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.
February 24th - Wednesday
The Harbour beach was sealed off to us again this morning. Really, I think we should be looking for some parity for the bleddy hound as she has equal rights to have a wander down there, surely. It is reasonably common for people to feel drawn to the edge of high places with an irrational urge to jump off. The bleddy hound must have something similar because she starts pulling me down the slipway, enthralled by her fear. Unless, of course, she just wants to give the seal a piece of her mind.
I have noticed that for the last couple of days the Cornwall Wildlife Trust have dropped down for a geek. It is either them or trappers after a few skins. I think the bleddy hound might be quite supportive of the latter if it means getting her beach back. I will have to check my telephone logs to make sure she is not inviting them behind my back. I am not being drawn into that argument, for sure, although I do need a new pair of slippers. I could look like Mercury if they left the flippers on - oh, gosh, did I write that out loud?
It was a day with nothing planned and for once the plans went ahead unaltered. The Missus suggested the need for a second cctv camera in the shop, pointing across our door from the other side of the shop to the existing. I did not question the need for it as I am a sucker for a new bit of technology and this just gave me an excuse for a bit of research.
The smart new data storage box that I bought last year when the previous one went wrong after power failure is so smart that it can run its own surveillance system once you attached cameras. It has been running for quite some time monitoring the camera above the counter full time without the need to have the computer running all the time. While that is not a requirement for the other cameras in the shop, it has proven useful having one constantly monitor the immediate outside of the shop.
Yesterday and today, I have been playing with the software and it is just about the right thing for the job. The problem I was concerned with was whether the infra red lights that help the camera to film at night time would work through the window or whether it would need to be installed outside. So, before I ran out and purchased another, I redeployed the counter camera to see if that works first. Because it is not nailed to the wall now, I have temporarily set it on a shelf where it can see the street and the sea. It seems that it has a very sensitive movement sensor and it has been firing off alarms every few seconds because it can see the waves moving. These will not be in view if we set it up properly, so we will just put up with it for now.
It is no surprise that the camera noticed the waves moving today. They were big and moving quite a bit. Heading in towards high water, there were big lumbering walls of water rolling into The Cove. This excited a few of the local surfing clan enough to jump in just below the chip shop. Over Cowloe the sea was boiling again and throwing itself into the air and down the Tribbens geet lines of rolling water lined up on the Harbour wall. There was no less excitement over at Carn Creagle and Aire Point where great plumes of white water were running up the cliff sporadically. It was the sort of thing you could watch for hours and I probably did.
After dark I had a look at the picture from the camera I set up earlier. All I could see was the infrared light bounced back at it, so I will have to think again. Putting one outside is troublesome for all sorts of reasons and the low light ones that can be used inside, are not all that good. It will go on the back burner for now as other things are looming.
February 23rd - Tuesday
It was a day of changing plans and quick adaptation. It is a good job that we are metaphorically fleet of foot, otherwise we might have been in a right pickle.
It started early on when we had every intention of heading to the Harbour beach for our little morning run out. Right from the top of the slipway I could see what appeared to be a seal, lying at the bottom of the western slip. It could, of course, just have easily been a bit of rag or some jetsam washed up by the tide. I relied upon the bleddy hound's nose, infallible as it is, and she was saying nothing.
I was quite prepared to change tack and head around the block but the bleddy hound was heading down the slip and who was I to tell her she was wrong. Her step was a little tentative and for once I kept her on the lead, but she continued in the direction of the beach. Even near the bottom of the slipway I could not be certain that the object was a seal. It had not moved since we started our descent and the bleddy hound, sniffing though she was, showed no indication that we were in trouble.
As we reached the sand it became clear that it was indeed a seal pup. It was only after I slipped the bleddy hound off the lead so that I could go and have a closer geek, to make sure the thing was not dead, that she smelled a rat, erm, seal. As I circled around in front of the seal at a respectable distance, it raised its head and the bleddy hound raised bedlam.
I caught up with the bleddy hound as she neared the top of the slip; she certainly was not waiting for me. We headed around the block under plan B, which was thankfully less eventful than plan A.
The Missus was quite keen to head up to The Farm today to finish off the lining in the greenhouse. She also wanted to head over to Mother's to have a look at the heating that had been playing up and to collect a seeding table, whatever one of those was. I did try frightfully hard to get our collective acts together early, but I had some research to carry out and the Missus did not seem pressed.
By the time I had collected the truck and put it outside and called for the Missus, it was close to the middle of the day. My intention had been to drop her at Mother's while she checked the heating and made ready the seeding table, and head into town on an errand. It was at this point that the Missus suggested that given the hour that The Farm was probably a non-starter. I countered that I could easily go and run my errand in town tomorrow, so another plan was binned and we agreed on that.
The forecast had warned that it would be a tad breezy in the West and they were not in the least wrong. We were largely sheltered from it in The Cove and even outside the bay the broader sea did not look that windblown. It was not until we crested the top of the hill that it was a little more obvious. When we arrived at St Buryan, high on the hill, we were being battered about by a wind in the late fifty miles per hour and for the third time in the day, we agreed to change our plan and abandon our visit to The Farm. Not only would it have been unlikely that the seeding table would have arrived with us, strapped to the top of the truck, it would also have been a bit chilly for Mother who would have waited for us in the cabin. We told her of the latest plan that we would go straight back home with her where we could put a bar on the electric fire she could huddle around.
The latest plan abandonment allowed me to resurrect my trip to town. I was rather pleased with this as tomorrow looks a sight wetter than it was today. I parked at the top of town for a change and immediately wished that I had not. The car park there is smaller and the spaces within it are smaller, too. The car park was also almost full forcing me to park in a space that was not ideally suited to our lump of a four by four truck. I used it nevertheless and hoped that my neighbours did not return before I did.
The town is significantly quieter than it would normally be. Even then there are more people around than I particularly feel comfortable being in the company of, especially as they all seem to walk directly at you. The bank, which was the primary errand, was mercifully empty when I got there and without a queue was able to carry out my transaction and leave not long after.
The other reason for being in town was that I had run out of bread. Throughout the season I have been salting away the little round cobs that are apparently low GI, which means they are mainly eaten by small American soldiers, and had reached their sell by date before being sold. They freeze well and happily thaw even better and, by some mismanagement, I had accumulated about fifteen of them in various freezers. I will tear off a chunk for my breakfast and consume it with whatever else is at hand and had been doing so since we closed at the end of October. They needed replacing.
While being a sight more expensive, there is an artisan baker in town called Baker Tom. I am guessing that his parents left him no choice about his career choice, but he does bake an exceedingly good organic wholemeal cob. It is not quite as toothsome as the seedy, low GI cob, but it will certainly serve until I can replenish my stock.
I was heading back to the truck when it struck me that I had also nearly run out of dried pulses that I occasionally substitute the bread at breakfast time for. I do soak and cook them first as otherwise they are a bit crunchy but I can add them to salad items and tins of fish for a bit of a concocted meal. There is considerable effort and planning in the creations, so I do not do it very often, but clearly I had done it often enough to have run out. In town there is a small independent shop that sells all the required items loose and considerably less expensively than buying packets in Tesmorburys. Since I had not planned to go there, my ordering was a bit hit and miss but I think I got everything I required. I store then in pots with the cooking time written on them because having to look it up each time became tedious.
With my frugal shopping complete, I returned home to examine the pictures the Missus had sent me of the work benches that she had set her heart on for the greenhouse. I was imagining benches with planks arranged across the top lengthways to form a slatted surface. There was a slatted surface but the picture showed the planks as crossways, increasing the effort by a magnitude of perhaps thirty. I think that I might be doing some quantity surveying tomorrow.
February 22nd - Monday
There was no seal down on the beach to bother us this morning, although on closer inspection, one had been there within an hour or two of us. The bleddy hound went and sniffed the trail but seemed satisfied that the beach was safe enough.
I did not spend all my time down there looking at the sand, occasionally I looked up, too. I was gratified to note that my expectation of the day seemed to be holding up to scrutiny with big blue patches up above just waiting for the sun to appear. The day developed very nicely, thank you, with only a robust breeze to chill us out when we eventually got up to The Farm around the middle of the day.
My expectation was that the second window would take all my effort and time but it was not to be the case. I had already drawn out where the window was going and simply took the bull by the horns, although I subsequently considered using the jigsaw might be a more efficient way of cutting out the hole and so it proved. It turned out that it was in exactly the right place and was exactly the right size and in the correct orientation. Due to the irregular shape that the window had been cut out into, the end result was not what you might term picturesque. It was more reminiscent of those movies where the inhabitants of a house have had to hurriedly board up the windows with odd planks and offcuts of wood. Nevertheless, the window is in place and is not going anywhere and will be approximately weatherproof.
While I was finishing off the window, the Missus was starting with the second skin for the walls. This will be on the lower half of the two walls we have rebuilt and will be topped with a four inch shelf. This was already in place on the back wall and shortly after I finished the window, the cross beams went in on the south facing wall. The boarding consists of slats of different sizes made from any remaining OSB and ply she could find in the barn. Again, it does not need to be pretty, just functional and the function it would seem will be to hide the gaps in the shiplap, especially on the back wall which looked better from the outside while we were doing it than on the inside.
I left the Missus to it while I investigated the new scaffold-type platform that I had purchased. I considered that I might be better off standing on a platform and might reach more giddy heights than I could feel happy with on a ladder. It was by no means guaranteed and might have ended up being a complete waste of money, although the Missus would use it from time to time, I am sure.
My assumption was that it would come complete out of the box but how wrong could I have been. It seemed that when I had finished putting the various bits together, after tearing up the completely mystifying instruction book in favour of guess work, that I had spent more time on it than I did the window.
There were bolts for fixing on the stabilisers which had different size bolts either end, also not helped by the fact that I did not have my socket set with me and the spanners I did have were imperial when metric were required. I must have been quite weary at the end because I managed to insert and tighten up the bolts only to have to undo them to fit the wheels, which could have attached at no other place I reasoned by deduction. I then had to remove the bolts a second time because I had forgotten to insert the stabilisers, which was the point of inserting the bolts in the first place. I concluded that it was probably time to go home at that point.
There was an article in the local news that told us that one of the largest daffodil farms in the West have only been able to hire half their usual number of pickers this year. Even then, there must be a large number of pickers about as there were at least a dozen mini buses parked up along the lane heading off to St Buryan. It is very rare that you ever see anyone at all, but know that they must be there somewhere. It also surprises me that you never seen any around and about, although obviously they do not have "daff picker" labels on their lapels. They do not need to, they are the people wandering about, bent over and clutching their lower backs, groaning.
The farmer in the press also noted that local pickers taken on seldom return the next day. It is hard to know what to make of this and I have no answers. I cannot believe that it does not pay more than being unemployed or that a person would shirk from feeding a family because it is hard work, for example. It sounds that the sort of thing worthy of an academic study, perhaps. It also bemuses me, given that we can land Rovers (are they still making them?) on distant planets, that no one has yet come up with a machine that will harvest the flowers.
We are still waiting for the daffodils that the Missus planted to come to live but they stubbornly refuse to flower. We would have had tulips as well but the mice ate all the bulbs when they were in the barn. Oddly, they left the daffodil bulbs. Perhaps they have had enough of them from the fields. It must have been like the early Cornish living on a diet of tatties when some smart eye invents the turnip.
February 21st - Sunday
We were met with another grey one this morning and it had been raining during the night, it would appear. I checked before we stepped out that we would not get too wet and the bleddy hound led me down to the Harbour beach. I had already spotted a rather well-fed seal pup down on the tide line, lying completely motionless and hoped that the bleddy hound had not noticed. The odds were in my favour since she had made it all the way down to the sand without complaint but I could see her little nose twitching away.
She did not make a fuss or say anything, just turned about with a tacit 'begger this, I'm off,' and headed up the slipway. There was no point in trying to convince her that she may as well stay since she had got so far with it down there, so I followed her up the slope. She would not even cut across to the wharf and we ended up going through to the car park along the road instead.
I had another geek at the seal when we returned, and it had not moved. I thought, briefly, about going to check it more closely to establish whether it was still with us or not. I then reasoned that even if it had shuffled off the removal team would not get here faster than the tide reaching it, so I held off and let nature take its course. I will not know the outcome, certainly until the next low tide but I did see a seal in the Harbour about an hour later.
I had noted last night that one of the forecasts had the weather for today grey but dry. It did not occur to me to check more thoroughly and had already told the Missus when she enquired on the possibility of going to The Farm. We were therefore set for The Farm regardless of how the weather turned out today. Fortunately, while there was a bit of rain about, we largely got away with it.
The Missus was set on finishing off the self-levelling and I knew that installing the windows from the old caravan was on my list, which was just about the last job on the greenhouse, save the flashings on the roof. By the time I had finished my breakfast and got everything ready it was roughly in the middle of the morning, which is good going for us.
Installing the windows was not a particularly straightforward job. They had been hewn from the body of the old caravan using the angle grinder and had ended up with an irregularly shaped surround. I did not want to trim any more off as it was already quite tight in places leaving not much to attach to the shiplap. That, indeed, was the other problem that there was nothing much substantial to nail them to.
