Sennen Cove: the final frontier. These are the witterings of a West Cornwall shopkeeper. His seemingly interminable mission: to plumb new depths in literary rambling, to seek out the boring and banal, to boldly sink deeper than any Diarist has sunk before.
March 27th - Monday
Right, now we are into rip gribbler territory, although it took the day a while to get there. Early on, that persistent east wind rather spoiled the party and I stood there freezing my socks off. After I had returned from the gymnasium, however, around the middle of the day, the warmth of the sun eased the all round temperature and it was far more comfortable in the shop.
There had been no prior warning but a package of our top quality mugs arrived in the afternoon. We ordered them at the Exeter trade show and they do take a while to be made and shipped. We still have quite a stock from the previous order but the company is particularly good at refreshing its stock and the new designs were too good to leave. So good, in fact, that I am using one for my morning tea mug. I managed to crow bar the new mugs onto our shelves alongside the others.
We have been selling some fish orders right from the outset this year. Usually it takes a few weeks to get going. I have already stocked the freezer with some MSC certified hake and fillets of pollack and haddock. No, haddock is perfectly alright to eat in abundance, especially in this neck of the woods. The MSC apparently confused matters in Scotland by making it sound like Haddock was being taken off the sustainable list. In northern waters they just need to catch a bit less this year.
It was quite a bit busier today than yesterday. At least, there were more people about but only those interested in buying postcards, which means a bowl of gruel and stale water this evening. Good, then that the Visitor Information aspect of our business is alive and kicking.
Visitor: "Are the buses every hour, here?" Grumpy Information Person: "Um, not zackly every hour. Some hours and not others, really." Visitor: "What time is the next bus to Penzance, then?" Grumpy Information Person: "Twenty to five." Visitor: "That's, let me see, three hours time!" Grumpy Information Person: "Or thereabouts." Visitor: "Will it be early or late?" Grumpy Information Person: "Um ... do you want to know what time the dolphins come in?"
I can hardly wait until tomorrow.
March 26th - Sunday
Three cheers for the Missus for letting me have a lie in this morning, even on a day when the clocks went forward and we all lost an hour somewhere in the ether. Somehow we lost it even before we got to bed, as our mobile telephones automatically shuffled forward at one o'clock. It confused me, rather, in my already muddled state when I looked at the computer clock and found it to be an hour later than I had thought it was.
Mother expressed a desire to visit Mawgan Porth for her Mother's Day treat today, so the Missus duly acquiesced. She left shortly after I arrived downstairs and I did not see either of them until later in the day. Mother had recollections of being there some years ago and had lost the Missus in the caves there. As the day advanced, I wondered if she had repeated the misadventure.
I hope that they had wrapped up warm, although I expect there was a certain amount of shelter to be had below the cliffs. The sun did shine in a glorious fashion again today but that easterly wind upped its game and came whipping it at more than forty miles per hour. It was breezy enough in The Cove and even with four layers on it was a tad chilly in the shop; up the top, I am told, it was ferocious.
They must work very hard at the much maligned council. It takes a great deal of effort to change policy and they seem to do this with frightening regularity. A case in point was that last year they alerted me to fact that they would come visiting, to assess my worthiness to sell food from our premises. It reminded me that we should examine our processes to ensure they were robust and effective, which I hope they are. This year the much maligned council has changed its mind, in fact its officers seem to be denying that they ever promised to visit, instead suggesting that they sent a self assessment questionnaire. If they did, we never had one.
Nevertheless, this year it has decided just to send us a letter reminding us of our obligations regarding food safety. Very helpfully, it pointed us at a downloadable guide which covers all aspects of food safety for a small shop such as ours. It was produced by the Food Standard Agency and is, actually, quite useful; I have amended our Food Management Plan accordingly. Should we desire, we can acquire a "colour, good quality, printed version on 100g bond paper, which will provided hole-punched, ready to be placed into our own folder." for just £19.50. Diary refills, so that cleaning and checking records may be kept, are also available for £16.99 for a twelve month supply. Thank you very much but I print off my own monthly check sheet for tuppence a copy, although it is only in black and white.
Just to round the day off nicely, we had a little Lifeboat shout to a missing person believed to be off Land's End. As it transpired, the missing person was found in Porthcurno and the boat returned to station less than an hour after the launch. This pleased the bleddy hound no end because I had to take her across the road with me and shut the shop. She was not amused. Fortunately, the Missus arrived home shortly before the boat turned up and spirited her away.
Then there was take two. As we prepared the short slipway to receive the boat, it sped away, back to Porthcurno. The message was that although it was established that the lady was on land, it was not wholly apparent exactly which bit of land she was on. It was thought that if she could see the Lifeboat it would give the land crews something to go on.
After a little further investigation the lady was found at Nanjizal beach, safe and well and the Lifeboat returned to The Cove at around quarter to six. While we were just setting up the last time, on this occasion we were ready and waiting with all our ducks in a row. We took the boat onto the short slipway in what was quite evidently a textbook recovery as our mothers waited patiently for us to return to our doting duties. We are after all, on this special day, a very mother loving very excellent Shore Crew.
March 25th - Saturday
A reader suggested to me today that it might have been a bit of a rip gribbler. The sun was certainly looking the bit with only a line of blanket cloud off in the northern horizon. That north easterly chill, however, rather took the edge off it, particularly first thing, so I think we might demur from the rip gribbling today.
Later on in the afternoon that wind had warmed a little. Another customer told me that they had gone down to the big beach, wrapped up against the cold, but had felt quite warm.
I am very surprised that I had enough time to talk to her as we were pretty pressed by the numbers of customers running into the shop today. We had a fairly constant supply of happy shoppers all the way through the day from quite early on. After last weekend I had not expected it to be this busy and as a consequence we ran out of pasties just before lunchtime.
I was taught an object lesson in setting achievable goals today. A young maid brought to the counter her brand new pink tiddler net. I asked if she intended to catch some fish with it; she was not so sure. A parent felt it helpful to prompt what else she might catch while among the rock pools, teaming with the cosmopolitan and abundant marine life found there. "Sand" she firmly replied.
Somebody who was catching fish was our friends in the new big Cove boat. They had been out for some ray, I am told. They must have been successful judging by the numbers of gulls surrounding the boat as it came back in. I watched, too, to see if the new winching ropes would be used to bring her back in but, as I understand it, they are more for launching, pulling her into deeper water, than for recovery, although the Harbour tractor did seem to struggle a bit in the softer sand.
Given that we shall lose an hour during the night, the sensible plan was to have an early night and to hope that the mobile telephone alarm clock registered the jump forward of an hour. Of course, that was the sensible plan. The Highly Professional Craftsperson and I decided instead to attend a late night venue in town to enjoy the music of our favourite local band, Hanterhir.
I was given fair warning that I should not buy any further t-shirts, as my t-shirt drawer was full to overflowing and would not brook a further purchase. I would have complied but when we arrived the band told me that I had, on the previous occasion, already purchased a t-shirt, which they had brought with them. Rather than risk an international incident, I donated my t-shirt to the Highly Professional Craftsperson. It might have been a different story had I not already had the t-shirt that had been reserved for me.
Sadly we had to cut and run before the band finished its performance. We are continually confused - while that is true, what I really meant was we are continually confused about the opening and closing times of the establishment that we attended. We had rather expected the band to finish at midnight and had asked the Missus to pick us up at half past; we did not realise that they would play on until one o'clock. I am afraid that was well past our bedtime, which was a shame, as the band were playing out of their skins by that time.
It was a late hour when we returned, due to it being a late night venue, I suppose. We shall see what happens tomorrow.
March 24th - Friday
That vicious little nor' easterly was still with us today but at least it was dry wind, rather than the horrid wet stuff we had yesterday. It was also somewhat grey, which rather goes against the sunshine we were told about that was supposed to light up this neck of the woods today.
I do not think that the sun would have made a great deal of difference today, although it would have set off the tumbleweed quite nicely. We often find that Fridays are a little softer than the other days of the week. Despite the quietness I did not read one newspaper all day; I have no idea what I was doing else.
I know that we had a couple of deliveries but they were nothing really difficult or time consuming to deal with. Our local cash and carry had let its wine stock deplete over the winter, as I imagine they do not shift very much over the closed season. We were struggling a little having opened before they replenished their stocks. I had a chat with the boss there at the start of the week and he promised that new stock would be arriving this week. I left it until today to test his word and duly six cases of wine appeared this morning, shiny and new including the prices.
I watched with interest some activity at the end of the Harbour wall during the afternoon. I mentioned a few weeks ago we have a new girl in the Harbour, bigger and heavier than all the other girls. She was out in anger during the week, setting pots, I think and I saw her returning to the bay. Due to her size, I think the Harbour tractor had some issues dragging her up to the slipway so the boys have decided to reconstitute the winding gear and the pulley system at the end of wall to assist. I hope it works, as I do not think the people in the Round House will be too happy if they want to use the capstan again.
