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.
April 28th - Friday
I must confess to being a little chilled this morning. It had been cold overnight which was still hanging about during the first part of the day. Especially as I was not doing very much in the way of moving about, the chill seeped into my bones.
A session at the gymnasium soon put paid to my condition and I was comfortably warm for the rest of the day. This was aided and abetted by a blooming of the day into something sunshiny with a blue sky dotted about by white fluffy clouds. It is certain that the weather improved the numbers milling about during the day but we are still quiet and I do not anticipate much of a change over the holiday weekend, especially as there is rain coming.
The morning peace was interrupted by a chap from the much maligned council and its 'arms length contractor' measuring the road markings. It is irksome that the much maligned council, which claims poverty at every opportunity, can happily repaint road markings that do not need repainting but will not fund essential services such as the public toilets. It would take the edge of slightly if it efficiently patrolled the double yellow lines and 'keep clear' areas to recoup some of its outlay but we see a traffic enforcement officer down here once in a blue moon, in fact the blue moons are more frequent. It has been suggested that the much maligned council contract the private parking enforcement company that takes care of the two car parks as this would get the job done and not cost it a bean.
To add insult to injury the much maligned council sent a street sweeping vehicle in to presumably clean the gutters ahead of the painters arriving. It got as far as the bus turning point, turned around and went back up the street. Perhaps they are only going to paint half the lines to save money. Had they checked the forecast it would have been a fair chance that nature would have washed the street down on Sunday for them.
It turned very quiet towards the end of the day. I had run out of clever things to do - all my invoices were paid off yesterday along with the ensuing administration; I read another newspaper instead. There is no end to the excitement we have here between busy times.
April 27th - Thursday
The quietness continues, enhanced by a lack of that northerly blast, which has been replaced with a breeze from the north west that you would hardly notice. There was hardly a ripple out in the bay and, in the mid morning, a small knot of confused surfers gathered at the water's edge before going off to do whatever it is that surfers do when there are no waves.
We also had no rain and were assured by the forecasters that we would have some sunny spells during the day, which we did. Even this did not encourage many people to come to The Cove for a wander about. This meant reading newspapers from cover to cover in the hope that the accumulated knowledge from which would still be useful at next week's quiz, as I shall not be attending this week.
The notable highlight of the day, and an addendum to yesterday's helicopter spotting, was the Apache helicopter that swooped down from Gwenver and did a very low pass over the beach and along the sea front. It was gone long before I could find the right button on my mobile telephone to take a picture of it. Even if I had I suspect it would have been a blur.
Lifeboat training involved a bit of a late launch today, waiting until darkness fell before the boat slipped down the slipway. This must be done every now and again to ensure that all the lights on the boat work and that we, on shore, can find the slipway in the dark to put out all the equipment needed to bring the boat back in again.
Fortunately we managed to find the end of the long slip without falling off the end and executed what was very likely a textbook night time recovery. It comes about from careful training and diet to improve our spectral and intensity ranges allowing such precision at night. We are, after all, a very carrot loving, very excellent Shore Crew.
Such night time antics preclude joining in with OS quizzes, which will have to wait until another time. It also means that peace loving Cove dwellers are not woken late at night by excited bleddy hounds running around the block.
April 26th - Wednesday
I was quite surprised that the northerly wind had died away so quickly overnight and there was precious little in the way of angry cloud about, either. Indeed, it had turned out quite bright and the only clouds about were white fluffy ones. I hastened to take the bleddy hound around before it all went per shaped, which it did not.
There were some rather threatening clouds about later in the morning and there were a couple of times that I thought a downpour inevitable but at the last minute they swerved away and left us dry for most of the day.
The Missus rushed off early doors and collected mother on the way. This can only mean that some sort of shopping was involved and it was. The pair set off to Rosudgeon car boot sale, which is legendary around these parts for all sorts of things. All the best people go there, I am told, and if you want bedding plants, there is nowhere better. It was on a quest for the latter that mother wanted to go. The Missus was going to go to the post office to bank the cash on the way back but we agreed that it was best not to leave the several shillings we had collected over the Easter period on its own in the van while they shopped.
Our trials of banking at the post office continue, although they are not as severe as last year when we thought that we only had the choice of Penzance and when it closed I thought that we may well be doomed. As it transpired both St Buryan and St Just have facilities to bank our cash, whereas Sennen post office does not.
I agreed to do the banking as the Missus had spent yesterday clearing the foliage from the back of our building and placed it into bags which needed to be taken to the tip, sorry, household waste recycling centre. I had thought that the getting rid of the garden waste would be the difficult part, as I was under the impression that the much maligned council were charging for the privilege of using its facilities; they are not. The difficult part was, as it turned out banking the cash.
Before I even set out on this road let me make it clear that this is not criticism of the staff at St Buryan shop, quite the opposite; they managed particularly well given the circumstances. With only two people on call, which ordinarily would be more than sufficient, I managed to tie one up with my bag of shillings exclusively, in effect shutting the post office to other users. To allow other people to use the post office services, the other lady had to intervene, while the lady counting the money shuffled along reducing the very little space she started with to even less.
As I say, the ladies managed very well, but the situation was less than ideal for either me or them and caused mayhem for other customers, too. I also discovered that they had been instructed not to take Northern Irish notes, which are perfectly acceptable currency in the UK if not given as change, due to the high level of fraudulent notes in circulation. Whether or not Post Office Limited has a legal right to enforce that or not is academic; it leaves us with a bank note that we cannot deposit, although I assume that we can lie about us not being a commercial entity and change it at a bank.
Did I say that the wind had diminished today? It was half way through the morning and shortly after our commercial bin men had been. There was a crash from the direction of the bin, which I assumed was something to do with the container, since it had just been emptied. When I investigated, there on the floor was our St Piran flag, which I thought had just blown out of its holder, except next to it on the ground was the holder as well, still attached to the wooded bit of the front of the shop it was screwed into. Someone with long screws, a screwdriver and without an irrational fear of heights is required to put it back again, I surmise.
It was late in the afternoon when a prolonged squall blew through The Cove. It was one of the wintry ones the forecasters talk of and proved it by dropping a considerable amount of hail all over the top of our ball stand and newspaper bin, where it sat for ages afterwards. As it happened, a foreign visitor had come into the shop just ahead of the first spots hitting us. It was coming in through the door and despoiling the pamphlets on the counter top, so I closed the door.
Our visitor spent a while perusing our shelves and when she had finished, returned to the front of the shop. She told me that she had just arrived from St Just on foot and was grateful that she had not got wet in doing so. I suggested that it would be pointless, having walked all that way in the dry, to get wet now and invited her to stay until after the shower had passed. I slipped out to the store room to break up some cardboard boxes ahead of tomorrow's collection and when I came back into the shop my waiting visitor had returned to our shelves and acquired an expensive - but high quality, you understand - bone china mug and a collection of gift cards. It is these forms of gratitude, for a stay in the dry, that are most deeply appreciated by grumpy shopkeepers. I even unlocked the door for her. Aye thang yew. Kerching!
The inclement bit of weather emptied The Cove rather quickly. It allowed me time to observer the rather sleek helicopter that has been buzzing Land's End Airport for the last few days. It has no colours or markings and is therefore a bit of a mystery. Somewhat less of a mystery, at least regarding its type, was the new Airbus A400M, which carried out a very impressive low sweep of the airport before climbing and turning sharply to the east. It replaces the Hercules, which were frequently down here doing much the same so probably no surprise that we saw the new model.
I shall leave you pondering the sheer gamut of entertainments we have at our disposal at this supposedly very quiet spot in the deep, deep far west of our land.
April 25th - Tuesday
It took me three attempts to get out of the front door this morning as there was a rather rude northerly blast trying its hardest to push me back in again. This chill blast persisted throughout the day, increasing by the hour and managed a respectable 40 miles per hour gust here and there. It is not the best direction to have a wind arrive from and it plays havoc with the ball stand despite it being strapped to the wall. It also tugs at the polythene that covers the windbreaks and the constant rattling can be very wearing over the period of a day.
There was a bit of rain that came with the wind now and again. I was splashed a bit in the van when I managed to escape to St Just for a bit early this morning. The Cove managed, in the main, to escape the showers, although once or twice the towering cumulus clouds, charging in from the north, looked like they might get us once or twice during the day.
