Sennen Cove: the final frontier. These are the witterings of a West Cornwall shopkeeper. His seemingly interminable mission: to plumb new depths in literary rambling, to seek out the boring and banal, to boldly sink deeper than any Diarist has sunk before.
October 30th - Friday
There was lots of social distancing this morning. Even by the time I came back from the gymnasium, there was hardly a soul about. The weather was not what you might call attractive for a wander about, but I sensed that many of our visitors had made a swift exit as well.
It was a bit mizzly for our exercise on the beach first thing, but it was mild and as the day progressed it became milder. By the early afternoon I had to swap my jumper for a shirt, which was much more comfortable. I suspect that the many people that I saw wrapped up against the increasing wet of the day were melting quietly under their layers.
The Missus ran off to see Mother in the afternoon, courtesy of the RNLI's jump starter pack. We had used the truck to jump start the tractor on several occasions last week after a fuel blockage helped us run its battery down. The exertion clearly took its toll on the truck battery and the Missus found that it would not start yesterday. Given the number of times we have had to jump start one vehicle or another over the last few years I decided to invest in a jump start pack of our own.
Whenever I buy anything, I will spend some considerable time researching the market and discovering what the best product for a particular job is. Usually, one product or another stands out from the crowd. I had intended to get the same box that the Lifeboat station has as it has served well the few times I have used it, however, there is a new kid on the block. I noticed quite a few boxes based on lithium ion technology which are small enough to fit in a glove box and the charge lasts for months without recharging. I was dubious at first but there is enough evidence to suggest that these are the future, so I decided on one of these.
That was the easy part of the decision. The sheer number of products on the market was astounding. No two review sites recommended the same product, which made the decision extremely tricky. The selection was narrowed down by what was available to the picked up in Penzance in the afternoon given the truck's condition I did not think waiting would be sensible. All that remained was hoping that the truck would start again after the Missus had stopped to pick it up.
The Missus gave the truck a good run and had no problem subsequently. She returned with Mother and our fish order. Now, you may be wondering why we should place a fish order two days before we close for the season. Well, a man has to eat does he not. We had done rather well emptying our freezer of the substantial fish stock that we had and, yes, some of the new order will be mine, all mine and Mother's; the Missus hates fish. Also, we should have some still left if anyone wants some at Christmas.
It was quite plain by the end of the afternoon that there were definitely more leavers than arrivers. Such things become plain after pasty orders have been made for the weekend and, I suspect, we will still be knee deep by the end of Sunday. At least the Missus will have some meals in the freezer when Mother and I are tucking into some 'asnum 'ake or 'addock. Actually, she may well spurn these as we have discovered the succulent delight of cooking them from uncooked and frozen from the excellent Prima bakery.
Gosh, that has made me hungry; must be tea time.
October 29th - Thursday
I have heard of the calm before the storm but the calm after is not so common, certainly not as a phrase. Not only had the sea hung up some of its hat and calmed down a bit this morning but the populous was nowhere in sight. I mean, I was not expecting the crowds of yesterday, naturally, but there was hardly a soul about before the middle of the day. Perhaps yesterday's big seas had worn everyone out.
Earlier, the bleddy hound and I had inspected the beach. There was more sand missing from the environs of the short slip. Standing in the hole I could estimate that there was about four feet of sand gone that was there two days ago. It had not gone very far and will be back at some time and it would be quite boring if it was the same all the time. It was difficult to see what if anything had happened to the big beach. I will be able to slip down there from Monday at my leisure.
I should be careful what I wish for. It could not be said that the street was as busy as yesterday, but it was not far from it but everyone had waited until the afternoon to come out. There were quite some groups gathered around the Little Bo Café, us and the Ice Cream Kiosk. They were not exactly pressed together but they certainly were not spread out, either. It made me rather glad that I was sheltered in my little cabin behind the counter in the shop, then I thought that it was probably more embattled than sheltered.
The local Coastguard team were down during the afternoon again. They came to chastise or maybe just keep and eye on some local boys playing catch the wave on the Harbour wall. While the sea was not quite as boisterous as it was yesterday, it was arguably not the brightest idea to be wall jumping in the conditions. Since no animals were hurt in the production of the fun, the boys would probably argue that it was perfectly safe. We will wait until they are old and grumpy and complaining about youngsters playing chicken on the wall. I shall leave a note for the next Diarist.
There was a flurry towards the end of the afternoon of late going home present buying. I am guessing everyone was preoccupied by the continuing bluster in the bay. I am quite surprised that we have anything left to sell them because, like the confection, we have done rather too well at running it down. It is, of course, a lesson learnt, and we will do much better next time we are closing down the shop in the middle of a pandemic.
Unlike all the other days this week, we were busy right to the close of play. It is going to be a complete mystery how the next few days will play out, whether we will have a new influx and just how busy the weekend might be. How very exciting.
