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.
October 13th - Sunday
The bleddy hound and I were exceedingly lucky this morning in slipping our walk in between two heavy showers of rain. I had engineered missing the first but the second sneaked up on us but arrived shortly after we got back, which was where the luck came in. Although we were left with some mist and damp it was the start of a steady improvement through the day. By the late end of the morning, the sun was breaking through and we had a beautiful afternoon of sunny spells.
After I came back from the range, I took the bleddy hound out again and this time down to the Harbour beach. It was warm in the sunshine down there, with a little breeze about but just right for a mill about. Had we the time, we might have tarried and had a bit of a gentle game, but the Missus was waiting above in the shop and I doubt that we would have got away with it.
Clear as a bell to the east
Mackerel fishing aplenty
I had detoured on the way back from the range to pick up Mother, who comes for tea on Sundays. I was rather disappointed to note the lack of people around and about. In fact, the street appeared to be mainly deserted when I had expected some sort of upturn due to the half term holidays of up country folk. The Missus reported that the whole of the morning had been slack, so the bonus week that I had hoped for clearly was not happening. It was only after the Missus retired upstairs with Mother that we had a flurry of excitement and pasty buying - we even sold a wetsuit. It was not all gravy, however, as we had a flat bit flowing that but in fits and starts we had a better afternoon than we have had for a while.
The Missus, quite out of the blue, used her knitting and crochet skills to fashion a poppy with a strap on the back to fit a dog collar - for dogs, as opposed to a clergy person - or a harness. She put a couple on display in the shop with the benefit going to The Poppy Appeal. They sold almost immediately. She put another three out on the counter before she went upstairs with Mother and I sold two of them in reasonably short order. A lady then came in and pored over the remaining item then asked if she may have half a dozen for her friends. Assuming that we had a big bag of them I called up to the Missus for more supplies only to be told there were none. It caused some alarm when I said I had sold them already and some rapid knitting and crocheting ensued.
Fortunately, there were two nearly finished ones that I managed to satisfy my lady caller with. Then there was a bit more panic on because the Missus had taken several orders as well. I think she will be working well into the night to make up the numbers by the sound of things. I cannot imagine what she was thinking, as the Easter chicks she and her niece do between them - niece does the knitting and the Missus sticks the eyes and beaks on - sell the best part of one hundred each year. Six or eight were never going to work.
The weather just got better and better into the later afternoon. It was at this time we saw the most of our visitor numbers and we were quite busy for a while. We also sold quite a bit of fish and seafood from our freezer and took a few orders for fish for tomorrow. The more I think of it the more I would love to have an oyster and seafood bar going, especially on day such as this. Do it right with pristine white starched aprons and tea towels, black trousers or skirts and white shirt and ties and we could get the staff to dress up, too. The joint would be jumping. If I get a spare minute, I will set up a pop up shop.
A young German lady came to the shop for some groceries in the latter part of the afternoon. She returned later for a small bottle of wine, which we do not supply, so asked where she might get one as it was just the evening to sit outside with a couple of glasses of wine and enjoy the environment. I could not agree with her more but told her that, sadly, the available resources were closed at our end and suggested the Surf Bar - the Beach Restaurant, as was, as that was the ideal place for that sort of thing. She told me that was closed.
Fortunately, the youngsters next door in Little Bo Café appear to have their heads screwed on in the right direction because, although the café was closed and they were just cleaning up, they sold her a small bottle and lent her a wine glass. I told her that I would happily take the wine glass back for her as she was going to come back the following morning to return it. This is what I mean when I talk about a service ethos in The Cove. No one particularly made any money out of it but we, The Cove collectively, have one very happy customer and a story that she can tell - and we know how these things spread on social media these days - and a story we can tell, as I am doing now. It may be a seed, or it may come to nothing but in the end, it was the right thing and a thing we all should be doing more of.
End of sermon - it was a Sunday, after all.
PS. Also amended the image from 9th to actuall show silverfish instead of sea water.
October 12th - Saturday
Our first and last walk out with the bleddy hound are now, near enough, in darkness and we have a couple more weeks of that, too. The dark, heavy clouds do not help much in that regard, either, but on Wednesday, I think it was, we were blessed with a morning and evening of rose tinted loveliness. How I long for that halcyon day.
It was not too bad today, only by comparison with what we were promised - early on, at least. I and several other people had been expecting a miserable day full of rain but instead had a miserable day of greyness with one heavy shower in the afternoon.
Fortunately, before the rain showers took hold, we launched the Lifeboat. This was an exercise scheduled with the National Coastwatch Institute at Cape Cornwall. We carry out these joint exercises from time to time to test the mettle of both Boat Crew and watchers. A 'dead Fred' dummy or bluff is dropped into the water and while the Boat Crew cover their eyes and count to 100, the NCI watchers keep theirs open so that they can direct the boat to where it was floated off too. I understand that it is a cracking good wheeze and so much fun that it is repeated several times before the boat returns to station.
It was at the station that a mere four of us waited in keen anticipation for the boat's appearance so that we could pull it up the long slipway in what was clearly a textbook recovery. There was very little to it, to be honest, as the rough waves that we have experience for the last several days had been calmed to a gentle swell. At low water, when the boat returned, even the gentle swell was negligible. Four in number is about optimum for a peaceful recovery, especially when everyone knows their own station and jobs. Having washed down the boat, we tucked it away and slid close the doors. We are, after all, a very efficiently compact, very excellent Shore Crew.
