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.
August 17th - Thursday
We had an absolutely corking day, for all of two hours this morning while the sun rose. There was wall to all blue sky and brightness like you have never seen, well, those of you who get up after nine o'clock have never seen, at least not today.
Never mind, we had an order of mackerel fillets delivered this morning. I deliberately ordered more than the customer asked for so that I can put some in the fridge to temp some impulse buying. It does rather look like I might have ordered a tad too much and I cannot for the life of me think what I might do with those which do not sell in the requisite three day window we apply.
As a reprieve for those late risers, the cloud and mist that arrived after our sparkling start disappeared half way into the morning. In its place we were blessed with sunshine alongside the little remaining haze. The wind that has been preparing for a bigger blow over the next few days remained in the south west, leaving The Cove remarkably unbothered by it apart from the northern reaches of the big beach, I might venture. If this was the case then the dwellers down there showed little signs of being perturbed by it. If anything, the northern end, nearest the valley, was more crowded that further south, towards the Beach complex.
Our renewed good weather brought visitors flooding back into The Cove; my, how we missed them and the creak of their leather wallets and the zip of purses. It should be remembered to keep these items safe, although The Cove is not known as a hotbed of thievery, unless you include unscrupulous shopkeepers. One small boy came to the counter wishing to purchase a fridge magnet; he had about him one pound when the named article is nearly two pounds. Mother asked him where his wallet might be and I assumed that she knew and was testing a forgetful youth but, no, he had actually lost it. I must report that he seemed remarkably cool about the loss but was sent hither and thither in a search for it. Grandmother found it next to our flamingo pens - yes, we have the most alluring pink flamingo pens - a place where I had just looked and missed it completely. Wallet reunited with child, I took the opportunity to issue my own sage advice to the child, that a boy should keep good care his pennies, always.
Speaking of safety, the youth of the area tend to know when jumping off the Harbour wall will not result in an unexpectedly hard landing. It therefore seemed likely that it was visitors out on the wall, three hours after high water on a neap tide, risking life and limb. Unable to do much about it, I hoped sense would prevail, which it did shortly after.
Big Sis had some pals visiting and slipped away into town for much of the afternoon; she does not do mornings on her days off. She does, on the other hand look after her housemates on her return with fish and chips from the top chippy at the top of the hill. With no hake on the menu she brought me pollack, which was fresh as a daisy and just as welcome.
I ventured down to a very crowded OS later. They were struggling with a shortage of glasses and a shortage of bar staff, it would appear. No more than an hour later the madness eased and we were able to gather our quiz team in some semblance of order at the bar. It made no difference, even with an extra prof and a loose end dad we only came at the top end of mid field.
Good job, then, that we had a star spangled sky for our raggle taggle band of losers to gaze up upon as we wound our way home, there to be entertained - possibly - by a noisy bleddy hound keen to wake the neighbourhood on the way around the block.
August 16th - Wednesday
We were blessed with a much longer bit of dry than was advertised. This did not make a great deal of difference to us as everyone had seen the forecast of earlier ran and had run off to the museums and dry attractions across the county, which would have been rubbing their hands with glee, no doubt.
I am also assuming that it was busy along the coast road to St Ives. St Ives: the place to go when you think it is going to rain. It is the only reason that I could think of, barring an accident, as to why the buses were running late. The twenty four minutes past two did not arrive until twenty minutes to three o'clock. By four o'clock the Land's End and St Ives buses were only minutes apart, causing some confusion since they are both A3 buses and no one really trusts the destination plate on the front of a bus, do they?
I slipped away to the gymnasium, a little later than normal. I am still slowly breaking myself in after a week or so away from the place. I then returned for a power breakfast with the smoked mackerel from yesterday; it was bleddy 'ansum and I ate the lot. Well, there was a little bit that I saved for the bleddy hound who had those I'm-feeling-a-bit-omega3-deficient-and-need-some-of-your-fish eyes on.
For most of the day we ambled along while the Missus finished off the grocery delivery from yesterday. I made some small inroads into the jewellery but it is not ideal to try and do anything other than serve customers when behind the counter. I did manage to get around and prepare a list of goodies that we required from Shrew House. The Missus now relishes these trips, with her workbench up there to prepare everything so that when it arrives at the shop all that is required is for someone to put it out on the shelves. This I managed to achieve after the rain started and stopped play. The Missus went over to see Mother who had just today come back from her hols abroad - in Devon.
A small yacht bustled into The Cove under sail late in the day, presumably taking shelter from the burgeoning westerly breeze. One of the Lifeboat crew watched her come in and told me that she was heading for the Tribbens, which would have been just about ok at the state of the tide, but at the last minute tacked (oh, yes, I know all the lingo) and went between Cowloe and Bo, a manoeuvre not be recommended at any state of the tide. He is quite lucky to be moored just off (and above) the store pots rather than beside them.
I hope our cardboard collection mad does not mind soggy boxes as the pile we have outside are drenched.
August 15th - Tuesday
The morning deliveries arrived in sequence and were dealt with in a manner which was the model of efficiency. Quite how it worked out so well, I shall never know but apart from having to repel some keen shoppers pre-opening time, it all went off like an over-ripe avocado.
When we did open we were rewarded by the sort of busyness that only a bright sunny morning and prospect of a good day can bring. There were picnic goods, beachwear, games and a good mix of bucket and spade buying; all beach life was there. At one point in the mornings proceedings there was a queue down the food aisle - ah, halcyon days.
It was around half past two by the time we saw the first break in the onslaught. We usually expect a bit of a rebound on the first sunny day after a few poor days but this was in a different league. We either had a queue at the till or short intervals between customers for more than half the day. So, it was not until later in the day that I had a chance to glance down at the beach. There was little in the way of sand to be seen between the Beach complex and Carn Keys on the other side of the mouth of Vellandreath. It was all beach tents, towels and windbreaks in a kaleidoscope of different colours.