October 28th - Wednesday
The sea must have been boiling in the Harbour last night. All the weed, save for one lump where it was thickest, has all been scoured out along with much sand, mainly from under the short slip. The main beach seems to have fared much better, most likely protected to some degree by the large sandbank at the back. We shall see what they both look like tomorrow.
Today was all about this - before high water
Even at low water, Seven Stones weather buoy was reporting waves up to 22 feet high. In the bay at around the same time those large waves, tempered by the distance run and the depth of the water here were probably around eight or ten feet and marching in lines into the bay. Later, with the attendant crowds watching it was putting on a show, pounding over the Harbour wall, lamping over Pedn-men-du and over topping Brisons. Over at Creagle, not Creedle for which I shall blame my spell checker, ahem, white water was exploding up the cliff most of two thirds of the way up on occasion. The tide, that has not been out for three days, was pushing all the way up the beach and into the dunes behind.
Washing up Creagle
and down again
By mid afternoon, the joint was jumping with visitor numbers putting August in the shade. The smart money would have seen this coming and ordered in additional pasties but we felt it was no good to encourage such overcrowding and did not bother. Several people reported later seeing a grumpy shopkeeper weeping and wailing and thumping his head against the Harbour wall.
Brisons washed clean
It was not just the street packed with people wandering about and looking at the bay in awe but it was also traffic mayhem. With the kerb full of parked cars nose to tail, including across people's driveways, some adventurous motorists decided to try using the car parks. Clearly not used to such innovative thinking, most circled about wondering what the white lines were for. Half way through the afternoon, with cars in gridlock approaching the Harbour car park, the Coastguard tried to exit on a shout. It is further grist to the mill for the case put forward to the much maligned council on our parking issues, for all the good it will do.
Now, whoever it was they should know that they should not be telling tales. Quite unexpectedly we had a card today from Her Maj., well not zackly her, of course, she being a bit busy with other things I imagine, but from the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, her representative in the Duchy. It pointed to the "hard work, selflessness, collaboration, innovation and courage" at which point I had another look at the envelope to check that it was actually addressed to us. It was but I was relieved to note, when I read on, that these were attributes shown generally by other people during the dreaded lurgi outbreak. Nevertheless, as Her Maj's representative, he would like to thank us anyway for the very little we had done. I think he meant turning up to open the door in the morning and so willingly empty the purses of the visiting public with selfless disregard for my own safety. Bless him, but he really should not have.
In all seriousness, and I am trying very hard with that, it was a lovely thing to receive and we thank whoever put us on the list, even if we do think it a little undeserved. It is also a bit embarrassing that it has arrived on the eve of us shutting down for four months. We can just hope that those who really pulled the stops out had a fiver slipped into their card.
Moving swiftly on, the crowds dissipated as the hours after high water slipped away. It gave me some time to watch the angry sea instead of the throng of customers vying for the dwindling stock we have littering our shelves. In some cases we have run out way ahead of when we should have like our confection shelves, which are pitifully empty. We were just not expecting such busyness right to the end and today tripped us right up. One day we will get the hang of this shopkeeping lark.
October 27th - Tuesday
Last week sometime, we heard about eleven containers that had plopped off a cargo ship as it navigated the traffic separation system between Land's End and the Isles of Scilly. HM Coastguard were monitoring their position by sending up an aeroplane to go and look for them. Clearly 40 feet containers might do some damage even to bigger ships if they were struck. We were told they were empty and thus the latent wrecking genes in every Cornishman up the coast, suddenly alert, were sent back to dormancy.
Until this morning. Radio Pasty speaks to the Coastguard every now again to see what is happening around the coast and today they reported that one of the containers had washed up south of Hartland point and, erm, it was not quite empty. Apparently, it was only 'worthless' absorbent pads, nappies and the like but one man's absorbent pads is another man's, um, soft toy stuffing? Who is to say, now that the cat is out of the bag, that the other containers might have something a bit more valuable inside. There will be lights on all up the north coast tonight, I would wager.
A little bit of wrecking would have cheered things up considerably today. After the initial weather front blew through The Cove, it all went a bit grey and mizzly and was none too warm, either. At least for the last few days we have had some sunshine even if we were battered by the wind. We were hoping for a bit more in our last week.
The sea gave a brief respite from its thumping in and the Lifeguards left their red flags in the locker for once. There were waves but they were messy and not at all conducive to decent surfing. Apparently, that is no reason whatever not to grab your wetsuit and surfboard and dive in. There were easily 50 stir crazy surfers wading in to get wet and get slapped about the face by some foamy waves. Gosh, they must have been keen - or desperate.
It was not until near the middle of the day that the sun broke through and spirits lifted. Hitherto, it had been very quiet, but the sun changed things almost immediately and pasties started to slip out of the door. We find that once the first pasty has gone, subsequent sales follow very quickly afterwards and it can catch us out if we are not prepared. The trick is to have the next batch five minutes away from being ready. A feat that it easier said than done. Needless to say, that did not happen, then.