It took a little while, experimenting with various ways of attaching it then I came across the problem of how to mark out the hole. The Missus suggested that the window would come out, but I looked and it was screwed in at the top. In the end I gave it my best estimate, which in the end only needed trimming back a little further, which was fortunate as putting some back would have been difficult. It was while I was making sure that the window opened I discovered that it did come out completely, as it slid gracefully out of its fitting and onto the earth outside. The polycarbonate around the screws at the top had broken. It did fit back into the frame but took some wiggling and it is unlikely that it will work efficiently again. It is secure with the window shut, so it will do for the time being.
I did not have time to do the second window, which thankfully does not open anyway. I took a different approach to this one as it will have to be hung differently. I measured the hole first and will fit the unit to the hole when it is cut. It will be a different challenge to the other one and will wait until tomorrow when the weather is set reasonably fair again.
It was still reasonable earlier when we returned home as the Missus had a roast tea to cook. I took the opportunity to do a little planning for shop opening as we might actually find out when that is likely to be tomorrow. Maybe we will not bother and just build another greenhouse instead.
February 20th - Saturday
The sea was having a bit of a paddy when I threw back the virtual curtails this morning. It was charging all over the bay, throwing itself over the Harbour wall and up the cliffs opposite. It carried on for much of the morning, only low tide taking some of its bluster away.
It was accompanied by yet another grey and damp day. The bleddy hound and I did not escape getting wet for our morning run out but at least we had the beach to ourselves. Later on, the seals returned and it made me wonder whether the bleddy hound's fear of them may not be so irrational after all. There were seven yesterday but today they had at least doubled in number and were ranged along the front from the Harbour to the big beach roughly in groups of four. We could not even make a dash for it with that sort of formation. Perhaps the seals sense that we are on our last legs and it is time to take over.
I know that I promised to take a day off today but the shelves in the kitchen have been something of an annoyance for several years. They are narrow glass shelves, filled with ornamental chinaware, which is an annoyance all by itself, and were installed upside down - the shelves, not the chinaware. I blame the instructions that were in Swedish and the fact that it was in the days when upside down shelves were all the rage. They became so yesterday probably the next day when it became apparent that they were upside down but have survived in situ for nearly a decade, I would guess.
It is odd that I had not done it before because it was so easy to correct. The brackets are attached to the wall with those clever plasterboard fixings that once in place provide a reusable screw point. They are clever up to the point that you hit a noggin at which point they wreck all the plaster for three inches around. All I had to do was to remove the screws, turn the bracket up the right way and replace the screws. Including washing ten years of grime off the shelves, the whole process took less than fifteen minutes. It also prompted the Missus to wash up all the ornamental chinaware and remark what bright colours they really were.
Around the time we normally take the bleddy hound out in the middle of the day, the rain rather conveniently dried up. I had intended to walk her around the block but she saw that the tide had retreated on the Harbour beach, so we went down there. I wish that I had taken a ball with me as she showed some signs of being in a playful mood. I learnt later that the Missus had stopped giving her one of her pills that must have been slowing her up a bit. I found some round lumps of weed that I could throw instead but the novelty of that soon wore off when she realised she could not pick it up and carry it back to me.
I spent the rest of the day being entirely idle, although that included re-specifying our kitchen extractor fan in the light of the experience with the bathroom. We will now have a much bigger unit for the job when the builders decide they can start.
Cowloe caught my eye when I took the bleddy hound out just before tea time. The tide was beginning to build again and was getting all excited over the rocks. This left several hundred sea birds all looking a bit nervous.
Picking up over Cowloe.
Sea birds getting flighty and a few smart ones looking smug on the Harbour wall.
There was also the matter of keeping tabs on the invading seals in the bay. They had retreated from the Harbour, mainly on the grounds that there was not that much water there during the lower tide. They were, however, still out in the bay along the front, watching and waiting. A neighbour that I bumped into when out with the bleddy hound, who clearly had a bit more time to gaze than I, told me they had counted 30 or so seals earlier in the day. The situation is more desperate than I thought. We shall send for reinforcements and hope that the messenger boy gets through - of course, the messenger in such situations is always a small boy, usually a drummer or a flag bearer and therefore expendable. We just need to find one, first.
February 19th - Friday
Yesterday's brightness, it seems, was a flash in the pan because we were back to grey in the morning, which became grey and damp, then grey and very wet.
It was not the ideal day for venturing abroad but first thing it was dry enough for a stank down to the Harbour beach with the bleddy hound. It was the first day that we had been able to get down there either because of seals or because of the tide. Despite there being still a fair amount of swell and waves lopping over the top of the wall, our lady swimmers were out in force. They were not the only ones in the water. I spotted a couple of seals quite nearby and when a couple of the ladies came out they told me that there were, in fact, four in the Harbour and that swimmers and seals all seemed to be getting along together, the seals avoiding nibbling fingers and toes and the ladies doing without silky slippers.
We did not hang around on the sand for long but it was not much to do with the seals this time. The bleddy hound either is happy to tolerate them when they are in the sea or just does not notice they are there. It was very difficult to miss them today as there were so many. Counting on from the four in the Harbour I spotted some more close in a little further along. As I counted the seventh, I was sure I could hear the sound of celestial trumpets playing. It was quite a revelation.
On the basis that I thought it unlikely that we would have a heatwave any time soon and no sign of any festering sores, I decided to finish off cleaning the oven. I was relieved to note that there was, at least, some of the removable bits left in the bag but they were not quite as clean as it suggested on the packet. There again, I had been quite frugal with the acidic goo, so perhaps I had not used enough. One thing was for sure, I was not doing it again and the bits in the bag were not really the problem.
The packet warned me not to reach into the bag and suggested peeling it down to reveal the items inside. One look at it told me that was really not going to happen and, besides, I was wearing my arm length cow gloves.
Now, you may be wondering, dear reader, why we are in the possession of arm length cow gloves when we do not have a cow. I would stop wondering, really I would. All I can say is that you would be alarmed and amazed at the number of deep and unpleasant arm length holes I have had my arm up, erm, in.
Anyway, I digress. Now, where was I? Ah yes, reaching into the gloop filled sack for the removable contents of the oven. Once rinsed off, the two side bars that support the baking trays were reasonably free from blemishes. The stainless backplate, however, was just about as good as new; a remarkable transformation, even if it was a few microns thinner than when it went in. With all the inner parts now cleaned up and the oven itself wiped clean as best as was possible, it was time to reconstruct all the bits.
It is at this time that noting the orientation of things before you remove them, perhaps by taking a photograph, suddenly becomes a very good idea. Unfortunately, I did not and was now faced with four options for the backplate. It took a minute or two of detective work and the fact that the plate is a rhombus helped. The last little nuance was that the fixed washer plates on the receiving bar are two different shapes and they had left an indelible mark on the plate which thankfully had not been polished by the acid. It was also at this point that I discovered that wearing rubber gloves covered in cow gloves does not assist in the least when trying to relocate small screws into their holes.
After cleaning up it was time to contemplate the next job of the day and one that I had been looking forward to tackling for a little while. It was not long ago that I discussed our plans for air extraction in the bathroom and kitchen and how I caved in to my childhood desire of having something right now. Yesterday the parts arrived and I could now have a crack at installing our new in line extractor fan for the bathroom.
I anticipated that the most difficult aspect would be putting in place the extractor grille or at least connecting it to the flexible duct, and I was right. It is tight in under the eaves and only easily accessible to contortionists or ex tin miners. I could not for the life of me screw the jubilee clip tight and that was after half an hour battling to get the flexible sleeve over the tube. Fortunately, the grille came with a clever ring that will hold the sleeve tight enough. The jubilee clip was just belt and braces, anyway.
Even though the rest of the work was a little deeper into the loft space I still only had around eighteen inches to work in. Clumping my nut yesterday was just a practise for the number of times I would do it today. I could not even wear a hat because it was very warm up there, something that I hope our up coming building work will fix, and secondly because it interfered with my head torch, which was somewhat essential.
Apart from the awkwardness of it, the rest of the work was reasonably straightforward, even the wiring, which utilised the existing. I did have a moment of panic when switching on the power to it because it came on straight away; the old one only fired up when the lights were switched on. I breathed a sign of relief when it switched off again on the timer. It now works properly with the light switch and with a run-on timer. I was a little disappointed with the suction through the vent; I was expecting to have my toupée lifted off had I been wearing one, but it barely held onto a square of baking sheet. However, when I filled the room with steam from the shower it did clear the room in roughly the expected number of minutes and does so exceedingly quietly.
Working in such a confined environment had taken its toll and I ached in various places. I felt it reasonable that I should do very little for the remainder of the day and I did just that until tea time. The bleddy hound still needs a bit of a run out, even in the rain but happily it had eased off a little by then. For a bleddy hound that does not much like the rain she can procrastinate for Cornwall at certain times. I do not know if it is a war of attrition to see who breaks first and heads for the steps but I am the one in full metal jacket waterproofs, so she will generally always lose that one.
She lost out again last thing. The Missus ducked out of taking her out and instead booted her out the backdoor on her lonesome. Oh, the looks she gave.
February 18th - Thursday
Our guillemot from last night clearly loves it here so much that it decided to stay. Our neighbour sent me a clip of it from their foray out to it on the beach last night with a note telling me that it was still there. She asked what to do, since it was probably not so well, and I suggested a chat with the Mousehole Bird Hospital. I warned that if she was desperate to help, she would have to transport the animal to the hospital herself.
It was less than an hour later that our neighbour was outside, waving to grab my attention, so I went down to have a chat. She could raise no one at the hospital but as she was taking her dog to the veterinary doctor, she had called them to see if they would see a guillemot as well. Unfortunately, they had said that they would and now neighbour wanted to go and rescue our bird - with some help, please.
The guillemot was standing on a rock in the middle of lots of other rocks about thirty yards from the long slip. Clambering over the rocks to get to it would, for me at least, be challenging enough but to get back holding a twelve inch, flapping animal in my hands was something else altogether. With our neighbour to its rear, I circled around in a classic flanking manoeuvre that they talk about in the movies, and approached from the sharp end. The bird looked a bit nervous at my approach, but I am used to that. It did not try and make a dash for it and allowed me to gently clasp my gloved hands around its body, which was a novelty as I usually have to buy dinner first. Our neighbour then moved up with the blanket and between us got the bird wrapped up in it.
The guillemot was as good as gold, tucked under my arm as I stumbled back over the rocky terrain. It was almost certainly the least graceful journey it was ever likely to make, as I attempted the mountaineers three point advancing technique. This is usually only possible with two hands and two legs, three of which are connected to something solid at any one point. Having one hand and arm tied up made this somewhat tricky and at one point I compensated by using my head to stop myself. Fortunately, it was quite chilly today and I had on one of my woolly hats and the hood of my hooded sweatshirt so that I was only momentarily concussed.
I was very pleased to reach the sand and even more pleased that the tide was retreating. We could not have affected the rescue any earlier as we could not have got around without and even lengthier walk across the rocks. Our neighbour whisked the casualty away to the veterinary doctor while I sat at home on tenterhooks, as indeed you will have to, dear reader, while we talk about the weather.
Despite it being a little more chilly than we have been used to over the last few days, it was a glorious day full of sunshine. It proved the point that the sun has at last reached the other side of the road and that summer is clearly on the way, although it would be nice to have spring first.
While it all looked very pretty out there, the second planned Lifeboat launch had to be cancelled. It was not so much the weather or the sea state in The Cove but the boat would once again go around to the south coast for the tow line training where it was blowing a hooley and the sea state was miserable.
For all that, there was not a surfer in sight and so with nothing much to look at, I decided at last to go downstairs and clean the oven and fit the smoke alarm. The smoke alarm could not possibly use the same screws as the old one, of course, so I had to make more holes in the ceiling. The new one being smaller, of course, means that the old holes are now visible and the paint bright, where the old one was. I justified walking away with the thought that no one would ever look up while in a shop full of exciting goodies. If only we had one of those.
The oven was a mucky job. All the bits you can normally see and get at were relatively clean from my previous efforts. As expected, it was a charcoal crusted mess behind the plate at the rear that protects the element and the fan. It was also difficulty to clean robustly around the more sensitive electrics and the thermostat wire. I used that industrial cleaning kit you can buy that involves putting everything in a bag and pouring acid in after it. The pity was the oven would not fit in the bag so I had to do the interior by hand wearing gloves normally used for going up cows bottoms. I have to start all over again tomorrow as it needs to be left for twenty four hours for it to work its magic - or totally dissolve everything I put in the bag.
It was while I was wearing those gloves that our neighbour returned to give me an update on the guillemot story and to see if my head was still working. She was unable to determine the latter, so she told me that the veterinary doctor gave the bird a clean bill of health - and the rest of it was alright, too (sorry) - but when she set it down on the beach again it stayed put. She had watched it for a while and decided that it could not possibly be right and was even more convinced when it allowed her to pick it up again with absolutely no fuss. I postulated that it might be someone's pet guillemot named Gordon, or possibly Gillian, but considered that if you had a bird as 'ansum as that you would not let it out of your sight. Anyway, enough of that nonsense. Our neighbour took it to the Mousehole Bird Hospital where, as far as I know, it still resides.