Unsurprisingly there were few visitors about today. Fortunately, those passing the shop door too closely were forced into the shop by the gusting wind. We would not have seen anyone, else.
The hiatus did permit me to spend some time moving data from the old computer to the new one. Being a piecemeal operation this did leave me confused about what I had copied and from where to where as I have spread files cross several places. It kept me occupied, however, even if I have lost some important data somewhere. If I do not find out in a week or two, it cannot have been that important.
I finished off the building of the new computer in the evening, I think. My work was accompanied by the rattling of hail and sleet against the window from frequent passing squalls. Fortunately I managed to slip out between them to take the bleddy hound out but, my, my it was still some chilly out there.
April 24th - Monday
You may rest easy in the knowledge that no notable poets were born today in history. I shall not be disgracing myself again for a while.
If I had chosen to, it was a spot on sort of day to do it. Much the same as yesterday, particularly in the morning, although later in the day the skies became a little hazy and thicker cloud lurked ominously out on the northern horizon. Naturally, as I had reduced our pasty order to a dribble, we had a bit of pasty action, though it could hardly be called a busy day. For the first couple of hours of the morning I was left scratching my behind, metaphorically, of course, and reading the newspapers, which are somewhat thin of alternative news in recent days.
If I had a spare network port in the shop I could have set up our new computer that arrived today, since I was doing little else. As it was I had to wait until the evening and set off the laborious task of building it and reinstalling all the old software. This is no mean task and will take several days and would have been so much easier downstairs with the time available to me. It is quite important that I find things to do in the shop during quiet times; the alternative is cake.
I did spend some minutes buying fishing rods. Going off and buying things is not the ideal option to boredom, as it costs money. It was triggered on this occasion by a gentleman coming in to ask if we sold fishing rods. We have in previous years sold children's fishing rods but have avoided more serious fishing equipment as that is not our forte. We have been asked so many times now for grown up fishing rods that I have splashed out and bought a small number. It will be the last time we are asked for fishing rods by an adult in the shop.
Those children who went back to school recently were, I am sure, glad of the tide times this week. Shortly after school breaking up time there was sufficient water in the Harbour for a spot of jumping off the wall. The sea and the weather certainly encouraged it but I am not so sure we shall see much of that sort of thing tomorrow.
We were told to expect a bit of rain in the evening by the forecasters. We had a bit of rain, though you would have had to have been in the right place at the right time and been quite sensitive to moisture in the air. How very accurate.
April 23rd - Sunday
As rip gribblers, in April, go you probably would not get much more ripper a gribbler than we had today. I was sorely tempted to slip into something more comfortable, such as my shorts, especially as there were few small children around to frighten but was mindful of a forecast chill in the middle of the week. We do not want to go off half cocked, now do we?
Talking of which, I made it up to the range today for the first time in a month. It was still there and the view from outside the gates was rather splendid. I did take one of those panoramic pictures but since there is only a limited width on the website pages I have kept it to myself. I do not think that I could ever tire of that view as there is far too much to see in it.
Views from Carn Green
If we needed reminding that the holidays are, by and large, over, The Cove on my return was hardly a hotbed of activity. It did look quite crowded, mainly due to the number of cars parked down the yellow lines and the small knot of people at the tables of Little Bo Café and our benches opposite the shop. This was very deceiving; peace and quiet reigned. It clouded over in the latter stages of the afternoon and that really did us in.
It was good to see the gig run out of the Harbour again, the first time this year. It has been afloat earlier this year but goes out from Penzance into the more sheltered waters of Mount's Bay. With placid seas and hardly a breath of wind there were several boats out, along with a number of kayaks, too. I had thought that the Lifeguards would have retired straight after Easter but it looks like they might be here for the duration.
After being invaded by sea water dripping youngsters I felt it a good idea to mop the shop floor after we finished. Ti this end I fetched some soapy water from the flat and armed with mop and bucket started at the end of the shop and worked back. By the time I reached the door it occurred to me that the shop lights were behind the counter, now inaccessible unless I crossed the wet floor. Not without a spark of innovation, even at the end of a full day, I used the mop handle to reach across and flick off the switches.
As the shop plunged into darkness it became immediately apparent that I had left on the fridge and freezer lights at the far end of the shop. Had I been a rougher type, rude words might have ensued. Resignedly, I walked to the end of the shop and duly turned off the errant lights, mopping my footprints as I returned up the aisle. It then occurred to me that the shop keys were also behind the counter and these I could not reach. Again I mopped away my retreating foot prints and retired upstairs somewhat relieved that the episode was over.
It was in the last throws of making our tea that the Missus called out that she had discovered that the egg box she thought full of eggs had only two left in it. I helpfully responded that it would be not trouble whatever to collect some more from the shop .. oh begger, I thought.
It seems like there might be a bit of a celebration going on across the Tamar today but I do not think that much is made of it there. Hereabouts we make light of jousting with dragons so, instead, I will commemorate the birth (very probably) of a famous bard and not of the Gorsedh either, with a sonnet he wrote possibly.
How can the sea stay long its hearty force And play soft reason with the sanded shore, Sans hard toil, guards do divert their course When oft times they in earnest were before.
How like a summer hath this absence been From raging storm, foul air, and hated rain, Book down for me this season we hath seen, Wherein all that cometh here hath had gain.
I love to be here then, yet well I know That time here doth fleetest moments stay, With only emptiness and quiet passing slow And those I owest dear do gather near for pay.
But if the while I think of busy times to come All baiiffs shrink away, and sorrows run.
That thrumming sound you can hear is Shakespeare rotating, turbine-like, in his grave.
April 22nd - Saturday
It was particularly quiet this morning. The only sound I could hear, as I walked the bleddy hound around the block first thing, was the sea racing up the beach and softly at that. It set the pattern for the day and left me reading all the newspapers that fitted on the counter.
We were promised some cloud with some sunny spells later. We got the cloudy bit but the sunny spells appeared to be illusive. We also got a bit of a lively breeze blowing in from the northeast, which was not quite enough to be annoying coming through the shop doorway.
It was so sedate today that I set about the invoices that had accumulated in the till. I would normally wait until the Missus has finished counting up and so forth but normally we would be upstairs and she would shove the completed invoices at me after she has finished. With no computer upstairs I thought I would get ahead of the posse and record the invoices ahead of the Missus getting her hands on them. I now feel quite virtuous and will berate her for being so slack. Later I will nurse my wounds.
It was pleasant to see that the clear skies we were promised had arrived when I took the bleddy hound out at last knockings. There were a myriad of stars to gaze up at, briefy.
Since I did not take any photographs today and have no further words for you, I am afraid this will have to be the end of a very thin gruel Diary for the day.
April 21st - Friday
Apologies, I slipped a photograph into the Diary after I first published it, about an hour later, so you early birds would have missed it. The good news is my replacement computer is on the way and should be here early next week. It will take the best part of a week to bring it online after which I should be able to bring you pictures aplenty - except I shall probably forget.
Today had the same stamp about it as the last few days. I am not sure how much longer we can stand all this blue sky and sunshine lark and if we do not get any rain soon we might be looking at drought conditions. What will I do if they ban hosepipes with an errant gull on the loose? Talking of which, there was no sign of the little blighter today. I spoke with the lady down the road who had to evict it manually from her shed. She reckons that it was not long for this world with it being none too fleet of foot, or wing, and the 'not one of us' look about it.
Our visitors have definitely pottered away now, I think. The last of the small children, in numbers at least, went off this morning clutching going home gifts with the last of their pocket money. I had to go and fetch the bleddy hound for her adoring fans in the middle of the morning so that they could say goodbye. I did suggest that it would be less traumatic for the little cherubs if they took her home with them but they thought that I was joking.
For the last two years Highly Professional Craftsperson and I have been ferried over to Porthleven for the food festival there, with mixed successes. The first year there was no food until the night after we went and we ended up in an alehouse all night on an empty tummy, which was not ideal. Last year, at least there was some food about. There were complaints from the stall holders that the price of a pitch had risen exponentially so the food was not cheap; it was, however, very good. We were none too impressed with the music and had retired to the same alehouse as the previous year but with full tummies, which helped.