We ended on yet another busy day. A week such as this, even in the half-term holiday, would have been pretty forlorn in years gone by. Again, with nowhere much else to go and more than our usual numbers here, our busyness continues through the shabby weather. We must thank the small gods of grumpy shopkeepers for their largesse, although, no doubt there will be a price to pay. The needs of the small gods of grumpy taxmen must also be assuaged, I fear.
What with all this busyness it does lead to the occasional mistake. I send an electronic mail to our butcher for our orders now as he prefers it and it avoids misinterpretation when messages are left. I telephoned today because a customer had asked me to add a couple of items to the order, so I was quite surprised when he asked, what order. I know that I send an electronic mail, now I just need to know who I sent it to just in case they feel the need to fulfil it.
October 26th - Monday
If you were after bright and breezy, today was the epitome of it. Oh, that rather did the weather bit in a sentence instead of the usual three paragraphs. What shall I fill the page with now?
Well, there is always the sea. I did not mention the sea. Even if I had mentioned the sea you probably would not have been able to hear me for the racket it was making. Even at low tide, it was making a nuisance of itself, giving it all large and strutting through the bay. Come high water it was making long runs up the sand bank that has accumulated at the back of the beach, trying to snatch the unwary away from their loved ones.
Bright & breezy
The morning routine went exceedingly smoothly apart from the nearly being blown off our feet bit as we rounded the corner of the Lifeboat station. The newspapers, milk and early grocery delivery were all timely and I found myself, having walked, fed and watered the bleddy hound, with extra time on my hands. With the closed season approaching and DIYMan breathing down my neck, keen to get started, my browsing fingers found their way to a power tool website. It is not as though I do not have a drill and an impact driver already, but the batteries do not last very long and are incompatible with the other tools we have. Surely a replacement set would not be too much for the bank balance and then there is an SDS drill, too, for those awkward jobs drilling into the granite walls, which of course I do quite regularly - at least once every couple of years. Fortunately, comparing and investigating take quite a while and before I knew it, I had run out of time.
Stemming back to last year, we have suffered some major gaps in our greeting card display, which I find quite irritating every time I pass it. We have done better this year with some additional local artists coming direct to us but, more recently, it has looked quite thin again. Even though it was late in the season, I decided to place a reasonably substantial order with one of our established suppliers which fronts a host of individual artists and does so quite effectively. The cards arrived last week and made a much better display of it all.
Today, amongst the busyness and little surges in customer visits, one lady told me that we were stocking her cards. I asked her name and realised that she was a new artist for us this year and her cards had done rather well since they arrived. I probably would have said that even if they had not as she was quite personable, and we do like meeting the artists who help provide us with a living.
It is much the same with the food and, maybe especially the drink, that we like to meet the makers and since most are local, that is not too far a stretch. It is also important that we sample the products, maybe especially the drink, as I would find it extremely difficult to look myself in the eye and honestly recommend it to our customers ... and we do have some cracking nosh and drink.
One of our selection of cracking nosh & drink
I am not quite so keen on this closing the shop in the dark idea; it feels like we are opening late. If we are not careful we shall have a line of taxi drivers parked outside and will have to start serving coffee and bacon rolls. Still, the bright outside lights come into their own, acting as a beacon for every waif and stray for miles about. We have not seen any waifs and strays or anyone else for that matter, they must just sit and watch the lights from afar. It is particularly quiet after about half past four when we have our premature five minutes to closing rush.
I did have one late visitor, someone wished to inform me that there was a juvenile seal on the Harbour beach and thus absolve himself from the responsibility for its welfare. It is the time of year for young seals and when the sea is as raucous as it has been these last days the young ones run out of puff and beach up for a breather. They generally find their way back by themselves if they are left undisturbed. The reported late tonight, however, had something like a fling ring stuck around its neck. I did try the Seal Sanctuary at Gweek but I think they had the telephone off the hook. I can imagine they were exceeding busy. I shall check in the morning for the seal but it will probably be on its way.
October 25th - Sunday
I was very nearly wrongfooted by the clock adjustment in the early hours. A throwaway comment from the Missus put me right and my very smart, smart mobile telephone did the rest, waking me at the correct appointed hour.
It was quite obvious to me that the sea had no such luck and had got out of bed on the wrong side and an hour early for it was most curmudgeonly. It was not long after low water, so it was only going to get worse, or better depending upon your point of view. Coming over the wall at low water is not a particularly good sign and it was pumping over the lower third of Pedn-men-du. There was no particular change in the tide today, it just stayed up at the top of the beach. Unlike yesterday, there were no surf breaks at all, just messy white water across the bay.
There is no doubt at all that it was very busy around The Cove today. When I took the bleddy hound around in the early afternoon, there were groups of people going in all directions, especially in the car park. With parking all along the street in the most awkward places, there were still spaces in the Harbour car park. I had to frog mark the bleddy hound through to the other side so that we were not in the way for too long. It did not feel comfortable in the least.
We were fortunate that we managed our circuit in the dry. The day was half brilliant sunshine and clear skies and half heavy showers large enough to cloud the sky from horizon to horizon. The showers did not hang around for long but they had the effect of emptying the street each time Quite where the large numbers of people went to shelter, I have no idea, but there soon reappeared when the sun came out again.