Perhaps we will never know its eventually fate but it did give me nearly 700 words of copy, so I am very grateful to it for that. Unfortunately, it has raised expectations of exciting animal rescue and derring do in future Diary pages. I will have to up my game. Gosh, I hope the weather is interesting tomorrow.
February 17th - Wednesday
It did not occur to me to be cautious of the weather this morning when I stepped out with the bleddy hound. We made it around the block under leaden skies and a bit of wind howling over our heads, that we paid no attention to. We met up with the bleddy hound's pals again and I met up with the local bobby for a little chat. He is spending much time on capturing bandits who have travelled from far away to be here, it seems.
We came home for a cup of tea and the bleddy hound's breakfast and as I sat down I was surprised to see that a big lump of rain had arrived. I had not looked at a forecast for a day or two, so perhaps I should not have been surprised at all. The rain soon lumbered off to the north east, but it was enough for me to have a quick geek at the forecast to discover that some more was on its way for the afternoon.
This was a bit more of a disappointment because, for the first time in quite a while, the Lifeboat was scheduled to launch on exercise in the early afternoon. The launch was planned to coincide, not only with the arrival of the rain, but with some training a selected number of crew had received on a new tow line that had been issued to all stations.
Some time ago, a tow line parted while being used in anger at another station. The recoil sent the line flying back in the direction of the boat, causing injury and damage. Since then, the Institution has been focused on targeted crew training and development of new techniques and technology to reduce the risk of it happening again. The upshot of this has been the issuing of a heavier line the middle of which, between the tower and the towed, should spend most of its time in the water thus damping any recoil should the line part.
After receiving some theory in the morning, the crew were launched into a heavy rolling swell to play towing with the Penlee Lifeboat with their combined new tow lines. The boat was gone for a couple of hours, rolling about in the increasing swell and high winds around by Porthcurno, roughly half way between the two stations. The return coincided with the relative quiet of low water and to the long slip where a small number of us had set up the lines of our own, as tightly as possible to avoid too much delay in picking up the boat.
It was getting a little breezy down the bottom end of the long slipway and, as the name suggests, it was quite slippy down there. Nevertheless, two brave souls - well one brave soul and one daft eejit with a green flag who shall remain nameless - held firm and hooked up the Lifeboat in what looked to me, from behind my green flag, to be a textbook recovery. Since there were precious few of us precious few, we all chipped in to make things work. We are, after all, a very multi-skilled - and wet, very excellent Shore Crew.
The Missus had been up to The Farm with Mother again while I had been across the road and also a while before that too. She had been trying to finish the floor of the greenhouse with the self-levelling compound but will have to return to finish the job. It was no day for spending long I up there, I fear, as the wind was increasing and the rain getting heavier as the afternoon progressed.
The excitement did not all end there, either. It waited until the last fragments of our day, so much so that it was night. The Missus had taken the bleddy hound out for her last run only for her to go off on one as she will when a seal is about. As the bleddy hound was pointing at the wall opposite the shop, the Missus had a geek over the top. It was not a seal but something entirely different.
The Missus was joined by our neighbours who had a torch about their person and shone some light on the issue. She came back home to drop the disturbed bleddy hound off and alert me that something big and black and white was on the rocks opposite. From the description, I assumed a cormorant but when I went over to have a look it was far bigger than that and much more white down the front.
It took a while with binoculars and telephoto lensed camera and eventually a step down to the rocks for a closer look before, with the help of the Internet, we discovered that it was in fact a policeman. Oh, sorry. My mistake. That would be a rozzer-bill, the bird we saw was a razorbill that had us fooled into thinking for a moment or five that it was a wayward or escaped penguin. It looked remarkably similar.
When I re-looked in the cold light of day both were completely wrong. The bird we saw was a guillemot, sorry to disappoint. We had thought to send one of our fuzzy photographs to a well-known online news sheet here, which is famed for printing unsubstantiated stories. Penguin in Cornwall would have been all over the press before breakfast, this morning. I did not have the brass neck to do it, although rozzer-bill came close.
The offending birdy. Photo courtesy of Kate at Little Bo.
February 16th - Tuesday
We were not entirely sure what the weather held for us today but we had decided to finish the concreting of the greenhouse floor, come what may.
I was quite relieved, therefore, that it was perfectly pleasant for our quick trip around the block first thing. It would appear that nature has got itself in a knot as all the brightness was in the west and the east was dull as ditch water. We met up with the bleddy hound's bast pal on the way around, which lasted just a few seconds and she was off on a mission in the direction of the car park. It seems hard to believe that just two days ago I was dragging her in that direction. We are still forced to go around rather than down the beach as we are in spring tides and they are covering the sand in the Harbour. It does not help that the sea is still up and lively, and it would be downright foolhardy to get anywhere near it while it is in that mood.
Just as we got to the end of the car park, the sea put on a special display, lumping over the footings of Pedn-men-du in a big tower of perfectly white water. Naturally, it gave no warning and despite waiting a few minutes for it to come again, it was clearly not going to allow me to get a photograph of it. I took one anyway from Coastguard Row just out of spite.
Consolation photo from Coastguard Row.
I did not exactly hurry in finishing off the morning routine, but I was away to the builders' merchants in good time. I had bumped into a neighbour whom I had not seen for a little while and was distracted talking to her for a bit. This completely put out of my head that I was supposed to return upstairs to get my wallet as the truck needed fuel. It might have been divine intervention that I remembered it since I was just approach Escalls Chapel at the time, although remembering before I left would have saved us both the trouble and me having to turn around and go back.
My head must have been completely fried because on the way back I missed the turning to St Buryan and once again had to turn around. There is no chapel up there, unless you count Chapel Carn Brea, but I think that was for a different club membership and divine intervention did not form part of the curriculum. I must have remembered all by myself, which was gratifying. Just a bit late.
Fortunately, I did remember to fuel up the truck and even more fortunately, remembered to pick up Mother. The rain had started just as I left The Cove but on my way to St Buryan, the skies cleared again. Up at The Farm it would be just right for Mother to sit in the cabin, doing her knitting, making the tea and watching the world about us - the world does not 'go by' up there, it just is. I did forget to post the parcel I had with me, so we had to stop at the post office at the top on the way to The Farm instead. After that, I had the Missus to do the thinking for me.
If the muscle between my ears was having a day off, the ones in my arms and legs were thankfully compensating. I had loaded 200 kilogrammes of cement and ballast onto the truck up at the builders' merchants and at The Farm had to unload it again. I did take the easy option of just unloading the cement and one bag of ballast at a time for the concrete we needed but then I had to mix it. That worked out to around 125 kilogrammes of mixing, although I did it in bigger quantities than yesterday, which saved some time and effort. By the third and last batch I was actually getting quite good at it and could have carried on for at least another 30 seconds. The Missus did the laying and looking at the other half of the greenhouse which she completed yesterday, she had done a good job.
We cleaned up and wrapped up at around half past three. The Missus will come up tomorrow to finish off the self-levelling of the second section after which it is just the windows, the second skin, flock wallpaper and china ducks that need to go on. I jest about the wallpaper ... I think.
The Missus had extracted a pie for tea; tea cannot be left to chance when Mother is coming around. By the time we reached home The Missus had decided that the pie could wait and that we would have some award winning, homemade pasties instead. I do not know if the Missus really likes my pasties or enjoys watching me weep. Mother will insist on having brown sauce with hers.
February 15th - Monday
Even without the sunshine beating down on us, the temperature was utterly tropical from the very outset today. It just demanded to take the bleddy hound around the block in shorts and t-shirt. Although I had a layer or two on top of the t-shirt, I did have my shorts on as it was only tropical by comparison to the previous week. Just to add to the pleasantness of the day the bleddy hound did not put up any sort of resistance to heading into the Harbour car park.
The Missus was champing at the bit this morning to head up to The Farm to start the application of the self-levelling solution in the greenhouse. I had some errands to run so I dropped her up there, almost first thing, and promised to join her later.
I was just finishing off a spot of breakfast having completed my tasks when the Missus called to tell me that she had run out of self-levelling compound. This rather perplexed me as I thought that I had purchased enough for all the greenhouse; she had finished just half of it. It meant a delay while I detoured up to the builders' merchants and from there would pick up Mother for a bit of a Farm visit treat.
It was while I was at the builders' merchants that the Missus called again to ask if I could pick up a bag of cement as well. Now, I was getting worried. I asked the purpose of the cement, which was brave, and she reminded me that the second concrete raft in the greenhouse had a bit of a major dip in it, more a hole, really. I remembered it but could not for the life of me think how big it was but that was the least of my problems.
The making of cement or concrete is an alchemy that I am broadly unfamiliar with having never had cause to make any, ever. I vaguely remember the Aged Parent mixing some up on a board in the garden once when I was quite small - and young as well. Therefore, I had some inkling that something and something else needed to be mixed together using water. This did not really answer the question of what and what, although an educated guess suggested one of the items was cement. Then there was the sticky question of how much was required for the job.
It did not strike me as the thing to do, while in the guise of DIYman, standing in a rough, tough builders' merchant surrounded by rough tough builders, to ask. It did make sense, however, since I knew that one of the items was cement, was to pick up and bag and read the instructions - surreptitiously. I did this while I was loading it onto the truck and without spectacles just in case someone was watching. Low and behold, I quickly determined that I would need either a further bag of sand and of aggregates or just a bag of ballast. Since the ballast option only needed ballast, it was the simpler choice and especially as there was a bag marked ballast next to bags marked cement. I could not see any bags labelled aggregates, either.
It also seemed obtuse to purchase a bag of sand when we live not twenty yards from lots of it. The worm in that jar of pickles is that the greenhouse floor might have a strand or two of oar weed poking out from it but it would have made a jolly good talking point in my view. I might also be at a loss as to how to sharpen it as one of my options was for sharp sand and I did not have a sand sharpener.
My biggest error was buying just one bag of ballast. The ratio of 4 ballast to one cement was recommended for floors of this type and 25 kilogrammes of ballast did seem quite a lot when I carried it but in reality did not go very far. The hole was much broader that I recalled as well and even after using the entire bag of ballast, only one eighth of the hole was filled. The actually mixing was a synch, though somewhat arduous, and reminded me of the process of pastry making which I did just last week. By the time we had finished there was no time to return to the builders' merchants, so I will make the journey tomorrow instead.
The slightly less big error we made was not thinking of what we wanted for tea before we left. We have escaped this dilemma for a few weeks, but it has now reared its ugly head again. It is just such a fag to have to think of something and then, after not long returning from labouring in the fields, to have to cook it as well. So, we had salad, which at least got rid of one of the problems - we still had to do the thinking bit, though.
February 14th - Sunday
Today we celebrate St Valentine, a bishop of antiquity. He was clubbed, stoned and eventually beheaded in Rome so obviously becomes the prime candidate for representing all things romantic, though as a metaphor for marital bliss, he is probably quite apt.
It is also the day when the sun starts to creep back into The Cove, just not today. Much like yesterday, grey is the couleur du jour, although we made do with a guts of mizzle instead of rain and the wind, though still robust, moved around to a much better for us, southerly.
The bleddy hound was still reticent about walking in the direction of the car park. She did allow herself to be encouraged past the top of the Harbour slip, however, rather than being dragged like yesterday. She then became transfixed by a large retriever in the car park to such a degree that I was nearly at the toilet block on the other side before she realised that I had moved on. I really do not know what is going on inside the bleddy hound's head and it is probably best it stays that way.
The rain came later in the day, so in a romantic gesture I let the Missus take the bleddy hound out for her early afternoon jaunt. She did not bother with the cajoling associated with going the wrong way and took her down to the big beach for a long amble. The bleddy hound came back bedraggled and knackered. The Missus went into the kitchen to make our tea.
It was the highlight of another dower and uninteresting day, cold enough to dampen my enthusiasm for very much. I will no doubt perk up again next week and despite the poor weather, make an effort to move things along up at The Farm. I capitulated to the child in me and ordered a replacement extractor fan for the bathroom which I will use as a test for installing the one in the kitchen. I have an inkling that it may be too powerful for the bathroom, so if it starts sucking the tiles off the walls, I will redeploy it.
So, partly because there is nothing much else to report and also that I wish to show that I do have some romantism in me - some poems.
Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion. It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. It promises light like the careful undressing of love.
Here. It will blind you with tears like a lover. It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief.
I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.
I give you an onion. Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips, possessive and faithful as we are, for as long as we are.
Take it. Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding ring, if you like. Lethal. Its scent will cling to your fingers, cling to your knife.
By Carol Ann Duffy.
From New Selected Poems 1984-2004 (Picador, 2004). Originally published in Mean Time (Anvil, 1993).
Then this cheerful ditty
"What say you," the Devil enquired, "To rest with this Lady In chains your life through, To suffer the pains, worst My servants can stew, To not suffer death, An end for the best, But to lie there and bleed Her head on your breast?"