One our early customers mentioned to me that his family were here due to the half term holidays. I was aware that ours start next week and some more the week after that, which is why we are open this year until early November. A half term holiday this week caught me completely off guard and made me wonder whether there actually is one the week after ours. As the afternoon progressed it became clear that there was a growing number of families arriving in The Cove. Perhaps I will not have to take up matchstick modelling, after all.
October 11th - Friday
I did not think that it was possible to have a day more grey and nondescript than yesterday but that is exactly what we had today. There were bits of rain laced into the much fresher breeze but not quite as rainy as I had been led to believe, for which I suppose we should be grateful.
Yesterday was not the sort of day that I would have recommended for walking abroad but having seen today I am rather glad that our American lady visitors decided to look at Cot Valley then rather than now. They are a foursome, the two gentlemen prefer to travel around by automobile but the ladies, sprightly for their apparent age, were game for walking and have done so most days while here.
I had spent some time with them earlier in the week suggesting where they might walk and find interesting. They were keen to walk the Coast Path from here to St Just but having listened to them enthuse how they had conquered the path to Land's End, I pointed out that the St Just stretch was a tad more challenging and included some scrambling over rocks. They had gone out that way anyway, just to see how far they got and agreed it was a bit beyond them and turned back.
The Cot Valley suggestion came because they could have more easily completed the walk from there to Cape Cornwall as it is relatively easy going after climbing out of the valley. They came back in today and thanked me for the directions as they had thoroughly enjoyed it, and all said that it was the highlight of their visit, which was high praise indeed. They cited how different it was from much of the area - it is lush and verdant - with the stream running down the valley and the colour of the different rocks. It is a pretty place, certainly, and not a place on the main-stream holiday route. It also has plenty of interest from historic, pre-industrial mine workings to the raised beach and the wealth of flora to geek at. We do love it when a plan comes together and so, it seems, did they.
Not only was it pleasant to receive some thanks for help given, I was also exceedingly happy to see some customers. Once again, they were pretty thin on the ground on a day that we normally see some people for their going home present buying. Some increased rain from the middle of the day did not help but by mid afternoon we were back in ghost town mode.
For the last couple of days, a tractor has been passing by our door with a large trailer full of earth and concrete. It is from the work being carried out next to the gig shed in the Harbour car park and judging by the number of journeys of full trailers leaving The Cove I assumed that there would be a hole the size of the Mir diamond mine. As most proper blokes like to look at holes in the ground and being a proper grumpy shopkeeper and bloke, I decided it would be a good plan to go and have a geek. I rather cleverly arranged to take the bleddy hound with me to cover the fact that I was going to look at a hole in the ground. 'Looking at a hole in the ground, sir? Not me, sir. Taking my bleddy hound for a walk, sir.'
The main flaw in my master plan was that the bleddy hound is not keen on walking too far, even now. I had anticipated some resistance and decided to carry her as far as the car park and walk her to the hole from there. Perhaps I should have shared with her because as soon as I placed her on the ground in the car park she refused to budge. I am rather glad that no one parks in the car park any more as no one witnessed my rather pathetic attempts at getting the bleddy hound to move in the direction of the hole. Actually, any direction would have been acceptable to start with.
It took some coaxing but she eventually, and reluctantly, moved off across the car park and a few yards at a time we made some headway. There was a fair amount of mud about on the car park the other side of the wall from the work being done and that was to be expected. Fortunately, the big skip had been taken away for emptying and while it was away all work had stopped and the site was deserted; I need not have bothered with the bleddy hound at all. In fact, the whole effort was a waste of time because the area was a churned up muddy mess but there was no hole at all. What must have been upwards of twenty big trailer loads of soil were nothing more than top soil - a lot of top soil. The concrete steps and foundation plinth for the administration block has also gone. I saw that leaving and was surprised that for what was probably a wooden building, the plinth was three feet thick concrete.
My disappointment was the bleddy hound's delight. She fair skipped back across the car park and back to the shop.
Once again, our afternoon was a bit of a graveyard shift. I am going to have to start a scale model of the Tamar Bridge in matchsticks just to keep myself amused because reading the newspapers is somewhat tedious these days. Still, with only three weeks of opening left and two of those being half terms, maybe I will stick to looking at the pictures in The Beano.
October 10th - Thursday
First, apologies. It has been pointed out to be that by using the terms DIYman and DIYwoman I am promoting gender stereotypes. This is just not on these days, especially for a prestigious and influential journal, although I would have thought the The Diary could have got away with it. We shall just have to ask for DIYperson and see who turns up.
Now to business. The lady, if I may call her that, who reported to me that a dead shark lay on the big beach earlier in the week came to the shop again, today. I can only assume that spurious and odd events precede her on a regular basis as she had another bizarre find from her walk along the beach. She told me that, spewed up from the deep by the large and vicious waves of late, was, in surprisingly good nick, a unicycle. The only damage that it had sustained was the loss of the rubber tyre, unless it has entered the sea in that condition, in which case it was largely untouched. She had taken it home with the idea of restoration and awarding it, in irony, to a young man who told her that she needed balance in her life.