I think I must have pottered for the last few hours of shop opening. On reflection, my listlessness may well have been the onset of hyperthermia, where the consciousness begins to falter. There again, it might just be my age. I will try to pay more attention tomorrow.
March 23rd - Thursday
I had expected quite a pleasant day, although the winds had come around to the northeast. No one said anything about the rain, which eventually forced me to close the door of the shop and stick a notice up telling anyone who might have been interested that we were still open. Unfortunately very few people were interested enough to try the door.
I had just finished my third newspaper when I was saved from abject boredom by a delivery of books. These are the ever popular series of books we have sitting in a rotary display at the top of the shop. It amazes me, in a place where we have so many repeat customers that the same titles sell so well each year. There are a couple of new titles to add to the catalogue each season, not all so useful to us, but at least it shows that the company is not stagnant. This year, whoever was picking our selection, added a small book by a local artist depicting the sights found on the coast road journey from St Ives to Land's End. It is a route that has claimed fame as the most scenic route in Britain for a couple of years and quite rightly, too. The artist has captured the scenes quite authentically in watercolour prints, stacked in from beginning to end. The only fly in the ointment is a missing apostrophe in the title but there again Visit Cornwall did not get it right, either, and they really should have.
Our blustery and wet day continued through the afternoon and made the whole experience particularly dull and grim. It became increasingly windy toward the latter part of the day; I could tell because the door kept blowing open when earlier it did not. I pulled in the flags and the windbreaks, having carefully assessed the risk to potential sales, as the flags were in danger of flying away and the windbreaks were swaying horribly from side to side.
You know it has been a bad day when you do not see a customer for two hours and the only newspapers you have not read are the ones that have mainly pictures in them. Alright, I have just read one of those, too.
Thank heavens we had a Lifeboat training meeting to lighten the mood. We discussed the recent towing of the coaster off the south coast and how much of a learning experience it was. Since the Coastguard tugs were removed some years ago this was the first, but probably not the last, rescue of a big ship that the Lifeboats would encounter. In response, we deep cleaned the Inshore Lifeboat and its tractor, which are now sparkling clean.
With hope in our hearts we repaired to the OS for a spot of quizzing. Why have hope, we thought later, when all we needed was a suitably intelligent bunch, calling themselves a team, and knowing that the connection between moths, Fibonacci, and Lucille was balls. Job done; we won by a small margin.
Hop, skipping and jumping home - or, at least what passed for it - we observed the few stars peeking through the cloud and a possible portent of a pleasant day for the morrow. It was certainly streaks ahead of the day we had today, already.
March 22nd - Wednesday
It was definitely a good day today; I did not finish my breakfast until gone two o'clock.
It was not the best of mornings as it was grey and wet. The rain had been hammering on the windows since I woke up early in the morning, in big heavy showers. It was between these showers that I managed to slip downstairs to get all the stands out to the front of the shop and just as I finished it started to spit with rain again. I decided it would be a good plan to get the bleddy hound around the block, sharpish, which I duly did. We could see the showers approaching in a grey smudge of a curtain out towards the horizon, which started to arrive just as we got home. This rain persisted for half of the morning but when I ventured out in the direction of the gymnasium the western horizon had started to brighten. Indeed, there was blue sky and loveliness on its way.
For the rest of the day we were blessed with blue skies and sunshine and an increase in customers that kept me away from my sandwich for hours. There was a large party of French people milling about at about lunchtime. They set out their wine and cheese party on the tables across the road, which seemed so stereotypical I was surprised that they were not wearing striped t-shirts and berets. I discovered later that they were Italian, which explained everything.
It might be a good time to mention that it was the bleddy hound's birthday today; she is nine years old. It was probably a good job that she was unaware of the significance of the day, since she spent the lion's share of it stuck in the shop on her perch. The Missus went off into town to furnish us with the doings for a homemade Chinese meal in the evening, which meant the bleddy hound was going nowhere for a while. It was such a pretty day I thought she might get down to the beach, the Harbour one, at least, but I thought it unlikely as the Missus was caught up with cooking.
When the Missus came down to take the bleddy hound around at the end of the afternoon, I mentioned the beach thing and suggested that maybe one of us could arrange some time tomorrow. She agreed and headed off in the direction of 'around the block', which, coincidentally, passes the top of the Harbour slipway. The Missus returned a few minutes later, tied the bleddy hound up and disappeared upstairs. She came back down carrying the bleddy hound's ball launcher and had a resigned look on her face. She told me the bleddy hound got as far as the top of the slipway and dug her heels in. Even small bleddy hounds seem to have learnt pester power.
While the homemade Chinese meal was slightly delayed, it was worth the wait and I am sure that the bleddy hound appreciated her birthday present.
March 21st - Tuesday
O thou with dewy locks, who lookest down Thro' the clear windows of the morning, turn Thine angel eyes upon our western isle, Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!
Why not have a little William Blake to welcome in the Spring? Probably because it did not feel very spring-like today, although the sun did come forth for a while in between the showers but the sleet and brash wind rather spoilt it all. It was also noticeably colder than it has been for a while and I was very grateful that it was not coming from the east - like it will be on Thursday.
I am sure that you will be delighted to note that there has been no further movement from neither the Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company nor any of the powers involved in the Tobacco Products Directive for me to report on today. The closest we came to anything slightly controversial was that our credit card company has cancelled the cards we use for the business on the grounds of some fraud scare. This is not ever so helpful in the middle of our buying phase but rather that than end up with bills for things we have not bought.
Quite why we are buying so much at present should be a question we ask ourselves. Today was as quiet as the grave and with little better to do, exceptionally tedious. It is the sort of quietness that puts on weight as, suddenly there are items on the shop shelves that become alluring, whereas else they might be ignored. I managed to find some shredding to do, which staved off the inevitable cake moment for a while but even that runs out eventually, no matter how long you have let it build up.
In the end there was only watching the sea, as it wound itself up for a big fight with the wind and the cliffs towards high water. There are, of course, worse ways to pass the time.
March 20th - Monday
For the first part of the morning we followed the action down on the south coast. Both boats were tasked with towing the coaster out into deeper water await the arrival of the tug. This they managed admirably, with the assistance of the wind and swell. I eventually identified the tug crossing Falmouth Bay. It looked a little on the small side to be tugging big coasters but I am no expert.
Before the boats were re-tasked, we had expected to recover our Lifeboat up the short slip at roughly high water at nine o'clock. This would have been ideal given the heavy swell that was pounding through the bay. The next easier window for recovery would have been low water on the long slip, between three and four o'clock, optimum but on a small neap tide even this would be fraught.
With nothing likely to happen for the next few hours I slipped away to the gymnasium for my regular Monday session, after all, recovering Lifeboats is no job for a slouch. When I returned and check for the position of the tug it had disappeared from the screen and was nowhere to be seen. It was not long after this that we discovered that the tug in Mounts Bay had been tasked. Presumably this could have been sent in initially and saved everyone a pile of time.
We were told to expect the Lifeboat back at around three o'clock but, as luck would have it, one of the Boat Crew came over and told me that the boat was on the way back just after one o'clock. It hove into view shortly after half past one. This provided something of an issue since there were very few people around to do the job. With only two of us available and a couple of rookie helpers on loan from the Boat Crew we set to work. It is a testament to the inherent management capabilities born into every member that had the disparate team members all singing in sweet harmony. After we had finished singing we recovered the Lifeboat up the long slipway in a textbook performance despite the frequent large waves pounding the end of the slipway. We are, after all, a born not made very adaptable, very excellent Shore Crew.
I had shut the shop for the duration of the recovery but it is unlikely that anyone noticed. We had been beset with mizzle for most of the morning, some of it quite heavy. We were warned that heavy rain was on the way for the afternoon but, instead, the skies cleared and we were visited with blue skies and sunshine. I suspect the rain that never was kept the punters away.
Look, it has been at least five paragraphs since my last gripe; I must be due one. I could start with the Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company but with only an initial apology to go with we shall let that mature for a while. What I can go with is my enquiry concerning the Tobacco Products Directive, from our friends at the EU which limits cigarette packets to 20 or more and tobacco pouches to more than 30g in an effort to make it less affordable to young children. I do not know who the EU talked to in order to formulate this strategy but most of the people I know would agree that small children, generally, have more dosh than the adults. However, we shall not dwell on this observation for the UK Government, not wishing to look too soft itself, has introduced plain packaging to ensure that shopkeepers are entirely confused about which packet contains what cigarette and small children will not be enticed by the drab dark brown - yes, that is the official name for the packet colour - of the new plain packets.
So, having furnished you with the background, I should tell you that although I am well aware of the ins and outs of the new regulations concerning cigarettes, it completely threw me a googly when it came to ordering and pricing cigars. I had a look on the internet and although there were a few references, when I got to the meat of the document it spoke only of cigarettes. I even looked at the Directive itself and performed a search for the word 'cigar ' including a space so that it did not pick up cigarette - oh yes, I am very Internet savvy - and my search revealed just one instance of the word 'cigar' in the whole of the document.