While there were plenty of people in The Cove, we were not overly busy, for which we are quite grateful. Managing the numbers entering the shop can be quite a task and at this stage of the game I am really not up for quite a tasks. The numbers we had managed themselves.
It quietened down considerably in the late afternoon sunshine There were many more people down on the beach - what little of it there was - than earlier on and there were a fair few watchjng the seas dance and perform over Cowloe and the reef out from Brisons towards Cot Valley. It was not doing a bad job piling up Creedle, either and by this time it was low water. I do not think that the body boards we sold earlier in the day will get any use until much later in the week, if at all.
It was a sedate end to the day, apart from the sea and a five minutes to closing rush. This permitted me to wash down our windows just in time for them to get caked in salt again as the next howling gale hits us. If the following days are as polite and tender as, and I am not talking about the weather, this then I shall be a very happy grumpy shopkeeper.
October 24th - Saturday
I cannot help it if we are lucky. The bleddy hound and I were way ahead of the first rain when we headed for the beach, although it was a bit damp, but we struggled through, stalwarts that we are. Every now and again while we are down there I do a bit of a litter pick, mainly of the plastic that accumulates there. Today, the sand was especially splotted with plastic that had been smoothed by years in the ocean currents. I filled a small bag full of the little bits before we ran out of time. Later, a visitor did the same with a large carrier bag and filled that, too. Maybe I should try harder.
My civic duty met, sort of, I attended to my bleddy hound duties and fed her. I was mindful of the time slipping away and that the newspapers, which would normally have been delivered by that time, would need to be stuffed with all their weekend magazines and inserts and be ready for shop opening at half past eight.
I went down to the shop in good time but found that the newspapers had not been delivered. I kicked my heels for a bit and found some other things to do but kept peeking through the binds to see if the van was there yet. With just ten minutes to go, the paper van arrived.
Our regular driver is a pretty relaxed sort of character and I jocularly mentioned that he was cutting it a bit fine with the delivery. I received an unusually sharp riposte, which suggested that our man was quite stressed about the situation. He explained that the Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company was now insisting that every single bundle of newspapers be scanned on loading into his truck and scanned again when he takes them out again. He was definitely less than happy with this latest edict and told me that it added a great deal of time into the process, especially when bar codes did not read or were missing altogether, because the problem had to be resolved before they could be loaded and driven away. He has been late all week and by today he had clearly had enough.
I know how he feels and, I am sure, dear seasoned reader, you have a strong inkling as well. After being refused leniency on the delivery charge issues, I sent my gripe to one of the trade magazines. The lady recipient asked if I would mind if she passed on my comments to the Laurel and Hardy Company Head of Retail, which I said I would not mind at all. Apparently, the Head of Retail had made contact with the reporter after a string of adverse letters in the magazine. The reporter told her she welcomed the contact because all the letters she had sent to the Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company on readers' behalf previously, elicited no response. She then told me that after all that the first complaint she had forwarded to the Head of Retail was also met with silence. She wanted to try again with mine because it was a very reasoned complaint. We wait with not too bated breath.
Our pasty delivery driver was nicely on time. Quite what we are to do with the pile of pasties we have I am not too sure as rain stopped play for most of the day. The effects of the weather front passing through had been well broadcast by several separate authorities, so we prepared accordingly. I reasoned that we would have a pretty poor showing given the weather but it is difficult to predict just how desperate our new arrivals are, so I made adjustments, just in case.
The storm did kick up some swell for our beleaguered surfers. It was professionals only today after the Lifeguards red flagged the beach and no surprise. There was some cracking waves down the southern section of the beach, the bit that ends in rocks, and it even lured out a stand-up surfer who amazingly stayed standing up and a kayaker in one of those surf kayaks that look like a shoe for a very big person. I am not the world's most expert commentator on the sport but even I could tell that there was some very clever surfing going on.
The highlight of the morning, and very possibly the day if not week, was a young lady turning up clutching to her bosom a case of Pocket Full of Stones Distillery's Dr Squid gin. This is the one that I have waxed glorious about previously that comes in a posh copper bottle that does not pour very well, I discovered. The distillery had also noticed it because this batch came with an equal number of pourers to give away with each bottle and a spare one for me for the bottle I had salted away upstairs. It was only right that I try it out later in the evening, just to make sure it worked. It did. Twice.
The rain that was supposed to stop in the afternoon and give over to some bright spells did not. It did appear to at around half past three o'clock. It was a ruse to lure people outside then come back with a vengeance, which worked rather well, as it happened. It did not let everyone stop what they wanted to do. One young man came in wearing his t-shirt, which is one way of keeping your raincoat dry. I admired his pluck. His t-shirt was clinging, rather.
