for his knitting skills (but not for his status as a mathematician.) I’m not experienced with stagecraft or comedy, so during a moment where I was scanning the crowd, it was incredibly touching and uplifting to unexpectedly lock eyes with FunnyGrrl and her gorgeous gentleman. They are a couple filled with light and radiance, and I met them on the Internet.

At the intermission a pair of beautiful and intelligent young women came up to me and apologized for the behavior of the entire Internet, which they really didn’t have to do. They were biochemistry students and they said I was inspiring. (They would not tell me who had paid them to say this.)

An image from our laboratory, which I colored, named and described, made it onto the Guardian. Within hours I got to experience the pain of journalists repackaging my content for profit while removing attributions. I think this means that I have also leveled up my science.


Interior of narrowboat side hatch with traditional “roses and castles design.” The surrounding wood has been painted with aluminum primer in preparation for painting.

My weekends currently belong to a sixteen-year-old narrowboat that needs to be coaxed into becoming a habitat. By September. If you feel the need to hear about our adventures making this happen, partake in OH! SWEET CLEO, which could either become an alternative lifestyle blog of uplifting charm and spirit, or a long-drawn-out screaming noise! It’s renovation – it could go either way.

There are a lot of narrowboat blogs, and there is a lot of talk (propagated by many of these blogs) about how vibrant and lovely the boating community is. Research indicates that it is mostly composed of middle-class British Baby Boomers with lots of disposable income, who use the phrase “politically correct” as an insult; many of whom have already decided that they hate me. What are we to make of this? Can one write about hostility and bigotry within such a community without alienating its members? I suspect that if I try, they will smash in our boat’s windows and cover up the chimney. There will definitely be a tinge of anthropological discovery in this new adventure.


Dr Glass’s sire saving us from the evils of tongue-and-groove.

But, you know, I say these things, and a pair of British Greatest Generation-ers spent their weekend with us, getting their hands dirty, to help us build something out of pure love and support. It’s not who we are born but what we do with it; it is, again, the balance between “tearing down” and “building up” that we, wobbly and imperfect, try to strike. Perhaps even a community composed of the Officially Worst Demographic can surprise you with its hope and its heart. Oh, Sweet Cleo, we will have to see.

And that is how we have gotten here, with full hands and unsteady hearts. We’ll close with a piece of poetry from Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night; hat tip to dear Jem at Quite Irregular for transcribing it.

            Here then at home, by no more storms distrest,

            Folding laborious hands we sit, wings furled;

            Here in close perfume lies the rose-leaf curled,

            Here the sun stands and knows not east nor west,

            Here no tide runs; we have come, last and best,

            From the wide zone in dizzying circles hurled

            To that still centre where the spinning world

            Sleeps on its axis, to the heart of rest.

Here is hoping that you, my Best Beloved Readers, are close to finding your own hearts of rest.

And since my laborious hands have been so full, please forgive me and tell me what you’ve been doing – link me to your things, your posts, your projects, and let me love you. I know that I have missed a lot, so please help me fix that, if you have the time.

18 thoughts on “Hands Full (At the Still Center of the Spinning World)

  1. I am so very excited for you both! It’s about time that things started coming up UnderGlass!

    My grad school plans, which I had thought were more or less solid, have fallen through as my intended major professor (and current internship boss) just told us that he’s taking a position, specially created for him, on the other side of the country. And while he says he would be happy to have me there, we cannot sell our house because HOUSING BUBBLE and REAL ESTATE IS NOT ALWAYS A GOOD INVESTMENT, NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY. So I’m back to the awkward email introductions of myself to people who don’t know me. Fortunately, so far I’ve been able to name drop my boss, but….. Eventually it will be MORE AWKWARD as I work my way down the list to TOTAL STRANGERS. WHEE.

    However, this internship is fabulous and perfect and now I am sure what I want to do with my life. Besides, spending all day watching animals (including baby giraffes) is a blissful way to spend a day.

    • Ah, hell, Sonja, I am so sorry to hear this. I am confident that you will find a solution, no matter how far away that feels, and that when you have found it you will have no regrets; however, I know exactly how these things feel, and that knowing you will find your future on September 15 doesn’t make you feel better on August 1st. But I do have so much trust in your path. Hearing about the baby giraffes genuinely makes my day as well – so not only do you have a calling, but you have one that inspires and delights other people! You’re definitely onto something here.

      Of course, the awkward email introductions are officially THE WORST. BETTER YOU THAN ME. I have barely recovered from doing that myself. As a reward for pounding the pavement I am usually extra-nice to myself, even if it is just copious amounts of Rescue Remedy. I have heard that people pop bubblewrap after awkward emails, but I hate sudden popping noises, so I’m not sure if it would work for me personally.