The Missus had asked that I call in some smoked haddock for a fish pie she wanted to make for Big Sis and I; the Missus hates fish. Newlyn smoke their own haddock, which would have been interesting but sadly there was none. As a precaution I asked for a couple of haddock fillets so that we could smoke them here. As you might imagine, we were a little pressed today so I asked Big Sis if she would not mind doing the smoking. I gave her some rudimentary instruction but she is a smart maid and carried out a first class job. We also had some mackerel that I had reached the end of its shelf life - we take ours off the shelf at about the same stage as Tesmorburys put theirs on, sorry, did I write that out loud - which I will have for breakfast tomorrow. I had a little taste of both before they were put away and, oh yes, you would really want some, believe me.
We were run out of time for all our delivery putting out and away, although the Missus stayed up late to finish off the grocery order. The latest surf jewellery package arrived late in the afternoon but I managed to put out the important items. It seems that grey tassels are the thing this year and we have been overwhelmed by the demand. The previous order, the week before last, disappeared inside a week. I have tripled that order and added another two designs, which, no doubt, we will still have this time next year.
Time to knock it on the head, I think, although the street outside is still alive with little groups promenading. I hope they promenade quietly; I am off to bed.
August 14th - Monday
What an utterly frustrating day.
This is becoming a recurring theme, so apologies. We had been led to expect rain throughout the day and prepared accordingly. This morning the weatherman on Radio Pasty told us that the heavy rain passed by overnight and that another heavy lump would return but only towards the end of the day. At eleven o'clock, as I walked back from the gymnasium, it promptly pelted down. It rained, on and off, for the rest of the day.
About the middle of the day a courier turned up with a new card payment machine. He told us that he was instructed to take the old one back. We told him that we needed to test that the new machine worked first but apparently time and parcel delivery drivers wait for no man and he would not wait for us to complete the test. The Missus cleverly unpacked and plugged in the new machine while we argued so, at least, we were sure that it booted up.
I was not amused that the screen appeared to be unclear and even more unamused that it would not transmit over the broadband, choosing only to dial out on the telephone line. I called the technical support people and it took some time to establish that the machine had been sent out with the wrong software loaded. Fortunately this could be fixed with the appropriate download and it now works, or at least we think it does.
It was only after the courier had left that we realised, that in our rush, we had omitted to run an end of day to establish the transactions that had been processed on the old terminal. Although we were quiet all day we still have a trickle of customers come through the shop. Trying to call our merchant services helpdesk during the day required several aborted attempts as I had to stop to serve customers. Eventually I spoke with a very pleasant gentleman who assured me that there would be no trouble whatever when we came to run the end of day procedure on the new machine and was able to tell me the value of the transactions that had gone through on the old one.
Afterwards, it struck me that only one machine had been delivered. I recalled the conversation with the very pleasant young lady on Friday, who promised to spare no expense in despatching all the terminals at her disposal in our direction on Saturday and concluded that she had clearly lied through her teeth.
I asked the technician that helped us set up the new terminal if it would be technically feasible to buy a cheap second hand machine - they are available on an online auction site - as a hot spare. She was coy about an answer and suggested I contact our initiating company, which I already had; I await an answer but now have no idea whether I will be told the truth or not.
It is very much the truth, however, that poor weather generates a surfeit of browsers. Now, there is noting wrong with browsers. Browsers are welcome at any time and may browse as long as they want; browsing very often turns up a small sale, at least, or perhaps plants the seed of a large sale further into the week. Small children have been known to browse all week, secretly building up a wish list of their going home presents. So, no, we have no problem at all with browsers. What browsers do not do on a wet weekday is provide very much mental stimulation for a bored grumpy shopkeeper.
I remained bored through the afternoon until, at around five o'clock, I was entertained by some proper rain that invaded The Cove. I was particularly admiring of the people who ventured out despite this, although of course they could have been out before it started but I shall give them the benefit of the doubt. It might appear, however, that the rain has seeped into people's heads and made them forgetful. One person left quite an expensive camera behind but remembered to call me up later to see if I had it. Another, more curiously, left an umbrella behind, quite a big one at that. Whoever it was, arrived and left while it was raining. You might think you would notice being relatively dry arriving at the shop then getting wet when you left.
The final blow came when I tried to do an 'end of day' on our somewhat less than new card machine. Because it did not hold all the day's transactions, and despite the help desk gentleman's assurance that all would be well, it did not reconcile against the day's total figures. Again I spoke with another help desk person, who took time to be extremely helpful, and together we worked around the failure, checking each of the day's card transaction slips. Had it been a normal day we would have had three times the amount of receipts to wade through. As it was it took more than half an hour to resolve.
I am rather hoping that my time tomorrow is spent rather more productively as pulling my hair out is no longer an option.
August 13th - Sunday
There must be an awful lot of people living next door this week. I have lost count of the number of times I have asked customers if they would like a carrier bag and they tell me that they do not need one because they are 'just next door'.
We had an absolutely sparkling morning, a proper summer job with blue skies, warm sunshine, bees humming in the flowers and bluebirds flying between the bushes. By ten o'clock the wood cutter had chopped down the bushed and the huntsman had shot the bluebirds; glowering dark clouds hung overhead. Fortunately, later on, although we were overcast, it was bright and warm and it was busy down on the beach and here on the streets.
The sea calmed down during the day but earlier on Head Launcher, who came to visit, and I watched as the tour boat tore out towards Land's End, launching over the larger lumps in the bay. There were a clump of surfers out off North Rocks by the middle of the afternoon, toward low water, but the surf was not exactly what they might call pumping. We, on dry land, did not mind too much and the beach looked never busier.