Days such as these are almost as tiring as the busy ones, as the hours drag by. It was probably about as busy as it was ever going to get on a rainy changeover day, and we were lucky to get the business that we did. I could not help but have the feeling that we were being lured into a false sense of security and that tomorrow we would face a similar deluge to the one we had in the second weekend of July, but with significantly fewer windbreaks, balls and stock generally. I was hoping that we could deter insurrection with a few crabbing nets and buckets and spades, all of which we still have in numbers. If we ran out of paddle bats, we have now a surplus chopping boards - roughly the same size and shape, the same ones I managed to sell when we did not have any stock.
I do not want to put a tin hat on it, but something must be said. It has not always been a bed of roses what with mask wars et al, so I must make mention that the intake we experienced during the day have been exceptionally pleasant. Some we know but others were complete strangers and although few in numbers so far, I have been uplifted by the spirit. More tomorrow, please.
October 23rd - Friday
Well, I managed to avoid getting too wet in the morning. I had expected it to be raining from the outset and through the morning but the bleddy hound and I got away with it down on the beach. I noticed that we might have a second crack at collecting seaweed now that the tides are receding. I suspect that the weed that is there is still the same as it was, and the spring tides did not do their job of refreshing the beach. This means that the weed will probably dry out quickly, since it was dry before it got wet again, if you see what I mean.
It was starting to feel a bit mizzly when I came down to open the shop a little later. The whole bay from top to bottom looked gloomy and threatening and the mizzle got heavier now and again. I had gone upstairs to get the remaining items for my gymnasium visit and as I came downstairs I was greeted by just half a bay. Someone had dropped a white sheet across the bay from Creedle around to the west and was drawing it ever closer to us. It was a terrific squall of really fine rain that swirled about the street caught in every little eddy of draught. I decided to wait a minute or two before making my way to the gymnasium, which was exactly the right thing to do.
If I had waited an hour or two, I might have needed sun lotion instead of a coat. Our afternoon was a different day altogether with long spells of warm sunshine issued from a sky just dotted with high wispy strings of cloud. It is a shame that there were none too many about to witness it as most of our guests from the week had gone home, it seemed. The only crowds left in abundance were herring gulls and terns. There were hundreds of them dotted about the bay, bobbing about on the water without a care. In various numbers and combinations, they came to stay all day.
The Missus did not. As soon as I returned to the shop from the gymnasium she was off shopping and running errands. She came back with what was possibly our last fish order of the season, which did not amount to very much. We still have a reasonable selection in the freezer, now in the store room, which will either service demand during this week or, heaven forfend that we do not sell it, it will service my demand during the off season.
When I arrived in the shop first thing to do the bottling up and the milk and papers, I had half expected a river to running through the shop as the ice in the broken freezer melted away. There was nothing. I had not opened the door on purpose to let the ice melt slowly and avoid such a deluge and it had worked. This probably surprised me more than not seeing any melt water whatever escaping. I paid for it later in the day as I had to run down every fifteen minutes to clear up another slippery pool of water in the aisle. It was still not finished by the time we closed up, but I will not see it running under the shelving opposite, so I do not care,
It was the most sedate close to our shop day with hardly a soul about. There was some evidence of people arriving, but not in great numbers. It is a pleasure that will have to wait until tomorrow when we can do it all again.
October 22nd - Thursday
It was a much more pleasant day today and although it had been raining in the early hours, it had stopped by the time I needed to get out and do things. There was a bit of mizzle in the middle of the morning but other than that it was a day to be out and about in.
The bleddy hound and I made good on that with the first trip to the Harbour in about a week, as the tide changed its hours and its size. I had forgotten all about the spring tides when I placed my fish order last night. Of course, there would be no netted fish on the market as the netters sit in port over the spring tides because their nets do not work in the stronger currents. Haddock it is, then.
Now, you will have to be sitting down for this. We closed the shop for an hour today. Yes, I know, it has to be a pretty extreme event for that to happen. Previously we have only closed during the season for funerals and even then it has to be someone we know. Mind, if I had my way it would only be closed for my own. However, on this occasion the matter was entirely frivolous and was helping the Missus out with a two man job up at The Farm. I reasoned that if we timed it right, I doubt that anyone would notice.
It was glorious up in the field. It is no wonder that the Missus likes to spend time there. I could quite easily have stayed all day, even if it meant having to work. There is probably something very satisfying about tilling the land, though I might have to take a recording of the trilling of the till just in case I became shopsick.
The trip also afforded me the opportunity to measure up for some wood to finish off the roofing of the cabin and to check if I needed anything to install the launders at the back. I also wanted to put to bed the uncertainty surrounding the foldability of the ROPS on the tractor that I refuse to call Poppy. At a glance earlier, it did seem as though it was set up to be foldable but before I made any rash decisions, I wanted to check properly. The nearside bolt came away very easily but the offside needed several gallons of easing oil, a metal bar and a big hammer before it shifted. I can confirm that the ROPS is definitely a folding variety and I can stop digging a hole under the door of the barn.