Yesterday we had a day of two halves and today we had something quite nondescript. I suppose that if it were something else other than a day, we might have said, beige. I think we were supposed to have rain, or at least mizzle in the afternoon and, admittedly, it did get a bit misty, but by and large it was not too bad, and it was a sight warmer than the day before with markedly less wind.
It clearly did not matter a fig what the weather was, we were still visitorless, well, mainly. I must exclude the two coach parties that came in the afternoon because they were an anomaly in an otherwise barren day. I do not know if they were all from Huddersfield, which is north of Camborne, but the lady who engaged me in conversation for a good ten minutes told me she was from there. I should clarify because 'conversation' implies a bi-directional flow of speech and this was definitely all incoming. It commenced she and her partner discovered the two tubs of ice cream they purchased were half the price of those purchased in the Huddersfield Town Hall and they had expected to be charged more in a small tourism centric village in Cornwall. I made a mental note to increase our prices just as soon as they left because we do like to exceed our customer expectations.
She went on to tell me that on a coach trip to Italy in 1980, the motorway service station - that had been primed and expectant of their arrival - had tried to massively over-charge for teas and cake. She had some limited Italian language and told the purveyor where he could put his teas and cake and led a mass walk out of the whole coach party. I am rather glad that our ice creams were sensibly priced as she did not look like a lady to be reckoned with.
Lifeboat training was cancelled this evening in favour of a launch on Saturday when the forecast sea conditions are kinder and the tides more conducive to safe recovery. This meant a rather pleasant sit on my rear end - actually it was on the sofa, but we shall not split toadstools - until it was time to repair to the OS for a spot of quizzing. Here, rumour abounds that the new manager, the fifth person in charge this year, intends to remove all the popular draft drinks including the Guinness. This is the second time this year that someone has proposed such a daft plan, so we await with bated breath further developments. I cannot imagine why the brewery is finding the OS such a difficult place to manage; it is an ale house that does food and other people and companies seem to manage without issue.
While we still have beer that we like to drink we lost spectacularly. Perhaps not having any beer will do us some good. We also discovered from the part of the quiz that makes you guess who owns a particular part of their face in a close-up picture that the top of my head looks identical to that of Mr Bruce Willis. If he ever needs a top of the head body double, I am your man. Once again, the chase the ace prize was not won; it seems impossible to get rid of the big lump of money that has been there for seemingly forever.
I forgot to ask the Missus to take the bleddy hound out before I got home. I was therefore confronted by a keen bleddy hound when I returned, so I took her as far as she would go. She faltered on the way back, so I picked her up and carried her the rest of the way, which was just as well because it started to rain. I had taken my full metal jacket waterproofs down to the OS but had not needed them. It took a good half hour after before the rain properly kicked in. I think that I might have been born lucky.
October 9th - Wednesday
If we had suffered a zombie apocalypse, I think I would have seen more life today. As it was, the tumbleweed had an uninterrupted path down the road or would have done had it not been for the cars parked the length of it.
It was a wholly decent morning, too, with lots of sunshine and just the occasion risk of a shower. We met up with the bleddy hound's best pal down on the beach which incited her to run down the slipway. I think that was probably a mistake that she would pay for later. Still, she made it back up the slipway again without too much problem and anyway, it is all worth it for her best pal even if they do both ignore each other after an initial two minute sniff and nose bump.
The increase in the frequency of the showers in the afternoon may have had something to do with the quietness, although that does not explain the morning. There were a few brave souls, wrapped up in waterproofs milling about and, once more, we learnt from all of them just how breezy it was again today.
I took advantage of the quiet to count and bundle the newspaper vouchers that we had accumulated over the last several weeks. It is a job that the Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company would prefer that I do once a week. It is a job that is so mind numbingly tedious and time consuming that doing it every six weeks or when I can be bothered is bad enough, so I regret that the Company can stick its preference, to be honest. It does serve to demonstrate just how dull the day was that I voluntarily processed the vouchers.
During the morning, one of our regular visitors brought in a photograph of some grizzly looking insects that he had found just off the beach. He said that he had seen them before down under rocks but they had possibly been evicted with the larger waves of late. I could not identify them straight away but some Internet searches later I think that they are very probably silverfish, thus called because they are black and look like insects. Alright, there was a slight resemblance to a fish, but they are definitely not silver. Perhaps they were originally called sliverfish. There again they might be something else entirely, which will completely ruin my day, as well as this paragraph.
The Missus took off to Mother's after I came back from the gymnasium. Mother's back gate into the garden is sticking, so the Missus was going to shave it down with the help of my multi (what do you want one of those for?) tool. Along with my jigsaw, which I have not seen since she borrowed it a while ago, the Missus is getting more use out of them than I am. This will be why I cannot find anything when I go to use them occasionally. Mind, if Marvel can spawn superheroes until they are coming out of your ears there is no reason why DIYman cannot spare a pair of overalls to give us DIYwoman.
I persevered until the end of the day. I could have been a lighthouse keeper but at least lighthouse keepers had chums to work with. There were a few pleasant interludes with regular visitors and the arrival of the honey jars. Now, do not get too excited as they need to be sterilized first and we are still hand making the labels, so it might be a day or two yet, but the Missus is on it, I promise. We will also be in a better position for proper production next year with a couple more hives planned, proper labels and a spinner for getting the honey off the frames efficiently. If all goes well, within five years, we will be The Cove's first honey barons with our own soap opera/reality television show. One of us will have to grow a bigger bottom, though.