Later on in the day we saw the arrival of men in blazers. This evening is traditionally rainy to celebrate the arrival of St Buryan Male Voice Choir in their annual RNLI concert in aid of our Lifeboat. For many years the event is either rained off or cancelled due to the forecast of rain. In the case of the latter, the sun breaks through at the appointed start time, despite everyone having gone home disappointed. When it does go off as planned, the Lifeboat will moor in the Harbour, if there is sufficient tide, otherwise, like tonight, it sits on the slipway, attendant.
I had not anticipated the flood of customers that arrived after the concert was over. The timing was such that the shop was open well after our normal closing time. I could not even start the closing process, which provides some sort of indication that we are on our way to closing, such as bringing in the gear from outside, as I was too busy. I understand that it was a convivial gathering and that all went well. All went well in the shop, too, today, although I think customers are getting a little tired of me telling them how bright the LED lights are in the new fridge and how it tells the temperature in a bright display at the top. I am hoping that we will have a new toy on the shop counter on Monday that might divert my attention.
August 12th - Saturday
It was good to see a fridge standing where our beer fridge should be instead of a gap when I opened the shop door this morning. I was momentarily alarmed by the temperature gauge that read 64 degrees until I got closer and realised it was 6.4 degrees. I was more alarmed later when it read 4.1 degrees, which is bit too chilly but luckily I did last night what I rarely do and read the manual. I was able to set the temperature a bit higher.
On the advice of our electrician I have taken to turning off the soft drinks chiller overnight. This caused a bit of a issue during the more humid days when it ran like a river with condensation. Having checked its running temperature I found that I was able to increase it by a couple of degrees without customer complaint, which seems to have reduced the condensation problem. I shall be doing the same with the beer fridge - I let it run overnight last night to settle in - as the newer fridges have excellent insulation and I have found that the soft drinks are still cold the following morning. Our electricity bills this year are noticeably lower, too, due to this prudent action. The Missus has another word for it, which is rather less flattering.
I had quite forgotten about a couple of German visitors who had booked a property through an Internet facility which is becoming increasingly popular. They asked if I knew where the place was and, although I know most of the holiday properties in the Cove, this was up in the village. I only discovered this by looking at the Internet advertisement for the house. At first I thought it was down towards Land's End but settled in the end for one of the properties in the Mayon Farm complex.
I meant to research further but forgot until today when I looked at the computer programme that allows you to look at satellite pictures of Earth and zoom in for greater detail. I found the property almost immediately and decided that it was the old Mayon Farmhouse that had been renamed. However, while I was looking it was apparent that the satellite images are bang up to date; the new houses at the front of the estate at the top of the hill can be seen. Also, not a million miles away, our new van is shown parking in front of Shrew House and there, behind it, the solitary figure. I knew it was me because I reflect from above. I should have kept my own counsel in front of the Highly Professional Craftsperson who reminded me that The Great Wall of China, the Millennium Dome and other large objects can also be seen from space.
I imagine that you could see quite a bit of The Cove from space in the afternoon, at least. We were blessed with a big blue sky and some real warmth in that sunshine. I discovered this when I took the bleddy hound around at the end of the afternoon. Naturally enough, we were busy for most of the day, which is how it should be. We sold quite a number of wetsuits, mainly to young children, which was a marked improvement on recent weeks. Some fittings are very straightforward while others require a little more effort and several changes of sizes. There again some are utterly impossible when you have a child whose sole purpose in life is to be obtuse. I gave up trying to assist in the end as I believe divine intervention would have been the only help.
I made a small alteration to the new fridge during the last hours of opening in between diminishing waves of customers. The bottom back area of the fridge has not been designed to accommodate stock and in our world it needs to. Using a gash piece of plastic board, I fashioned a shelf that levels out the lump that covers the compressor and forms the drip tray. I also applied one of our neat computerized switches so that we can turn the fridge off overnight. Problems solved.
The Missus dropped down after closing to restock, particularly, the drinks chiller. We have avoided working after hours over the last few years but, somehow, this year we have found it necessary again. Perhaps we are busier during the day but it is probably more to do with it being easier with a clear run.
It seemed pretty clear, too, when I took the bleddy hound out for a last run. Let us hope that lasts a while tomorrow as we were just getting used to some sunshine and warmth again.
August 11th - Friday
I endured a bit of a nightmare morning, which I could have done well without. As reported in this very journal just yesterday, some preparations were required ahead of delivery of the new beer fridge. Having unnecessarily cut off the existing plug it needed replacing; a straightforward job but fiddly with big thunking fingers and one that is rarely required any longer with the advent of moulded, pre-fitted plugs.
This complete, I turned my attention to the card payment machine, which died a death last evening. I again applied the first rule of computer fixes - turning off and back on again - but with little hope that this would help as I tried it several times before. I also tried inserting my credit card into the slot and had some response, which suggested a problem with the keypad but such information was of little help. With some time to go before I could contact customer service to try and persuade them to send a replacement machine a little sooner than Monday, I tried the second rule of computer fixes. This involves belting the machine with something heavy or against a solid surface on the basis that it could not make the problem any worse.
Whatever fault that lay within the keypad of our machine became instantly fixed and the machine sprang back to life. I omitted to mention this when I eventually made contact with the customer service department. It took three attempts to choose the right combination of options in its three tier automated response system. It was worth the effort as I was put through to a very pleasant young lady who told me that she would try and arrange a machine to send post haste. It did not sound very certain but it was all I had. She called back not long after with tales of gladness, of how her company would send anything and everything to help us out. I should not be surprised, she told me, if I received two or three units as they would send what they had. I was very much encouraged.