I could not believe that cigars will be subject to the same restrictions as cigarettes, particularly the not having a box less than 20 part. Frustrated in my search, I remembered an unsolicited email that I received from an organisation calling itself Business Regulatory Support, which at first I thought was spam, until I looked further and discovered that they are part of the much maligned council. The unit apparently helps business with any manner of regulatory issues, "form (sic) licenses, Water sampling, Fire assessments Pest control and much more" but presumably not English grammar. With a certain amount of trepidation I filled out an enquiry form on its website asking if they could help with the detail of the Tobacco Products Directive, particularly regarding cigars.
I do hope you are following, dear reader, for this is where the story really starts. I was very happy to note that in the latter part of the morning the Business Regulatory Support had very swiftly replied to my enquiry. It surprised me that they were so quick because they are, at least, affiliated to the much maligned council, the query itself I would have imagined to be child's play for them, since they, or at least the much maligned council, needs to enforce the regulations.
The reply I had surprised me further. It told me that the Business Regulatory Support was a "free signposting and advice service" to point in the right direction for who I should speak to at the much maligned council. Ideal, I thought; that would save me telephoning the much maligned council switchboard and asking the receptionist who I should speak to regarding the query. However, reading on, the expert advisor that the Business Regulatory Support service pointed me to with its free signposting service was a Trading Standards Officer who was available at the Trading Standards checking service provided I part with £36 (including VAT, at Cost) which would get me 30 minutes conversation. I wondered what we might talk about after the two minutes it took to confirm the rules on cigars and reasoned that I would have to pick a Trading Standards officer with similar interests to myself, which might be fraught with uncertainty. It struck me as quite a blinding coup to create laws that people have to pay to find out the detail of or run the risk of falling foul of them. I decided instead to forward the whole sorry tale to my MP to see if he could help - both with the cigar issue, which his Government had rubber stamped, and how okay he was with much maligned council's tapping business for cash for information which should be readily, and freely, available.
On the basis that you, dear reader, probably fell asleep some three or four paragraphs ago, I shall desist until another day to give you a chance to recover your senses.
March 19th - Sunday
The Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company really excelled itself this morning. Initially, I thought that we had a rerun, which is where some titles arrive late at the depot and are distributed later in the morning. However, when I checked the paperwork that arrives with our delivery, I discovered that we had not been included in the distribution of the Mirror, Observer and Sunday Times, our second best selling Sunday newspaper. On further investigation it appeared that while someone at the company had set our volume of two of the titles to zero, the Sunday Times had been completely delisted.
I usually write scathing electronic mails at the time of these incidents and replace them with slightly more professional scripts later on, which I then send. On this occasion, however, I wrote the scathing electronic mail and actually sent it; I felt much better for a while. The shine very quickly dulled on the beneficial influence of this vengeful riposte, after explaining to about the tenth customer why we did not have the title of newspaper that they had travelled to our shop to purchase.
Still, by mid morning the sun tried its hardest to break through. It was not entirely successful but it was a much brighter day than yesterday but that nagging westerly is still hanging in there driving down the temperature. I thought it quite mild first thing when I took the bleddy hound around the block but that might have been the incandescent rage still burning in me.
I have to say that it was a particularly quiet day all round, much more so than last weekend. I managed to read one of the newspapers that we did get, all the way up to the sports pages, where I stopped through depression. I should have left some of the delivery unpacking until today but I found some shredding to do instead, which kept me out of trouble for a short while.
I went off to the range in the afternoon, the last such visit for a month of Sundays. We started off with lashings of brightness and relative warmth, although outside the shelter the breeze was distinctly noticeable. Just before I left at around four o'clock the mist had closed in around us and visibility dropped to less than 50 yards, or it might have been 50 metres. It was much clearer in St Buryan where I picked up mother in the way home but the air was thick and wet and not very pleasant.
I returned home in time to cover the last hour of shop opening and to watch the tumbleweed trundle down Cove Road.
Just when I thought that might be the end of today's Diary - well, it was the end of today's - a little Lifeboat shout disturbed my deep repose at three o'clock in the morning. A Dutch coaster had broken down three miles south of Gwenapp Head and was drifting. Both Sennen Cove and Penlee were tasked to head off the north westerly drift until a tug could be found by the ship's owners. The latest I heard, early on Monday morning, is that the Lifeboats managed to get the coaster anchored and returned to Newlyn for a cup of tea. At around half past six, both boats were out again as the coaster was slipping its anchor. A tugs was en route from Brixham, despite there being one in Mounts Bay, Dutch at that.
There, you will have a very short Diary tomorrow as you have had half of it today.
March 18th - Saturday
It was not a day that you would exactly call filled with excitement and interest, very possibly, quite the opposite. The fog, that was thin but evident from early on, thickened during the day, forming a cap over The Cove and blotted out Cape Cornwall completely. Fortunately there was only one person who told me how pleasant it was in Penzance.
The ensuing quietness gave me the opportunity to finish a certain editing job, demonstrating that even lowly grumpy shopkeepers can manage at least two jobs at the same time. I progressed from editing to indexing, which I have never done before and will, hopefully, never do again, although it was an education.
I also managed to review the position with our wetsuits. We have broken completely from the company that we have done business with for the last thirteen years. While the new company has a good product range, some of the suits are significantly more expensive and it will be a trial this year to see how we get on in a different market. The short wetsuits and children's wetsuits are roughly the same price as they were. The problem currently is that we have a mix of the old and new, which does not present very well. We may have to bite the bullet and hold a, an, erm, a s-a-l-e. It is less painful if I spell it out. I may have to make the final decision after a few libations, to numb the shock of it, and thereafter have a box of tissues ready at the till for when customers want to buy one.
I practised my libation consumption at the OS late in the afternoon while I watched the rugby game. Consumption of libations became increasingly necessary as the game progressed. The word lacklustre springs to mind - the game, not my consumption, which was heroic.
March 17th - Friday
We have had a couple of cable ships out to the west for the best part of a week. They could be seen lit up like gin palaces near the horizon. I had initially thought that they were something to do with the electricity cable to the Isles of Scilly, which broke last week and left them in the dark. When I looked at the map, however, I could not imagine any electricity cable from the mainland being that far north, so I have had to reassess my assumption and suppose that it must have been to do with the transatlantic communication cables. One of the cable layers was still pottering about this morning, moving very slowly north.
STOP PRESS: As it happened, the local evening television news shed some light on the issue. It showed some footage of the electricity cable being laid - from The Cove, with a large gathering of local lads helping to push it out. So there.
Interestingly the Isles of Scilly electricity problem highlighted the island's efforts to become self sustaining on the power front. There is a project to link up all the solar and wind generators, including the private ones, to form some sort of power generating and storing cooperative. Oddly it will include electric cars for some reason I could not fathom. I have often thought that it would be a good plan to have small communities being given grants to develop discreet power generation schemes using private and community resources. Solar, wind, hydro all included and throwing in burning cow dung or having teams of white mice on treadmills if it worked. The national supply would only be required to top up when required, thus reducing the reliance on large power stations.
Gosh, that was unusually serious for the Diary. I cannot think of anything funny about the weather, either, that was grey and very unamusing. It may well have been why it was so quiet in The Cove all day. This was just as well since towards the end of the morning a delivery of more than twenty boxes of beach goodies arrived. It took me most of the rest of the day to sort them out as well as the delivery of very alluring logo tea towels. These will be on the website shop in a jiffy, yes, dear reader, nestled beside the Diary on this very website is an online shop. Just thought that I would mention it in case it had elluded you all these years.
Given the number of boxes in the deliveries, much of the stock had to be shipped up to Shrew House. While it was quite breezy down in The Cove, it was blowing a hooley up top making it impossible to wedge open the door with the heavy rock that I usually use. In the end I had the door resting against the open tailgate of the van, which worked after a fashion.
That same evening news I mentioned earlier had a small synopsis of the Torrey Canyon disaster, which happened 50 years ago tomorrow. I recall quite vividly standing on a Cornish hedge watching Sea Vixens and Canberras (they are aeroplanes) bombing the wreck - it is the sort of thing that small boys of a certain age appreciate. I should thank the Aged Parent, who I remember got stuck behind a line of similarly bent viewers on a lane with a view. Neither of us remember which single carriageway lane but there cannot be many which fit the bill.
I spoke with a chap who was here at the time. The Cove escaped for a number of days, whereas beaches to the north and south had been affected. He then said they woke one morning with the tide in and as it receded it left a chocolate brown layer, three feet thick, behind. While much was cleared from the big beach, on Gwenver and Escalls Beings it was buried in geet pits. It seems that nature has taken care of most of it over the years and the worst damage was done by the toxic detergent used. Even now, the black lines on the rocks tell the tale and after heavy storms, lumps of sticky tar are washed up from the 98 feet deep wreck.
Funny how clear the memory is from 50 years ago; I hope I do not have to wait that long to remember what happened last week.