October 8th - Tuesday
I had to go to another company for the honey jars, this morning, so at least that bit of broken Monday was resolved. We will just have to hope that there is no one decent at the Eden Sessions this year, although it does seem that they have gone all out for A list pop acts in which I have very little interest anyway.
Even the weather was playing ball, it seemed, at least early in the morning, which is generally the only time I am out in the open air. There appeared to be a bit of breeze around and later in the day, this increased. Down on the beach, first thing, were two ladies who were clearly expecting a monsoon by the way they were dressed. One told me it was very cold but that her friend was from Northampton and was therefore used to it, despite also being wrapped up from tip of the head to foot in water and wind proof gear. They asked why I was not cold in my shorts and flip flops, so I told them that I must have been standing in a warm spot.
The rest of the day was on and off with showers, although they were so sporadic they were hardly a nuisance at all except one that was a bit heavy and prolonged. The sea state deteriorated again, but looked very alluring with its white, foamy bits in the bright sunshine. It was fair thumping over the Harbour wall by the middle of the day and dashing up the cliffs between Aire Point and Creedle. Unsurprisingly, the Lifeguards red flagged the beach, which did not stop three desperados from trying their luck with a few waves.
In the last few hours of the shop day, the breeze increased and also veered a little further to the west. We are clearly very grateful that every customer who entered the shop in the afternoon informed us of this, which unequivocally confirmed that it was, indeed, a bit windy. You would have thought that a bit of breeze and some sunshine, prompting as it did, the urge to have a stank about, would have encouraged a few pasty sales. Not a bit of it; we had a very poor day of pasty selling but at least we have promises, and indeed, orders for the next couple of days, which is something.
One thing we do seem to be selling an unusually high volume of is cold medicine. Several people were in today for cold remedy and throat lozenges so I am hoping it is not an epidemic. One customer floated the notion that it was a product of relaxation; she seems to only get colds at the outset of holidays when body and mind let their guard down. Having suffered similarly at the end of our season from time to time, there may be something to that. Perhaps I shall just keep going this year and avoid the risk.
Right the end of the business day, I placed an order for our gift biscuits and fudge. Two of the biscuit products sound very similar but are in two different sizes and the very pleasant lady who was taking my order became very confused. It took about five minutes to convey exactly what I wanted.
It is very easy to condemn the other party for this lack of understanding but someone far more deep thinking and clever than I once offered me some very sage advice. He told me that if someone does not understand what I am saying, it is not their fault that they do not comprehend, it is my fault for not being able to explain in a manner that the other person can interpret correctly. I have wrapped myself in that advice ever since and it has saved me a great deal of frustration and stress. Of course, there are occasions when the other person is just plain daft and shouting at them is perfectly acceptable behaviour. Do not tell my mentor, he would be most upset.
October 7th - Monday
Once again, we were given an Armageddon forecast only to find that it was more Arma-less. Sure enough, it rained heavily during the night and its remnants were sufficient in the early morning to push me into a waterproof jacket to set out our wares first thing. By the time I got around to taking the bleddy hound down the beach we were offered a brief letting up and cessation before some heavy showers marked the end game of the weather front that had blown through. By the time our guests had gone and I headed to the gymnasium, we were left with some lightening mizzle and when I returned, it had become dry but misty.
Unfortunately for us, a widely broadcast prediction of rain for most of the day leads to our customer base beggering off to somewhere warm and dry and by the time they realise that they have been had, it is too late.
Actually, it was already pretty warm in The Cove. I was a little cooler than I would have liked first thing but after I came back to the shop after the gymnasium, I was quite over-warm and had to discard my jacket. While our day may have been developing into a temperate and pleasantly dry one, the sea is refusing to calm down and demonstrated a continuing agitated state. Judging by the lack of surfers, the larger waves are still not what is required by even the average board rider and certainly no good for our fishermen, either.
In an effort to rehabilitate the bleddy hound, the Missus took her down the road to the big beach in the afternoon. She made it all the way down to the beach and a little further on before turning back again. I am told she ran out of steam on the slope on the way back and had to be carried all the way back. She does seem to struggle more going uphill but there again, who does not. The Missus has invested in a bleddy hound carrying sling, which for some reason makes her head look twice the size of normal. I am unsure of the efficacy of the device as I have not used it but can imagine that over that distance a manual lift might be wearing.
She has always detested being carried, the bleddy hound, that is - I would not attempt it with the Missus, so I am not certain whether her compliance is because the alternative hurts too much or if she has discovered that being transported thus is actually not so bad after all.
The rest of the afternoon fell into the doldrums and was exceedingly boring. I tried to order an Inside Track membership for the Eden Sessions that gives you a two week advantage over ordinary folk when buying tickets but when I got to the front of the queue the website broke. When I tried again, the memberships had sold out. I had little luck ordering honey jars, too, because when I came to pay its website broke as well.
I am writing today off and will try to see if I can make Tuesday work.
October 6th - Sunday
It was a pretty little day, quite obvious from the very outset, though a tad breezy from the north west. It was the wind direction that put paid to any proper surfing in The Cove but that did not stop a host of visitors from coming down to wander about and gave us the busiest day we have had for a while.