I was also very much relived that we could sally forth into the business day with an operating card machine. I had anticipated that the damage to our business would be mitigated by the forecast bad weather that was due to affect us from early, right through the day. As it transpired, in a similar way to Monday of this week, the forecast poor weather did not arrive until the very late afternoon. Therefore, once again, we were busier than we anticipated and thus ran out of daily goods far too quickly. This is becoming more than an irritation.
I spent the rest of the day anticipating arrival of our new refrigerator. I had been telephoned yesterday by the delivery company ensuring that someone would be available to receive it today. In the event we had to wait the entire day for it to arrive, which was probably just as well because when it did arrive, it disrupted the whole shop. It is a handsome beast with LED lights and all sorts of cleverness. It took some setting up and we discovered, quite quickly, that my concentration on the internal width to accommodate our beers was misdirected; it is about half a beer can too shallow. This is brought about by a shelf with a bar at the rear to stop articles in the fridge from resting against the cooling panel, which on the old fridge was covered. This is not too much of an issue and we will merely need to top up the fridge more often that we did. If the weather stays as intemperate as it is, this is unlikely to be a problem at all.
It was about this time that the mizzle rolled in and our customers started arriving shivering and dower. Before long we could not see the other side of the bay and then the other side of the street looked a bit hazy. It would be heartening to believe that we might have a bit of a respite over the weekend but it is difficult to trust the weather forecast any longer. It should not matter, anyway, because we now have cold beer.
August 10th - Thursday
Yesterday we were in the doldrums and today we were fair racing along. It is hard to fathom exactly how this works, although we know that the weather is a central factor. Fortunately, with experience, we are able to bumble along with most of our bases covered. Sometimes, however, there is one particular base that feels very exposed.
Who says that size does not matter? Our baker delivered nine inch sausage rolls instead of the requested six inch ones - for the same price. Customers have been benefitting from an additional three inches and they have been selling like, well, hot sausage rolls all day. One lady came in twice, which I thought a bit much but decided not to say anything. I am afraid they will all be disappointed tomorrow as we shall, very likely, to be back to six inches.
That naughty northerly wind abated to barely a whisper. The tour boat was back and full of happy people exploring the land's end and Longships lighthouse from the sea. The beach was busy again with happy dwellers at the top and surfers at the bottom and a big gap in between. It stayed that way all day, except the gap narrowed; it can be demoralising seeing all your customers that far away.
We had a telephone call in the later afternoon. It was another one of those 'shall I answer it or not' numbers, which I am very glad that I did. It was the company that our refrigerator people asked to deliver our new beer fridge, telling us that they were going to delivery our new beer fridge - tomorrow. This is very good news but does mean that I shall have to empty the existing fridge, which is nearly empty anyway, so that it can be moved out of the way. Since it has not been moved in about twenty years it will be interesting - I think that is the word - to see what is under and behind it.
Piecemeal, I prepared the fridge for its final exit, serving customers in between. Yes, it was filth incorporated, which I cleaned up as best I could, when I dragged it out of the way and with the help of two dollies - wheeled platforms, not attractive ladies - I escorted the old box out of the door.
Previously I had cut the plug from the cable as I knew that this would not fit through the gap it had been fed through to the electric points behind. When I pulled the fridge out from the board it was against, I discovered that the cable had been fed through to a junction box and did not need to be cut at all. Searches for appropriate screwdrivers ensued and eventually I had the machine out of the door, although I now have to refit the cut off plug.
Thinking that the day's work was over, I ran the end of day procedure on our card machine. At the end of this it rolled over and died at which point I placed an emergency call to the support company. Its agent was very helpful when he explained that the machine's condition was 'very interesting'. He told me that he would send another machine, forthwith, and it would be here by Monday. I expressed some small concern that by Monday my business would be in tatters and that the rental cost I was paying should be sufficient to see a man dressed in a fairy suit appear with the replacement machine the day before it broke down. He suggested I call the initial sales company tomorrow to see if a machine could be sourced earlier.
Things did not go much better at the quiz, either. Although we came third in a packed field there was confusion over the birth place of Mata Hari - sorry, you had to be there, though you did not have to be there to hear a scatty bleddy hound screech her way around the block after I got home.
August 9th - Wednesday
The thing about Tuesday morning is that it makes me appreciate all the other weekday mornings as they are a breeze by comparison; I had all the time in the world this morning to bake all my bread and do the newspapers. I even had time to refresh the sunglasses stand and fill up the fridge magnet display. Then, just as the last of the bread rolls became ready, I could not find my oven gloves.
I remembered that I had them before I decanted one rubbish sack into another from the two shop bins. I supposed that they could have fallen into the bag during this process. I went outside and rifled through the rubbish sack that I had just deposited in the bin. This, perhaps, was not an ideal plan with a force five to six wind blowing in from the north and having chased several fly away items I hauled the sack back into the shop for further investigation. The gloves definitely were not there. I searched the store room and everywhere that I had been in the shop to no avail. I even did another root through the rubbish bin. With time slipping away I fetched the oven gloves from our kitchen in the flat.
With nothing much to stop it, that northerly breeze harried and annoyed throughout the day. Fortunately, it does not affect us behind the till and we were able to have the double doors open without too much fuss. Having been held back with the threat of rain and an overcast day yesterday, our visitors were keen as mustard to get down to the beach at the first sign of sunshine, despite the punchy wind. Of course, it helps to have a convenient retailer with stocks of windbreaks and beach tents to make beach dwelling more comfortable.
It is the day after an appearance on regional television that you discover just how many comedians there are in the world. I was quite mercilessly ribbed for the first hour of shop opening but fortunately the joshing died down after that. It had got to the point that I had forgotten all about it by the time the refuse lorry turned up. I do not usually have to sign a docket on each collection so I was surprised when he dismounted the cab with a pad and pen. Yes, of course, he asked for an autograph, which I found so very amusing.