March 16th - Thursday
It was half way through the morning that I threw myself into the remaining parts of yesterday's deliveries. The Missus said that she would deal with the boxes of fudge bags but they were sitting in front of the wine and beer store, annoying me every time I went into the store room. There is a new ginger flavour this year, replacing the rum and raisin that we threw out in abundance at the end of last year, having not sold.
The rest of the postcards arrived in the early afternoon. This, thank heavens, completes our offering and makes the postcard stands somewhat less embarrassing from being empty. There is a complex arrangement of codes for which I have developed a description, so I know what each card should look like. Even then I can get confused between 'Harbour view aerial' and 'Harbour view up' and it seems like I did because we have almost run out of one and ordered the other. It was far more fun putting the fudge out and I do confess to having a small sample of peanut brittle.
I do not recall if we should expect any further deliveries this week. I do need to check that I did not put any orders back until the start of April. When I was placing the orders at the trade show, I was working to an Easter holiday that started mid April. It was not until I did the shop hours that I discovered that our local schools will be on holiday from the beginning of the month. I will have to check quickly and bring forward anything that is likely to be late as we do not want to be dealing with this as the holidays commence.
The big lump in the sea that plaqued the bay yesterday and had waves bouncing over the footings of Pedn-men-du had diminished greatly today. The weather, too, was somewhat benign, although there was a flurry of drizzle in the mid afternoon. There were signs of brightness towards the end of the day, which was rather pleasant, as we had a little Lifeboat exercise called in.
The boat launched at roughly six o'clock, just as I was shutting the shop. There were more than enough people to see her off and I was not far behind to help with the setting up for recovery. In the time that the boat was out I retired back home for some tea before returning to help bring the boat up the short slip, for a change.
The Inshore boat returned first and it was at this point that we discovered that the sea, that looked so placid earlier in the day, had developed something of a kick in the later afternoon. The small tracked vehicle used to recover the boat was nigh on swamped by the aggressive waves.
When the big boat returned a little while later it was clear that the sea was determined to interrupt its recovery. The waves were pounding over the Harbour wall from one end to the other and sometimes at the same moment. The water in the Harbour was churning and throwing itself up the short slipway in a manner not conducive to easy recoveries. The coxswain of the day felt it appropriate to stand off for a while after he had come in and had a look see. Twenty minutes and a cup of tea later, he tried again.
It was a deft manoeuvre that landed him on the slipway with enough time for the Boat Crew to gaff the loop off the new device designed to reduce the number of people on the slip at the time of recovery. With all eyes watching, the boat was brought up the short slip in what was very possibly a textbook recovery for the trying conditions, with everyone doing their bit as if driven by clockwork. We are, after all, a very well oiled, very excellent Shore Crew.
Afterwards, some of us repaired to the OS to become even more well oiled and to partake in a spot of quizzing. Everything was going extremely well until we discovered that it was not and we came a mediocre midfield team. We even lost at the chase the ace raffle and retired home the injured parties. I am sure we will do it all again next week.
It would have added insult to injury had it rained on the journey home; thankfully it did not. It did permit the Highly Professional Craftsperson to pass comment on the bodged window sills. I will not repeat the assessment.
March 15th - Wednesday
I must thank GW for eliciting an element of today's Diary. The GW, by the way, should not, though it is difficult not to, be heard in the mind's ear in a Southern States drawl; he is very much an English gentleman but we should not hold that against him. We were discussing the early weeks of shop opening and the effort that it takes to become accustomed to the routine. The effort is not just mental and I told him that I find that my ankles and knees swell in the first two weeks and thereafter I am fine. In previous years I have also employed the services of my bone cruncher to help attune my frame to predominantly standing. I use the services again at the end of the season to reverse the process.
We postulated that others in seasonal trade of all sorts are probably similarly affected by physiological changes. I suggested that I might make myself available to medical science to study such phenomena, and here I was working up to my dénouement, of sorts, or finale, if you will. GW is an intuitive fellow, it should be mentioned, and was well ahead of me in suggesting that the condition, clearly hitherto unidentified, be named after the key protagonist. I would, of course, eschew the use of my surname, as displays of such hubris are a little tacky. Instead, however, I would happily accept the use of 'grumpy shopkeeper's leg' along the lines of housemaid's knee and tennis elbow. It could be my legacy, perhaps.
Fortunately, my joints do not suffer overly with the changing of the weather, though I am aware that science has eventually accepted that there is a link. If they did, then this morning would, I am sure, have had me hobbling, as the air was wet as a dishcloth with thick fog swirling about. It definitely was not the sort of morning to be putting down a second coat of gloss on the shop window sills if a proper job of it was to be done. It was a good job, therefore, that the whole project is a lash up and it did not matter the least how wet it was. I dried the sills, first thing with some paper towel and when I tested them later they were not as wet as they were before I ran the paper towel over them. I counted this as ideal outcome.
You could almost see DIYman wince as he painted over the uneven surface. The previous sanding down had revealed that there were areas of the surface that had not fully dried and other parts that crumbled away completely where the wood is in such poor condition. However, in the main, the job is now complete, as it is pointless pouring more good paint over bad, and at least it no longer sports the Missus's finger smudge.
I took a leisurely morning after that until the first of today's deliveries arrived early in the afternoon. We have some exciting new foodstuffs to tempt customers with this year, which is all part of Cornwall's continuing drive to produce more and better food products year on year. Big Sis showed me some photographs she took in New York, which is in a country called America, somewhere west of Land's End. The pictures show shelves in stores in that city, sporting Cornish Sea Salt and POPTI biscuits. It could quite well have been a picture from our very own shelves now we have taken delivery of Cornish Sea Salt and POPTI biscuits ourselves.
The same company that produces the savoury biscuits has also now produced a range of rillets (like paté but posher) and paté, too, which adorn the shelves of our refrigerator and our Cornish products shelf at the end of the shop. We have also taken on some Cornish gin and vodka which contains spirit distilled from Cornish potatoes. I have tried the vodka and, after I got up again, found it to be very wholesome and very reminiscent of proper Irish poteen or poitin (do not ask - I led a wild childhood).
The Missus spent much of the day over at mother's finishing off the building of the greenhouse. She has a few problems hanging the door but other than that it has gone very well. She returned from there with news that St Buryan had sunshine all day long. It is usually for our customers to note, if the weather is poor in The Cove, that Penzance was lovely. I did not expect it from the Missus, too. In fact we had our own blue sky and sunshine for a very short while and the whole afternoon was much brighter than the morning. Our fog, however, was never far away and for most of the rest of the day it sat atop Carn Gloose and above Gwenver with its fingers grasping the valleys between.
The Missus returned home just in time to race off to Porthleven for our delayed anniversary evening meal. It was in the restaurant next to Mr Stein's establishment - it was only a minor anniversary - and we were home by nine and asleep in bed by ten o'clock. I still know how to treat a girl.
March 14th - Tuesday
It was a more pleasant day than I had anticipated, with the morning being so temperate that I needed no thick jumper or hat for our early traverse around the block. It is the routine, now, that I take care of the newspapers and other morning deliveries before I take the bleddy hound around, as it would be too early for her else. It is at the back of my mind that if I build her expectations to get out and about too early, this will remain after we have shut the shop andf I will forevermore be condemned to early rises.
We were fortunate that newspapers were delivered today. We had magazines, too, although quite how they managed to get into the mix I have no idea but at least they were titles that I could sell here. The newspapers for tomorrow are still not shown on the sparkling new computer system but when I go to add them the system assures me that they have already been ordered. It is the thing I like about this job, the dark mystery and surprise.
The morning was quiet enough but as the day went on we were entertained by a trickle of customers from far and wide. I rather suspect there was a coach party in the middle of the afternoon as we had a bit of a flurry of postcard selling, all at once.
From the middle of the day onwards for the period of about two hours we had a succession of van deliveries turning up. It happens every year, so I should not be surprised but I still reckon that the white van men gather at the top of the hill and send one van in after the other as a jolly jape.
From the moment the first delivery arrived, the focus of the day changed from reading newspapers to pricing new items of stock. Some of these items are not so new and are perennial favourites. There is no disguising the fact that once such item, the glitter dolphin, is back in favour after a break of a few years. The trail of glitter, glitter in the hair - yes, even mine - glitter on my shoes, glitter on my face, glitter in my tea, glitter in bed, later in the evening, glitter in any manner of strange place some of which I have not yet visited; it gets everywhere.
We also now have some postcards. It has been a matter of some embarrassment over the latter part of the season last year and also over our Christmas opening that our offering was sparse indeed. The same could be said of our bumper stickers to the extent that I actually had to go and buy one when the Aged Parent placed a request to adorn his new car.
The Missus and I had intended to go off to Porthleven this evening and to a restaurant we both rather liked. It is our wedding anniversary and there is beer there that I can cry into - tears of joyfulness, dear reader, tears of joyfulness. Unfortunately the place is shut on a Tuesday out of season so we had to stay in instead. Still, we have had plenty of anniversaries before so I do not suppose it will matter much to miss one.
... apparently it does and we are going tomorrow night.