Hungry customer.: "Is that all you have, steak pasties, cheese pasties and sausage rolls?" Grumpy shopkeeper.: "Yes, my 'ansum. What was it you were after?" Hungry customer.: "I wanted a Cornish pasty." Grumpy shopkeeper.: "Ah, our 'steak' pasties are, indeed, Cornish pasties by Prima Bakeries, a company that has been in the top three of the World Pasty Championships for five of the last six years. We regularly have customers coming back to the shop to tell us how good they were. Want one do 'ee?" Hungry customer.: "No thanks."
The Missus engaged in entertaining even more family guests who arrived in the early afternoon. They were bearing flowers, so I knew they were not for me. Knowing that she was otherwise employed, I took to preparing for our grocery order. We have managed to nail this down to fortnightly now that we are running into the end of the season. We also have to be very careful about what we are ordering, especially for stock that is short dated, and our customers will start to see some gaps appearing on our shelves that will not now be filled until the new season.
I should have really expected it because it happens every year around the same time. Fortunately, I was given advanced notice yesterday when a customer asked if it was this weekend that the Atlantic Coast Challenge was being run. I looked it up and sure enough the first leg of the three back to back marathons started on Friday. So, it was slightly less of a surprise when the first runners came piling through The Cove at quarter to three o'clock in the afternoon. The first runners, at least, looked like they had just jogged down from the OS after enjoying a spa session and luxury massage. Later in the afternoon the runners looked a little more like they had run from St Ives, this morning, and later still came the ones who looked like they could use a belt from the defibrillator hanging on the wall outside the gymnasium. I have really no idea why you might want to put yourself through that.
Brother-in-law went fishing in the later afternoon. He had brought his waders with him this time so was able to throw a toy sand eel in from the big beach. Clearly, the local bass are not going to fall for that old trick and stayed away, leaving brother-in-law to drown his sorrows at the OS afterwards. It seems that the OS is keen to commence a bring your own food policy, since they have ceased to provide food between the lunchtime and evening sessions. I understand that this came about after a customer pointed out that the menu stated that food was served all day, as it was during the summer. The party promptly tripped down to the chip shop and brought back a fish tea and ate it in the bar. It is an idea that might catch on, especially as there is a permanent sign in the bar that states "current wait for food is ". I think they call that a win, win, for the customer, at least.
On the subject of fish, someone reported this morning that there was a fish lying on a bench down by the chip shop. I wondered if it was the shark from yesterday that had been moved to a less appropriate place. Some regular visitors dropped by near to closing time to tell me that it was still there and that it was a conger eel, nigh on five feet long. It seems like an odd place to leave it, unless of course the chip shop intends to use it later on.
Most activity at our end of The Cove slipped away towards closing time. It afforded me the opportunity to watch the wandering groups down on the big beach in the late sunshine. It was certainly the sort of time to have a quiet meander across the beach and possibly take a dog or two with you. I might have been encouraged to do much the same had the shop not been open and it being nearly tea time. I can also imagine one bleddy hound running excitedly half way across the beach and then discovering she needed to be carried back again. Hopefully she is mended by the time we can do that sort of thing.
October 5th - Saturday
The first excitement of the day, other than being able to run the bleddy hound down on the Harbour beach properly for the first time in several days, was the report of a dead shark on the big beach. A lady of South African origin, who is a regular visitor as she has a house at the top of the hill, recognised it, although it was considerably smaller than what she was used to, no doubt. It was difficult from the description to know whether it was a small version of a larger shark or a small shark in its own right. What we did establish was, that it was dead. I suspected that the Shark Trust would be interested but wondered how they might be contacted at half past nine on a Saturday morning. Given that I saw the Lifeguards drive past on their way to the beach, I decided that it was most likely to be their problem.
Mostly because it is still dark in the mornings when I head down to the shop, I assumed that it would be chilly. I have managed so far to conduct the early morning business in just a t-shirt and shorts, so decided to brave it this morning, as well. I was very surprised just how mild it was, even at that hour and through the main part of the day, it got warmer. There were, at times during the early morning, some hints of moisture in the air but we had to wait until well into the afternoon for the proper stuff to head in, heralded by a gradual clouding over and a rapid cooling down.
Up until then we had moderate busyness, despite the playing of a rugby world cup game from nine o'clock to eleven o'clock, which I was unable to watch. Oddly, we sold a disproportionate number of The Times newspaper, which I noticed when I breezed through to collect the Western Morning News (did I mention that I once had a review in the WMN?). I assumed that we had an influx of The Times readers today, although that is unusual, and thought no more about it.
My minor mystery was solved when a local photographer of some repute came in to buy the newspaper. He said he did not buy it normally but flicked through the pages to show a picture of his of a local surfer catching a wave just in front of the shop. The photograph was taken yesterday in that large swell with the breasting buoy in the background. It happens on numerous occasions where a newspaper or magazine has a local interest column or picture and sadly there is no way of getting advance notice of such an event. We generally only find out after we have run out of the issue.
Good news, for some at least. The Missus had a quick geek at her bees yesterday and discovered that they had been working their little pollen presses off and had filled the upper chamber of their hive with honey. The Missus had to quickly prepare some new frames and carry out an extraction today. As she was not expecting such a bonanza, or indeed any further honey at all this season, we have run out of jars. Eager honey hunters may have to wait until well into the week before we can get some on the shelves but, rest assured, this batch is for sale.
With all that under our belt, we are almost ready to do it all again tomorrow - except for the honey bit.