This year we decided to give it a miss, which had nothing to do with not being automatically included on the list for the bus as we were last year. Instead, we sent an emissary in the form of Big Sis who was attending with others from Little Bo Café because they had been shortlisted for a 'Best Café' prize in the Porthleven Food Festival Golden Oyster awards. We do hope you all voted, despite having to also vote in a number of other categories of which you probably knew nothing about. I am sure we were not the only ones in such a position and I suspect there will be some very spurious results because of it.
At the time of going to the press we are still unaware of the results. If they won, it was well deserved and if they lost it was most certainly because of spurious voting in the other categories that slewed the totals. I passed Big Sis a lengthy draft of a thank you speech which should have them weeping in the aisles, most notably for its length - the speech, that is, not the aisles; they have very short aisles in Porthleven.
April 20th - Thursday
"Calm as a clock face" I was told her mother used to say on mornings such as these. She said that it was a daft phrase but I contend no more than 'daft as a brush' or 'thick as a bag' but it fitted this morning perfectly as there was calm all about and the sea was as flat as a dish. It is a good job we are allowed to mix similes.
That sea was so flat that the slightest ripple was immediately evident. Out in the middle of the bay a little dark patch quickly evolved into a rippling cauldron of what was probably a small shoal of sardines. They soon moved on when a black backed gull came and sat amongst them.
Talking of gulls, our cheeky, fraudulent, undisabled herring gull was back again this morning. I thought that I had successfully chased it off the day before by running after it with the hose. It stayed away all day yesterday. This morning I returned to the shop, after putting on the bake-over bread, to find it boldly walking into the shop. It returned again later, standing on the firewood box and pecking away at the plastic on the hiking sticks. I managed to open the door quietly and squirt it with water from my drinking bottle, which encouraged it to take to the wing this time. It was back again before the shop opened, skulking by Tinker Taylor cottage and looking this way, plotting.
I suspect it of hiding WMDs in its undercarriage, although I have no evidence but, as we know, that is not at all important. I will encourage our neighbours to join with me to undertake a pre-emptive strike, as I have already let them know I have a hosepipe and a stockpile of water - as a deterrent, you understand -, and if they will not help I will go it alone.
The weather brought other, more useful, visitors flooding to The Cove. Alongside this it was a buying leaving presents day, too and we could not have had a better start than with an American couple who bought much of the shop, first thing. Once again, in a now familiar pattern, the Cove became a busy place around the middle of the day. With the weather taking a downward turn next week, apparently, we will have had a very lucky Eastertide indeed.
It is good to see our Trading Standards body, part of the much maligned council, stepping out from behind their iron clad doors and consulting with the public. It has just completed a survey discovering what people think the word Cornish should mean regarding food. The department cast its net wide and asked people from across the world, which is fair enough given the number of Cornish enclaves scattered about. The overwhelming response, at 94 percent, was that Cornish food should be made in Cornwall. So far, so ordinary. Fewer people, the report states, thought that food processed or packed in Cornwall could be called Cornish - probably the producers packing and processing Vietnamese river cobbler fish here and passing it off as Cornish hake.
The report also asked what 'local food in Cornwall' should mean, which only 61 percent said that it should be wholly produced in Cornwall, which might be a fair result including those living in Bude or Launceston, next to the border with Devon. An "additional 20%" - did they mean 80 percent? - thought that an arbitrary circle of 50 miles would be reasonable.
The much maligned council's Trading Standards team noted that the responses could help them have a better understanding of people's expectations and ultimately help prevent food fraud. It does not say how big the sample was but it is a shame that they did not ask me. I would have been delighted to tell them how much I would like to help; my rates are £36 for a half hour telephone consultation.
It was such a pleasant day it would have been churlish not to have a Lifeboat exercise, so we had one. I joined in this time, since we have reduced our shop hours. The boat launched at six o'clock into an azure sea with the sun still airborne above the horizon. By the time it came back, the sky was starting to look very sunset picturesque and all the air about us was turning that warm deep sepia colour. While these aesthetic wonders can capture the hearts of ordinary people some of us must bend to the job at hand with unswerving concentration and professionalism.
We could not find anybody like that, so it fell to us present to ready the station. While there might have been some swerving going on we brought the boat up the long slip in what was very possibly a textbook recovery. We are, after all, a very aesthete free, very excellent Shore Crew.
It only remained to repair to the OS for a spot of quizzing, where getting a seat was slightly more difficult than it was last week. It was, however, easy to achieve utter humiliation before coming back home again. I vented my frustration on a sleeping world by taking a noisy bleddy hound around the block under a star lit sky, which we were not supposed to have.
April 19th - Wednesday
I realise that the Diary is widely read; one of the three people who read it travels widely. I have been inundated with an electronic mail from both America and Australia on occasion. Although it was not Diary related, I had an electronic mail from Tashkent, which as you will know from your childhood geography lessons, is in Uzbekistan, in fact its capital. The communiqué was from the head person at Tashkent Airport, which you will know from your childhood geography lessons, is the third busiest in Central Asia. You will also recall from the same lesson that it was the scene of a crash of a Tupolev ANT-20 in 1942, which is understood to have crashed because the pilot let a passenger have a go at flying it.
Sorry, I digress. Where was I? Ah, yes, an email from the chief person at Tashkent Airport Tourist Information Centre. Please forgive the use of the genderless noun but I have no idea whether the person who contacted me is male or female as I only have the name to go on and that is of no help, no being familiar with Uzbekistani naming conventions - they did not cover that at my school. Whoever it is, asked that they share information regarding the running of a Tourist Information Centre and to garner ideas on how to promote itself and attract tourists.
Now, I am all for sharing knowledge and fostering the spirit of good international relations but I know of a few people recently who have got themselves into some hot water by talking to people in that neck of the woods. I imagine, even now, the ears of a certain Government listening station not a couple of hundred miles away are pricked up, even at the sound of the incoming electronic mail dropping on my virtual door mat.
I am perhaps grateful that the gender of the writer is not obvious. A blatantly female name might well have suggested a 'honey trap', not that I would be susceptible to such a ruse - the Missus does occasional read these ramblings, you understand. No, I shall be sending a cursory reply and forwarding the matter to Mr Johnson at the Foreign Office, unless, of course, he has been dissolved by now.
If I am to reside at the Tower for the rest of my days, today was not a bad one to enjoy as the last in The Cove. We had bright sunshine to start with but cloud rolled in later on and thickened. For all that it was still a very passable sort of day with light winds from down in the south, somewhere. If you were a surfer you were pretty stumped, as there was hardly a ripple on the sea all day long.
As with yesterday we busied up around lunchtime. I think our holiday makers are taking their lie-ins seriously, or, as I suspected yesterday, they are coming from a bit further afield. It is not as busy as it has been over the last couple of weeks but we are still ahead of an average, non-holiday week, which means we have had three above average weeks rather than two peak weeks, although that might be counting a few wallets before they are opened. I had a very pleasant electronic mail from another of my kind readers today. TF suggests that having a few more pictures in these sorry submissions would be a top idea. I can see where you are going with that one, TF; more pictures, less words. I understand.
You might be luckier still. I understand that wireless signals are a bit thin in the White Tower.
April 18th - Tuesday
The day could not have been more different from yesterday. Tumbleweed was blowing through The Cove for much of the morning, fortunately chased off by a smattering of visitors towards lunchtime. This is not a game for the faint hearted; all that pre-Easter ordering has to be paid for with whatever happens over these few weeks.
Helping us along was a bright sunny sky, right from the very off. It lit up the tri-cornered leaf leek and Spanish bluebells at the end of Old Coastguard Row a treat. It may not be true but there does seem to be quite a few more of the former this year in that spot and all up the hillside. We rarely see snowdrops here but, by gosh, the tri-cornered leeks make up for it.
Spanish bluebells, the dirty interlopers!
It was that bright sunny sky that brought rather more customers from near and far later on in the day. I suspect that there were more from far than near and most day trippers at that. Really we do not mind exactly where they come from as long as they come. We entertained a bright button from Australia who brought all manner of memorabilia from us to take home and there was a couple of young men from the farthest east and who could blame them for being here. I did try and persuade them to walk to Land's End but they were very insistent on me calling a taxi for them.
