This is a gentle guide to observable astronomy and designed to whet your appetite for enjoying the darker skies.
A stroll through the stars…coming soon. To order, please use the contact form on the website. Just £10 for a gentle guide to observational astronomy.
I was delighted to win Prima magazine’s monthly short story magazine and my story is in the July 2020 issue. It is so exciting and encouraging.
I have not been putting posts on here as I have been posting twice a week to the Exeter Coronavirus Diaries Facebook page. Those posts will be put in a book or exhibition at a suitable time.
It is hard to keep up with all the writing tasks…I submit twice weekly to the Exeter Coronavirus Community Diaries via their Facebook page. They seem to like my posts and have asked whether they can use them in an exhibition which is nice. I do also have to do some actual paid Work. And I am working really hard on completing a guide to observing for beginners which will be launched on 6 October 2020 (hopefully!) at St Thomas Library, Exeter.
Back to work after the Easter break was really bizarre. I just had to remember to switch on the work laptop upstairs…I did get dressed for work though. Bizarrely. It still feels good not to have to rush for a bus. I continue to drive to and fro the hospital to avoid husband catching public transport or anything that might be carried on it. These are anxious times as it was announced testing is only being carried out on people who show signs of symptoms. So, we still don’t know how much of a risk we are to each other or anyone else. Husband puts his uniform in a pillow case and straight into the washing machine when he comes home.
Tiredness is a big problem for both of us. I wake up worrying and having panic attacks. Husband is just tired. And worried. I listened to a radio programme about the therapeutic effects of having contact with nature, even if it is only reading about it. This inspired us to see if any garden centres were open and, delightedly, we found one that was making deliveries. I phoned an order for some compost and a few vegetable plants and we are now able to progress our garden plans. We already had quite a few seedlings ready to be potted on but nothing to pot them on with. My Dad would be proud.
We went out for a local stroll, smiling at a few people who also seemed pleased to see other faces as they smiled in return. It is a struggle to find the right exercise. I continue to do some yoga in the mornings as well as the daily stroll. Housework and gardening also provide some more exercise. However, I used to go swimming two or three times a week and really miss this. My feet prefer a form of exercise that is non weight bearing as I continue to get fit and lose weight after an operation three years’ ago to remove arthritis from the left foot. I had only received been issued with some suitable made to measure shoes which help with balance. It is frustrating not being able to walk on Dartmoor as I signed up for a sponsored trek that was to take place in August to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society. I have neither been able to train nor obtain sponsors!
Daffodils and chocolate mark Easter Sunday this year. No church, no family gathering, a muted celebration, yet still a time for hope in these distressing weeks. The hope that comes with Easter has never been so needed as now. An Easter like no other, it is a weekend for continuing reflection as the ‘lockdown’ continues.
For me, I will always associate Good Friday with visits to Rye with my auntie and uncle, loaded to the hilt with hot cross buns for the bus journey from Eastbourne. I loved the pottery shops, the ancient church with its views over to the distant, receding sea. One year we bathed in the somewhat chilly sea and warmed up with hot coffee and cold cross buns.
Dominic Raab has said he appreciates the sacrifices we are making; that it’s the little things like Easter egg hunts with grandchildren, family get-togethers that will be missed. Surely, these are the big things in life. These are the things that really matter.
Easter Day felt really strange. No normal hustle and bustle of church and family lunches to prepare. Instead, a quiet walk along a nearby lane with views over towards the open countryside and distant Dartmoor. As a friend wrote to me, “Easter is a celebration of hope; so, let’s take some of this into our daily lives. I am sure we all need quite a bit of it.”
My local council has started a Facebook page for Coronavirus diary entries and liked my contribution enough to ask for more. Even better, I won a short story competition and will see the story in Prima magazine in July, as well as receiving £100 for the story. That is a result! One happy writer today.
Sipping my coffee in the warm sunshine, I reflected on how much better I was feeling. My eyes were not strained and dry, I did not feel stiff from sitting for long periods of time and I was comfortably warm: not too hot, and not too cold. My finances may be taking a tumble as my hours at work have steadily decreased from 7.5 to 1.5 but my health is better. My mind can ramble as I flit between Work and work. The latter is completing a book project which will be launched in October; it will happen as a date has been set and I am more than half way through. The bliss of being able to add a paragraph or two when an idea comes to mind is beyond compare. Bored easily, I thrive on switching between tasks, not that awful ‘multitasking’ but properly concentrating on something before properly concentrating on something different.
Monday was a bit grim as we were sent home, duly laden with laptops. As I have been setting up a new position, I felt uneasy as to whether I would actually have a job. I hadn’t taken on any of the new workload to any great extent. However, Tuesday was a jolly day spent grabbling with the laptop and its intermittent attempts to connect with the overloaded internet. IT were helpful and I said they deserved much praise. Unsung heroes if ever there were any – all focus being on underpaid or unpaid careworkers this week.