March 13th - Monday
The season has definitely started; we had our first biggish order delivered in the afternoon. Others will follow thick and fast, for sure. Well, we sort of made sure that the deliveries would arrive thick and fast by placing a lot of orders. There were so many we almost had a fight over who was going to use the telephone next.
With so many boxes to hump hither and thither I made sure that I had a good session at the gymnasium this morning. It is my new later gymnasium session, as it relies on waiting for the Missus to relieve me in the shop before I can get down there. I have been going early during our break as it avoids clashing with the other gymnasium user who is on the same schedule as me. We now must draw lots on who uses what and when.
Since I found myself with a gash half hour this morning I decided to slap a top coat on our window sills. The bodging of this mother of all bodge jobs continues, you could hardly say apace, as it has been driven by the weather. This morning was the first, apart from yesterday when I was doing something else, where the weather was sufficiently dry to give me the opportunity to get some paint on the wood. It should really have had a second undercoat but bodge jobs do not get such luxury treatment.
I managed to slap the gloss on inside half an hour, which was all I had, before the shop opened. I quickly printed off a notice and stuck it in the window to advise passers by that the paint was wet and that it should be avoided. The notice completely eluded the Missus when she came downstairs, as the first thing she does is tie up the bleddy hound to the post, which sticks up from the window sill. The sill now has a finger smudge and the Missus's finger is white.
It was very much quieter today, although all our pasties went and we sold a good number of newspapers. In the quietness of the morning I decided to start ordering our magazines. It is a new computer system from the Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company, which I had to find my way around. In doing so I noted that although our newspapers were set out for the weekend and Monday, it seems whoever did the setting up completely forgot that there was an additional four days before the weekend. Had I left it until tomorrow to order the magazines we would have been left without any newspapers. The words congenital and eejits spring to mind. Other words spring to mind as well but those are the ones I felt able to share with you.
A customer pointed out that it was a bit quiet today and asked why we opened so early in the season. In truth we followed our predecessors from 14 years ago who opened on this weekend the year before we took over. In all likelihood it was because Easter was early that year. We have opened on the second weekend in March ever since. It did strike me, though, that by opening so early gives us a chance to get things in the shop organised. If we were still closed, I suspect the temptation would be to leave it until tomorrow as we do with the shop cleaning.
The lack of customers was the only thing that was quiet today. The sea had other ideas and roused itself from its benign slumber of the last couple of days into a roaring mess. There was no order to the heavy waves that rolled randomly into the bay and tumbled in a fury onto the beach. I think I recall seeing some surfers out in the maelstrom but there were not there for long. Perhaps they disappeared into the sudden mist that descended for most of the afternoon before lifting again just before the shop shut. There were bits of blue up there when I ran that delivery up to Shrew House. There is hope yet, you know.
March 12th - Sunday
The rain had disappeared by the time I got down stairs to start preparing the shop for opening. I hesitated before putting out our flags then brought them straight back in again when it was obvious that they would be half way down the road even before we opened. That fresh westerly breeze stayed with us all day and kept the temperatures down. With clear blue skies arriving half way through the morning we could have had some warmth.
I note that the tri-cornered garlic or leeks, if you prefer, have started to bloom out at the end of Coastguard Row. They have been out for the last few days but I forgot to mention it. Some are still just little buds; a sure sign that spring is springing around here. No sign of the Spanish bluebells yet but it will not be long.
The wind was not as bad as it was last week and I was only up at the range for a few hours in the morning. It is the open shop regime, now, in a land of compromises. When I returned I finished off emptying the old storage units and squeezed the contents into the new small drawers, which I must confess, are probably a little too small. However the store room is clear, to a degree, for the first of our deliveries tomorrow.
I have not exactly been enamoured by the performance of my new digital hearing aids. I wore them at the food show last week and while trying to converse with one of the suppliers, all I could hear was the whining of the air conditioning system overhead. At home, too, they seem to offer no advantage while watching the television; I wear them for form's sake and so that I can hear the Missus tell me what the characters are saying, which delights her no end. However, I am persevering and I wore them in the shop yesterday with some success. It does rather seem that they are too clever for their own good and only work well when certain conditions are met, like listening to someone speak in a perfectly quiet environment, when I would have had no problem hearing them anyway. Well, given that I shall be in the shop every day for the next eight months I might yet get some quality use out of them - provided everyone else in the shop can keep quiet if someone is taking to me.
Once again we were quite busy and selling quite a cross-section of goodies. The volume of pasties that I ordered was spot on for the weekend, although we have some bread left over. It is always encouraging to have a bit of busyness on the first weekend of opening, especially as, once again, we have failed to let anyone know that we were going to open.
I thought one of the little batteries in those pesky hearing aids had run out already; apparently they last less than a week, which is annoying. It transpires, though, that the right ear device has packed in altogether. I have no idea when it stopped working, which probably says it all for their effectiveness. It means I will have to book an appointment in town which I could do well without while the shop gets off the ground.
March 11th - Saturday
What a contented grumpy shopkeeper am I, now that the shop has reopened. We were relatively busy, too, and it seemed like we had not forgotten much, although the shelves are still a little bare. As expected, the newspapers were spot on and no magazines were delivered. I had almost forgotten the pleasures of stuffing the Saturday magazines and supplements between the sheets of the main paper. What joy.
Despite it being misty in varying degrees throughout the day, we were quite busy and with some familiar faces, too. It may well be that our crowds were led on by the forecast, which spoke of sunshine and warmth but failed to add the caveat, except for the Isles of Scilly and the Far West of Cornwall.
While relatively busy it certainly was, I managed to get my chores and the day's deliveries priced and put out on the shelves in reasonable time. It was into the early afternoon, therefore, that I managed to set about my flat pack furniture, erecting it into something less flat and more useful. It has irritated me for years that the cheap plastic sets of storage drawers we have in the small part of the store room are less functional that the furniture we have just bought in its flattened condition. The drawers rarely open without a fight and once open do not close again. Also various bits of plastic drop off from the violence that has to be wrought on them to open the drawers.
The new furniture is a far cry from the old days of flat pack construction in that the numbers of screws and dowels generally match the numbers of pre-drilled holes and they line up with their counterparts, by and large. In fact the only drawback is that the new drawers are a little on the small side, however the three units fit perfectly into the space available and there were only a couple of items which did not fit when I transferred the contents from the old set of drawers to the new.
It must be a tad disconcerting to the casual visitor to see shifty looking fishermen hanging about the margins of the water and grey shadows moving about under the surface. It is, of course, the time of year for the controversial catching of grey mullet in the age old traditional method of seine netting. I seem to recall that the mullet got away scot free last year but this year they tempted their fate by hanging about for too long in the harbour. Fortunately - for the mullet - they must have moved again and this time it was the fishermen who were disappointed.
I did not hang around to find out, to be honest, as there was a rugby game being shown on the television that was of interest. I negotiated some time off and pottered down to the OS to watch it. We won by lots, which was very pleasing.
By the time I wended my way home, there was a strange yellowy light hanging is the air. It was a trick of the setting sun that brightened some lighter cloud in the west and the remnants of the mist that still threatened. Later on, the fog returned to swirl about and look all Dickensian and Jack the Ripperish, although the bleddy hound did not seem to care.
March 10th - Friday
The bleddy hound had been quite insistent first thing about going down onto the Harbour beach. One of the fishermen was there washing his boat but he had only been out setting a few pots, which was of little interest to a bleddy hound that only does skanky fish. I was going to head off the beach again via the western slip but the tractor was pulling down the new monster of the fleet. Such a monster is it, that the tow rope parted company with the tractor, blocking the slipway and left us detouring through the wharf.
There is some work going on at the back of the Harbour car park, digging out the bank that backs onto Betty's old garden. In fact, to my untrained eye, it is the bank that has for many years stopped Betty's garden being in the car park. However, from what I can gather, a three storey block is going in there to accommodate the poor and needy of the parish, or possibly a retirement home for grumpy shopkeepers, which would be pleasant.
We were warned that it would be quite temperate for these few days, as weather from the warm parts of the continent would head our way. They were quite right, as I managed to go about my business today sans hat and thick tops. So pleasant was it, apart from the thick mist that had returned during the morning, that the wide open beach beckoned as soon as I came out of the gymnasium. I was very aware that work making ready the shop also beckoned and, by rights, should have taken priority but that beach did look rather splendid and demanded a bleddy hound running about on it.
She was in bed with the Missus when I returned from the gymnasium, sporting my master plan. This is something of an advantage as she does get very worked up from the second I pick up her beach bag with the ball launcher sticking out of the top. Her being in bed meant that I could get beach ready - which did not take much other than swapping trainers for flip flops - without her leaping all over me. It completely threw her when I walked into the bedroom with her bag on my back, all ready to go. It took a few seconds before she launched herself at the end of the bed.
We did indeed have a whale of a time, although necessarily our time was limited. That said we did spend about 45 minutes down at the western end, ball chasing and paddling. The sea is probably at its coldest, around ten degrees, at this time of year and I have to say it felt it. This contrasted wildly with the temperature of the sand that was the warmest I have felt it all winter.