Just outside the Harbour the seeds of a new venture seemed to be sprouting. It is a smart new RIB getting ready to take visitors out into the bay and, hopefully, bring them back again. It is a brave venture, as the tides here constrict boat boarding times and a similar venture some years ago proved unsuccessful as, I recall, we had some poor weather that year which rather scuppered it. I took a close look at the inaugural party all stood standing in the craft, apparently testing its stability, and surmised if it sank at that moment it would have dowsed more than half of the regular Lifeboat crew. At least our adventurous visitors will be in good hands, although there will be somewhat less available crew to come out if they do run into trouble.
We seem to have made very good use of our payment card machine over the last few days. We have noticed, this year particularly, a burgeoning expectation of using only cards to purchases items. It has therefore stymied everyone that the cash machine in the OS has been out of action for the last few days and today the card machine in the chip shop stopped working - definitely no chip and pin, there. It has meant that a line of cashless waifs have been queuing at our door for cash back, enduring with gritted teeth, the conditions therein.
Somewhat less restrained is a new gull in town. It is a tenacious herring gull that first popped over to us yesterday. It set about a bag of logs that someone had rested against the windbreak stand. I chased it off and placed the log bag in its proper container outside. A few moments later the bird was back, standing on the log box and having a pop at the plastic covering of one of our hiking sticks, hanging from the windbreak stand.
The gull appeared to have a broken wing and I must admit to having a moment of pity for the animal, as it was probably hungry, though it did not look in the least emaciated. Big Sis also witnessed its bravado as it attacked Little Bo's bin then ran off towards the edge of the sea wall. We were both concerned that in its desperation for food it had forgotten all about its broken wing or, perhaps, it had not. We were, therefore, aghast when it jumped off the edge and disappeared from view, then almost immediately deceived, when it appeared again soaring gracefully. I thought about those beggars in Thailand and similar countries who maim themselves to gain more sympathy. I then thought about going shooting on Sunday. I have no idea what made me think of that.
April 17th - Monday
What a whirlwind of a day and I am not talking of the wicked, chilly blast from the north, either, although I suppose that was a factor. The rather too easy time I had of it in the morning put me at a false sense of quietness and relaxation when I really should have been on my mettle.
It was when I came back from the gymnasium that I noticed that our local cash and carry had delivered. Since we had run out of some key items, such as bottles of Coca Cola, I ordered them in from the local rather than main supplier. This made for a somewhat larger local delivery, which the Missus batted off quite happily. The fight really started when I returned from having a bit of croust upstairs as the Missus informed me that our main cash and carry delivery would be arriving today instead of tomorrow, as usual. The company had discovered that many of its customers were closed today (catering facilities in Cornwall, closed on a bank holiday - what?) and that they would be far busier tomorrow, so could they come to us today instead.
The Missus and I were helping the chap unload when the beer and Helston gin I had ordered turned up. With cars parked on the double yellow lines and keep clear zone opposite, it was quite a busy mess for a while. Thankfully our cream, cheese and pasty deliveries had been and gone, else we could quite easily have blocked the road.
The Missus came down in the afternoon to clear the grocery stock onto our shelves and into storage. This meant that the bleddy hound had to come down to her throne in the window. It sits next to one of the postcard rotating stands and the bleddy hound chose to lie in the opposite direction to her normal repose. This put her nose in the gap between the postcard stand and the window, which was fine at the time, in an empty shop. The next two customers, however, both chose to peruse the cards, sending the carousel slapping against her face. To the first customer she gave an indignant look and settled back once the card rack had stopped turning. The second time the look was something more than mere indignity and she dropped off her perch and went outside instead. Thankfully she has no fingers.
It was quite warm in the shop in the afternoon, although it was still reasonably chilly in the breeze outside. It was not that warm at the far end of the shop where the concentration of freezers is but I thought I had best try out the new fan. I am sure you will be delighted to know that the blade goes around and it make sufficient noise that you know that it is working. Whether it is refreshing the air to the benefit of the fridges and freezers, I will never know. Despite the hum of the fan, I still forgot to turn it off at the end of the day.
It must be clear by now that I had a little more time on my hands today. I even had time to fly next door for some quad-layer biscuit cake, or something like that. It was rather toothsome is all I can tell you. It had started out so well, too - the day, that is, not the cake, which was well from start to finish. By mid afternoon we were coasting and I had started to regret saying that I would open until seven o'clock despite our sign saying that we would close at six. I had thought that, since the whole break has gone against expectations, I would play the day by ear. It will certainly be six o'clock closing tomorrow, even though I did sell another bottle of that top hole gin just before closing.
April 16th - Sunday
It was a bit of a slow start but it did not take long before the joint was jumping again. Three small children piled into the shop in a big noisy bunch with arms and legs going everywhere. It looked like a Tasmanian Devil had turned up. Once untangled one told me that another was due any moment; it sounded like a threat. I felt like North Korea. Fortunately, parents turned up to negotiate détente and the children all bought postcards and all was well. I was not to be disappointed, though, as later we adopted one of our frequent child minding sessions while the adult family sat about with their tea and coffee. So good to be of service.
The weather was remarkably bright and sunshine like, which was a departure from what we were promised the day before. Alright, let us not paint this anything other than the complete opposite of what we were told to expect. Thankfully the forecasters had changed their forecasts this morning so that they looked like the actual weather we were having.
There was not a huge amount of surf to get excited about but sufficient to keep a small army of surfers in the water. It all looks so much more alluring in the sunshine. It is possible that a basking shark thought so too, the first of the season here, at least. A lady dropped into the shop later in the day and asked if there were any boat trips being run to go and look at seals. It was then she said that she was pretty sure she had seen a fin in the water early in the morning, verified by her partner. It is entirely possible as we are approaching basking shark season. I shall keep an eye out.
The vintage buses were running today as I suggested they might. It was the squeaky brakes that gave them away - it was a different squeak to the more modern buses. It did not take long to work out that they were providing an additional service to the normal buses. It was the best Sunday service we have had in some time, well, since the last vintage bus day, I suppose. There were at least half dozen buses dropping into The Cove when normally on a Sunday there are just three. Given that this is Easter Sunday, with additional people wanting to get to and from The Cove, the exercise could not have been more worth while or better timed.
It was later in the afternoon that a couple who are regular Cove visitors dropped by. We had chatted the day before about our new Stafford's Gin, which is based on Cornish potato spirit and I had rashly promised a tasting for today. Having had the bottle in our fridge, which I keep ultra cold for scthe storage of fish, it was prime for opening. I woulds not normally conshider drinking gin neat, other than a quanality Genever but without any handy schmall bottle of tonic water were we a bit schnookered. It mattered not, not a little tiny winsy little tiny bit. The gin was scvery, verry nice and tasted really nice yiou need to buy schome really, really schoon. Night oall.
April 15th - Saturday
It is no use; I am going to have to up my tall story telling game. It is a tale I tell while apply stamps to people's postcards for them. It is a service that only we independent stores can provide and differentiates us from our larger, less customer focused counterparts. I inform anyone listening that our stamp sticking on service is world renowned and that people in darkest Peru still talk about it to this very day. It was during this captivating diatribe that the young teenage daughter, clearly uncaptivated, wandered off to do something more interesting. Young teenage girls obviously have more important things to contemplate.
At last! That pesky New York zoo giraffe has eventually decided to pop after five weeks of anticipation and disproving to my theory that she was just fat. The Missus has been up day and night waiting for this moment so it is a good job that the zoo's Internet held up throughout the performance, else there would have been hell up. No, I have no idea if it was a boy or a cheeld, nor do I have any idea of its weight, of course, but I do know that the father did not pass out during the process but was rather disturbed that it had big ears and a trunk.
The weather seems to be continuing in a similar vein with bits of gloomy and bits of brightness. Our visitors are continuing in a similar vein, too, asking when the sun is going to come out and summer is going to start officially. The afternoon looked very pleasant indeed, although I had reports that the wind was a bit chilly. There certainly seemed to be fewer on the beach and more wandering about the place, which is exactly the way we like it. We seemed busier in a more consistent way, too, with fewer gaping silences.