Another success was negotiating a decent price for a new display freezer to replace the possessed one after the bell, book and candle did not work. The new one will not be available until December, but we will not need it until next year anyway. Job's a good un, as they say. All I have to do now is clean up the melt water that will flow after I turn the old one off.
I thought that I would soften you up, dear reader, with happy tales of success and delight before dropping this bombshell. My newsfeed that tells me what is what about all that is happening in the world of drink, led with some horrific news today. I am not entirely sure what the etiquette is for breaking such news, so I shall just tell you. I am sorry. The boffins at St James's Gate Brewery have created a pint of Guinness without any alcohol in it. I think that is what they call a begorrah because it is a horror and it is big (I thought I had better explain that one).
[FX. Screams (with a vague Irish brogue) fading into the distance.]
October 21st - Wednesday
As any salty sea dog will know, today was Trafalgar Day, though why a square in London has its own day, I could not guess. It was not the most pleasant day to have a Day.
It was particularly well telegraphed that today would be miserably wet instead of just the ordinary sort of wet. Three cheers for the Meteorological Office, although if you throw enough darts randomly at a dart board you are bound to hit a bullseye occasionally. We were lucky at this end of 'the south' because most of the sterner stuff went further east. We were promised some brisk wind later but since it came up from the south somewhere, we did not feel a thing. The worst casualty of the weather was the bleddy hound who seems to soak it up like a dry sponge and requires a rub down in the most moderate of showers.
I suppose our business was a bit of a casualty of the weather, too. I should not really admit it but at this end of the season, especially this season, the quiet is a bit of a blessed relief. I think that I may be just a little battle fatigued this year and for the first time ever, will wholeheartedly welcome the close of play at the end of the month.
A casualty we might have been, but it was no more than a flesh wound. Those who did venture out made a decent fist of ordering quite a few pasties and cleared out some of the newspapers. In the afternoon when the rain cleared off a bit, there were a few more around but the day never really did recover fully.
I used the spare time usefully, researching replacement freezers. I stayed with the make that we currently have, given it has lasted ten years without too much of an issue until now. On the faithful Internet were several which gave me an idea of the price we would have to cough up to and then contacted our maintenance company which has supplied all our freezers for the last 15 years. I did not get to speak with the salesman directly at first but left a message with our requirements. Later in the afternoon he sent me an electronic mail with his best offer for a new one.
He had come up with the same make and model that I had but it would appear that their preferred supplier is a bit pricier that the ones I was looking at. For a start the freezer was rebadged, which is common for such things, but in the process it had acquired an additional £600, which is also common for such things as it allows the intervening salesperson to offer a discount. I suspect that salespeople the world over cursed the advent of the Internet as it allowed the erstwhile 'dumb' customer to see book prices for themselves. I missed him when I called back but we are not in a hurry.
Just when you think that life could not get any more interesting we had a visit from a desperate couple quite close to last knockings. The Missus had just returned from The Farm looking like a proper tractor driver with grease caked hands and mucky face. The couple described how they were minding their own business and following Mr Google's incomparable directions to get from one place to another when their car inexplicably would go no further. They explained how they had turned down Maria's Lane and had been instructed to take a right turn down Stone Chair Lane.
Now, Stone Chair Lane at the top is fit for motor cars because it leads to a couple of driveways into properties. After the last one, the tarmac runs out and the path narrows, mainly because it is a footpath from that point forward and downward, rather steeply. Our couple thought they may have taken a wrong turn when they saw two large rocks in the road but now their vehicle was stuck in mud.
The Missus, being a kindly soul and the possessor of a four by four truck with a big engine volunteered to go and have a geek. We had both expected that the couple had got to the first part of the rough track and got stuck there because forwards from there is quite clearly too narrow for traffic and an unmade road. Even rough tracks such as Giant Rock Lane have grass growing up the middle and only a few vehicles use that. No one could confuse the middle parts of Stone Chair Lane with a main road to Sennen Cove, now could they?
It was a little while after the Missus left and I had expected to see her return quite soon after leaving - a quick pull out of the dirt and away we go. She called me on the video telephone to show me the situation and explain why she had not returned home as quickly as we both imagined. She showed me down Stone Chair Lane, a view that contained no stuck car. I put my spectacles on but to no avail. Eventually I saw two bedraggled and somewhat concerned young people walking up from the vanishing point. They had reached the stone in Stone Chair and presumably would have continued if the rocks were wider set apart.
Fortuitously, I saw our hardly Lifeboat mechanic, who is a master of all things mechanical and automotive. He decided to go and have a geek, too. The next I knew was that he had returned in his four by four truck and was reversing down Stone Chair Lane to pull the young couple out of their predicament.
Given the level of blind faith that people seem to bestow upon Mr Google's incomparable instructions for getting to one place or another, I have decided to take out an advertisement on its pages for the area. It will simply say 'Buy Everything from The Old Boathouse'. There is only one flaw in my master plan. It relies rather heavily on Mr Google actually being able to successfully direct people here in the first place. I think I will save my money and buy a freezer, instead.