We were very busy in fits and starts during the day. It is normal that during these runs that the telephone will ring with a caller that you really need to speak with. One such caller today was our bake over bread supplier and given the tight volumes we are running to with the baguettes, at least, it is important that we get the order right. I decided to have one last look in the bread freezer to check what we had left and there, at the bottom, in a little crisp pile, were my oven gloves.
Despite the improved weather, notwithstanding the northerly chill, although we can be busy, we still do not appear to be firing on all cylinders. People are still preferring to go to town and visit St Ives than hang about in less than ideal conditions here. We shall have to start charging extra if we want jam on our bread over the winter.
Taking of which, the OS is keen to dispose of its cash machine that sits in the bar area. I can understand, particularly in the height of summer, that this is a bit of a millstone around smooth operations. They are prone to failure and, when busy, run out of cash. This will always happen at the worse possible time.
The decision leaves us in a bit of a pickle, as we will be the only show in town where customers can withdraw cash. However, we have some rules that include purchasing a minimum amount before we accept a card and then we apply a small charge to cover the cost of the 'cash back' service. In the past, the minimum value purchase and the charge, which covers our costs, have caused some irritation for those simply wanting to access cash in their bank accounts.
Some people are adamant that they will not pay to get at their money, which is a valid in principle but probably not when the nearest free cash point is at least five miles away. Short of hitching a lift, it would cost much more than our charge to get there. It would help to have information at easily identifiable places to alert the public that access to cash beyond Penzance is very limited and you will need some as not everywhere takes cards. Regardless, the situation has proven emotive and is just about to get much worse for us.
The Missus and I discussed how we might be more flexible without leaving ourselves out of pocket. We will trial selling a cash withdrawal service, which does not get around the getting cash out for free but removes the need to spend a minimum amount first. We have also looked at options for non-UK debit cards, as many of our cash stranded customers are foreign. Unfortunately, while it is technically possible to offer 'cash back', the costs here are prohibitive.
Gosh, well I do hope that the little discussion on cash back was interesting as well as informative. We, here at Diary HQ, are always keen to ensure complete reading satisfaction for all walks of readership. Tomorrow we shall discuss structural economic models of dynamic behaviour with empirical applications and its place in seaside resort economies with an 'S' in their name.
August 8th - Tuesday
I looked out of the window this morning to assess the weather forecast. I could see some clouds with some showers on the other side of the bay. I forecast that we would have some sunny spells with the risk of a shower or two. It was one of those two showers that got me while I took the bleddy hound around the block, first thing.
I took in the biggest grocery order we have made this year. The cash and carry company has started to send a young lad along with the driver and between the three of us we had it stacked inside in no time. The pair of them are regular on this route and know exactly where everything goes; it makes for a great team and both are pleasant, happy characters, which makes all the difference.
I felt a bit Lloyd-Webber and Rice today with the lyrics 'and as for fortune and as for fame, I never invited them in'. I tell you, greatness was forced upon me today. It all started with a couple of photograph hunters earlier in the day. They had bought both Diary books at one time or another and still had not been put off; perhaps such time had passed that they had forgotten the trauma. They rather insisted on a photograph of the author which they could slip between the pages, presumably as a reminder not to be so foolish in future. It cannot have worked, as they returned later and bought a copy of the Guide, which was a kindness.
Later in the afternoon I was woken from a little zizz by the Missus calling from the shop asking that I should come down forthwith. There was no indication of the reason and I came down as a lamb to the slaughter. There awaiting me was a reporter from BBC Spotlight, the Westcountry local television news, wanting to ask questions about the proposed doubling of council tax for second home owners. I had heard a headline about this on the Radio Pasty news in the morning but there was no suggestion that it was going to be a major item. I had formulated no opinion whatever on the matter and was now being asked to present my thoughts on regional television. There was only one thing to do - sit on the fence and waffle. Had I not had (some) principles and (a little) inherent honesty I could have been a politician - on reflection perhaps I should not have been a shopkeeper either.
Rain stopped play for a short while after my venture into television. It kindly waited until I had taken the bleddy hound around the block to avoid a repetition of the morning. It was an isolated shower which lasted a good twenty minutes and sent our visitors scurrying hither and thither to the nearest shelter. I was greatly amused by the lady who appeared some time afterwards announcing that her day had not been that kind to her. Her husband, on his day off, had taken son fishing in Porthcurno and she had returned to her home in St Ives. She had not been there five minutes, a journey which was extended due to the holiday traffic, when husband called to be picked up because he and son had been drenched in the rain. Somehow they had ended up in The Cove where son was stripped to his shorts he was so wet through and husband, still drenched, had gone off onto the Harbour wall to resume his fishing. While husband was dripping, wife was steaming.
It was while I was looking out in the direction of the north west that my eye was caught by a sail on the horizon, to the west of Brisons as I looked. A closer view revealed another sailing ship that, at first, I took to be the Earl of Pembroke again. Closer examination showed it to be the brig Phoenix. Built in Denmark in 1927, it was a missionary boat - what a position to be in - but in later years, it was remodelled to be Santa Anna for a Columbus film, then later, the brig that it is today.
Gazing out at the horizon was about all that was left after the shower cleared The Cove. It was an abysmally poor business day, this time down to the real weather, rather than the forecasted. It does not look too bright for tomorrow, either, as I spoke with our crab fisherman who scotched a crab order due to a stiff northerly breeze due. I shall have to find some more thumbs to twiddle; I am bored with these ones.
August 7th - Monday
It was certainly a day for sailing. Not only was it as flat as a dish in the bay, there were some fine winds further out from the north west, which probably was not ideal but meant that the yachts of the Fastnet Race hugged closely the land around the corner before bowling out towards the wind.