The Missus treated mother to a performance at the Minack Theatre in the evening. No, that sounded wrong, as the Missus was not performing but rather someone doing an impression of Vera Lynn singing. Mother was given special treatment with a ring side seat, given her status but was somewhat disappointed. Apparently there was very little Vera Lynn involved and it was a concert of all things British to celebrate her birthday. I think mother might have been a bit perplexed with songs from the like of Spice Girls, whoever they were, and the only bit of Vera was a short medley at the end.
Instead, I was left behind with a peeved bleddy hound because her tea was an hour late. She never spoke to me for the rest of the night.
April 14th - Friday
I do not want to hear one more complaint that the weather is rubbish because there is no sun in the sky - we give you a couple of good days and what happens? Look, it is the middle of April, not June. You know, the month that is traditionally supposed to come equipped with showers. Today is dry, mainly, and warm but, no, it does not have any sunshine. In today's common vernacular it is time to get over it because despite the fact that the sun is not shining, it actually quite a pleasant day.
It was not that great a day for one small puffin, although it could have been decidedly worse. Yes, you did read that correctly, I wrote, puffin. Someone told me quite a while ago that there were puffins on Brisons. I had no reason to disbelieve the teller but I had never seen one hereabouts, or anywhere else for that matter, before or since until today.
I was in the middle of serving someone when a lady came into the shop in a bit of a fluster and asked for a cardboard box. It was not the best day to ask for cardboard boxes, as all our cardboard had been collected yesterday. Fortunately we had a frozen bread delivery too and although the boxes were fairly large the lady said that one would be ideal. She went on to explain that her and her partner had found an injured puffin on the beach and were going to take it over to the bird sanctuary at Mousehole. Partner then appeared in the doorway with the puffin in his hands. We wish it well.
Puffin; it was hardly breaking a sweat.
Once again everything went quiet in The Cove. It must have been that force one Beaufort raging gale from the west and the sub twelve degree temperature that kept them away. It is true that there was not much in the way of surf, although this clearly did not deter the twenty or so boarders in the surf zone. There were a fair few swimmers and body boarders out there too but you could not say that the beach was exactly crowded.
We enjoyed some little bursts of busyness during the later part of the afternoon but the dynamic in The Cove this Easter is exceptionally odd and difficult to fathom. We can get very busy for short periods then everyone disappears for ages then it can get busy again. Also, it seems that we have custom on alternate days. All I can say is that it is a good job we are a dynamic and fleet of foot team, almost ready for anything - or something like that, it says here in my Boys Own book of grumpy shopkeeping.
April 13th - Thursday
I should have gone with the feeling in my water that we were having a week of alternate busy days. I had deliberately reined back on supplies for today having seen a downturn yesterday. I had reasoned that it was nearly going home time for a few folk and that the alternate day theory would not apply. How wrong I was.
It did not look like it would be one of our best days today but it turned out all right, despite our most senior Cover promising a shower of rain before the day was out. By the middle of the day we started to see some blue patches and it stayed that way for much of the afternoon. Visitors, who like that sort of thing, arrived in abundance including a face from my past. Fortunately he turned up with the rest of his body as well but it had been so long it took a moment or five to recognise him. So that is what they call the fog of time.
I noticed that we were, once again, running short of a thing or two - you see, there must be someone here buying things - so I wrote down a list of items that we would need from Shrew House. It was shortly after writing the list that the Missus announced that she was going around to mother's and agreed to go to Shrew House in my stead, which was very good of her. It was even better of her to still head up there after mother told her that a visit was unnecessary. She took some secateurs, although the label called them pruners - I suppose they knew the difference - with her and a pair of gardening gloves, which I thought a bit extreme as we only required some nets and some bodyboards but she assured me that she was going to give the wild flora up there a bit of a trim back. I normally deploy about a gallon of Agent Orange, which normally does the trick but the Missus is a sensitive soul. It is probably just as well as she took the bleddy hound with her; the bleddy hound does not run too well on DDT.
When they returned, all in one piece, the joint was jumping. From somewhere a whole host of visitors appeared and started buying things. It was all very exciting and boded well for the coming weekend. Also coming this weekend, and this is a departure for the Diary that likes to keep future events firmly in the future, in case it needs them desperately, the vintage buses will be running over the weekend. Not only are they free, or so I believe, but there also appears to be more of them than the normal buses, although that may just be an optical illusion or the fact that the vintage buses break down less than the ones used today.
As if all that were not excitement enough, the Lifeboat coxswain decided to push the boat out on a jolly exercise at seven o'clock. I had only, this very morning, been asked by a customer if the Lifeboat would be going out in the evening, the answer eluding me at that point, but only five minutes after she left we had a page that, indeed, the boat would be launching.
I left this delicate task to my compatriots on the crew once again. It is tricky running extended hours in the shop then running straight into a training launch. There are plenty of others about to dive in and take my place, I rather leave them to it. It is without doubt that they executed a textbook recovery up the short slipway. They are, after all a very predictable, very excellent Shore Crew.
After a fitful tea I headed for the OS and a bit of quizzing in a crowded bar. The Missus gave it a miss as there was little space anyway and she cares not for the bustling crowds. We eventually came lucky with a table to call our own, although we did have to play dirty for it, and paid for it later by coming second in the quiz along with half a dozen other teams. They cannot all have seen our answers, surely.
We wandered back on the quieter side of the street - at least it was until the bleddy hound became involved - with a Highly Professional and a Prof who had joined us for a one night only event. What star studded joy.
April 12th - Wednesday
I think our visitors may have been spoiled by a couple of days pleasant sunshine; I think they may have developed unreasonable expectations.
It was a bit grey and overcast during the early part of the morning. All right, it was a bit grey and overcast for the later part of the morning and into the afternoon, too. There was also a bit of a breeze from the northwest, although it could have been from the northeast the way it was charging through the door at me. It did brighten later in the day but it was too late for our visitors who clearly want sunshine from the very off, otherwise they will just bleddy well go somewhere else.
Due to it being so quiet I eventually became bored and pulled out the pile of invoices that had collected in our box behind the counter. It takes a while to sort these into invoices, statements and delivery notes. It also takes a while, now, to find and open the copy of my general ledger because of the breakdown of the computer upstairs. At last I had everything ready and had typed in half the first line of the first invoice. Yes, I am sure that you are well ahead of me again, dear reader, because it is predicable as the rising of the sun; the first customers started to pile in through the door. Now, I would rather have customers than time to do my invoices but I cannot help but wonder at the fates. Those small gods of shopkeeping must have a fairly basic sense of humour if making it busy every time I start eating my breakfast or start filling shelves brings them some repeated amusement.
Our gloomy start gave way to a spectacular late afternoon and evening. Those bemoaning the lack of decent sunset this morning were once again satisfied, no doubt. It was evident from the changing colours on the cliffs all the way from Aire Point to Cape Cornwall.
April 11th - Tuesday
He is a happy chap anyway but the new hand next door, his first job, has been beaming from ear to ear since he started a few days ago. It is a joy to see such youth and enthusiasm in the few fleeting moments before tax, rent, bills and the general drudgery of a working life beat it out of him.
What a very pleasant day, however, to be beaten into the ground. The sun had broken through at the very outset of the day and the north wind had diminished to the point that it was barely noticeable. One lady traveller noted how still it was at the top of the hill. This translated into full beaches and a host of happy families down on the Harbour beach. The Missus joined them in the middle of the afternoon and took the bleddy hound down there too. It was exactly the right thing to do with a bleddy hound who had not been down on the sand for a few weeks
I was entertained in the late afternoon by three young ladies and we all know that there is no such thing as free entertainment any longer. They had brought with them pennies - literally - in abundance that amounted to rather less than a hill of beans and, believe me, it was a crazy world for all of twenty minutes. I am certain that we can all remember that a pile of pennies, which fill your money box to overflowing, can purchase the moon and stars with change left over.
I have been sent on a few negotiating courses over the corporate years. I was taught that we must strive for a win-win, to forge agreeable relationships with the buyers and to look out for buying signals. There were buying signals aplenty and as relationships go, this one was heading for a quickie divorce as the girls adopted a clever divide and conquer approach. Using my best skills, I did manage to claw back to a win-smoking ruins result and turned around a ten pound loss for one of the girls to a more creditable £2.50. While with visitors I can rest assured that I will not see them again for another twelve months, these sharp shoppers live here. I am doomed.