I am sure that it is difficult to imagine a bleddy hound being truculent and grumpy, somewhat in the manner of a small child that is being made to do something that it would rather not. If she had a teddy bear with her it would have been dragged along the ground by its leg while the bleddy hound stomped her way towards the slipway. When we got there I have to rest her bag on the wall while I extract her lead and tuck away the dog ball launcher. This took a while as she refused to come up the slipway and when she eventually did, it was only to drop her ball so that it ran back down. She procrastinated for a fair few minutes until, eventually, I had to grab her by the collar and haul her up the slipway. This bleddy hound had a serious monk on and it took ages to get her home, scuffing her paws all the way.
I threw myself into shop preparation after I got home. It was probably best that the bleddy hound and I spent time apart to let her get over her tantrum. If I thought that there was not much left to do I was very much mistaken and the getting ready took most of the rest of the day. I am sure I was not as thorough as the Missus would have been and I am sure that things that would have been moved and cleaned behind and under, were only cleaned around. However, it looks alright on the surface of it and I am sure to the untrained eye, it will pass muster.
I am assured that we will have newspapers tomorrow morning because the very pleasant chap who runs the operations at the local depot, called me first thing. He assured me that he would make sure that the right volumes were set aside for me, as he usually does at the start of the season; he is a very good man. You may recall that I had asked for magazines not to be stocked up and sent en masse and that the people up the line had been informed about this - twice. Our man at Redruth asked what I wanted done with the boxes of magazines that has been accumulated in my name. He had read all the emails and knew that I did not want them. He will be sending them back for me, bless him.
Then, just when everything seemed to be set and time for an early night, before throwing ourselves full long into shop running, my pager went off. I was half way through my tea and ran over to launch the boat to a catamaran with only one sail and an engine that was not working, up by Botallack. There was some discussion with the Coastguard about where the casualty should be taken. In the end it was decided to tow the boat to St Ives, despite there not being any water in St Ives for it to be towed into.
I was resigned to a late night, although not quite as late as it would have been had the tow gone to Newlyn. I decided that it might be a good plan to gather a few minutes zizz while we were waiting and was rudely awakened by the station doors being banged open. It transpired that the St Ives Lifeboat met our own half way to St Ives and took over the tow. Our boat was back in the bay by quarter to nine. Half a dozen of us made light work of bringing the boat up the long slipway roughly an hour before low water in what was very possibly a textbook recovery. We are, after all, a very slick very excellent Shore Crew.
Time for bed, perhaps.
March 9th - Thursday
I have been somewhat pressed all day, though quite why I have no idea. I knew I had some tasks to complete before the end of play but I did not consider them to be at all challenging.
It was all my own fault because I should have done the pastry rounds for this evening's pasties the day before. I did not do them the day before because we were out all day and by the time we came home, I really could not raise the enthusiasm. So, as early as I could muster today I set about making pastry. I do not like to blow my own trumpet too much but I am fairly accomplished at making short pastry and I can turn out a consistent consistency. One day I shall attempt long pastry and we shall see where we get to there.
Now, you may already know that pasties require a bit more to them than just the pastry and since I did not have the other elements, that meant going out to get them. I had to go out anyway, as the accountant was keen to get hold of our invoices and other paperwork. Rather than buy my vegetables and meat in town I returned via St Just and bought my ingredients from the very good and independent shops there.
I had listened to the radio earlier, while I was making my pastry, and understood that the fog was so thick in Pendeen it warranted a special mention on the traffic news. It was not a great deal thinner at the top of the hill where headlights and fog lights were necessary. Clearly, they were optional for some drivers who felt that no lights at all was perfectly reasonable in the conditions. What amazes me most is the drivers who make the effort to turn the light switch but only so far as switching on the parking lights; there is a clue in the name, for heaven's sake.
Oddly, as I turned the corner just before Crows-an-wra, the fog disappeared completely, all of a sudden. Later, when I headed up to St Just, it had gone from there too. After I had finished my shopping and headed back to Sennen the mist had evaporated. Looking out across the bay, the retreating mist was clinging to the cliffs and making a right spectacle of itself.
The pasties were lovely, by the way, but I had little time to enjoy them what with Lifeboat training beckoning. I am glad that I turned up because the Coxswain had organised a surprise launch, which took us all by surprise. However, we rose to the challenge and launched the big boat into the darkness and the fog that had returned in spades. Tonight's coxswain told me over the headphones that he would return within the hour, all supposing that he could find the station again.
He was back in record time and promised some practice for crew members in approaching the bottom of the slipway. Once there, however, he announced that the breeze was a little too severe to muck about with and backed up to recovery position forthwith. In the darkness and with swirling fog we executed what might possibly have been a textbook recovery, if only we could have seen it. We are, after all, a very intuitive very excellent Shore Crew.
It is a shame that we cannot say the same for our quiz team that managed a rather honourable second place at the quiz down at the OS later in the evening. It was nothing but a preamble, however, to running the bleddy hound around the block under a three quarter moon, that lit the Cove sufficiently that no torch was really necessary, despite having taken one with me. This sort of carefree activity will have to be consigned to the back burner from tomorrow.
March 8th - Wednesday
Well, today was a complete adventure into the wilderness beyond the approaches to Penzance, the western approaches to Penzance, of course. Alright, it was not so much of an adventure as it is a journey that we complete each year at this time to go to a trade show at the Royal Cornwall Showground. The show is aimed at the catering industry and anyone who had anything to do with food and is a chance for the producers and the support industries to show off their wares.
The various show stands tend to be roughly the same each year with the occasional newcomer. It is probably that the smaller new producers are excluded as the cost of a stand is fairly substantial, I understand. Due to the fact that these same companies occupy the same locations as the previous year it is very much a close approximation to déjà vu. However, many of the smaller vendors and those in a competitive market are pushed to innovate and it is interesting to see the developments in a year. It is because of this that it is still useful to attend.
We were pre-warned of the weather conditions; the forecast being reasonably accurate for a change. I wore full waterproof gear, which was helpful but not entirely necessary and, because it has rained in the area for several days we were advised to park with our front wheels on the tarmac. The parking attendants at these events take their positions of responsibility extremely seriously. Our parking attendant, dressed in head to toe black para-military gear, very seriously explained the outcome of our parking outside his particular instructions. Given that all he seemed to be missing from the full SAS kit was a few hand grenades and an automatic rifle, I solemnly complied.
I was not pre-disposed to be grumpy about it as we had dined fitfully at Smokey Joe's diner on the way out. As I recall from last year - yes, I can vaguely recall the event - we decided to miss out breakfast because it was too early. Consequently, we traversed the whole food show feeling ravenous and although there are numerous samples to pick at there is nothing substantial to indulge in.
Our visit to the show is normally very brief, stopping only to assure ourselves that we have missed nothing new. We were back at mother's by two o'clock, carefully picking our way through the mizzle and fog, to pick up the pressure washer that resided there since the Missus scoured mother's patio flagstones. It is an annual event that the Missus gets togged up in wellies and waterproofs and sets to on the concrete at the front of the shop to make it spankingly clean for our less than grand opening.
She also deep cleans the entrance mat and the one we have behind the counter. In use, these mats cleverly conceal buckets of sand and dirt amidst their fibres. When washed, they conceal buckets of water instead, which is currently dripping all over the shop floor and running into the shop sump - an area to the east of the shop floor where all liquid runs and accumulates out of sight until it evaporates, we assume.
She was late finishing again so tea was frugal. She might have been earlier but she was stopped by every passer by, who seem to be surprisingly legion at that time of the evening. I have made a mental note and am minded to extend the shop hours accordingly, although I suspect that I may be out-voted.
March 7th - Tuesday
You can tell that it is almost time to open the shop when the suppliers start circling and the enquiring telephone calls come thick and fast.
While we are dealing with companies that will be supplying us during the coming season there are still some loose ends from last year to tie up. Our waste disposal company that caused us so much grief that I terminated the contract, once again raised its ugly head by sending us an invoice for removing the big commercial big; I had stipulated in my letter of termination that I would brook no fee for this. Since they carried out the work without response it meant that my condition for its removal became contractual. Those years of wading through corporate law and commercial contracts paid off in the end.
After I had been rebuffed by the telephone operator when I complained about being charged, I felt I had little choice but to escalate the issue. This I did by sending a letter to the Chief Executive Officer yesterday. The speed of response even surprised me, as a very pleasant young man from the company telephoned today to tell me everything was in hand. He offered his contact details, which I declined, telling him that if he was doing his job right I would not need them.
This success was swiftly followed by an electronic mail from the Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company. A representative had tried to be helpful and suggested that they send me a selection of magazines as a starting point. I declined on the basis that I would find it hard to sell choices such as Coal Mining Monthly, Munroe Bagging and What's On in Ouagadougou Weekly. I told them that, although I was not permitted to order magazines until next week, I would do so through the system when it was available, even though I would have to wait two weeks. Adding the last phrase was a mistake.