They put on a glorious display as they bent in towards the bay. Some of these sailing vessels are huge beasts with geet spires for masts. We watched as they seemed to form an armada out to the northwest and while they went that way, heading in the other direction, was an even grander ship. This one had more sails and more masts and was originally built in Sweden. The Earl of Pembroke was restored in 1980 in the UK and remasted to look like HMS Endeavour of Captain Cook fame and very pretty it looked too, even at a distance.
Head Launcher and I had a first class view of this sailing activity from the Lifeboat slipway as the pair of us launched and recovered the boat. It was needed to see off the last shuffling of a senior Lifeboatman, Coxswain of Penlee for a while. Our boat met up with Penlee between Runnel Stone and Wolf Rock for the ceremony, both loaded up with friends and relatives. The pair of us recovered the boat up the long slipway a little before low water in what was a very gentile version of a textbook recovery to ensure the comfort of all those on board. We are, after all, a very adaptable, very excellent Shore Crew.
There are some imponderable questions such as why does toast fall butter side down and why do odd socks come out of the washing machine when only pairs go in. None of these conundrums is more challenging than why, when they have access to multi-million pound computers, can the forecasters get the weather so monumentally wrong. As it transpired it did not matter that I had reduced my stock orders because of a washed out day; the forecast of rain from one end of the day to the other kept our visitors away in droves.
For most of the day, although we were clouded over, we had a dry and balmy day. Those visitors who had wisely ignored the forecast made a decent fist of a beach day while we, in the shop, twiddled thumbs and drummed fingers and steamed. We were able to give time to ensuring some orders were placed that might otherwise have waited.
The flat calm appearance of the bay was slightly deceiving as there was sufficient impetus to drive some surfable waves on both Gwenver and the big beach. It is forecast to calm down further from tomorrow so today was probably the day to get the surfing in. I met a very pleasant man later in the day who was looking forward to an early morning swim at Gwenver the following day. He told me that he is training for a 7k race, presumably kilometres, which I thought to be an odd distance and suggested that it was a long way to swim, by way of being amusing. Far from amusement the gentleman told me that it was indeed a swim he was training for and the distance is along a length of the Wye. I am not sure that open sea swimming will be much help as it does not flow in one direction but I am sure it will be fun, anyway. Some early swimmers this morning told me that they were swimming with a seal in the Harbour, although if you want to keep your toes it is probably best not to get too close.
The afternoon was thrown into disarray after I had a telephone call from our refrigeration people telling me that the new beer fridge we had settled upon would not be available until half way through August. This set me ferreting through numerous websites looking for an alternative from another supplier. By the time I found one it was too late to telephone our man. It will have to wait until tomorrow and another warm beer day will have elapsed.
With such a messed up afternoon there was only one thing to do - call in a Chinese meal from town, now that we have discovered that they deliver - oh, and have a cold beer. It was the thing to do while the western sky put on a spectacular show of colour.
August 6th - Sunday
I do hope that they have the forecast right for tomorrow else we will be very short of pasties, as indeed we were today. Unfortunately I cannot claim any excuse for today as the weather was pretty much what we expected this weekend. I just failed to order enough pasties and also white bread, which ran out early in the day. Who would have thought that nigh on twenty loaves of sliced white bread would be insufficient, especially when last week it was all about the brown.
I packed the Missus off to Shrew House in the middle of the day, which is now her sole domain, as I had noticed a hole in our windbreak provision after the breezes of the last few days. There was also a raft of other goodies missing from our shelves, most of it paid for. The two small boys who walked out with a crab drop net yesterday should see the wonderfully clear pictures I have of them on our CCTV system; the net is closing in.
The Missus went off again after dropping the Shrew House consignment at the shop. One of our neighbours is banged up in Treliske after a nasty fall a few weeks ago and Sharon occasionally is on call to take the wife to visit. It was fairly steady in the afternoon but I was able to slowly pick at the bits of stock and put them out on display. At least it gave me leave to put some movement into my legs, which otherwise have the impression that they are rooted to the spot behind the till.
By the end of the shop day I had managed to clear the backlog and tidy up the accumulation of cardboard that stock seems to produce in an unlikely high ratio to the volume of goods. I realise that this semblance of order is only temporary; its is probable that before too late in the morning its will be chaos again. We also have two reasonably large orders arriving during the week to look forward to.
I would not have said that it was cold over the last couple of days, although this is certainly not the best or warmest of summers. I did not think that it warranted hooded sweatshirts with hoods drawn up and thick woollen sweaters. There again I am not from Israel where the temperature, even early on in the morning, is already 29 degrees centigrade. The girls, who dropped into the shop, I am sure we have seen before. They are not here for the weather or the beach but have taken up a five day pottery course at a pottery which used to make bespoke mugs for us. Let us hope they have a wheely good time - yes, sorry.
The clouds that we were promised had settled in quite thickly by the time I closed the shop. I, certainly, had no complaints about the temperature when I took the bleddy hound out for her last run but there was a damp breeze blowing around the corner of the Lifeboat station.
August 5th - Saturday
It was two o'clock in the afternoon by the time I managed to draw breath. It had been a completely hectic morning made more complex by the biggest fish order that we had delivered this year. This required a little intervention before being handed over to the customer. All through this we were set upon by needy beach goers and pasty eaters, even though I would not call it the best weather start to a day.
I had seen the region's television weather forecast the previous evening. It had described the weekend's weather as being a drier picture before going on to explain all the wet things that would happened over the two days. While we had a fair bit of cloud to start with we evaded the heavy rain showers. A customer related a tale of pitch black skies and flooded roads further up the north coast. Here, however, the clouds blew away in a fresh northwesterly breeze and left us with mainly blue skies for the rest of the day.