As the visitors melted away towards evening, what passes for calm descended on The Cove. It was interrupted by the occasional - alright frequent - shouts from the Harbour as the bravehearts from near and far threw themselves off the Harbour wall, as you do when you are young and wetsuit clad. Then, when tea was done, we have a last wave of shoppers, picking up chocolate treats and ice creams just ahead of bed time and we know that all is well with the world - at least, this little bit of it.
April 10th - Monday
Oh. Just when it was going so well, too.
We kicked off the day with a rather sharp northerly wind, which hung around till close of play and took the edge off the glorious sunshine we had. I would have it that the smart money ran off to Porthcurno or other such places on the sheltered south coast where I imagine they frazzled in the shelter.
I had called in quite a big fish order in the knowledge that with the seas being calmer than they have been for a while and at the tail end of a neap tide, fish would be plentiful and cheap. I was not wrong. We had an order placed yesterday so I added a good volume of hake, haddock and scallops, which are all now bagged up and in the freezer. We also had some crab meat delivered, which I should have ordered for the weekend but forgot. At least the bagging and labelling gave me something to do in the long gaps between customers.
I was just thinking that we had not had a strange and unexpected telephone request for a while when the telephone rang with a strange and unexpected request. It was from a mobile telephone number and since we have had quite a few of those recently from people trying to sell us boilers replacements and gas, neither of which are relevant, I had expected to be brusque and manly with the caller.
It was not either of those. It was man who had recently been working on the repair of the electricity cable that runs between The Cove, or probably Gwenver, and the Isles of Scilly. He told me that a Swedish person had been working with them who, because the work had run on, gave up his holiday to see the work through to completion. As a means of saying thank you, our caller wanted to buy presents for the Swede's two children, a girl of three years old and a boy of six years old. This last soupçon, the children's ages, is entirely relevant as our man wanted items which related to The Cove, or the near area, at least. While we have hooded sweatshirts, which apparently would have been ideal, for the six year old, the three year old would be far less easy to supply since we do not do hooded sweatshirts that small.
In the end the chap have me carte blanche to build a package suitable for both children but containing roughly the same items. It did bring it home that we have precious little for three to four year olds with The Cove written on it but there again it is probable that three to four year olds have little care what is written on their souvenirs, on the basis that their reading vocabulary is somewhat limited. What do I know? It has been some while since I was a three to four year old and I really do not recall what my reading vocabulary was like at the time and no, I did not have t-shirts with latin inscriptions or something that Chaucer would have recognised, thank you.
The long and the short of it is that I struggled to put together a package for each child within the specification. I had to improvise a little with some items that have "Cornwall" on them instead. I have added a few extras in as well in case our man decides against some of the items I have chosen for him when he telephones again tomorrow. Quite how we find ourselves with such challenges is beyond me.
Talking of Latin and language that Chaucer would have understood, it is the brother-in-law's birthday today - or yesterday as you read this - so Happy (there is no word for happy in Middle English unsurprisingly as they were not) Feeste of your Nativitee or something like that.
April 9th - Sunday
It might have been the thin blanket of cloud that we were under or perhaps that the main party of visitors had arrived late the previous evening but the morning was particularly quiet. Quiet mornings are always a bit of a worry for grumpy shopkeepers but there was a bit of buying of bread and milk that gave way to a bit of hope for the later part of the day. I need not have worried; we have a Cove full of late risers. The forecast is all topsy turvey again with two sources suggesting that we would have cloud all day when the radio forecast told us we would be brighter later. The radio had it in the end, although we had to wait a while for it.
There was no such hope for our computer, although I noticed that it is running sufficiently well to have performed its backup last night. It is just the screen that does not come alive, which is a tad limiting. I had thought that I would plug it in to the VGA port - it is driven off the DVI connection at the moment - until I realised that I had, erm, rationalised my big box of cables last year when we cleared out the window seat.
I noticed through our busyness yesterday that an even greater proportion of customers wanted to pay by payment card of one sort or another. We still resist payment by card for 50 pence chewing gum packets and struggle to educate the young that carrying just a few pounds in cash can be helpful at times. The predominance of card payments, however, is not yet a problem as long as some real cash money continues to come in, as we pay some suppliers in real cash money as it is more convenient for both parties. It will cease to be convenient if we do not have any cash to pay them with.
The Cove, I hear, has taken another step forward into the technology infested swamp of this cashless society with the introduction of some clever machines in the Beach car park. An informed source tells me that due to the introduction of the new pound coins, the machines had to be changed anyway. Not only have they been modified to accept the new dodecagon shaped coin - oh yes, the Diary can do names of polygons along with proper writers - but the clever beasts can accept card payments and do contactless payments, too. The future is here and it had cowls to keep the rain out as the future does not, apparently, do wet. My informed source did look rather crest fallen when I suggested that the machines would have to be changed again come October, to prevent the naughty insertion of, what would be then, old pound coins.
While I have been ruing the quietness of the holiday, thus far, we must have sold a few bits and pieces as I had to run up to Shrew House in the afternoon. Somehow we had managed to sell several pairs of beach shoes and many spades of different types. The odd beach tent and windbreak has gone too and from earlier in the week some kites. The season has started all right.
April 8th - Saturday
A rip gribbler at the beginning of April; what a turn up for the books. Alright, there was a stiff breeze blowing in from the East that kept the temperature down a bit but did nothing tio harm our windbreak sales. Shorts, flip flops, swimsuits and sun lotion were orders of the day. Yes, our visitors are here in abundance, with both car parks full and bodies pressed into a bunch at the top of the beach for the late afternoon high water that was pushing home by two o'clock.
Small child arrives in the shop accompanied by Auntie - as is usually the case.
Small child.: "Granny, um, my Mummy said I wasn't to have any more sweets or anything." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "Hmm. Was it your granny or your mummy said?" Small child.: "My Mummy." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "I shall be having words with your mummy. How's a poor shopkeeper supposed to survive when mummies place an embargo on small children spending their pennies in his shop?" Auntie.: [spoken with a certain edge to her voice that only Aunties can do] "Actually, Aunty is quite pleased with that, thank you very much." Small child.: "What's an embanjo."
I heard on Radio Pasty that the strength of the sun is as intense now as it is in August. I do not doubt it in the least. For the last few days I have seen a fair few people who have suffered the effects of the high ultra violet rays. Some of the people we have seen, having stripped off layers in the bright sunshine and dispensed with any form of alternative protection, have had quite severe sunburn. I feel that it is a bit weak warning of the dangers after the event and I get the impression that people think I am just trying to flog our sun lotion if I manage to warn them ahead of time. I am not, honest.
We have been tipped off that our neighbours, the top hole Little Bo Café has been nominated for a food award. It is the Porthleven Food Festival, happening at the end of this month, Golden Oyster Awards and covers public houses, restaurants and cafes. By using its website you can vote, should you choose, for the winner. How could we not when Big Sis is quite often the person producing the food.
Later on I took the bleddy hound around the block - very slowly. You cannoy blame her for wanting to take advantage of such small runs out as when we are busy it is all she gets. There was not a leaf or blade of grass that did not get sniffed and a excruciating slow march between each one. It was pleasant, though, the low sun in our eyes and a busy car park form those now staying with us. It has arrived, I think.
April 7th - Friday
I could have done well without our main computer breaking down as we enter what is hopefully a busy week. It has happened a few times and I really should have taken action earlier but you know how it is, when it is working you tend to ignore it. The machine starts and somewhere under the rotating ring on the screen there is a fully functioning computer; I can see it on the network and access all the files. It just does not want to show me that it is working on the screen connected to it. I have tried a few tricks and a swift kick has brought it back to life previously but, clearly, it has got fed up with the abuse and has refused to respond.
Fortunately, for me at least, I have been able to rescue the Diary and the means with which to post it to the Internet, you lucky, lucky people.
That aside it was an utterly corking day; a proper rip gribbler. We even sold some sun lotion and more than a few pairs of sunglasses, some of which only arrived yesterday. The upward trend of busyness continued and we were blessed by the arrival of some familiar faces as well as some new ones and some of them actually bought things. There were quite a few surfers trying their luck in a reasonably surfy sea just ahead of high water and, for the first time this year, some dolphins came by. They played about quite close in over by North Rocks.