Said I to the Devil: "Your charity's clear This day is the happiest yet that I know. The pain's but a pleasure I'll endure my life long, For with her beside me No hurt could belong." ...
I Love you, I Love you I'll not let you go, Not here in the Winter All covered with snow, Not then in the Summer, A bird on the wing, Not ever in Autumn Not never in Spring.
February 13th - Saturday
It was a wet, grey and dower morning to welcome the day. In fact, it set the tone for the day, although the rain held off in the afternoon, the grey and dower bit never went away.
We had a battle of wills to get the bleddy hound to move in the direction of the Harbour car park. There must have been a seal down on the beach at some point quite recently. She was still pretty suspicious when we eventually got into the car park as, having crossed most of it, she tailed back to have a long hard look at the wharf between the buildings at that end. Very unusually, we returned the way we came, though I cannot blame her for wanting to get out of the weather as soon as she could. The cold had diminished quite a bit but that wicked easterly was still howling, and my fingers were raw when we got back home.
I cannot say that what ensued was the most exciting day that we have every had. The weather, particularly the wind, has broadly prevented us from attending The Farm to complete any outside work. Even the spreading of the self-levelling on the greenhouse floor would have been a struggle as the mixing would have to be done outside. Since that is our only legitimate escape, and we are very fortunate to have it, we are confined to barracks.
I am sure there must be work to be done at home but nothing immediately came to mind, although fitting the downstairs smoke alarm and cleaning the oven are still outstanding chores. They really are outstanding chores, which is why I have not done them yet.
I did force myself to head down to the shop as the award winning pasties required vacuum packing and putting away. We also had the dairy delivery and both sets of tasks meant sticking my head and hands into a freezer or two, which was hardly stoking my enthusiasm since I was already cold. I manned up, as much as I am able, and threw multiple layers on and headed down there. It was not the longest or most involved of jobs and was over in a jiffy. It was so much of a jiffy that I had to go down twice more because I forgot to bring up the bleddy hound's tea out of the freezer and I had also forgotten to vacuum pack the spare pasty meat and the suet.
By the time I took the bleddy hound out in the early afternoon it had stopped raining but the slightly diminished wind, cold and damp persisted. It was the sort of cold and damp that gets into the bones and once there, is the devil's own job to shift. I do not know if surfing protects you from such things but there were enough of them out at the same time as us. There was a lot of white water close in, so these girls and guys were well out the back waiting on some serious groundsea.
Intently watching the shenanigans was a flock of about twenty black backed gulls. These are thumping geet beasts with a wingspan of over a yard and a half. They are magnificent to see gracefully taking off in vertical movement and for sure you would not want one of these nicking your ice cream.
By evening time, the sea had really picked up its game and was hurling itself over the Harbour wall in great explosions of white water towering over the top. The Harbour itself was a boiling mass of turbulent water swirling about and the bay, the bits you could see through the grey, was filled with a succession of charging waves thundering onto the shore. I will be facing my deaf ear up from the pillow tonight, for sure.
February 12th - Friday
I sensed an easing of the bitter temperatures this morning as I got prepared to take the bleddy hound out. Rather than unbelievably freezing it was just extremely bleddy cold with that somewhat cutting wind from the south east still taunting us.
It made pretty work of the bay throughout the day, peeling back the tops of the prodigious waves whenever they raised their heads. This they chose not to do the second that I raced downstairs with a camera in my hand, whereupon the sea calmed and the big waves flattened. Perhaps I should rent out my services to the local fishermen.
Gulls enjoying the show.
For the last couple of days we have met up with the bleddy hound's best pal, either down on the beach or just as she goes by. Today, we were all alone in the world including an absence of seals that have been watching us from the Harbour when they have not been on the beach. I must say that I cannot recall ever seeing quite so many hanging about the place or since they are seals, perhaps they should be lyin'. Oh, please yourselves. At least they were not on the beach this time.
I attended to a few bills that needed paying during the morning. Quite how we have so many bills now that we are closed is a bit of a mystery but one of them was the big expense of the freezer. This seemed well within our capabilities back in November when it was ordered, but rather less so in the cold of February and the opening of the shop receding ever more into the distance with each day that passes. If we pull our finger out up at The Farm, perhaps we can survive on selling turnips and broccoli.
Taking of which, I finished off the making of the pasties in the afternoon. Not that there is any broccoli involved. I will probably repeat the procedure that I used this time where the pastry rounds and the meat were prepared one day and the vegetables and the making, the next day. It made it less of a Herculean effort, which it always seems to be. Perhaps I am a little too fussy about how they are made but, then again, if I were not, they would not be award winning pasties. Anyway, they are in the freezer just now and I will vacuum pack them tomorrow along with the spare meat, suet and lard.
While I was making pasties and calming waters, the Missus headed into town with Mother for a spot of shopping. We had run out of dog biscuits for the bleddy hound's tea and I had almost run out of my annual bottle of shampoo. Quite how those few items seem to transform into two very large bags of shopping I cannot quite get my head around and I certainly was not going to ask. Add to it the dairy order I placed with our supplier for delivery tomorrow and we probably have supplies now for another month, which is good as it means not having to venture out again until then.
I looked for Mother when the Missus arrived back, but she was not in the truck. I asked whether she had been inadvertently left behind somewhere or had fall out on the way home. Happily, it was neither but Mother elected to stay at home because it might have been 'too cold to take her home later'. I did promise her that I would actually turn the heating on this time. Perhaps she did not have enough coins for the meter.
So, with the entertainment for the evening cancelled I spent the last remaining moments of daylight watching the large groundswell in the bay. Although the waves were still breaking over Cowloe, everywhere else there were just large rolling lumps of water driving in towards the rocks and thundering into the cliffs opposite. In the last vestiges of light, the white from the crashing waves was all that could be seen.
One more for luck.
I drank beer after that and imagined it.
February 11th - Thursday
You might have thought that after several days of being blast frozen we might be getting used to it by now. The wind shifted around towards the south east for this morning and was still very uncomfortable to be out in despite extra layers and windproof trousers.
The wind had started to kick up a fuss last night and at some point it was strong enough to take the wheelie bin over. I had untethered it from its much bigger cousin because that was supposed to have been emptied yesterday but was not. We were ever so lucky that the cardboard that I had put out was still by the bin and not half way up Pedn-men-du.
I had expected wintry showers and perhaps a little snow but by half way through the afternoon, it had still not arrived. I certainly was not complaining about the unexpected good fortune; the wind was enough to be coping with, thank you very much. From very early on the bay was packed with little white horses racing out to the west. Over at Gwenver, the wave tops were atomised as soon as they raised their heads above a few inches and for a while the beach was obscured by spray from the quite substantial waves going in there. The same could be said on occasion for Cowloe that hosted its own spectacle. There it looked like a couple of big steam trains charging into the bay.
The previous evening the Missus suggested that we feast on pasties for this evening's tea. It came to me, and I remarked, that it had been quite a while since I had turned my hand to making some more award winning pasties. She concurred as well as agreeing that it had indeed been quite some time and perhaps I should rectify this omission at the earliest opportunity.
Well, it was not quite the earliest opportunity, but I left for St Just and one of the two excellent independent butchers there in the late morning. I had thought about telephoning in my order but reasoned that the shop probably would not be that busy and it would not harm to wait for the order to be prepared. On this occasion, Mr Olds had some of his homemade lard and a bag of his equally homemade suet, which I added to my secret combination of meats.
It took a while at the butchers because Mr Olds and myself do like to have a chat about this and that. I was in no particular hurry, although getting back to actually make the pasties was a bit of a priority, I thought. I was almost wrong-footed at the greengrocers because they were only taking orders and not open for gentleman callers or even grumpy shopkeepers. A very pleasant lady took my order at the door and I asked how long it would take. She told me to come back tomorrow, which was a bit of a surprise and I said so. "I am surprised," I said. She told me that I looked it but as I had a kindly face, she would do the order for me while I waited outside in the blustery square, wondering what had happened to my face that made it look kindly.
The very pleasant lady handed me out a box full of my turnip and taties, pasties for the making of and I headed back home. Here, the Missus expressed her surprise that I intended to make the pasties for this very tea as I usually like to let my pastry rounds rest overnight and so her expectation was that the pasties were for some future date. I did not mind in the least because it is true that I do like to let my pastry rounds rest and I might have been pressed, given the hour that I returned, to get them ready in time for tea anyway. We still had pasties for tea but frozen ones from the very excellent Prima Bakeries. I will complete my batch of award winning pasties tomorrow and freeze them.
In between making rounds for pasties, I took the bleddy hound out for a spin. With the wind still battering in it takes a minute or two to tog up against the weather. This was the third time so far in the day I had done so and it was becoming quite tiresome, though entirely worthwhile. It was disappointing, therefore, to discover that the bleddy hound was not in the least enthusiastic about being out and I could hardly blame her, really. We did reach the beach but for the absolute minimum amount of time required before she turned about and head back up the slip again.
After the time I had spent in the kitchen where the air temperature was colder than inside the fridge, I was very grateful for my hot pasty when we sat down for tea. It took a little while longer to thaw out, huddled around our tallow candle - it burns at both ends and does not last the night but it does give a lovely light.
February 10th - Wednesday
It may or may not have been colder than yesterday but minor variations in cold are neither here nor there. They do make a bit of a difference when you forget your gloves when you run the bleddy hound out in the morning. My little mits were frozen blocks of ice when we returned after just a short step out.
Unlike yesterday there was no rushing around for anything in particular. Instead, I focussed on the various bits of work that will need to be done when we get our building work underway. This is running about eighteen months late after one builder declined to carry on with the work after specifying it and the second wanted to wait for the structural engineer. The latter returned his submission late yesterday and I forwarded it to the builder for a geek before I paid the bill.
All things being equal and with a fair wind, we might actually start the work in the early spring when we might not mind too much having no front wall or roof. Perhaps that should be mind less than it happening now with a fresh easterly blowing and the temperature around freezing.
The main bulk of the work has been specified in the work that the structural engineer did and the roof, beams and rafters being bread and butter work for the builder anyway. What was missing were the additions that we could include while the work was being done. These include replacing the rotting Velux windows and installing a fit for purpose extractor system for the kitchen and bathroom.
Since I had little else to do in the morning, I concentrated on the latter and specified the fans and ducting that would be necessary. The problem with doing this so early is that I could see that it would not take a great deal to put it in place just now. Of course, it makes perfect sense to wait for the builders to do it because the place will be in turmoil anyway, the boards in the loft will be up and everything would be so much easier. It is just that you never really lose that small child attitude: I want it and I want it now.
Fortunately, the young surfer person that wanted my help starting his van was happy to wait until I ran the bleddy hound around the block. He caught me just as I was coming down the steps with her and spotted that we have a beefy four by four vehicle, designed for such things. He asked so very nicely, I could hardly refuse. Naturally, the bleddy hound took her time to wander around the circuit so he had to be very patient indeed.
He had parked in the Beach car park right down by the wall overlooking the beach, which, since he has regular problems with starting his truck did not seem the ideal place to start from. However, it was no problem to tow him to a position higher up where he could freewheel down the slope and jump start the vehicle. This was great news until the engine stalled. We repeated the procedure but this time I pulled him up to the far top corner so that he might have a longer run and not have to turn up hill just as the engine spluttered to life. It took a further attempt before the engine started and stayed running long enough for him to load his buddy and ship out. I am probably now a venerated, honorary member of the surfing community and I will have to be called dude from now on, man.
Mother decided that it was safe to come over for a visit today and stay for tea. I had casually mentioned to the Missus that my hooded sweatshirt had a hole rent in the seam at the bottom previously. I imagine that it was entirely coincidental that it got left out and ended up with Mother being mended, for which I am obviously very grateful.
I do hope you are not having your breakfast, dear reader, for I wish to share with you the bleddy hound's personal routine. In particular, we take her out for a comfort break just before tea time, which is purely for this purpose and nothing to do with exercise and therefore only needs to be for the shortest time. Unfortunately, the bleddy hound subscribes to the same approach that the Missus applies to garment shopping, notably visiting every available shop before returning to the first to buy the item seen originally. The extent to which this occurs is in direct proportion to the inclemency of the weather. So, at tea time today, with an increasing and bitter breeze, she took the longest time possible about her business, visiting each likely station at least twice. I do not feel in the least victimised because she does the same with the Missus last thing. The Missus has voiced her irritation at this in the past, but I have always felt it prudent not to mention the analogy just explained.
I shall haul out my warmest and most waterproof clothes for tomorrow as the weather looks particularly inclement and I shall, no doubt, be out it in for a while.
February 9th - Tuesday
Golly gosh, what a busy morning I had and not exactly the best weather to go with it, either.
The wind had stepped up its game today and instead of it being bitterly cold it was proper cold as well. I wrapped up double warm to take the bleddy hound out and straight away she met up with a couple of bruisers, her pals from down the road. I was quite pleased because she followed them down to the Harbour beach when I thought that I would have problems this morning. I told our neighbour of the trouble I had with her yesterday and she told me that there was indeed a young seal down on the beach yesterday morning. I must have walked right past it as it was sheltering by the wall of the Lifeboat station under the long slipway. I thought it best not to tell the bleddy hound. She would only act all self-righteous and superior.