October 4th - Friday
There was a sliver of beach to have a wander on this morning. It was far from ideal with the waves rushing into the beach and the bleddy hound thought so too and headed up the slipway. We were battered by the breeze a bit going across the Harbour car park, but it was the effort of walking with dickie legs that curtailed our walk around the block - hers, not mine, although ... . Before we headed back, though, we investigated the clearance of the net and pot area next to the gig shed and the massive skip parked alongside it. The administration block of RAF Sennen once stood there and the steps up to it are still in place, but we wonder for how much longer as the work has already chipped bits off them.
The storm Lorenzo kicked up a bit of a fuss in its wake. A robust swell was racing across the bay, thumping over the Harbour wall and exploding up the cliffs at Creedle and Aire Point. It looked even more impressive with the white water picked out by the clear morning sunshine, although earlier there had been light showers blowing across to the north of us.
The weather remained with us for most of the day, gathering some more cloud into the afternoon. The wind picked up a bit and was more noticeable for being in the west. We were quiet in the morning, save for the usual going home present buying but business improved from the middle of the afternoon as the new influx started to appear. It could well be that the new contingent are local shop friendly, as we sold quite a few grocery purchases, which was very refreshing.
After all that excitement, it was a slow grind towards closing time and people ran off to their new homes for a week or so. I had suggested to our assembled company that we dine out in the evening, so we headed to Trewellard Arms Hotel. We had not been there for some time, so it was good to see that it had not changed much and the food was just as respectable as it had been on the previous visits. There is nothing too fancy about it and definitely no peaches with your steak or a raspberry jus on your pork chop, just good food done well. I will not bore you with our entire choices but my fillet of plaice with a crab, cheese, wine and cream sauce sounded weird but was sublime.
Since I have been inundated with comments that I let National Poetry Day slip by without joining in, I thought that I had better remedy my omission. Alright, I had a few remarks. No, you are right, no one said anything at all, but I meant to do something, then I forgot so I am putting it right now. Some more Keats, one of my favourites: Ode to Sleep.
O soft embalmer of the still midnight, Shutting with careful fingers and benign Our gloom-pleas'd eyes, embower'd from the light, Enshaded in forgetfulness divine: O soothest Sleep! If so it please thee, close, In midst of this thine hymn, my willing eyes, Or wait the Amen ere thy poppy throws Around my bed its lulling charities. Save me from curious conscience, that still hoards Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole; Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards, And seal the hushed casket of my soul.
October 3rd - Thursday
It does not take too many days after the relaxation of the parking restrictions for the annual competition to see who can park with the least regard to common sense and other people. Our local Bobby reported that it took him fifteen minutes to get down Cove Road this morning as cars had parked both sides up by the OS on the 'keep clear' markings. Obviously, if a power company cherry picker could park there while it carried out work, then so could they. As a consequence, the bus could not get past and traffic was held up until some moving and shunting could be done.
I do not think that poor parking was entirely to blame for a lack of customers during the morning period. Given that it was generally expected that we would be rained upon from the middle of the day and for the rest of the afternoon, I had thought that we would see more people about early on. Perhaps our guests have become so used to being in inclement weather, they have ceased to care or just have an expectation of being wet all the time.
For information regarding the numbers of people abroad in the afternoon, I had to rely on the Missus. It has been so long since we have had a bit of casualty care training at the Lifeboat station the powers that be ordained that an afternoon and evening session be instigated for today. While the three modules that kept us fully qualified have been stopped, the annual update sessions continue. We heard how some equipment has been upgraded and some of our instructions have changed. We then got to practice things on each other, while awkward for most of us, is a good way to learn, particularly with the bunch of comedians we have at the station.
Our guests, brother and sister-in-law, had arrived by the time I came back, but I had no time to dally and returned to the shop. Since it has started to mizzle quite heavily by then there was very little point in returning to the shop because no one else was, particularly not our customers. Fortunately, to save me from terminal boredom, a package of our small bags of sweets arrived, which took the rest of the afternoon to deploy. It is one item, alongside fridge magnets, that are very obvious by their absence, so it is very gratifying when the display is full.
Since there was no training, we all enjoyed a meal that the Missus had replicated from one of her trips to America that involved a slow cooked with spices lump of cow on toast with mash potato and gravy. Very toothsome it was, too and made me wonder how American people move after eating. There then followed some hearty conversation with our guests until it was time to repair to the OS for the weekly quiz.
Brother-in-law knows a thing or two about football and was therefore able to answer the thing or two questions about that sport that we would otherwise have had to skip. Despite such exciting power to wield, we came a respectable third only three points off a tie with the winning team. We also lost out on the raffle, which amazingly was not won yet again, although a lucky visitor walked away with £100. The lady was a sometime shop customer who we will be welcoming wholeheartedly when she comes in next.
There were a few stars peeking between the clouds as we wandered home. It was not entirely easy to gaze up at them while our heads were down into the breeze coming in from the west but at least it was not raining still. We are always grateful for such small mercies.
October 2nd - Wednesday
Much refreshed after a proper night's kip and a blistering session at the gymnasium, I set about our day of quiet reflection on the basis that there were not many customers about. Nevertheless, it was a good deal busier than it had been over the last couple of days.