The Highly Professional Craftsperson and I had other entertainment ideas for the evening and we trekked off to the big city lights to see Mr Otway perform. We have seen him before and appreciate his wildly manic and highly comic performances, so much so we went to see him again at the Acorn Theatre. It is the first time we have been for a while as they have had a change of funding partner and it has reflected in the performances. Since Mr Otway finished quite early we repaired to another old haunt at the top of town where a young girl with guitar was playing to a noisy audience over which she could barely be heard. We clapped anyway and went home. What a wizard evening marred only by returning home to the smouldering wreckage of our computer in the corner of the room, darn it.
April 6th - Thursday
It was a wonderfully bright, fresh and blue skied morning, full of loveliness. Clearly, our attendant visitors thought so too as they were out in force making it quite the busiest morning we have had all week. It was not what we would call raving but at times there were queues at the counter and the merry trill of our till lifted sent my heart soaring.
There has been much activity on the quay and the fisherman's stores in the Harbour car park this week. The quay has been stacked high with lobster and crab pots, the former being added to with some smart new stock, including a new store pot. Some of the pots from the car park were spirited away for use out of Newlyn, too. Of course, with two new bigger boats in The Cove, one already active, there is some additional capacity for more fishing. We wonder if someone should post a warning to the crustaceans hereabout that the game has stepped up a notch; it would only be fair, surely.
As with yesterday we had a bit of a grey moment during the middle of the day before the sun broke through again and gave us a spectacular afternoon. There seems to be a continued upward trend to the number of people about, some of which came into the shop and bought things. We also had a bit of a going away session with some of the people who have been here all week, which is always sad for both parties but for different reasons.
Given that it was such a pleasant day it would have been, oh, so wrong not to have a bit of a Lifeboat launch on exercise. The boat launched at seven o'clock while I was still working so I did not join in. I was not sulking but I decided that there were probably sufficient people about on shore to collect the boat when it arrived back later on. I am certain my compatriots would have made decent fist of it and brough the boat back up the long slipway in something akin to a textbook recovery. After all, even when we are apart, we are still a very cohesive, very excellent Shore Crew.
We repaired to the OS, which was somewhat busier than normal and there was something of a polite scramble to attain a place to sit for our quiz team. Squeezed onto a small table in the middle of the bar clearly did not suit us, that is my excuse and I am sticking to it. We were wiped out, worn out and eventually kicked out. It was not our evening, for sure.
April 5th - Wednesday
We had our long anticipated business rates letter today. From the available information, I had expected that my bill would be reduced to nothing from quite a lot because we come in under the new threshold. It did come in at zero but not for the reasons I had expected and highlights an anomaly which shows the sorry state of the whole system and rather underlines why it needs to be redesigned, root and branch, which is what I thought we were getting a few years ago when we were told that the Government was going to revisit business rates.
I know that sounds very political, and very probably is, and a naughty departure for these daft scribblings. I thought, however, it may be enlightening and, to be honest, why should I suffer this Alice in Wonderland state of affairs on my own.
As I related, my business rates bill is zero, nothing, zilch, not a bean. I had anticipated this as my rateable value is less than the £12,000 threshold, by quite a bit. However, this was not why my bill was nothing. The reason why my bill was nothing was because of the Mandatory Rural Rate Relief, which trumps the Small Business Rate threshold and is calculated first, it seems. I knew that the Mandatory Rural Rate Relief trumped the Small Business Rate Relief and therefore I could not have both - fifty percent each. To recap then, although I fall under the Small Business Rate threshold I am still liable for rates because I get the Mandatory Rural Rate Relief, which is fifty percent discount. Because this is an anomaly that was raised previously, the Government has topped up the Mandatory Rural Rate Relief to 100 percent so that I do not get upset that I did not get the Small Business Rate relief of being under the threshold. Apparently this all happened too quickly for the much maligned council and it has had to provide a discretionary fifty percent relief to make up for the Government's top up of the Mandatory Rural Rate Relief top up.
I am glad that I have had the opportunity, dear reader, of making the whole situation abundantly clear to you. I still find it somewhat unfair that I am paying nothing - although, I am very grateful, of course - while others are facing horrendous increases when, perhaps, they should not and others still are raking in millions and paying not a lot. If someone could explain what benefit is derived from this business tax, too, I would be most grateful.
It was a lovely day today, mind, especially in the morning when the wind had dropped right away and the sun was shining bright. We had a bit of a dower middle of the day, when the clouds filled the sky, and then in the later afternoon the blue skies came back but unfortunately so did the stiff wind.
Fortunately it was not an ill wind, as it blew our vicar into the shop. She arrives from time to time for a chat, which is a wholly jolly experience for she is a jolly person. She has not yet managed to wrest me from my grumpy shopkeeper ways and is miles off snagging me into the doors of her office up the hill. She mentioned it once but not since; I suspect she is playing the long game. Nevertheless I was glad she stopped by as we have been at a loss as to whom to dedicate our countertop collection to this year. I explained that we always try to find a truly local needy recipient, which did not have to be a charity, necessarily. It was unthinkable that she would not have the answer at her fingertips and, indeed, she immediately pointed us at a project that we are carefully considering; at least the Missus is considering it and I shall do as I am told. There are a couple of maids in St Buryan leading the charge but it is a Cornwall wide initiative. So, that is probably settled, then; I am not brave enough to go against the advice of the vicar, as I hear she is quite well connected.
Our vicar is also a mine of useful local information; perhaps she should be the Sennen Cove Visitor Information Contact Point. A customer, present at the time, was buying some of our excellent Miss Wenna Cornish brie, which excited some comment. Our vicar, expanded the conversation to reveal that the Lamorna Cove Pottery was the place for a cheese scone and a taste of other local cheeses. They also supplied homemade chutney and jam, though presumably not at the same time. Then there was also the local shop at Treen, which was a good source of 'free from' produce alongside traditional fare. Incidentally, 'free from' is the new industry buzz phrase to represent food that lacks gluten or wheat or whatever else it is required not to have in it - it must be such an education reading the Diary - occasionally, at least.
On the performance of the last few days I have slowly reduced the amount of bread and pasties that we have brought it. I am sure, dear reader, you are well ahead of me here as you, as well as I, know full well that to reduce the volume of any product in the shop will immediately and without exception create a sudden increase in demand for said product. Consequently, we ran out of bread and pasties well before the peak demand for those items and made us look very silly indeed. Alright, sillier than normal.
There was a small smattering of visitors milling about right up to our last knockings. This made a pleasant change. I am rather hoping that this is an early indication of some busyness to come. I can be a hopeful sort of person, sometimes; I shall have to tempt the vicar in more often.
April 4th - Tuesday
It is good to know that the standards set in place for weather forecasting are still holding firm and are not letting advances in technology and understanding influence them in any way. The sunshine we had been promised had clearly been blown away by a punchy force six blow, laced with rain, from the north; a mistake that anyone could make. Just because people make business and personal decisions based upon these crassly ridiculous predictions it should in no way deter the forecasters from making wildly inaccurate guesses about the weather in future.
Without surprise we were exceptionally quiet today. We had a grocery delivery which I was able to work through some of before the Missus turned up and did it properly. Quite amazingly, the stationery order that I placed yesterday evening arrived today. Someone must have been up all night with that one. I cannot say that it was that urgent.
We had a few visitors braving the elements. All were rather surprised that the weather has turned out like it did. I discovered that the surfing community were probably all over at Porthleven, where the surf was 'pumping', I was assured. We also played host to a couple of land-locked Staffordians whose recommended salve for the bleddy hound's dickie leg has been quite successful. They follow the Diary and are aware of my predilection for the odd firearm or two and I was slipped a pen, handcrafted by our man, before they left. The pointed end was in the manner of a rifle shell and the blunt end had a cleverly crafted bolt action to push out the nib and a rifle shaped pocket clip. The barrel is made of oak, I was told. I remain dumbfounded, although I can happily write of it, but quite what I have done to warrant such a kindness shall be a mystery and leave me chuffed to pieces, nevertheless.
Much science goes into shopkeeping these days. I mean, of course, proper shopkeeping, not what we do down here, which is largely opening the doors and hoping for the best. Proper shops measure footfall, average spend and value per shelf item and such things. They also see how people traverse the space and how long they spend at each location in the store. I always imagined that measuring the latter would be quite complex but I discovered today, quite by accident, how it might be achieved.