Some wintry rain joined in the fun half way through the morning. I was in a bit of a rush to complete my morning routine, so I did not pay much attention. My mind was on an upcoming webinar that had been scheduled for ten o'clock by the RNLI to tell me all about life threatening bleeds, which I thought might be a jolly wheeze compared to the usual humdrum.
Now, I have never been to a webinar before, if indeed you actually 'go' to one, so I had no idea what to expect. I had tested out the link that I had been sent last week to make sure there were no nasty surprises and there were not. I did not even have to offer identity or a password; anyone with the link could join in. Despite running about like a mad person in the morning I only just logged on at the appointed hour, although I did notice others joining much later than me.
The first thing it told me was that I did not have a microphone connected. I knew that and was quite relieved as it meant that I could not answer any awkward questions. I do not have a camera connected for much the same reason. As it transpired, it did not matter as no questions would be asked but if I wanted to ask one, there was a chat function that I could type a question into. I demurred.
The presentation was exactly the module on life threatening bleeds that we did on our casualty care course, whenever that was. Nevertheless, it was useful to have a refresh of the course material as we have not used any of this particular training in practice and I do hope that I never have to. However, other than knowing the ins and outs of CPR it is probably the next most important life saving knowledge we could have.
The whole thing was over in a flash and much sooner than I had anticipated. This was a good thing because I had to drop over to St Just and make an onward journey to Hayle but first, I needed to go to the post office at the top of the hill to send back my dickie batteries that had been replaced. The only fly in the ointment was that the wintry showers had become a little more intense in the time I had been waiting and the wind was getting stronger.
There was only one customer ahead of me in the post office, so I was not there long. We had a brief conversation and I learnt that it had snowed as close as Trewellard to which I responded that I was not going quite that far. Apparently it has also snowed in St Just and I was going that far. What should I care, I was told, we have a beefy four by four vehicle, designed for such conditions. I felt so much better.
I have not known a prophesy fulfilled quite so quickly. There were flakes of snow in the air when I left the post office and by the time I reached the edge of the village there was a full blown blizzard coming in. This thickened all the while on the trip out to St Just and the fields there were already white with a thin dusting. I stopped briefly at the doctor's surgery on a message and when I came out, the streets were slushy.
The trip across to Penzance was going to be interesting, I reasoned, as it was up over the moor, and I was not far wrong. The snow was already thicker there on the road and it continued to blow in across us from the east but what did I care, I was in a beefy four by four vehicle designed for such conditions? In truth, I was not that concerned, it was not the sort of snow to cause many problems as it was far too wet and the forecast was that it would not last all day, which it did not.
It did stay with me until I had completed my shopping in the cash and carry. This was an essential journey for sure; I had run out of beer. The Missus had also run out of creamer for her coffee, so I think that gave us just cause. I also called in at Hampson's the butcher though not for one of their excellent pasties. I was to call on Mother on the way home and I needed meat for our tea. It was not until I was on my way home that the Missus told me that Mother had called off the visit due to not wanting us to come over in the snow - despite having a four by four vehicle that was designed for such conditions.
There were little bits of snow still falling on the journey home, but the main road was entirely clear. I steeled myself because, given the time, I knew that I would have to run the bleddy hound around the block when I got back.
Sure enough, having unloaded into the shop the bleddy hound was waiting for me at the door when I got in. I had togged up in full metal waterproofs for my journey including multiple thick layers underneath. Having learnt my lesson yesterday, I pulled up my mask for total weather protection before heading out. All I needed was a pair of goggles for the full, authentic Scott of the Anarchic look.
It did work well, and I was entirely snug for the run around the block. What it could not protect me against was the big bullying wind that pushed us around as we crossed the car park. The nearest weather station had the wind gusting to fifty miles per hour but the gust that fair near took me off my feet at the end of the car park was much stronger than that. It continued to increase after we got home again, howling through the bay and whipping up the previously calm sea. It was pretty cold out there but the sound of the wind really did not help at all.
The wind speed kept increasing throughout the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. I would guess that it probably topped seventy miles per hour as it channelled down over the cliff and across the bay at us. At least it did not carry any more snow with it. Time to stoke the coals for the bed pan, I think.
February 8th - Monday
It was bitter cold when we stepped outside the door this morning. The promised breeze from the east had picked up a little and introduced the dreaded wind chill factor into our simple lives. The bleddy hound would go no further than half way down the slipway before barking her head off. I went ahead and checked the entire beach and under the Lifeboat slipways but there was no sign of seals anywhere or even evidence that they had been there. The bleddy hound was not to be convinced and chose to believe her nose or her memory instead.
She alarmed us greatly last night. I had already drifted off to sleep while the Missus continued to watch some programme or other on her Bramley computer screen. At some point I awoke to be told that the bleddy hound kept staring at the darkness outside the bedroom door. It spooked the Missus no end. I was too sleepy to be spooked. A little later, however, the bleddy hound lay across my legs, her signal to me to wake up, but it was still very dark and by this time the Missus was asleep. I admonished her for waking me at the wrong time but noticed how she was staring through the bedroom door again. She shifted back to her pillow above the Missus's head but turned so she could face the door. Now I was spooked.
It was not until our episode on the Harbour slipway did the pieces fall together. There was a seal, real or imagined, on the Harbour beach that she either heard or caught the scent of some hundred yards away through double glazing and two feet of granite. I suppose I am forgetting the paper thin wall below our windows but even then that is some sensing.
We ended up running around the block, which was not so bad on the way out as the breeze was at our backs. When we returned along the back nine, it was in our faces and I concluded that I should have brought a mask with me to put between my chattering teeth.
Not content with running the bleddy hound around in the chilly weather, we decided that a run up to The Farm might be a jolly wheeze as well. It was suggested that I wear some warm clothes but by the time we got up there they were cold again. Perhaps I ought to turn the oven up a little. As it happened, it was not as bad there as we feared. First, we were both being active and secondly, I particularly, was being active on the lee side of the greenhouse. In the shelter and under the full force of a bright sun I was warm in no time. Trouble was I had to keep putting my hat and coat back on each time I broke cover.
The Missus pushed ahead with putting down the bonding solution onto the concrete floor of the greenhouse. This is no mean feat as it is in the region of 25 metres square and she had a four inch brush but this is bread and butter for the Missus who can sit for hours doing jigsaw puzzles and plugging little sequins into one of those big picture frames. She also adores unknotting nests of string and fishing line, which as we know is against nature.
In the meanwhile, I busied myself with the launders at the back. The Missus had told me that where the downpipe was would be exactly where she wanted a window. I had forgotten. In the disruption of last night's sleep, it had come to me that it was quite easily moved. I had already purchased two right angle downpipe joins, so I installed one at the bottom of the running outlet diverting it to the nearest point between potential windows.
As I finished slightly ahead of the Missus, I migrated to fixing a door hitch for the cabin. The cabin has been in place for around two years, I suppose, and the number of times we have cursed the door slamming open or shut for the lack of one are countless. The Missus had purchased a hitch at some point in the past and it had sat idle in the tool shed waiting on this very moment. All good things come to those that wait, perhaps.
We have been waiting for some time for the opportunity to run the Inshore Lifeboat out to make sure that it still worked. The powers that be gave the go ahead last week but the sea state has not been conducive until today. To be honest, I had no idea that it was happening today, and I suspect that it was very much a spur of the moment thing when crew and a launcher were on hand to make it happen. The first I knew of it was returning home from The Farm to find sand outside the Inshore boathouse and down at the top of the slipway and wet where it had been washed down. At least that is one job ticked off the maintenance list.
After the sun had gone the temperature took a tumble. I was forced to turn on one bar on the electric fire for us to huddle around. Later, it turned even colder and the second bar on the electric fire looked very attractive. Fortunately, I found a thicker jumper to wear. It was a close run thing, I can tell you.
February 7th - Sunday
We were not the busiest of busy bees today but even bees have to slow down in winter.
I still had to be up early for the bleddy hound but at least it is getting lighter in the mornings. I had expected it to be much colder after all the dire warnings for the last couple of days. The wind has not really got going, which would explain it, but it had moved around to the east, for sure.
It was not the weather that had the bleddy hound looking like she did not want to be hanging around for long down on the Harbour beach. She kept looking behind her and was not that comfortable about coming any closer to the waterline than was necessary. There must have been the lingering ghost of a scent of seals about, unless she has found something else to be frightened of.
There were probably lots of more constructive things I could have done but the best I could come up with today was counting up the values from our recent stock take. My clever inventory system is not clever enough to sum up all the values across the different categories, despite my best efforts, so I had to add them up by hand.
That was, in fact, the most work that I did all day. Thankfully, the Highly Professional Craftsperson dropped by for a chat. I wrapped up warm but it was still pretty chilly standing about not moving. Nevertheless, it was good to see him and I shared my pictures of the work we had been doing up at The Farm. He congratulated me on me being able to maintain the rustic collapsing shack feel of the greenhouse by sloping the shiplap the way I did. I felt very proud.
Since I was cold anyway, I took the bleddy hound out for a spin. She did not seem up for a stank down to the far end and besides, it was rather busier than I would have liked. We turned left and headed around our normal route across the Harbour car park despite there being sufficient beach to run around on. Just one of the boats had been out on a bit of fishing today but was back on the slip by the time we went around. There were a few cars parked up and one just arrived for a park up and look at the sea for a while. I assume the others were off for a stank up the hill, which was about right for a day like today.
It became increasingly dull towards the end of the afternoon, which summed up the day nicely.
February 6th - Saturday
We have had a fair amount of nocturnal activity up on The Farm the past few days so one of the first jobs of the morning is to review the footage on the cctv. The main culprits are a fox or possibly two and a cat. We get the sense that the fox is following the cat but, so far, the cat has out foxed it. There was a close call last night, the cat was making its way out and the fox was on the way in through the gate. The cat stopped and lay flat and waited for the fox to pass before making a hasty exit on tiptoes.
The fox plainly has better hearing than the cat. The Missus could the fox while she was watching the live feed and followed in in front of the tool shed. Each time the camera moved, the fox looked straight at it. The cat and the bunnies completely ignore it, so presumably are unaware. On this occasion, the cat had preceeded the fox but we could not see where it had gone and neighter could the fox. Later, we discovered that the cat finds sanctuary on the seat of the tractor.
The day was shaping up nicely when we set foot outside in the morning. The sea state had calmed sufficiently for one of our fishing boats to venture out. He joined a couple of Newlyn boats that had braved coming around the corner, chasing the sardines that must still be out there. The seals had scarpered and, ominously, there were no swimmers about this morning. I tell you, those little sharp teeth and dodgy eyesight.
I made sure that I had stoked up with some healthy fish goujons left over from yesterday's tea with a hunk of bread and some butter. I almost prefer the goujons like that, cold for breakfast. There was no point in heading up to The Farm without a decent bit of croust inside me, as I would not have the stamina for a hard day's work, now would I?
I collected Mother first and the water butt she no longer uses. It was only a small one, but it would save the water from the guttering I was going to put up from cascading onto the earth and wearing it away. It was still a little cold and breezy when we left St Buryan but the sun had started to beat down and by the time we got to The Farm the temperature was on the increase. It did seem that it changed throughout the day. One moment I was sweltering under the burning sunshine and the next freezing cold. I spent more time taking off and putting on layers than I did actually working.
The first job was to set down a little more post mix to plug the gaps at the bottom the greenhouse wall. It is an inappropriate use of post mix, I know, but it seems to work. I set to with that while the Missus ran back home to collect the battery she was supposed to remember to bring with her. She said last night that she would put it in her bag so that she would not forget it, so I assumed that she had. It seems she promptly forgot to do that soon after she mentioned it.
By the time the Missus came back, I had set up the shutters and was ready to pour water on the concrete mix. Since she wanted to wash down the floor ahead of setting out her self-levelling mix, I wanted to make sure the concrete had dried first. It took her a while to empty the greenhouse of all the pots, boxes and boards and while she did that, I made a start on the launders at the back.
Just looking at the back of the greenhouse from a standing off position, it seems clear that the roof slopes down from right to left in a long sweep while, on the left, there is a shorter run before reaching the lowest point. I drew a line from the furthest point on the fascia board on the right to what appeared to be the lowest point. I thought that I had better have a look with the level to see that there was sufficient gradient because it certainly looked that way. I picked a four metre length of timber and placed the level on top against my line that followed the sweep of the roof exactly. It was dead level. Obviously, the ground must rise up at that end and cause something of an optical illusion. I readjusted my line accordingly. Happily, the dip at the other end really is a dip and I was able to follow the roof line for that end.
Having established all that, I put the guttering up to have a look and discovered very quickly that the roof extended too far and was close to the outer edge of the launders. It is an awkward place to have to get the angle grinder to and it is not the best to have the lethal tool spinning above my head. It is not a favourite job and I would rather have only done it the once but needs must. The installation was straightforward after that, which was a relief after the problems I had with the cabin launders. The finishing touch was the down pipe that I discovered I had a spare length of from the barn, so I now have a longer spare length that I bought.