Our upturn in fortune was due entirely to a spot of good weather, better indeed than we had been advised. Several customers told me that it was warm outside and had been wrong-footed into wearing fleeces that they did not need. It was also good to see the seats set out for Little Bo Café demonstrating that, perhaps, there is some life left in the season, after all. It was the sort of day for a pleasant perambulation along the front or a stank up the hill to Land's End - not forgetting, of course, to come back again.
It was also the sort of day to send grumpy shopkeepers threatening letters asking for information that had already been sent, at great expense. Not only had the information already been sent but we had a letter from the company telling us that the information had been received and updated on the system the same day. Notwithstanding a telephone call that also charged me with not sending the information, I now had another letter telling us that if we did not comply inside 15 days of the date of the letter, our funds would be withheld.
I have been told and have learnt by bitter experience, to always leave a day between event and response. It is always better to think things through and be able to respond in a calm and measured way. It is entirely possible that had this been any supplier other than the one that has been charging me £12 per month for the privilege of being told by them how to conduct security on our card payment system I might have followed my own advice.
Quite how the telephone found its way into my hand and just who typed in the telephone numbers will forever be a mystery, but I found myself talking to a telephone agent somewhere in the world. I took the precaution of recording the call and I think that by the end of it, the very pleasant man at the other end of the line was left in no doubt that I was somewhat upset by proceedings. His placations were not helped by him telling me that my information was updated yesterday when I have a letter stating that it was updated 12th September. The call will result in another complaint raised and another letter from the company telling me that they have no case to answer and that they will entertain no further correspondence on the issue - but at least I made them work for it and every letter they send is a bit more value from my £12 a month.
While I am calm and unfurrowed of brow, I welcome questions from visitors on all manner of topics. Most we can answer to the satisfaction of the asker and always by factual response and never, ever, not even once, by making up a believable story. Some, however, leave more questions unanswered than we started with. Such a case happened today when a customer arrived and asked if we sold ice cream.
On most occasions that question is asked, the customer actually means a cornet with a scoop of Cornish ice cream of some flavour or other atop it. Knowing this, we first point to our own ice cream packets and while doing so enquire if they really meant a proper ice cream. Very often the response is that a cornet is preferred, as it was on this occasion, so we point our customer to the emporia either side of us, much in the manner of an airline steward or stewardess - if they are still called that. I explained that one side is Roskilly's ice cream and on the other is Kelly's. It was the latter than drew the comment.
The lady told me that she was not eating a Kelly's ice cream because it had been purchased by the Americans, although what she had against Americans or their ice cream she did not specify. I was a little taken aback because I had not heard that Kelly's ice cream, that bastion of ice cream Cornishness, ahem, started by Italians was no longer purely Cornish, ahem, Italian. She urged me look it up because she had found the information online and we all know what information online can be from time to time: not entirely correct.
Although I have been unable to verify it without looking at information on the Internet, Kelly's ice cream has indeed been bought but not by Americans, at least not Americans in America. The most reliable source of information I could find stated that the company had been bought by a Yorkshire firm that had grown by acquisition to be Europe's largest. Kelly's appears to have a certain amount of autonomy in the deal and largely agreed it to gain access to a national market. They control where ice creams are sold but since it can be purchased in Tesmorburys, perhaps that bit is not correct. As far as I can determine, it is still made in St Austell using the same ingredients, so it is unlikely to be far different from what it was before. Still Cornish, erm, Italian, erm, Yorkshire, then.
Just to round things off nicely, our alarm went off unannounced and would not cancel. It was a repeat of the first problem we had nearly twelve months ago that the alarm company has been unable to resolve. The visit yesterday clearly set things off again but the fault chose to happen at five o'clock after the company had closed for the day. The out of hours engineer, when he called back, calmly suggested that we should wait until the alarm reset itself - fifteen minutes - unless it started again, then an engineer would visit tomorrow to investigate. Alternatively, would I like to climb up to the wall sounder with a screwdriver? This I declined on the grounds that it was higher than me, heights above which are for taller people and anyway I was thinking more hammer than screwdriver.
After such a day a curry was necessary. I had been craving such a delight for some weeks and I suggested it again today when asked what I would like for tea. Since it meant not cooking for a change, the Missus volunteered to run into town and pick up a selection. That which I did not eat, we could freeze for another day. It was some 'ansum.
With the sun setting the bay alight on the first clear day for a while, a curry hanging in the air and a light beer to wash it down, it was the perfect end to a day.
Well, it would have been had the alarm sounder not gone off again at nine o'clock. I contemplated leaving it because we can barely hear it in the flat, well, I cannot since I do not wear my false ears at home. This Missus suggested that the neighbours may not be so accepting, as they do not have false ears, so I telephoned the engineer again. This time he agreed to come out with a virtual big hammer and unplug the sounder and send someone tomorrow with suggestions on a longer term fix.
With the alarm disabled and important guests arriving tomorrow, I left the Missus knee high in a deep clean of the flat from end to end. I did volunteer but I do not do it right, apparently, so I went to bed, safe in the knowledge that not only would the flat be sparkling in the morning but any burglars, catching sight of the Missus in full cleaning mode, would be deterred from a life of crime forever and end up doing volunteer work in third world countries.
October 1st - Tuesday
Yes, at one o'clock in the morning, when I was sound asleep - it is how we innocents pass the night hours, at least these days - my Lifeboat pager went off, issuing its shrill and persistent collection of notes. It is sufficient to wake the most persistent of sleepers, so the Missus got up, too.