It was only after I saw the lady customer stand just to the left of the till that I noticed the takeaway coffee cup she was carrying was leaking. It was easy enough to follow the course she took and where there was a concentration of drips, I could clearly see where she had tarried to admire the goods. I might commend this to one of those consultancy companies. I had intended to mop the floor at some point this week anyway; this rather forced my hand and I had little else to do.
Just before we closed, the sunshine broke through. Good how it always turns out alright in the end.
April 3rd - Monday
Yes, it is officially not busy. It is clear that we were given a false sense of busyness yesterday with it being a sunny Sunday. It is time to unbridle the horses, take our feet out of the blocks and ungird our loins for the time being. I just wish I could undo our extended opening but, alas, it has been published and is in the public domain. Thumb twiddling will ensue.
With nothing better to do I checked the trade press and discovered that I now have to check that my alcohol wholesalers are on the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme, else I can be locked up for ever and beaten with birch twigs every Wednesday. This is an effort to try and clamp down on illegal brews being distributed, which must have been a big enough hole in the exchequer to make it want to do something about it.
The article told me that I can check whether my supplier is registered by looking it up on the Government website, which I duly did - it was the birch twigs on Wednesday that had me. Here, I discovered that if I keyed in my supplier's Unique Reference Number I could find out if they were registered or not. The problem I found was that I did not have my supplier's URN and it was not listed on its website, either. The supplier is duty bound to print it on invoices but by that time it is rather too late.
I dropped a line to HM's Government to suggest that it modifies its computer system to allow me to search by supplier's by name. This way I can choose a new supplier without first having the fag of telephoning to enquire about its URN and search for it on the register before I place my order. I had thought that the amount of red tape was supposed to be reducing. Although I understand the need to tackle illegal booze, why not try and make it easy for everyone to comply.
There is more on the way, too, with suggestions regarding a bottle deposit return scheme in Scotland and the spectre of plain packaging for naughty foods and drinks. I am getting ahead of the posse and disguising all our pasties as dead hedgehogs to make them less alluring to people at risk of being tubby. I am sure less tubby people will be so hungry they would eat a dead hedgehog.
One way of making people less likely to be tubby is to keep them busy. I discovered this while I was standing twiddling my thumbs, at several points in the day, and wondering what I could tuck into to pass the time. I resisted manfully for about ten minutes and succumbed to an ice cream that I really did not want.
What really had me was I did not even get a five minutes to closing rush. I tell you, things are desperate.
April 2nd - Sunday
We might possibly have our timings wrong, here. As the bleddy hound and I wandered through the Harbour car park this morning we both noted how devoid it was of motor cars and mobile homes, the two litmus tests of Cove busyness. This was further demonstrated by the early morning quietness in the shop and the lack of small children picking up their family's breakfast goods and newspapers.
We still were better off than previous weeks and I am expecting a better than average week. It is just that normally it is the school holidays here which are our busiest weeks, whereas this holiday, I think, we can expect the traditional week either side of the Easter weekend to be busiest. This is no bad thing except it is possible that I may need to extend our later closing for another week.
At least with it being a bit quieter, the Missus has a better opportunity to watch her giraffe. Yes, you did read that correctly. The Missus discovered a video stream of a pregnant giraffe in New York State and has become captivated, if not obsessed, by it. She has been watching it day and night because, apparently, it is due to give birth at any moment. This has been the case for the last three weeks.
Now, the thing about giraffes, she has found out, is that they have an unfeasibly long gestation period and, it seems, a just as unfeasibly erratic labour and birth, or perhaps that should be labor. The Missus has had the webcam footage on either her laptop, the shop laptop or her tablet, constantly for the last three weeks and there still seems to be no end to it. I am very grateful that we took the plunge and had fibre broadband installed last year, else our business would have come to a grinding halt by now.
Apparently this whole venture was accidental, at least the webcam part of it; I am not so sure about the pregnancy. The zoo had installed the webcam for its own purposes and made the footage available because a few locals had asked for it. I am told that it then went viral on social media and now, the planet and its wife, mainly its wife, I suspect, is avidly watching the beast's every move and squeeze. I am not surprised that it has not dropped yet - it is a technical term - as in the wild they hide their births to minimize the risk from predators. With half the world watching it has nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
Bringing it back home again and because it is cheaper than telephoning to say, thank you, here is a summary of the summary that the Aged Parent sent me from the Hayle Pump. It concerns mines in Hayle, his home town, and apparently surprised him greatly as he was unaware of some of the activity involved.
One that I did know about, and the most successful of the ones listed, is Wheal Alfred, to the south of Loggan's Moor by a mile or so. Its success fostered other mines in the same area, such as East Wheal Alfred, West and North Alfreds and Alfred Consols, including the Alfred name to attract investors. The latter had a steam engine built in Copperhouse in Hayle, which now resides in Robinson's Engine House at South Crofty.
A larger number of, probably less successful mines, littered the coast up from just east of Phillack Church all the way up Mexico Towans, Phillack, Upton and Gwithian Towans. The only one of these I was aware of, because the shaft is still visible, is Wheal Emily that sits at the top of the steps leading down to Gwithian Beach at Strap Rocks. Apparently there is a half buried wagon here as well, which I vaguely remember seeing but cannot recall exactly where. There are strange things poking out from the cliffs at this point, as well, including some obvious adits.
Tin, lead, zinc and even silver - 5,000 ounces from Wheal Emily - were mined between the early to mid 1800's. Angarrack had a smelting works, which recorded receiving tin from Wheal Alfred in 1718, so these operations dated back much further. More interesting still are the adits driven in from the middle of town at Market Square and near the new fire station. Quite recently a completely unknown working was uncovered at Foundry under the Plantation when foundations were being dug, which probably produced iron and manganese.
More personally was the report that the old dynamite works at Upton Towans were strewn with shafts, most notably Boiling Well Mine, which was subsequently used by the works as a source of water. I have wandered this area with the bleddy hound and now discover that the shafts were only "recently made safe"! Finally, if you plan to visit St Ives Bay Holiday Park this season good luck.
While we had rather fewer people here than we imagined, the small gods of grumpy shopkeepers smiled down benevolently upon us. Blue skies ruled and it seemed less windy than yesterday, although it stayed in the north and northwest. Frankly we could not have had a better leg up for the start of the season and I could have kicked myself for not calling in barbecues and barbecue coals.
By evening time it looked like barbecue coals were the last of people's problems. I noticed several lobster like individuals walking about. Some of the smart money went on sun cream that we sold in some number during the day and, indeed, one bottle of after sun lotion. Tomorrow evening it might well be rain coats.
April 1st - Saturday
There were signs that things were picking up this morning but we expect most people to be travelling through today, so we did not have great expectations.
The weather, first thing, would have been relatively welcoming but later on the wind freshened and it became quite chilly. It was the wind that set off the bright yellow and red flags down on the beach, as the Lifeguards had arrived to ply their trade for the duration of the holidays. While the sand has returned to the beach in great store it still does not provide access to the Lifeguard hut for the quad bike. The big four by four arrived yesterday and spent the night in the RNLI car park and I followed the jet ski down the hill earlier in the week.
The Missus extracted all the till invoices last night but as I was otherwise entertained I did the data keying this morning. It is quite alarming just how many invoices accumulated during a three week period and it took most of the morning to bash in all the details. Since I was in the mood I did all the invoices that arrive in the post, too and now I am thoroughly up to date, or I was until the post arrived.
It became a bit tedious around lunchtime, so I set about the boxes of fudge and biscuits that arrived yesterday when I was least expecting it. It was a large delivery and I struggled to find sufficient nooks and crannies in which to stuff the boxes. It was at this point that our local honey turned up, leaving me with a dilemma as to which delivery I should tackle first. The honey won, as we already have fudge boxes on the shelves. Fortunately, when the Missus arrived downstairs she took over the unpacking and by the time I came back down later she had finished it off. She knows how to find nooks and crannies, does the Missus.
We coasted into our new later closing time of seven o'clock, with hardly a soul about. It was heartening to know that the old traditions continue; we had an hour of quietness followed by a five minutes to closing rush.