The electronic mail I received today told me that they were holding the magazines they had chosen for me, for two weeks, as I had instructed. Very carefully, I crafted an unambiguous reply, restating the exact method I wished to employ in order to acquire magazines that I ordered, rather than the company. For good measure I telephoned the person who has written to me and ensure verbally that they fully understood my requirements, then backed it up with my written response. I do not expect to see a magazine until well after Easter and we shall be very lucky to have newspapers at all.
Later in the morning I amused myself by disposing of the out of date stock that the Missus had collected together from the shop. Much of this was liquid, in the form of Coca Cola and Lemonade. We can get away with the odd bottle being thrown into our commercial bin but the accumulated drainage amounted to some eight or nine gallons of pop. I poured them down the drain outside, which is the drain that leads to the sewage system rather than the one on the right that leads out to sea. I would hate to be recognised as the instigator of a Surfers Against Lemonade action group.
The Missus dived into the grocery order late into the afternoon. I provided some moral support by loading some more bullets, also in the shop. Due to the late start the Missus finished late, with Big Sis throwing in a helping hand to boot, but at least everything, or nearly everything, is in order for our opening. It would be against tradition if we have not left something to do at the very last minute.
I am sure that you will be delighted to know that after 36 hours and without any intervention after replacing the broken part, our backup array of discs has rebuilt itself. How technically wonderful was that?
March 6th - Monday
My goodness me, today has flown by, presumably pushed along by the continual thumping wind which is becoming somewhat tiresome. It created some interesting seas, particularly under the sunny spells we had from early on in the day but even they are getting a bit repetitive.
I had some instructions handed to me by the Missus; a sealed envelope labelled "EYES ONLY" would have added a little welcome mystery but you cannot have it all. Part of my orders for the day were to collect some items of shopping for our tea and the other was to take mother and her pal to their lunch club, as their normal transport option was not going to be available today.
These were not the only tasks I had in mind. Since the Highly Professional Craftsperson very kindly - at least until I see the invoice - bodged, in a highly professional manner, of course, the window sill, it seemed incumbent on me to do a spot of painting before it went rotten again. It was unfortunate that since the work was done we have had quite a bit of rain, the only mitigating factor being the wind which has had some drying effect on the exposed timber. It had rained overnight, and again some this morning, so it was not ideally set for doing some painting.
I checked the condition of the wood on my way back from the gymnasium and it did not seem too damp. With time running away from us before opening the shop I decided that it would not harm to slap some undercoat on it. In line with the quality of care and effort taken on the whole project, I did not apply the utmost of my care and attention to the painting. (To be fair the Highly Professional Craftsperson's 'bodged effort' is far ahead of the best effort I could have managed on the job.)
It did not escape my attention that I had an appointment to pick up mother and friend at midday; time was pressing. I just about managed to sand down the surfaces and slap some paint on the bits you can see, unless you are less than two feet tall, before reaching the point when I had to get ready to leave. I had also decided that careful cutting in from the window should be redefined as any paint on the window be at least consistent across the sill.
I did my shopping in St Just while mother went off to lunch. Here I was able to get everything on my list, which was fortunate since I did not have time to go anywhere else. Given that I had not had time for breakfast, I stopped into the relatively new sandwich shop in The Square. They did not seem in the least put off that a chap entered, carrying a bottle of screen wash in one hand and a bottle of Tia Maria - do not ask - in the other. They make baps to order, which was very good when I got around to eating it, sitting in the National Trust car park on Chapel Carn Brea. I wondered how long it would be until the NT started charging for parking there. Probably just after Poldark is filmed there in the next series, by all accounts.
By the time I had returned home, the Missus was about half way through deep cleaning the shop, ahead of our season's inauguration on Saturday. While she laboured, I set up my reloading equipment as it is the last few days I shall be able to make bullets for the rest of the season. I was interrupted by the first of our new season stock deliveries, so we have at least something to sell when we open.
The last thing I had to do before collapsing on the sofa was to replace one of the failed discs in my big backup system. It failed on Saturday, obviously, when nothing could be done about it. The unit that was recommended to replace it was about half the original cost of the whole box. I had taken a small risk in purchasing just the hard disc drive, which was less than a third the cost. I had some nervous moments after I fitted and installed it, as it took the best part of an hour before it started rebuilding the array.
It is good to see that even some technologies in this day and age of headlong rush still find it reasonable to take their time.
March 5th - Sunday
Gool Peran Lowen, as they say in certain parts of the Westcountry on 5th March each year because it is St Piran's Day, the defacto patron saint of Cornwall, although, perversely, not the actual one. "Here, have a patron saint." "Thank you, we'll celebrate this chap instead, my 'ansum." And thus, St Michael or St Petroc, if you prefer, have forever been consigned to the Cornish back benches.
St Piran is also credited with discovering tin in Cornwall and is also the patron saint of tin miners. The fact that tin was being mined in Cornwall for around 2,500 years prior to St Piran's time, apparently has no bearing at all. Why let the facts stand in the way of a good story? While there are images of bardic type people with long beards, marching over the sands at Perran, waving flags of St Piran, most of the Cornish people this end are generally seen not to give a stuff.
Pre-empting the day by 24 hours, Eden Project hosted the World Pasty Championship for the sixth year. There are categories for amateurs, professionals, companies and type categories such as savoury, traditional and, for the first time this year, gluten free. Our very own Prima Pasties came second in the company section and their general manager in the professional; they have been placed for the last four years, which is not a surprise. There are prizes for first, second and third place except for the gluten free category, where it appears only two people entered.
I celebrated the day by going off and shooting things. There were clay pigeons to knock out of the sky and, earlier in the day, steel plate targets to shoot off posts. This did not go exactly according to plan as the heavy lumps of metal kept being blown off the posts in the punishing wind. It was gusting up to 60 miles per hour at times and it felt it but the constant buffeting does tend to wear you down after a while and by the time I left shooting I was quite weary. The clays, despite being fired into the wind, very quickly decided to go the other way, making potting them very interesting indeed.
We took shelter for the rest of the afternoon and evening at home. Despite the wind and the earlier rain, when I had got a good soaking first thing, the day brightened quite nicely and set off the bay with its field of white caps dancing in the breeze. I seem to be constantly a day behind with my pictures and these are from yesterday but not distinctly different from today's view.
Tin roof and shipping containers
A bit more Cove-like
March 4th - Saturday
It struck me, in the early hours, that it being our year end and all, we had not yet counted the final food stock in the shop. It is a small but essential part of our year end process and needs to be done now because, first, we are open next week and secondly we have a new grocery order turning up on Tuesday.
I set to the job at hand as soon as I had run the bleddy hound around and had a fortifying breakfast. I was still setting to when the Missus dropped by to say she was heading off to mother's to do some more greenhouse fitting. She had discovered that to screw the screws into the precisely drilled holes that I had done for her, she would need a long Phillips screwdriver which we did not have. Her trip out therefore encompassed a detour into PZ for the appropriate tool.
By the time she had been and gone and come back again, I had nearly finished recording the stock. This takes a while longer than the normal counting of things because all the 'use by' and 'best before' dates needs to be checked. If all producers put these on the same place and using a standard font, life would be much easier. As it was I spent much of my time finding where on the packet or jar the date had been secreted. We have not done too badly this year, although the Missus did weed quite a bit out at the end of the season last year. The main out of date culprits are pot noodles and cashew nuts with the most awkward being big bottles of lemonade and coke, which need to be emptied before they can be thrown away.
It was in the midst of this counting lark that the Highly Professional Craftsperson turned up. I had asked if he would not mind doing some work on the window sill at the front of the shop because it was rotten in places and looked rather tatty. It is a fact that the whole of the front of the shop needs to be replaced but with funds somewhat limited - our last quote was £10,000 ten years ago. I suggested the use of washing up liquid bottles, sticky back plastic and paper glue to be a good starting point and I think he got my drift. He asked that I not mention who did the work if anyone asked - he is, after all, a Highly Professional Craftsperson.
It took most of the day to complete the bodge job, which has left me with the prospect of getting some paint on quickly before the rain comes. I think I am on a hiding to nothing in that regards as the forecast for the next week is exceedingly poor.
It was shortly after he left that the Missus, who had been producing restaurant class meals from our kitchen all week, announced that she had nothing planned for this evening and would we mind if I went up the hill for fish and chips. Naturally this resulting in going down the road for burgers in the end but, at least, it meant we had something to eat as we could have procrastinated over that decision for hours.
It was long after the meal had settled that I set forth for the dizzy heights above the hill at the invitation of the Village Elder. He called earlier in the week to announce that it was Chum's significant birthday and would I and the Highly Professional Craftsperson, who just so happened to be standing in front of me when the telephone call came, like to attend the F&L in celebration. Surprisingly, the F&L had arranged for a rather decent band, Sinpusher, to play and even more surprisingly they had not been cancelled by the time we got there at around nine o'clock.