October 20th - Tuesday
Well, this lot we have here this week take some stoking up to get going in the morning. In fact, it is closer to the afternoon before they emerge in any numbers, which makes me very nervous for my pasty numbers. Perhaps they are playing a game of brinkmanship and, if so, they are rather better at it than me.
It was a lovely day for a game. It may not have seemed so first thing when I ran the bleddy hound around the block, but day had barely started at that point. It did not take long for the skies to clear - all but for a few wispy clouds - and the day to take on colour and brightness. It became very warm, too, or at least it did in the shop. The majority of people wandering about were all wearing coats and hats, so perhaps it was just me. I could quite happily have reverted to short sleeve shirt and little boys' trousers.
It was the early arrival of the grocery order that first got me hot under the collar and everywhere else for that matter. The Missus had taken Mother to an appointment so was not there to direct traffic away from the shop. It made no difference in the end as we did not have any customers arriving, but we still had a bulk load of goods that needed manhandling into the store room. It is probably the first time that we have had a delivery this late in the season. By now we are trying to completely empty the shelves ahead of the closing day. Unfortunately, we and our excess customers had done rather well at it and they were empty before we got there.
What had not gone so well was the health of our end freezer, the one with all the frozen local meat and fish products. This has been ailing for some; you may remember the freezer that had condensation on the door when the one next to it did not. The service people could not find a fault or reason for it. It has trundled along during the year, just about doing its job until today.
Apologies, I have to take a short break there for a second to relate a joke that a customer and reader told me this morning. It was about spectacles misting up when wearing a mask and the freezer door just reminded me. He suggested there might be grounds for claiming condensation. Alright, carry on everybody.
Sorry, I digress. Now, where was I? Ah yes, the end freezer. It was alright during my round of daily checks this morning but when I had a random look midway through the afternoon it was a couple of degrees under where it should be. I must have just caught it just after it failed and I kept an eye on it over the next few minutes with the extractor fan at the rear turned up to full to see if it would help. It did not and the temperature kept going up. I took the view that we were lucky to get this far with it and went and got the trolley to decant the contents into one of the store room freezers.
I will not bother calling out an engineer at this stage; I suspect the answer is a replacement and besides I only just this morning arranged a regular service visit for shortly after we close. I left it running, mainly because it is a begger to switch off, the switch being rather inaccessible. When I checked later it was back to proper temperature. I considered kicking it, but it is harder than my toe. Perhaps I shall wait until later and beat it with a stick. I was right not to call an engineer. It does not need and engineer; it needs a priest. It is clearly possessed.
Just after the incident of the freezer, I could stand the heat no more and ran upstairs to change into a short sleeved shirt. I did not have time for the little boys' trousers. Gosh, I should have done it sooner as it was instant relief. I checked the Gwennap Head weather station and discovered that it was merely a degree warmer than yesterday. Perhaps I was working harder today.
The sea was certainly putting in the effort and from first thing, too. I noticed that the Harbour was mostly calm but on the other side of the wall, things were beginning to beef up a little. It was a ground sea that was pretending that it was not there. There were no big sets racing in towards the shore but my eye was caught by a huge column of spray launching itself up Creedle on the other side of the bay. The wind was not quite offshore for our surfers but it was not onshore, either, which was good enough. It eased off slightly during the low water period but came back with a vengeance - albeit an understated vengeance - for high water in the late afternoon.
All in all, it was a cracking day with something for everyone, unless you were waiting on rain in which case you were disappointed. I think it may be your turn tomorrow.
October 19th - Monday
It was a perfectly pleasant morning for walking around the block in shorts and flip flops. I think this is the day that they forecast for yesterday with total cloud cover but quite bright. It was also quite mild. I did not notice at first but there was a definite blow from somewhere in the south east that made itself more obvious a little later in the day. It still did not bother the temperature too much.
It took a while for our visitors to get out of bed. I was getting slightly worried that the surfeit of pasties I had ordered in might be wasted but later in the morning the street began to fill up. By the time I came back from the gymnasium - why did no one tell me I was allowed to go to the gymnasium again? - there were people queuing to come into the shop. That sounded quite impressive, but it was a bit of a one off with a bottleneck at the door end of the shop.
The spring tides are allowing for a wide portion of beach to be on display during the main part of the day. The fact that they are rather mighty spring tides means that it is possible to walk from Sennen Beach to Gwenver Beach along the sand. Quite a dog-leg is required into Escalls Beans due to a bit of a gully that cuts in at that point and even then you are going to get your feet wet a little bit. It would be worth it just to say that you had done it and even then, it is the easiest way to get to Gwenver, provided you only want to get there once a quarter.
Business went a bit flat in the afternoon and the street emptied out. The beach was largely deserted but the car parks still full, so I can only assume that everyone went into the OS or for longs walks somewhere. If they did, they sneaked back and left quietly because I did not see them go. One of the OS chefs confirmed later that they had been inundated in the afternoon. So that is where they all went.