The boat was launched to a large fishing vessel nine miles south west of Wolf Rock lighthouse, which had lost its steering. It took an hour to get down there and take the boat under tow back to Newlyn, which took another four hours. With our estimate of timing, I sent our assembled crew back to their warm and cosy beds with instructions to have their ears open for a telephone call when we wanted them back again.
I had thought to wake myself at twenty minutes past five o'clock to see the state of play. When I did, I noted that the boat was still the best part of an hour away from Newlyn. I had thought to observe for a while but found my mind wandering. When I discovered that I had spent the last ten minutes considering if there was a left handed tin of bully beef available I decided that I had better have little zizz in my chair, as I was obviously still too tired. Waking just in time to see the boat at the gaps in Newlyn Harbour I started to call around the available troops.
While not quite as big as Sunday's, our tides are still pretty mammoth and since we inadvertently arranged for recovery at high water, the sea was way up on the rollers of the short slipway. Fortunately, there was not a great deal of movement or rise and fall, despite waves floshing over the Harbour wall and our Coxswain decided to give it a go anyway. It was the first time that I can remember that we launched the boat, near enough, dead on low water and recovered it at roughly, dead on high water.
It was while we were waiting for the boat to arrive that a neighbour hailed me from the old slipway beside the short slip. He told me that our advertising sign, the only shop advertising we do anywhere, had come away from its mooring down opposite the OS and was in danger of blowing away. This happens every so often and I scurried down to recover it. The breeze was blowing into me on the way back, catching the sign from different angles and pushing me all over the road. To add to my discomfort, a squall blew into The Cove and whipped me with stinging rain. I think I might just leave it where it is next time.
From the shore side, we kept the main cable as short as possible so that there was minimal delay on the pick up and we executed what was very clearly a textbook recovery up the short slip. Of the five of us, two were on their first live launch and recovery and who executed their duties with confidence and professionalism. We are, after all, a very competent, very excellent Shore Crew.
The timing of the recovery dovetailed cleverly with the opening schedule of the shop and I was able to seamlessly glide from Lifeboat recovery to shop opening preparation without missing a beat. The outside display was set out and the newspapers distributed to their place on the shelf with such precise timing that you could have set your watch by it.
It would have been good to say the same about the arrival of the first customer but that would have been too much to ask. In fact, I did not see the first customer because the Missus came down to afford me the opportunity of executing my ablutions that I had not the opportunity to do earlier. It is not on to meet the adoring public in the rags that I found myself in, having hurriedly dressed in the dark earlier.
I have to admit that there were not the numbers of adoring public, or for that matter, completely ambivalent public, that a grumpy shopkeeper might have hoped for. However, the volume was higher than it was yesterday driven by slightly better weather conditions, no doubt, or perhaps bouts of cabin fever.
There was rather less rain about than there was yesterday, but the wind seemed to have increased. That became even more apparent in the afternoon when it settled into the north west, a direction from which we can find very little shelter. We even had periods of brightness and the occasional patch of blue sky but in the main it was very much a coat and hat day.
To keep us amused, we had organised our fridge and freezer man to come and service all our fridges and freezers and our alarm man to service the alarm. They arrived almost at the same time and proceeded to trip over one another as they went about their business. We discovered, from the fridge and freezer man, that a fan in one of the freezers is a bit noisy and therefore inefficient and the pipe in the other fridge at the bottom of the shop is in danger of corroding through, like the one we had go last week. Thankfully it is just the drinks fridge.
The alarm man, still trying to track the fault that makes our alarm tweet for a few seconds at a time at random intervals, told us that the panic switch by our front door was faulty and needed to be replaced. He showed me the new switch that had two buttons, which is due to new regulation. Someone making up regulations about the number of buttons panic switches should have has definitely too much time on their hands. Apparently, it is a child proof measure, though why children are not allowed to panic, I have no idea. I did suggest that it might also possibly be discriminatory against people with only one finger, which drew a nod of kind agreement such that you might give a small child, lunatic or the gently bewildrered.
It was also a day of celebration for the dog owning public who delighted in being able to take to the beach without risk of being punished for doing so. This is, of course, made very little difference except , perhaps, in numbers, as many people ignore the ban completely, anyway. Much the same can be said for parking on the street, particularly at our end of the road, where the practice has been carried on, largely with impunity, throughout the summer.
I had heard much about the somewhat art house film, Bait, about the demise of a Cornish fishing village and its inhabitants' culture due to the influx of holiday makers and second home owners. It had been shot on a vintage camera with proper black and white film, in moody closeups and 1950s style and has garnered no end of positive comment and professional review. I was surprised that the Missus wanted to come too, else I would have gone on my own earlier in the day yesterday.
It was certainly the case that the Missus should have stayed at home because she slept through most of it, I think. Except for the really poignant bit of the film when her alarm to call Mother went off. It was a very striking film, mainly because it was so different to the norm, and the vintage look certainly added atmosphere. I think I might have missed much of what the commentators, both professional and amateur, have said about it, but there again I generally take these things at face value and do not analyse too much. It is a film or a work of art or a sculpture, which I either like or dislike and I do not dwell on its social statement or on how many levels it works. I am a shallow, simple and uneducated in these matters, grumpy shopkeeper and happy as Larry, whoever he is.
The late showing at the cinema also dropped us home, after picking up the bleddy hound from Mother's, well past my bedtime. I must try harder tomorrow.