It was almost a mirror of yesterday with a quieter spell in the early afternoon before getting busy again. Today, however, was far busier than yesterday and we struggled to keep shelves stocked with even the basic supplies. One customer came to the till with everyday items of milk and cereal and a box of our premium, Cornwall grown, Tregothnan tea. I asked had he intended to go large with the tea quality and it was not until this point that I realised we had no standard tea on our shelves.
We have had similar issues with our hooded sweatshirts that have been selling so well that we have been unable to keep up with replacing sizes on display. We have had to resort to quick forays into the stock room to try and remember which of three boxes a particular colour and type is in. These are not complaints but merely indicators of how busy these last weeks have been, despite the weather not playing on our side since the schools broke up.
As I close the Diary for the day, the Missus is still labouring in the shop. I shall be up early doors to start the day and we will, no doubt, meet in the middle at some point. Oh, we do love our summers, with all our new and returning friends to play with.
August 4th - Friday
Speechless moment of the day.
Customer.: "I have two 70 pence rolls here. Do you have any more?" Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "Yes, plenty." [Grumpy Shopkeeper fetches additional rolls for customer's delectation.] Grumpy Shopkeeper."How many would you like?" Customer.: "I only have two pounds." Grumpy Shopkeeper."!"
At least we had a bright, sparkling start to the day with a blinding sun breaking over Sunny Corner Lane, or thereabouts, and warming up a grumpy shopkeeper and bleddy hound as they made their way around the block, first thing. It was certainly a beach day and even before nine o'clock a small community had sprung up above the high water mark between The Beach and Vellandreath valley.
Today was a momentous day, one that will be remembered by the small children of The Cove who will one day tell their grandchildren while they bounce them on their knee. Some came to the shop with flags to wave and to cheer, others brought cameras to record the event.
It all started yesterday when a smart young man from up country came and made an outlandish request. We stock all manner of fruits and vegetables, some quite exotic. We quite regularly sport a few bananas and have oranges and lemons frequently throughout the summer; we have built quite a reputation over the years, so much so that these exotic fruits have come to be regarded as commonplace in The Cove. It was also more than a few years ago that we started to stock chilli peppers and capsicum peppers as the cosmopolitan tastes of our customers have developed.
It was for this reason that we did not recoil, out of hand, when our young man requested a fruit that the good people of The Cove had only seen in pictures in the posh magazines they have borrowed or on the television. Initially, my main concern was that we might not be able to have it delivered to us as I doubted that one had been west of Plymouth, ever. I expected some resistance from our wholesalers but fortunately we know a man who is happy to spit in the eye of convention and take a risk or two.
So, it came to pass that today that we proudly displayed, on a shelf emptied for the occasion, in a ribbon festooned refrigerator, our very first consignment of avocados. Needless to say, our young man who initiated the whole carnival was nowhere to be seen. Avocado anyone?
Our sparkling day descended into a bit of cloudiness, which spoilt it a bit. It cleared the beach to a degree but that is relative as it was extremely busy earlier in the day. The big swell from yesterday that red flagged Gwenver for a while had decreased a little. There was still a bit of lump but by evening it had calmed to the degree that it was no longer banging over the Harbour wall.
As noted we had a typical beach day profile to our busyness today. I was completely besieged during the first part of the day; it took me until early afternoon to clear the morning deliveries. I was wrong-footed by the last couple of day's lack of pasty buying and we were completely out by the middle of the day. After that it did not matter too much as everyone had decamped to the beach and we did not see more than a handful of people at a time during the rest of the afternoon. It was not until later that we were inundated again as people left the beach for their homes and their teas.
To round things off we had a smart shower of rain towards the end of the day. This is definitely weird and unpredictable weather.
August 3rd - Thursday
What a sad day. Even with the sun out - we will not comment on the gale force wind, especially as it pushed our windbreak sales which have been notably slack of late - it was still a day of gloom. After twenty years of sterling service it has been like losing an old friend. It is with some gravity that I must announce that the beer fridge that predated our arrival by at least six years and chilled for us man and boy, has expired; ceased to function; gone belly up; no longer cools our beer.
I telephoned our refrigeration experts first thing to ask if they had a replacement. I had already established the minimum interior dimensions and decided that if we had the same fridge that we currently use for our fruit and vegetables, that would be marvellous. Our man at the fridge company initially said that he had some in the showroom and we could have one installed on Friday. He telephoned later in the morning to say that those ones had solid doors, rather than glass display doors, and that he would check with branches in Plymouth and Exeter but installation would be Monday. When he telephoned again they had none of this particular fridge in the company. An alternative fridge he described was 5 centimetres too narrow for our requirements, unless they make beer cans smaller, it would not do at all. We await developments.
Out in the bay a big sea was developing. By high water it had started to show some teeth, big white ones ranged along the cliffs to the north. Over Cowloe it was fair boiling and, of course, dashing over the Harbour wall. This encouraged all sorts of shenanigans in the bewetsuited youth staying in The Cove, such as being pushed off the wall by the heaving waves.
There was a little bit of rain around as well in the later afternoon. It drove a few people into the shop but I judge that people were much happier with the weather than yesterday. From the till reading at the end of the day it was one of our busier days, which surprised me especially as there was no Lifeboat training launch to draw people in.
Despite my affliction, I am beset with a chestiness - sorry, I cannot spell bronchitis - that refuses to budge, I dragged myself to the quiz night at the OS in the evening; an heroic act. It was pretty much packed down there but by the time the quiz started we managed to secure a seat. Prof has arrived from her northern perch but, on this occasion, did us hardly any good at all. I imagine that she is saving herself for a big push at the end of the academic holiday in November; I think that is when it is.
For the first time in a while I took the bleddy hound kicking and screaming around the block. On such occasions I spurn her collar and lead, as it is dark and late. In mid summer season this might be a mistake, as we came across two threatening motor vehicles on our trip and the bleddy hound has not the first idea how to behave about them. How she is still with us and not flat is a wonder.