Wednesday was beyond woeful as I clasped my mobile to me everywhere I went, just in case some work was needed. I needed therapy. I needed fresh air so gave up after lunch and planted some potatoes. This task has been long overdue because of the relentless rain there has been. It also made me aware of sounds. The sounds of old-fashioned summer days with the chatter and laughter of children outside, radios from open-windowed houses. Looking out of an upstairs window, it could have been an old-fashioned Monday with washing hung out on lines to dry in the warm, breezy air. If ever there was a time for spring cleaning, this was it.
By Thursday morning, I felt less paranoid and decided to spend the first couple of hours either at work or on call for it. After that I would check emails regularly, but not too frequently! Lettuce seeds were planted today and stories emailed off to magazines. My day has some structure as I take and collect Roy in order to minimise his risks – of bugs from buses and stress from non-existent buses. There is a reduced timetable of transport and, as there are no buses before 7am anyway from here, there is no change to our morning routine. Well, not in terms of getting up and driving to the hospital. A massive change for me has been the extra time available to do a yoga practice instead of rushing for the bus…which sometimes connects with the appropriate onward bus and sometimes it doesn’t. My own journey to work is fraught with uncertainty. Usually. Now, I just go upstairs when I’m ready. Retirement seems less daunting now.
There was time and energy left over to look outside in the evening. Betelgeuse is on its way to becoming a supernova so worth taking a look before the Hunter heads off for the summer. It is far to the west now. The big red star looked brighter but it could have been due to the clear dark skies for once.
Friday I deemed to be a day for winding down for the weekend so finished off the outstanding Work tasks and get on down to some serious paperwork sorting of my own. Today, Saturday, has more hours as I don’t need to go shopping nor do I wish to. The day will be spent alternating between that book project and cleaning the kitchen. I shall have the afternoon off 😊
There are many adverts on television just now from Plan International which, again, highlight the lack of progress in so many areas of the female world. During the last 30 years or so, it seems I have evolved into a sceptical, grumpy old woman. Following a magazine article in 1985, I was inspired to take out a sponsorship for a young girl in the Sudan. Her story still haunts me to this day. I wrote and received letters and photos written on her behalf in return. It felt good to be taking some action. Then, suddenly, it all stopped. The Sudanese government refused the support of Plan as it wanted money not actual help… A similar story emerged in other countries. I left the organisation when I felt the issues were too big for aid organisations and needed the wielding of some sort of incentive/economic-based argument brought to bear by other governments. An aid worker shot in Pakistan summed up the situation poignantly. In this current climate of individualism and nationalism, I feel that globalisation could be used as a good unifying force around the world. Already, there is united action over climate change by young people. Surely, this is the way forward for all the major issues facing the human race? People are rallying round to raise money to help those affected by the fires in Australia. Hopefully to help people as well as cute koalas. After over 80 years of action, I find it astounding that Plan’s aid is still required. And specifically for girls. It is a sad indictment of our uneven global development that more is not being done at a governmental level for people.
‘Staycation’. Back in the days of my youth, we ‘went on holiday’ to Cornwall. Living in the south east, this was an adventure and often involved overnight car journeys, with Dad driving through the night in a bid to outwit the traffic jams. Before the transformative M5 and road improvements, the nose to tail cars would crawl through Taunton, Honiton, Okehampton, Bodmin…And with what delight did we enjoy the wide sandy beaches and gloriously colourful lanes of Cornwall. Cornwall. The name redolent of early daffodils, cream and mystery, of smugglers and shipwrecks, of fun and childhood. By its very name, ‘Staycation’ implies staying at home although it is, it seems, taken to mean holidays taken in Britain. I think people have forgotten that foreign holidays used to be luxuries affordable by only the very rich. They were exotic and to be treasured. I feel that cheap air travel has devalued the experience of travelling abroad, diminishing the experience to sun and sea. Relaxation is important but so to is the experience of seeing how other people live, what other places are like. I am reminded of my OU course, ‘Explorations of human geography’, in which we studied the effects of global travel upon developing countries. The higher standards demanded by many visitors result in hotels importing most of the consumables needed thus resulting in financial leakage to the detriment of the country being visited. It is reassuring to note that over the years there has been an increase in sustainable tourism and efforts made to reduce the impact of too many visitors to significant sites.
Retirement. Oh dear. We all know the retirement age has been raised across the board with particular effects for those of us of a certain gender and age yet the BBC News website has a statement on there stating there are more people over the age of 50 in work ‘a record high’. Why the tone of surprise or why is it even noteworthy? How many people can actually retire without a state pension at the age of 50. I struggle with the notion that longevity must equal fitness to work in the first instance and why are we all programmed to work until retirement. Surely, the best way forward is to aim to have a better work/life balance? Will Hutton put forward a convincing argument in the 1990s about the lack of necessity for a 5-day working week. He advocated that, with increased technology, we should be working fewer hours while producing the same, or more than, as before.
So, with more free time on the horizon, will I have staycations or exotic adventures…? Or exotic adventures amidst the diverse counties of the United Kingdom?