There were rain clouds threatening as I got ready to finish the work. I decided to leave the downpipe so that it emptied to the ground as I would not have time to divert it to the butt. Just as I slotted it into place the Missus came around from the inside of the greenhouse. "You do remember that a window is going in there?"
The downpipe was at the point where the end dipped down, so it was the obvious place to put it. I might have got away with a run to the end but probably not without an additional facia board under the first at the other end. Happily, the Missus decided the windows could go in the bay either side of the downpipe instead.
After taking Mother home we returned so that I could watch the rugby on television and wish that I had not. I missed last year's competition altogether because we were busy doing other things. I might miss this one deliberately and watch the live feed from The Farm instead.
February 5th - Friday
Waterproofs were required for the morning run with the bleddy hound and once again we headed for the Harbour beach, which had a little more sand available than yesterday. The same three seals, presumably, were in attendance and even closer in than yesterday as our lady swimmers arrived. I could not swear to it that they were the same swimmers as yesterday but there was one less of them today.
The weather cleared up in the middle of the morning and by midday, the sun was shining and there were copious portions of blue sky to admire. Rather than admire it all from afar, I decided to head up to The Farm to replace the solar panel for the cctv camera. You may recall that the original one had ceased to charge the camera and I suspected the connection. Since it was also working originally, it might have been me that bent the connector on the first one while trying to get the too loose fitting to hold. They sent another, anyway, so we shall say no more.
With the new solar panel fitted and working, I called Mother to tell her that I was on my way to pick her up from St Buryan but first I would wash the truck and get some fuel. It might seem somewhat foolhardy to wash the truck given that the lanes are lagged in mud from the fields and we shall, no doubt, be heading to The Farm in short order. I reasoned that it was probably better to occasionally remove the mud and start building it up from the paintwork rather than to keep adding to it. That might have only sounded reasonable in my head and that any sane person would not wash it until we were going to have a run without getting it muddy. I will never know.
We diverted to St Just, Mother and I, to pick up some meat for the bleddy hound's dinners. She much prefers meat from small, independent butchers rather than the big supermarkets as she is a very ethical dog. It also gives Mother a bit of a run out to see something other than the road between St Buryan and Sennen or Penzance and also permits me to park in the disabled bay in St Just square. We are blessed with two very good butchers in St Just and today I used the one with which we do not have an account because they sell Black Bomber cheddar cheese. It is the Missus's favourite and I too like a nibble of it every now and again when she is looking the other way.
The Missus was not home when we got there as she had taken the bleddy hound down to the big beach. That is a bit of a run for her these days, but the bleddy hound probably waited for her to catch up. They were gone for some time, because the bleddy hound did not want to come away, we were told. I made a mental note to take her down that way myself a bit more often, especially as I have not visited the big beach in quite some time, either.
It was not long after she got back that I found myself getting up to return to St Just. We had noted that two forecasts had the weather for tomorrow as suitable for a run to The Farm - and to get the truck muddy again. I had made enquiries yesterday about acquiring the required launders and ancillary bits to finish off the greenhouse exterior but that was as far as it got. I did not want to leave to chance trying to get the guttering tomorrow and besides it would introduce a delay into the day, and we would no doubt be starting late anyway. Our roof bars are getting better value by the day.
The bright blue skies and perfect day were spoilt a little just as I was about to take the bleddy hound out for her tea time stroll, as a rain band pushed through. The Missus noticed first that a rainbow popped up ahead of the rain and by the time the shower arrived, the colours were super-intense. I did not have time to run outside and besides, it was raining, so snapped a photograph through our window. It seemed to upset a flock of visiting terns, which took flight and scattered further out. It was probably an omen but since we do not have an oracle in the vicinity, I may never know what it meant.
Intense rainbow - intense rain on the way.
February 4th - Thursday
Our electrician arrived at his appointed time of eight o'clock or half way through the night, as the Missus would coin it. He arrived with some help, which was handy because I thought that I might have to pitch in. He suggested some changes to make it easier to rewire, which meant a pull cord in the bathroom instead of on the wall just outside and surface mounted cable to the shower unit as the current one was channelled in and next to impossible to replace without removing the tiles. We left the boys to it and just provided tea until they were done a couple of hours later.
I tested out the new shower, which I found to be more powerful than the old one and considerably hotter, too, which will please the Missus no end. I was suspicious when I set the dial at the usual position and the bathroom looked like a Turkish bath inside a few seconds.
The bleddy hound and I had avoided getting wet in the morning, dodging a few early showers. She had pulled me down to the small area of available beach in the Harbour because her best pal was already down there. She recked not the three seals bobbing about in the waves no more that twenty five yards off or just did not smell them. They did not put off the three swimmers who arrived while we were down there, either. I would certainly think twice before diving in with the creatures as they have sharp teeth and I have no idea how good their eyesight is.
A bit of light rain set in while the electricians were with us but it showed definite signs of improvement shortly before they left. This encouraged the Missus to suggest that we head up to The Farm. She was keen to empty the greenhouse so that she could, once again, wash down the floor and put down here self levelling concrete. For my part I wanted to compete my effort on the same building by installing the launders. The plan was that I would drop off the Missus and head off to the builders' merchant for the appropriate parts.
It had started to spit a little bit on our way up to The Farm and the rain set in properly while we were there. This would certainly scotch my plans for installing the guttering as I did not fancy putting it up while it filled with water. The Missus was reticent, too, about carting the contents of the greenhouse into the barn in the pouring rain, so we decided to cut our losses and go home.
While I still sported my DIYman overalls, I decided to finish the installation of the new freezer. We had picked up the extension cables from the post office on our way up to The Farm, so I was fully equipped to finish the work. I had to do the job twice because only after I had put the freezer into position was I able to take off the cable ties holding the door closed to access the instruction book. This told me to install some buffers on the back of the freezer or accept that the warranty was voided, so I had to pull the freezer out again to screw them in. Then came the handle, which was neatly wrapped in bubble wrap and devoid of any instruction leaflet as to how to install it. There are two screws to screw in from the back of the door, but I cannot see how that might be done without pulling off the rubber vacuum strip. At present, customer would be able to admire the contents of our LED lit freezer without actually being able to get into it. I will seek advice.
We did three fifth and five eights of not a great deal for the rest of the afternoon apart from admiring the blossoming day with clear blue skies. The afternoons are drawing out quite obviously, now, and the bleddy hound led me down to the Harbour beach again in the late afternoon for a wander. The bay basked in the soft light of the setting sun, which always seems quite placid and makes me think of green lawns and Pimms on the patio. Not that I have ever had Pimms on the patio in front of a green lawn but when trying to think of what it made me think of, that popped into my head and now will be forever so. Oh golly, Uncle George has just come through the French doors sporting khaki shorts, a pith helmet and an elephant gun.
I think it may be time for bed or some more medication.
February 3rd - Wednesday
Apologies for our tardiness this morning. Electrician was in fixing the shower.
We were met with the start to a cracking day when we stepped out around the block this morning. It seemed such a waste to have to spend it inside waiting on deliveries and craftspeople to do their thing, when work was going begging up at The Farm. I consoled myself that we would, at least, have a freezer that would keep our fish frozen when we eventually open the shop and a safe shower to use. Naturally, the existing shower has worked perfectly since I decided to replace it.
The freezer delivery man had come all the way from Manchester. He called last night to tell me he was in Exeter and would be with us early doors given a fair wind, which he obviously had. He was going to call as he passed Penzance but, fortunately, I was looking out of the window when I saw the large lorry arrive in The Cove. I went out to meet him.
The whole process was super-smooth and clearly well rehearsed. He took off the packaging on the lorry's platform and took away the bits we did not want. The Missus collects cardboard for use in her gardening, so we had that and the timber pallet. Happily, the in and out for the units are straightforward and the whole process took less than twenty minutes all told. He was an amiable chap whose family had brought him to The Cove for visits to Land's End in the mid to late 1960s because it was cheaper to park here than at Land's End itself - it still is.
Just before he left, I commented on the gun carriage emblem on his woolly hat and asked what a Gooner (an Arsenal football team supporter - as we football hooligan types call them - no, me neither. I just know the ball is round) was doing in Manchester. Luckily, he smiled instead of cheekily breaking my neck with trained precision and told me that it was from his Army days in the Royal Artillery. Whoops.
Our very good plumber arrived a little late for the job, but he is such a good plumber he sent a message to say he was late and arrived when he said he would. We opened up the back door and let him get on with it. It did not take very long but he told us the electrician who was due to follow him to finish the job had to postpone until tomorrow. He will be here at eight o'clock in the morning, which delighted the Missus. When I spoke with him last time I had the impression that he would probably like to be a whole lot earlier than that even. We shall have to remain dirty for another day and hope the bleddy hound does not leave us but there again.
With a whole afternoon now free and the day looking pukka, I suggested that we head on up to The Farm and finish off the polytunnel. This went off pretty much as planned and we completed the doors with the replacement drop bolts that secure the doors. It would have been far better to have the new drop bolts instead, but at least now the job is done. There remained the small detail of hanging the doors.
The instructions or marketing blurb that sit around the easy-build polytunnel clearly states that it does not matter if the ground is uneven. We beg to differ as it affects the door installation quite badly. We discovered this on the single door where the door starts in the guide at its base when closed but as it opens, it rides out of the guide and hangs loose because the polytunnel slopes away on that side. While we might have done better to have the door open the other way where the ground is level, we were afforded no such luxury with the double doors.
We have the same sloping away at the double door end, too. So, one door opens level and the other is on a slope and consequently there is a gap where they meet at the top when closed. We compromised a little by not having the runner at the top level, which mitigated the effect a little and the end result does not look too bad. We do hope, dear reader, that this episode has put to bed the tale of the polytunnel build.
We proudly present the polytunnel
Next week we will be explaining in detail the preparing of the floor of the polytunnel and after that the planting of this that and the other in the polytunnel. I am certain that you can hardly contain yourselves.
Daff picking is in full flight at the moment ...
... we decided we better step up our production of flowers.
Since we had plenty of afternoon left, the Missus decided she would attack the barn and the confused mess therein. Meanwhile, I wanted to cure a leak that I noticed on the southern side of the greenhouse and to install the facia board ahead of the guttering going in. We went our separate ways.
I was going to tack in a bit of timber along the gap at the top of the transparent wall on the end of the greenhouse but reasoned that it would simply move the leak up a level and probably take a few minutes longer to get through. In the tool shed I found some silicone sealant that I thought might be a plan but would mean being brave and climbing up higher than the second rung on the ladder. I took the option anyway and did not find it too bad, provided I thought about beer and loose women - which I have never seen but I understand that the programme is quite entertaining - phew!
The facia board was a whole different sack of pilchards. I suggested previously that the bow in the roof beam on that side would make installation something of a challenge and I was not wrong. I had to cut the 6 x 1 into several shorter lengths so that I could create a curve to follow the bend. I was not wholly successful in making this a seamless fit but there is now a facia board from end to end and the evil of it will be covered by the launders. The other issue, and exacerbated by having to shorten the board lengths, was that I could not skim over the rotten parts of the beam, especially towards the southern end. Here, I had to be creative and find good timber to drive screws into. Some of the points were tenuous indeed but hopefully will see me out before they need addressing.
The Missus had better luck in the barn. She is exceedingly good at clearing and cleaning and the barn interior has been transformed in very short order. We also now have our borrowed half ton trailer back under cover. It is also under cover of garden furniture, crates and other 'most useful' objects that sit inside it out of the way - out of the way, that is, until we need the trailer in a hurry. What a team.
We ditched the plans for tea, which mean the Missus cooking, for something from the freezer that suited us both. Who knows, we might do it all again tomorrow.
February 2nd - Tuesday
The sea was still marking its mark when we ran around the block this morning. The bleddy hound is easing off the manic stage of her seal fever so got rewarded with a trip to the veterinary doctor for her regular procedure. She starts quivering when we get to the main road and by the time we are at the surgery she is wobbling like a jelly on one of Geevor's shaker tables, poor lamb.
We volunteered to take a neighbour's dog, too. Not just for a joy ride but because he needed to go to the veterinary doctor as well and the neighbour's car was not working. He is the most placid boy you would wish to take on a car journey with you, the dog, not the neighbour, although he too is a very pleasant fellow but at present could not come along with us. All was well with both animals and the bleddy hound did eventually stop shaking.
We picked up mother on the return trip because Tuesday is her day and the weather was not too bad today. It had started out quite bright and apart from a shower in the middle of the day, just as we came back from town, the weather stayed fair until the later afternoon. There were bits of blue sky that could be seen through the lingering mist and for February, it was exceedingly mild.
We arrived home in time to see our various deliveries arrive, which was handy. I let our plumber know that the shower arrived as promised and the bulk food order did, too. The food couple usually frequent the farmer's market in the village but are now doing door to door delivery. They do not use any plastic packaging and you must provide your own bottles for liquids or buy ones they provide. I ordered some pulses, spices and rapeseed oil that all came wrapped in paper bags, except the oil, which thankfully arrived in the bottles we had asked for. The only thing that did not turn up, which was most irritating was the extension leads.
