Winter Hexagon

     As the evenings become darker, so do the mornings and it is helpful to remember that you can also get outside in the morning just before sunrise to enjoy stars and planets and the Moon. 

     The Winter Hexagon asterism appears in the early evening, giving you time to orientate yourself before becoming overwhelmed by the wealth of stars appearing as the skies darken.  Sirius is the very bright star to the south.  If you hold this diagram above your ahead, it will show you the orientation of the sky.  Hexagon equals 6…or does it?  

Sirius (the Dog Star) is the brightest star in the sky 8.7 light years or 80 million million kilometres away in the constellation of Canis major.  Extra twinkly due to its immense heat, its name is derived from the Greek for ‘scorching’.  It is orbited by a small companion star every 50 years whose own brightness is overshadowed by Sirius.

Procyon (in Canis minor) a binary system, is one of the nearest to our Sun.

Pollux is an old red star near the end of its life, part of Cancer constellation.

Capella is a bright double star in Auriga.  Variability is visible as the stars pass in front of each other over a period of 27 years.  They are ten times the size of the Sun.

Aldebaran appears part of the Hyades but is only 65 light years away, compared to 150 light years for the main group.  It looks like the eye of Taurus.

Rigel in Orion is a blue/white double star, 51,000 times as bright as the Sun.  It forms part of a 4 star system.

So, how many stars make up the Winter Hexagon…?

In the realm of the planets there is a real treat in December when Jupiter and Saturn can be seen quite closely together, low but very bright on the southern horizon.  This is the closest to each other since 1623!


As October draws to a close, I am delighted to report that I have uploaded the full transcript of my newspaper column that I wrote for the Express and Echo. Also, A stroll through the stars text is complete and I am awaiting more images to include. I have received some positive comments regard the project and am encouraged. I need to remain patient through before I take the project further. Watch this Space!


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.

Covid 19

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.

Blog Update May 2020

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.

April Showers

17 April

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.

Blog of the Week of Change

     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 😊