If I thought that it was blowing a bit in The Cove, up the top was flat out, bowl you over, howling. It was a chilly wind, too, given the direction it was coming from but, at least, it was dry. It took about fifteen minutes longer to get there than it did coming back later on, ushered on by the breeze, and that was with the Missus driving us there.
My, my, it was quite like old times, all standing at the bar, not talking to each other because the music was too loud. To be fair you do not mind that music being too loud as it was rock music, which would have sounded ridiculous being played quietly. As one person noted it was like time had stood still for the intervening eighteen months.
The stars that had lit our way on the journey to the F&L had deserted us on the way back. Furthermore, rain had set in, catching me not with my trousers down, exactly, but not put on - my waterproof ones, obviously. Fortunately the rain was still light but despite that we still needed a torch as we wound our way across the fields and down to Maria's Lane where Village Elder, Chum and I parted company.
There was still an excitable bleddy hound to contend with and chase around the block when I returned home. Naturally, we would not have it any other way.
March 3rd - Friday
First, some sad news, more tragic, really; the grand old maid of The Cove shuffled off quietly this morning at about the same time I was heading for the gymnasium. If she was in her window, I would doff my cap and bow deeply; it always made her smile. She would wave back and my day would be brightened and my heart glad. Even on my way back from the gymnasium it would put a skip in my gait.
It is because of this I will not dwell too long today. I shall tell you that the promised rain did not materialise today and, instead, was replaced with some sunny spells between the clouds. With a wide beach beckoning, it seemed right to take the bleddy hound down for a while.
We tarried and threw a ball or two and swam in some of the deep rock pools on the western end of the beach. Well, she bathed and I paddled. It was the sort of day for spending time there, pondering and considering the world at large. Well, I considered and she dug big holes.
Here are some pictures of us doing it.
Big country, er, beach
The start of something big.
March 2nd - Thursday
I had anticipated quite a slow start today, much like every other day, really. I knew that the Missus wanted to go over to mother's to fix up her flat pack green house but I reckoned on a more leisurely schedule. It was, then, of some surprise that I felt the warm and tender breath of the Missus down the back of my pyjama collar well before her normal getting out of bed time and, more to the point, before I had even considered breakfast.
Naturally, I sprang into action with good heart and ferried her forth with all the speed I could muster. I wanted to head into town for a spot of food shopping - you know, to the fairly priced independent purveyors of high quality goods in the centre of town. Since mother's was half way to town it made sense that I should travel on after dropping the Missus off. It did not take long to collect the necessary ingredients for my go at cooking on Friday evening but, alas and alack I could not get any haddock, so we shall have Portuguese Haddock with hake instead. I think we were lucky to get that after the sea state and winds of the last few days.
I returned home with something of a hunger upon me. Perhaps it was the anticipation of trying one of the Missus's pork pies, made by her own fair hand yesterday. I have to say, well, I would say it anyway, that they were top hole and had jelly in them and everything. She had made about twenty, so I had two.
It was shortly after finishing these comestible delights that the Missus telephoned to announce that she needed the assistance of DIYman to secure the base of the flat pack greenhouse to the hard standing, which, the sharp brained among you will remember, was the handiwork of the Highly Professional Craftsperson. He must have had some prescience when he built it as it was just large enough to accommodate the new structure , although, as I discovered when I conducted an inspection later in the day, the water board will have to be satisfied opening the trap to the water meter only half way.
The particular skill that DIYman was required to deliver was the drilling of holes into the concrete at particular positions such that the holes matched up with the holes on the frame. When the Missus telephoned she instructed me that the holes were a centimetre in diameter and that there were sixteen of them. When I asked her to be sure, I suggested that she try and fit one of the drill bits that she had inadvertently taken with her, which she duly did, and told me that the seven millimetre masonry bit fitted perfectly. She then sent me a photograph of the hole with the imperial side of an expanding rule next to it, for good measure, so to speak.
Now that I had the precise dimensions of the holes I could go directly into town and purchase the corresponding screws and rawlplugs. I chose screws rather than carriage bolts specifically because I had left the socket set and spanners at home. This proved to be an error due to the fact that the base of the greenhouse is made from 'U' frame steel making access by a spanner far easier than trying to get a screwdriver in at the right angle. However, it was all rather academic because I could only get six millimetre screws and had to buy washers to compensate.
What I had not prepared for was the difficulty in drilling the holes. My hammer drill made a success of two of the twelve holes I decided to use but faltered on the third. After a few minutes of trying it was clear that the drill bit had been blunted. I headed for town for the third time today.
I bought two quality drill bits and blunted one of those, too. I was also going through battery power at quite a rate and was having to charge one battery while drilling with another. There is a rock, a type of granite, which is the scourge of builders in these parts. It is called Blue Alvin and is harder than iron, or indeed, most substances known to man. It would not surprise me in the least if the Highly Professional Craftsperson distributed some of this tough specimen, liberally about the hard standing in the expectation that one day I would have to drill into it. I checked with him later and he confirmed that I should have used a man sized drill.
It was not long after that it was time to go across the road for some Lifeboat training. Today we had naming of parts. However our naming of parts was to do with the RNLI lifejacket, its component parts and how to use them. This includes the rather natty GPS beacon that alerts the Coastguard should it be activated and will also flash a bright strobe light so that the faller in the water can be seen from afar.
There was only one thing left to do after such intense education and that was to repair to the OS. This week we came a brave second, our winning streak of two weeks clearly over and done with. We were fortunate that the unexpected rain that I ran through to attend Lifeboat training had gone away. It remained gone away, too, while we stumbled home and I stumbled a bit further with the shouty bleddy hound. We know how to have fun all the way down here.
March 1st - Wednesday
My mouse button has started clicking; it is most irritating. Sorry, I just had to tell someone. Unfortunately changing the month on the Diary takes quite a few mouse clicks, which made me think of it. I am sure it was not making that noise in the morning.
I had to hurry a little bit this morning as I wanted to go over to Helston to pick up some bits from the gun shop there and make it back for an appointment in town. There was absolutely no problem hurrying around the block this morning as it was grey and damp and not at all inviting. The same applied to my trip to the gymnasium, too, although it was rather less damp in there.
The keys on the computer keyboard are rattling more than they ever have in the past. I think I may have to send off for another keyboard and mouse. I looking into this a while ago because the 'A' key no longer has an A on it and the 'S' has almost gone as well. Not that it makes a great deal of difference to me, as I do not look at the keys whilst I am typing anymore - it just looks a little tatty.
I had rather thought that in the several years we have had this wireless keyboard and mouse, the technology might have moved on a bit and perhaps we could get one that changes to the length of your fingers or something else special. I did find some keyboards that light up and change colour but I could not think why that should enhance its usage - something of a useless gimmick, I think. Even the make and model that we are currently using was still available, making me think that nothing in the world of keyboards has moved on at all in the last five or six years. Perhaps the new ones are quieter, though.
My trip out to Helston was unremarkable but I did find that I had estimated the time I needed to do the journey and make my appointment quite accurately. It was when I got back into the van that I discovered the first of my technological woes. It seems that the volume control on the radio has gone a bit wild, as it was ever so loud when I turned on the engine; it made me jump. I must have flicked the knob when I got out, I surmised but I will keep a check on it as I did not think I had.
I noted that Head Launcher's car was parked outside, the only car in The Cove to be parked on the road - except the usual culprits. Today the parking restrictions come back into force for those that take any notice of them. Big Sis had to move her car at midnight last night because she had forgotten all about it. I could tell that Head Launcher was in the flat because I could hear him talking to the Missus through the door; they must have been shouting above the noise that the two dogs were making. Head Launcher had threatened to bring Sidney along, now that he has had all his injections, and he and the bleddy hound were cavorting all over the living room. I will say one thing for the bleddy hound, she is much better at dealing with young pups that I am with irritating small children. The two of them had a whale of a time but they had taken to scraping their claws on the carpet, which makes such a scratching noise. I made a mental note to tell the Missus to have her claws clipped - yes, yes, you thought I was going to say, while she was at it she could do the bleddy hound's as well. I admit I did consider it but then thought that you, dear reader, would have thought that I would have thought of considering it, so I thought I had better not. Although, I suppose I could have double bluffed you.
I dodged the showers later to take the bleddy hound around the block. The wind has come up again, after a few hours we had without it. It was fair howling in the wires and the sea was pounding up Pedn-men-du but not quite as badly as it was a couple of days ago. I think the Missus must have had the kitched window open while she was working in there because the noise of the crashing waves was very noticeable.
Things were calming down quite a bit by the time I took the bleddy hound out again in the late evening. There were stars out, too, and it was almost peaceful. What a day.
I almost forgot to mention that the appointment I had in town was to have those pesky hearing aids fitted in my ear 'oles. The very pleasant young maid doing it has some very clever technology to work with that matched the hearing aids' function exactly to the frequencies they had earlier established I could not hear. Sadly, it was a complete waste of time as I could find no discernable difference wearing them than when I was not. I think I will take them back tomorrow.