The one thing that is most irksome in the shop, apart from all the other irksome things, is the electricity sockets which are behind the rank of freezers on the right as you go down the food aisle. It was a daft place to put them because they are inaccessible and require the freezers to be pulled out each time you wish to turn them on or off. We had tried wireless sockets but they stood out too far from the wall for one thing and often lost connection, which made them very unreliable. I concluded running an extension lead from each socket to somewhere more accessible, like on top of the freezers, would be the simplest solution.
The plan was that I could fit the extensions while the units were pulled out while we replaced the duff one, which arrives tomorrow. Since the extensions have not been delivered, my cunning plan lies in tatters on the ground. Our man will be here early doors tomorrow, so all is lost.
I consoled myself with running the bleddy hound out in the late afternoon. We had not long had a shower but we had returned to very light blue clear skies as the sun retired. It was pleasant enough, but the wind had struck up from the south west and while we were quite sheltered, it did feel quite severe. The bleddy hound surprised me by leading us down to the Harbour beach without the slightest hint of seal phobia. Perhaps after her trip to the veterinary doctor, she felt things could not get any worse.
Sandy Harbour beach
There was plenty of sand down in the harbour, all scoured clean by the recent stormy seas. On the other side of the bay, on the big beach, it is a different picture. The scouring has removed sand wholesale from the entrance to the Valley just below the Lifeguard hut all the way to the Beach café. It is only the lower parts of the beach, seen at low water that remain sandy. Usually, the sand will recover in time for people to play on it, which looking at the tea leaves in the bottom of my cup, might be late again this year.
Maybe we will have to build another polytunnel to occupy us during our extended break.
February 1st - Monday
I could hear the sea roaring when I awoke from my slumber, although I could not see much of it when I pulled back our virtual curtains in the living room. In the area before the fog bank that sat just beyond the Harbour wall, the sea was a boiling mass at just past the morning's high water. A little later, with the sea still making a huge fuss and throwing itself over the wall, the fog retreated a little, sitting atop the cliffs like cotton wool with fingers reaching down the nooks and crannies. It was in such a parlous state that it drifted back towards us as I watched and blanked out the picture once again. It persisted in doing that for the rest of the day but when you could see it, the view was most entertaining.
High water and making a scene
There was some intention to head up to The Farm today, it allegedly being the last dry day for a while. Not that it mattered too much because the next job on the list is to clean up the barn, which is stacked with all manner of detritus mixed in with goods and stored items. It seems that it has been a good dumping ground and now it is difficult to determine the good from the bad just looking at it.
That went out of the window a bit because we had a call for assistance from a neighbour, which took a little while to sort out. On top of that my spectacles became ready for collection and the most convenient appointment that we could get was later in the afternoon. By the time the Missus had collected Mother - postponed from yesterday - there would have been precious little time to get started in the barn, so we abandoned the plan altogether.
The bits that we have been waiting for to complete the polytunnel double doors arrived today, quite by surprise. I had intended to call them today to find out what the delay was. They sent a complete new double door kit, not including the doors, which had the old style drop bolts within. This was disappointing as it will mean taking the door apart to fix them. Had they sent a new kit it would have been much easier. Still, it does mean that on the next dry day we can scoot up there and finish the job.
I drove into town in the early part of the afternoon to collect my spectacles. The lady there apologised for the delay. While this did mean that I had to use my existing ones with the darks marks in the eyeline a little longer than expected, it was not the end of the world. The most appreciated delivery was my spectacles for long sight, which I use for driving and shooting.
I have not done much in the way of shooting since the change in my eyes made the old ones redundant, but I have done a bit of driving. Fortunately, the change in my prescription was an improvement, rather than a degradation so it did not matter too much. It was quite pleasant, though, on the way home, to be able to see road signs and smaller traffic such as cyclists and pedestrians again. The edges of the road were a little more defined, too, and I was less reliant on trying to follow the white lines down the middle or guessing where they had not been painted.
The fog had cleared to mist when I returned home and was left clinging to the valleys in the cliffs opposite. The sea was racing in with the tide but initially it was not half as disturbed as it was in the morning. Brisons were visible and attracting a fair amount of white water and the waves were still thumping up Creagle with the immediate areas of the beaches at Gwenver and here filled with white and steaming nicely.
And here is a random poem to round things off, just because I can. It is by someone called CA Conrad. Had to read it a few times because of lack of punctuation. That works for me. I do hope CA Conrad does not mind me putting it here.
the spirit of your flowers is my favourite shelter we were in love is the main thing faintest green light in tree pulls me forward whenever life is beautiful makes me think of you carry color of the forest to be with you to belong to this world with you to have what we have and that is it yes the present is between the past and future but is too radical to be called the middle
I donned my full metal jacket waterproofs for the walk around this morning, as it had been thumping down a little before that. The bleddy hound had afforded me a little lie in, which was very good of her, or she was just waiting for the rain to abate. She gave me the same seal averse performance that we had yesterday, which is getting somewhat tedious. It is all based on scent because we have not seen a seal in a few days and, let us not beat around the bush, they do pong a bit.
It was not a day for doing very much. The absence of rain for our walk around the block was just a hiatus and it came back with a vengeance shortly after. I also took the view that I had achieved quite a bit over the last few days and a day off should not be frowned upon - just difficult to accept.
Oddly, after such a deluge, that continued well into the afternoon, there was no sign of a flood down in the shop. Perhaps it has to be special rain or rain from a particular direction for it to work its way through the foundationless walls and across the shop floor. The only reason I had to venture to the shop in the first place was that a neighbour was in need of a couple of essential shopping items and did not fancy the walk up to the top in the pouring rain. We were happy to help since we had the stock and I needed to put a couple of items in the shop freezer anyway.
Mother decided not to come over on her usual Sunday visit. She too cited the heavy rain and thought that it was best that we did not make the journey over to collect her. The Missus had already prepared the meal for the evening, but it was easily put on hold, which left us with the dilemma of what to replace it for tea. It took a moment or two to remember that we had some frozen pasties delivered during the week - they were just the ticket.
Well, that was not the most auspicious end to the first month of the year. I will try harder for next month.
January 30th - Saturday
Apologies for the tardiness of delivery this morning; I had PC problems. My PC stopped working and I called it some very un-PC names.
The rain in the morning was not unexpected but it did seem to be the tail end of it. I slipped on waterproofs nevertheless, although strictly I could have done without them. The bleddy hound once again dug her heels in about running the gauntlet across the top of the slip but we could not have headed to the beach anyway as the tide was not with us today. She knows that and still kicked up a fuss.
Since the weather was showing unexpected signs of improvement, I had a geek at the weather forecast. Yesterday, we were warned of heavy rain all day and there was even a weather warning for rain in place. Today, the weather warning remained but the forecast had completely changed to overcast and grey, meaning varying degrees of mizzle here on the end.
It still was not one of the best days we have ever had but I reasoned a chap could probably get away with finishing off the shiplap at the back of the greenhouse. It irked me greatly having to leave a small gap like that when we had done so much. I tossed and turned all night just wondering if we had just stayed another half an hour - alright, I did not, but it did annoy me.
I waited until after breakfast and told the Missus I was leaving her. She began packing a suitcase, but I clarified that it was only for a few hours up at The Farm. She seemed disappointed. I did make sure that I took some milk with me as I felt sure I would be long enough to require succour at some point during the exercise.
The lane is even deeper in water down on the lower level. This makes an even bigger splash when you race through it. There are bigger puddles up on the higher flat stretch on the way to The Farm gate and the area just before the gate was a quagmire and awash with lying water. We have already decided that we need to put down a hardwearing surface where the tractor comes out and turns but it is starting to look like we need something similar in front of the gate.
I wasted no time in getting going. I had already worked out that we would have just about enough shiplap to complete the job in the two lengths we had left. The job required working backwards from the last existing sheet that the Missus installed around her caravan window. When I got to the bottom there was a small uneven gap, which could not be filled by cutting a strip to size as one end was so small I could not get a nail in. Instead, I ran a length of 6 x 1 across the bottom. Later, I discovered that I would need to do that across the whole width of the back as there are gaps where the surface is uneven. It will also make the back of the greenhouse look consistent, sort of.
It did not take long at all to complete the task and with the bit between my teeth I decided to move into the inside and complete the 4 x 2 cross beams which will support the additional windows and act as an anchor point for the boards that will furnish the lower half of the inside walls. I found that the offcuts of 4 x 2 from our uprights work yesterday were not far off the lengths I needed for the cross beams. This was highly convenient and meant not touching the full lengths that we have left. I made sure they were level but because the shiplap is squint, they all look wrong. The best thing about it was I was not getting damp in the persistent mizzle. The worst thing about it was, my cup of tea did not turn up by itself and I had to go and make it.
I returned in the middle of the afternoon a bit damp and bedraggled, which looked very much like The Cove. The sea was exceedingly lively with large waves rolling in on Gwenver, Aire Point and Creagle. That whole stretch was steaming with spray held suspended in the air as if the sea was boiling. A little later, as the sun dipped below the cloud, we had a big, thick column of a rainbow, static in the middle of the bay for quite a few minutes. Although the biggest waves were over the other side of the bay, there was enough power and swell on the southern side to attract a couple of our more hardy surfers in the latter part of the afternoon still a good hour or so off high water.
I had remembered, just in the nick of time that I was supposed to cook tea in the evening. I was actually supposed to cook it last night so that it could steep overnight but reasoned that it would probably do if I cooked it long enough from the morning. Having prepared it and set it off before I went up to The Farm, I promptly forgot all about it until the smell of it caught me as I walked through the door. With this particular dish that is not so much of a problem, which was lucky.
I shall sleep a satisfied person tonight, with all my immediate jobs done and a passable meal served in the evening. Perhaps I might even have a day off tomorrow.
January 29th - Friday
Today was the kind of day that some old Italian bloke coined the phrase, carpe diem, for. It was most unexpected to see some blue skies with scarcely a cloud to spoil them from one horizon to the other. It must have been the sixty miles per hour wind that blew all the rubbish weather away and left, mainly, just the good.
Quite early on, after having a geek at the forecasts, it became apparent that it was going to be pleasant the day long and the wind would diminish by and by. It occurred to me in a flash that we should really carpe my diem by the scruff of the neck and get the back of the greenhouse finished. All that was left to do was replace the posts, concrete them in at the base and hammer on some shiplap. All the timber was already up at The Farm and we had all the tools we needed for the job. It just needed us to be there and a fair wind - or rather not.
It might also give the bleddy hound some relief from her seal phobia. I had to drag her past the top of the slipway this morning and run her around the block despite there being plenty of beach to run around on. There was no sign of any seal down there but, there again, there was not any sign yesterday, either. I will have to get some seal scent in a bottle and some life-sized pictures and do some home psychotherapy with her.
We ran out to collect Mother first and headed for The Farm early. This is closed shop early, meaning before the middle of the day. It was the best we could do. It took rather longer than I had imagined taking down the rotten old shiplap. There was quite a lot of encouragement required to separate the rotten shiplap from the rotten posts held on with rusty nails. It was in no danger of falling apart and if it had not got so many holes in it, we may well have been better off leaving it there.
During my assessment when I last looked at it, the existing posts all leaned out from the top. There were no post holes for them, so nothing was lost, we just had to chisel out new post holes in the concrete a little further out. This was quite useful as there is a bit of a shelf in the concrete floor before it goes to earth. The new shiplap will therefore sit on concrete but an inch below the level of the floor.
We took our time getting the posts right otherwise the shiplap would not sit correctly. As it is, the whole building is on the slope and the shiplap runs downhill. This was not really an issue as we were not looking for design awards, although judging from some building out there, we may be in for a shot. Professionally, we should have had a wedge at the bottom to even the slope, but sod it, which is a technical expression for delivering a fit for purpose solution to a big hole in the back of the greenhouse and not caring too much what it looks like.
It took us four hours to complete, both of us working together, which required us to occasionally speak with one another. We seemed to get over this and we were working at different ends of 4.8 metres of timber, which helped. The job was a cracker. There is still a small gap to complete, which will not take very long so long as we have sufficient shiplap left over for it.
Tah dah - it will take some ingenuity to put a straight facial boad in there, though.
We arrived back home with the mist closing in again down in the bay. For the first time in a few days, we had been able to see Brisons again but when we returned in the afternoon, they were gone again. The waves had clearly been building all day and were pretty substantial heading towards high water. The big swell had attracted a number of surfers to The Cove as it did yesterday, too. So excited was one that he forgot how to drive, pulling over without indicating then swerving out in front of me when he changed his mind. There were ten yesterday down on the southern break, thankfully surfing and not driving, but only a few when I looked again towards the end of the afternoon as it was going dark.
It came to rain later in the evening, just as Mother was going home and set in for the night. I shall avoid going down to the shop tomorrow as I will see the flood by the beer fridge and be compelled to mop it up. It seems to have raised its ugly head again after a couple of years of absence and will incur a trip around the back to check the drain. If ignored, it runs out under the greetings card rack and drains or evaporates - who cares which. I am working on the principle that if I cannot see it then it did not happen. I can do blissful ignorance as I have a head start.