      Give me a poke if I can do something helpful – the only thing I can think of at the moment are ‘linkedin endorsements’ and this duo:

  2. Hey Elodie , delighted for you both, many gratz on the things to have many gratz about.

    I bought a Samsung galaxy…I too use to occupy the space that could not be contacted by mobile…now my phone may lead to me taking out hits on ppl but it’s all in the name of networking. They are also super super grown up phones. I spent the first day looking at it going “There are clearly pixie slaves working this thing , it tracks my eye movements…that is just weird”

    I love the boat hatch. Well done for doing the stand-up , it sounds like it was fantastic , nice on the blonde bombshell.

    Glad things are so busy but good.

    • Thank you Stitch, it’s lovely to hear from you. Phone is definitely a strange new phenomenon in my life. Today I called someone. It was awful. I may not recover.

      I seem to have either misplaced the link to your Etsy shop, or completely hallucinated its existence, since I’m not 100% sure you had one to begin with. Can you collapse the waveform and tell me which option is more likely to be true?

  3. Congratulations on all of your levelling up! :-D

    Your science skit sounds awesome, and that’s so cool that there were Awkwardeers in the audience. Huzzah for online communities merging with in-person ones! And I love the paintings on the hatch of your narrowboat.

    As for what I’ve been up to lately, here are a few of the more substantive posts I’ve written. (Cupcakes and climate change…yup, that’s my brain!)

    Also, I think you would like Granite Bunny, the blog written by a woman I recently met through climate activism. She and I are working together on a project, still in the brainstorming stages…

    Oh, and I went to a fat-positive yoga/bellydance/self-defense event, complete with cupcakes and a mini clothing swap! It was wonderful, and I’ll be blogging about it soon.

    • Laura, thank you SO MUCH for linking me to those posts – that’s exactly what I needed (commentlurkers – Laura’s links are lovely reads.) I do find it difficult when, due to travel/work/habitat-change/internet-detoxing/generalized lifeclutter, I am unable to keep up with everyone. Blogging is amazing, and I am so pleased to have so many wonderful and progressive blogging friends, but sometimes I find keeping up to be a struggle. Which is a shame, because I am so totally here for your current blogging themes. Also: bellydance was a huge passion until I moved here. I wasn’t very good at it and I didn’t do it for very long. But it was massive for me. I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

      The Bristol chapter of the Awkwardeers are a deeply lovely group, and I do regret not knowing them well enough. If you ever do visit the UK you will enjoy them (and possibly Science Showoff, proceeds of which go to worthy small charities – such a great thing to be part of!)

      Have checked out Granite Bunny – she seems lovely and wholehearted – do link me to the project you’re doing as well.

  4. Oh my, bon voyage! May Cleo be a happy home. :-)

    Congrats on levelling up in Science. I fixed the MSN rip off with a comment and a link to the original article. That counts right? Bloody MSN idiots. *shakes fist*
    Also, major congrats to Dr Glass on the lectureship.

    And the dress with the radioactive warning signs? Amazing. Felt appliqué?

    Oh, Sonja, I’m so sorry about the grad school plans falling through. I hope you find something soon. A job watching baby giraffes sounds delightful.

    I don’t have any interesting news to report for myself. I’m just muddling through with science, being thwarted by cloning at every turn, and trying to prep for International Systems Biology Conference I’m going to in September. I also need to house-hunt, the thought of which fills me with joy.

    • Ness, I’m currently reading Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” and I thought to recommend it to you (and a few other people I know, so it’s hopefully not that weird.) It’s a little repetitive and self-help-y, but as an academic/creative/blogging/writing type I’m also getting some great moments of connection and recognition from it. It’s got some great bits about vulnerability, self-worth and shame resilience.

      It is so, so sweet of you to write that comment on MSN. Thank you so much for that. 90 cc’s of sunshine to the heart, that’s what you are.

      Want the dress? It’s terrible felt applique but it has to go – I am getting rid of much of my stuff.

      All of the things in your life are interesting news. I wish you the best of luck with them.

      • Ooo, thanks for the rec. I’ll take a look at it later.

        Yes, please, I would love the dress. I’m somewhere around a size 12 and 14, and it looks like we’re pretty similarly proportioned. Email me at hatfullofness {at} gmail {dot} com?

        Huh, I completely forgot my best bit of news which is that I’ve started driving lessons for the first time. It is some peculiar mix of exhilarating and terrifying. Remembering to take deep breaths has been key so far. :D

  5. Thank you for my new adjective, though I think ‘shy’ might be more accurate. I am so happy to hear all your good news, and your joy is infectious. I didn’t know about your new job, so EXTRA congratulations on that, and to Dr Glass on his lectureship. I think you know that I loved your science showoff gig! As for me, I am submitting my thesis TOMORROW, which will be followed by a few days of anxiously checking that I didn’t just fill 130 pages with creative swears, and then hopefully some long-needed stress relief.

  6. Elodie! I discovered you from Captain Awkward and have been voraciously devouring your archives (that’s not meant to sound that naughty), but I think I’m already at the end! Did you start this blog in March 2012? If so, then you must immediately write more so that I selfishly have more to read. I’m a big fan, and it’s great to catch up to the newest stuff and find out that you’re doing so splendidly. Good work!

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