Oh, and talking of wonders, by the time you read this, Happy Birthday Aged Maternal Parent.
August 2nd - Wednesday
Well, scrundle my nurdles. It is not often you see such a selfless act of fellowship and kindness that I witnessed this morning. Tis enough to add light to the world and hope and all those sort of good things we oft times regard as declining.
I had started early again to get my baking out of the way - I do feel like a real baker, now, with my early mornings and firing up the bread oven. Alright, alright, I am getting on with it. It did not surprise me at first that the milk had not been delivered as I was earlier than normal and sometimes it can be late, particularly when there is a bit of weather. However, it is nearly always there by the time I have finished the first batch (there I go again, another baker term) but when I looked, still no milk.
There was no milk again when I returned for a second baking after taking the bleddy hound around the block. When the newspaper man arrived I asked him if he had seen the milkman on his travels, which he said he had not. I thought no more about it and set about the newspapers and magazines, while the bread baked. No more than ten minutes later, and I know this because the bread oven timer had not gone off, the newspaper man returned. I assumed he had forgotten something but, no, he had met up with the milkman, whose van had broken down at the top of the hill. In an act that still astounds me for its kind-heartedness, he asked the milkman if he could bring my milk down for me. He refused a token gift of thanks but I insisted that I could not let such an act go unmarked.
It made a lot of difference to me because when the milkman did arrive we were open and serving the bread that I had cooked earlier - remember the bread? It would have been very difficult to break off from the bread to tuck away the milk and serve customers at the same time.
A random picture of a new flowering in The Cove
I had considered reducing the amount of bread that I baked on account of the weather. I am glad that I did not. I had expected there to be quietness this morning and apart from the usual breakfasteers, it was but those ravenous early birds took the lot again. I have a remedy for quietness and when I returned from the gymnasium - that near killed me today as I am not yet completely over my splutterings - I implemented it; I got my breakfast out. Two hours later it was still sitting, untouched, behind me. It was not what you might call busy but it was steady and better than the earlier part of the morning.
As the rain petered out our visitors started to return. It was a milling about day in rain coats and shorts. Some had migrated to long trousers but the day had not lost much in the way of heat, I felt. As the afternoon progressed, the weather improved but, by and large, we were consigned to very much a postcard only sort of day, oh, and a request for Scrabble. The weather improved until everyone was out and about, then it came in with a big lump of heavy mizzle and got everyone. What a jolly jape, we thought.
Then, at about half past six, the sun broke through and blue pervaded the skies in a see-what-you-could-have-had sort of way. Some happy beach people set up a volley ball net in the middle of the beach in celebration and I could hear little whoops of joy from the people of The Cove, carried on the breeze as the good people ran home for their sun glasses and to leave their rain mackintoshes. I would have set off a party popper if I could have found one.
Disappointed, I was about to close the shop and go to bed but before I did I had a quick check to see if we had sold out of all our shop baked bread. Did I mention we bake bread?
August 1st - Tuesday
It was not an archetypal beach day, although the sun did keep poking through the clouds from time to time. Whether it is an unrelenting need to beach dwell or just a keen sense of the weather to come, it kept the beach packed all day long, even Gwenver looked busy. Of course, it did look busier as the tide was lapping at their toes for much of the main part of the day. There seemed to be a bit of a breeze blowing in from somewhere but it was perfectly warm when I took the bleddy hound around first thing.
First thing was a mite earlier than it has been to date. The demand for our baguettes has reached the point where I need to concentrate a bit to get them all cooked before we open as well as doing all the other pre-opening chores. We have supplemented our own bake-over product with rolls from our baker, which is more to do with the amount we can stock rather than the amount we can cook.
I had meticulously factored in the number in each bag and the total number of bags we can fit in the freezer and divided by the number of days before next delivery. This is all very well until, at the end of baking a complete bag of 40 half baguettes I realised that I only had 36 in the finished tray and this with a few remaining from the previous bag. Incensed that I had been turned over by our bake-over bread supplier I set about counting the next bag, which had 42 in it. This discovery has left my entire bread production strategy in tatters on the ground. I would feel put upon by big business if it were not for our telephone top ups.
The last few telephone top ups we have tried to process have failed with a message that the card is not valid, or words to that effect. I had assumed that the cards that we have accepted to swipe through our machine were, indeed, not valid cards. I maintained this opinion until yesterday when a regular customer arrived with her card, which we swiped through our machine. Again, the machine rejected the card when it was swiped through. However, on this occasion the customer had her mobile telephone with her, which sprang to life with the message that it had been topped up.
At the end of day I conducted a reconciliation on our card machine and it was certain then that we had not been charged for the failed transaction that had worked. I telephoned the company this morning and the very pleasant young man who answered my call could not have been more relaxed about it. Apparently it was a network error and we were not, nor would we in future, be charged. The other card rejections did not yield such a bounty; apparently we are unable to take EE top up cards. It is a bit of a shabby service for which we earn tuppence ha'penny if we are lucky for the number of transactions that we process. However, it is a useful service for those who unexpectedly run out of money on their mobile telephones even if they cannot get a signal in The Cove.
We remained busy until the last hour of opening. This permitted me to put out the stock that the Missus brought down from Shrew House late in the day. The Missus has taken over the day to day running of the stock there and it is a very much more ordered and tidy place that when I did the job. However, for all the chaos and untidiness, I knew just how much of each item we had left, although the stock control was all in my head, which is not ideal from a quality process point of view. Nevertheless, I had wanted to place an order today for items that I knew we were short of but it will have to wait until tomorrow when the Missus can go up and check.
It had started to look pretty gloomy by the time the last customers rolled in at five minutes to closing. I will have to modify our bread roll production tomorrow, I suspect. How exciting.