January 28th - Thursday
That mist is still here. You cannot say that it is not tenacious. Occasionally, it harbours some mizzle which is quite hard to see when looking out of the window. It got me this morning because it just looked wet outside, so I only slipped on my waterproof jacket for the quick run down to the beach. My trousers were soaked through when we eventually got home.
As it turned out, it was a much longer trip than a short run down to the beach. We did get down there initially but within a minute the bleddy hound's seal radar went off and so did her barking alarm. She scarpered up the slipway to about half way up when she stopped and refused to move or stop barking. I had a quick look around the western slip and there it was, masquerading as a rock and doing such a good job of it that I did not see it for a few seconds.
I too headed up the main slipway between the boats and tried to encourage the bleddy hound to follow across the wharf and onto the car park. She was having none of that, either, as barking and standing stock still is clearly the thing to do when faced with the scent of monsters of the deep. In the end I had to go and hook her up on her lead again and drag her to the car park. She was still thinking about it when we got back within sight of our door as she kept stopping and looking behind her in case it was coming to get her.
Despite wearing a hair shirt all night, some stern self-flagellation before bedtime and stale bread and water for breakfast, the guilt of doing nothing all day yesterday still required some penance. On the last few occasions tripping up to The Farm I had intentions of tidying up the wiring in the cabin. There was always something better to do then but today, with rain on the way and mist and mizzle already thick in the air, an inside job was just the ticket.
I left the Missus behind and headed up to start work. The lane is proper flooded in the lower section after the most recent rain and great fun to charge through in a four by four vehicle. There is no one going to accuse us of using it as a Chelsea tractor as it is lagged in mud up to the windows on all sides. The top section is a little better but not much. I am going to have to bite the bullet and get someone to scrape the lane. This will, I am sure, upset those that use it for walking for a short while, but I am not sure what else we can do.
It took the best part of an hour to install all the junction boxes and secure the light switches. All the holes in the ceiling are now covered over and the wiring on the ceiling, near invisible. In the brick built convenience, the switch is now in a sensible place on the doorframe as you go in, although it does switch on the second light in the chain as well. That can be fixed but is a job for sometime in the future. I am sure that there are smarter wiring jobs, but done on the cheap (sort of) that is not a bad job. As a bonus, I installed our new carbon monoxide alarm behind Mother's chair.
I also took a quick geek at the polytunnel all round and our remedial work seems to have taken quite well. We still await the parts to complete the job and if they do not arrive today, I will have to call up to chase them. With the given weather forecast, there does not seem to be much of a hurry, but the parts can be fitted ahead of the doors being hung and that can be done in the relative dry of the tunnel. The door hanging itself should be a quick job thereafter.
When I got back, the Missus did not even notice I had gone, which I do not know if I should be pleased or worried about. I had intended to have a cup of tea and head down to the shop to install the new smoke alarm. I reasoned that I might need something to do tomorrow and that I would just have the cup of tea instead. There is no point rushing at these things.
I did send a note to the CO alarm manufacturers because the self test did not do exactly as the instruction book said. The test seemed logical in that it lit up all the lights, which is what I would expect, but the instructions only indicated that one light would flash. The company is either blessed with an army of staff just waiting for customer calls or they are just not very busy at present; I had a reply withing fifteen minutes of my query. It seems that the instruction book needs an update and the unit is operating just fine.
The mizzle turned to heavier rain in the afternoon and venturing out required waterproofs all over, so I did not do much venturing out. I felt much relived that I had actually achieved something work-like in the morning and that my hair shirt can go back in the drawer until next time. With a diminishing level of administration to be done, I dug out an old video game. I purchased a gaming machine some while ago but have scarcely used it as I did not find playing it quite as enjoyable or fulfilling as I thought that it might be. However, to taunt myself with the utter frustration of getting knocked out every few minutes and never reaching the end of any of the few games I have, there is nothing quite like it and it can go on for hours if you let it. I do not because there is not enough beer in the place.
We had a quieter evening as we listened to the wind in the west wind itself up to gale force. I think I might need to go back to The Farm again tomorrow to make sure everything is still there - and also to admire my wiring again, obviously.
January 27th - Wednesday
The mist has yet to depart us. It was pretty thick in the morning but by the middle of the afternoon it was pressing in leaving less than a couple of hundred yards visibility in The Cove. It was, however, much warmer than our previous days and with hardly any breeze, to boot.
The bleddy hound was still a little tentative about coming down to the beach in the morning but did eventually follow me down. I spoke with another neighbour who joined us just before we left, and she told me that she had bumped into a couple of them the previous evening. It seems like they are coming into the Harbour to roost at night - do seals roost? - which I am hoping is not going to be a habit.
The forecast had a geet lump of rain descending on us in the afternoon, which put us off making any grand plans. When it arrived, it was hardly noticeably and must have been a big disappointment to other rain bands that step up to the plate and deliver proper rain. Perhaps it was training for a better performance elsewhere as it travelled east.
I had waited for it to clear before taking the bleddy hound around the block. I really need not have bothered because I doubt that I would have noticed very much difference. It was still a bit mizzly when I did go but it did not seem to bother the bleddy hound very much. She displays no enthusiasm at all for her steps out. I had insisted she come around the block with me so that she at least had to work her legs a little bit even if it is not a major stank across the moors. I can get three steps out of her before she stops and looks aimlessly around. I encourage, cajole and eventually drag her the next three steps only to repeat the process a few minutes later.
By the time I had got her to the car park, a monumental task in itself, I had given up with the encouraging and cajoling. I resorted to taking her off the lead and leaving her until I was out of sight. Even then I had to go back and call her, which at least evoked a bit of a jog in the right direction. The end of the car park must be some point of no return for her as she perks up a bit and needs no further encouragement to walk on with me.
She did not take much notice of the fishermen, either, who had just landed their catch and were waiting on the transport to load up and take them to market. There must have been twenty boxes or more of mackerel between three boats that had gone out. It was a bit late, but I have now sent in my order for a dozen mackerel for Mother and me to share. I will smoke them first and make some pate, which Mother seems to like - provided I can remember how I made the last lot; I forgot to write it down.
I told the Missus that I was torn between going down to the shop to clean the oven and sitting on my backside and doing begger all for the rest of the afternoon. She told me to do the latter as it would make her feel a whole lot better about doing the same.
I will not bother you with the details of our sitting on our backsides and doing begger all. I would venture that many of you know all about that at present.
January 26th - Tuesday
Well, it was another day and there is no arguing with that. It was, perhaps, not the sort of day you might have dreamt of, although I may possibly have been dreaming when it awoke me this morning with its thundering rain hammering on the window above me.
The bleddy hound seemed keen to get up and get going. Had she gone completely mad? I told her to go back to sleep again and wait until it was all over. It took a little while, but I could not bear her disappointment a moment longer and got up to get ready to head out into it.
The wait was worthwhile because it was merely raining heavily while I was donning my full metal jacket waterproofs. By the time we got out of the door, it had moderated still more and was just normal rain by then. The bleddy hound realised her mistake with a pause on the way down the steps too late; she was committed, or perhaps should have been.
We were half way down the slipway when she decided something was amiss and was not coming down any further, at least, not without making a monumental fuss about it. It was the sort of seal alert fuss that she makes and is not normally wrong, so I scouted ahead to make sure the coast was clear. There was a fair amount of weed strewn around but no sign of any seal activity and I looked both sides of the beach to establish that because the bleddy hound suggested under the slipways and normally a seal with any nous takes cover the other side in the lee of the wall. Still she hesitated.
I thought that it might be that there was a bit of a Grand Canyon thing going on at the bottom of the slip where the runoff from the deluge had carved its mark in the sand. When eventually I managed to coax her down, she promptly fell off the edge of it into the abyss four inches below. She really was distracted and not at all on top of her game. She did what she had to do and was out of there in a big hurry.
It was a little later that her best pal came by, just as I was heading down to secure our wheelie bin after it had been emptied. My pal then told me that she had almost trodden on a seal down on the Harbour beach last night in the dark as she took the dog for a walk. I did not look at the bleddy hound because her face would have had 'I told you so' written all over it.
Despite the rain clearing up in the middle of the morning it was still not the best of days to be going out and doing things, so we did not. Although the shop is closed, bills keep rolling in and in the period since I last did them I now have a geet pile of invoices to process. It seemed like the ideal day to be doing that, so I did. I booked the truck in for its MOT and service in March and while that sounds premature, the first week in March was the first appointment he had free. I also chased up and gave the go ahead to our structural surveyor to produce the plans for the front of the shop to stop it falling down. All of this from the comfort of my office chair by the window, which salved my conscience to a degree for sitting about all day.
Nothing to see here. Mist and mizzle all day.
While it is still some distance off, I also spent some time fine tuning our orders for shop opening and talking with suppliers. The shipping container crisis that I mentioned before Christmas continues with reports that £2,000 for a container is now £10,000. There is a backlog at British ports and a global lack of containers. This was mentioned at least a year ago by one of our suppliers. It is because so many full containers head this way from the Far East and not many go back and they do not like returning them empty, which no one wants to pay for.
Wholesalers are holding back on ordering and prices are being held for orders that I place today. If I delay, and the problem does not resolve itself, I will have to pay a lot more for later orders, even if I can get the stock. The likelihood is that we face another busy year with perhaps having to hike prices or having shortage of stock. The answer would seem to be to kick start UK manufacturing, but that will not happen overnight.
I might go up the The Farm tomorrow and see how much work I would need to put into the barn into a bucket and spade factory. As long as I can find my way through the mist.
January 25th - Monday
What a brave new day we faced when we looked out of the window this morning. I also had to be brave to venture out in a pair of shorts to take the bleddy hound down to the beach because it was darned cold out there. There were pictures of snow on the news and I correctly guessed the four areas of the west that were due to be coldest, because it really was not that difficult. Ours was not one of them, although I have no idea what the temperature was, but I was mightily grateful that the fierce breeze that had been blowing in from the north had diminished to nearly nothing overnight.
It struck me that it was the sort of day to head up to The Farm and start work on the back of the greenhouse now that the polytunnel was nearly complete. The rear of the greenhouse probably needed the most work, although our initial thought was that we would leave it alone. None of the middle beam supports are supporting anything as they do not reach the ground. I had not realised soon enough but the beam itself is rotten almost end to end. I think, had I thought about it sooner, I would have replaced it first. Now that the roof is on, that is going to be very difficult to do. I reflected on this later and salved my concerns by concluding that the structure was not actually supporting that much weight. Once the uprights had been replaced it would probably survive most things thrown at it for some years to come.
I was not entirely sure what the programme of works was going to be today. Whatever it was going to be was severely pared back because we did not manage to get up there until the middle of the day, which was shameful. I had thought that a quick trip to the builders' merchant would give us some timber to play with and we could probably get a couple of the posts done, at least. So, off I went.
The process took a lot longer than I imagined as first, there was quite a lot of timber and secondly, it had to be loaded onto the new roof bars on the truck and secured. Not being a regular in securing timber to the top of a truck, this took some time having deduced that forces in five directions had to be considered. It clung onto the roof bars without too much movement all the way from St Just back to the entrance of the lane. The track that is getting worse every day clearly was a challenge too much for my tying down and the load slipped. I made it to The Farm gate, but had I ventured another fifty yards I think that I might have been in trouble.
It was only when we started to remove the old shiplap from the back of the greenhouse that I realised the time. The weather it set to deteriorate over the next few days and I did not want to leave the back of the building too exposed, so we stopped and left it for another time.
This was just as well because the Missus, while checking the back of the polytunnel noticed that some of the polythene had come loose. This was a bit worrying as the polythene had been cut to size so there was nothing to allow us to pull it tight again. The Missus had the bright idea to put another line of zigzag wire into the fixing gully rather than remove the other and this seemed to work. We will check it again after the next big blow and in the mean time keep our fingers crossed.
The sun was dipping to the horizon as we left the field, softening the light with a warm golden glow. We will have to leave either earlier or after the sun has set because it is exceedingly difficult to drive down the lane with the sun directly in your eyes. At least I was not worrying about half a ton of timber falling off this time.
The Missus is becoming very proficient at making tea out of hardly anything at all. Mostly it involves using locally acquired vegetables with meat or fish extracted from the depths of our freezer. We have been taking meat and fish from the freezer since we closed at the end of October, so I have concluded that it is self-replenishing as the pile does not seem to get any smaller in there. We did add some milk and butter just into the new year and have sufficient to see us, Mother and a neighbour through to the end of February in that regard.
Sadly, we are running out of morning meals for the bleddy hound, for which one of us will have to break cover and go to a larger shop. The bleddy hound cannot just have any meal, you understand, so we messed up a bit there. It will be resolved but at present it is a real dog's breakfast.
I do trust you Scotland people are not feeling too heavy headed this morning. Happy belated Burns Night to you. I would have joined you with some haggis but the scoundrels at a certain Glaswegian butcher which shares a name with a book publisher sent me an out of date one. I did have a whisky before that went out of date, too.