The Missus ran off to The Farm and the new tractor I refuse to call Poppy, having learnt what was wrong with her PTO connection, leaving me to the Marie Celeste all alone in the world. I did my best to keep myself occupied, filling as many shelves and fridges as I could with whatever spares we had in the store room. When all that ran out, I fell back on a book that I had ordered from the Hayle Heritage Centre, which is drawn from the Hayle Oral History Project. I did not realise that Hayle had an oral history although I was aware of its industrial one. Obviously, I did not get very far with the book because as soon as I settled down and opened it, customers started appearing from nowhere.
I purchased two of the books and sent one to the Aged Parent, who was most confused as to where it had come from - clearly the errant son had nothing to do with it. The Aged Parent grew up in Hayle and is quite historic himself, so I thought that he might appreciate it. I knew that he had recently spent some time shovelling out old books, cards, photographs and other memorabilia and imagined that it would be quite good fun to shovel some back in from the other side. I am sure that he was mightily amused.
If he was, it must run in the family, because after a couple of hours in the doldrums and just as I was preparing the end phase to the day, a whole host of customers turned up for our five minutes to closing rush. It must be holiday time.
October 18th - Sunday
I would not have usually bothered to look at the forecast but the Missus asked me last night because she wanted to hook up the topper to her new tractor so that she could cut the grass on The Farm. She managed half of it at the start of the summer when Daisy broke down, the rest is as high as an elephants eye, which might have been alright if it were corn. The forecast told us overcast but bright and, more importantly, dry. So, there I was, when light eventually flooded into The Cove, looking out across a sun drenched bay with the long shadows cutting across the little bit of beach that the tide had not enveloped. The boys at the Meteorological Office had clearly looked out of the window this morning because when I checked, they had changed their website. No boys, that still is not a forecast.
All the fishing punts were out from early doors. I could see them out between Brisons and Cape shining bright in the sunlight. They were all in a group and had been joined by some bigger day boats from around the corner all sitting out in little groups. They had either found a large shoal of mackerel or two or they were on the squid.
I am sure they would have been very comfortable out there as there was hardly a ripple on the water again. A solitary stand-up paddle boarder gently cut across the bay, which looked a sight more fun than for the three surfers, or more accurately swimmers with surf boards. They were not wrong to be out, just a little early. Later in the afternoon, just as the tide was on the push, the surfers were afforded a few small waves to play with. There must have been fifty of them out there after the same wave.
We saw a proportional increase in the crowds arriving along the street during the day. It was very clear that half term had started for a good many and perhaps rather more than I had supposed. I cast my mind forward a week to imagine the influx during proper half term week, if all things remain equal and we are not in Philadelphia or any other sort of cheese for that matter. Just today was good enough to get us warmed up for the real thing.
The Missus had to do some errand running in the morning as Mother was after a carpet cleaning machine and the Missus wanted to use it too. After she returned, it was up to The Farm to have a play with the new tractor, which is now named Poppy - for heaven's sake. It was probably appropriate because the whole idea of naming it had a very narcotic effect on me. She came back lagged in grease, just like a proper tractor driver, but real tractor drivers wear green overalls with John Deere written on them. She told me that it was very easy to connect up the first two points of her three point linkage but when it came to the Power Take-Off (PTO - no, do not turn the page yet, there is more. PTO, the three letter acronym for Power Take-Off) it just would not connect.
Later, when we sat around the table after our tea, I looked up an American man on the Internet showing us all about PTO connections on a film that he had made about it. He was most informative and demonstrated that the linkage was so simple that there can only have been one of a couple of things wrong with ours. The Missus, now armed with 'knowledge', will try again tomorrow.
I have received a number of complaints that I did not paste up a picture of the new tractor I refuse to call Poppy. I had intended to but in all the excitement yesterday, I completely forgot to take the picture. I also had a number of complaints that I never did finish off the tale of the broken number '3' key on our card payment machine. Let me make amends now.
Here is the picture ...
Spanking new tractor I refuse to call Poppy
and the courier brought a new machine that worked, the end.
October 17th - Saturday
As is usual of late, I left it until at least half past seven to run the bleddy hound down to the beach giving it time to get light. I would have completed the milk and papers before I went but they were behind, which piles on the pressure a bit, especially at the weekend. It is the natural way of things to expect it to get lighter as the morning drives on but today was very strange; it got darker. I had not expected rain, mainly as I did not look at the forecast, but with the skies as black as ink we had a light sprinkling. I was told that in Penzance it hacked down, so we should be grateful, at least.
My first customer of the day casually informed me that it was half-term in his neck of the woods, which was a bit of a shock. I cast a fairly wide look at the council websites around the country at the start of the year to establish our shop hours. I do not recall anyone's half-terms starting this week. I am rather hoping that they are in the minority as we do not have a thing in, and I arranged for a very minimal delivery of bread and pasties. They will just have to eat cake - mind, we do not have much of that, either.
Big Sis and Lemmie disappeared up the hill on their way home in the early part of the morning. It was sad to see them go, and their stay seemed far too short and would have been much more relaxed in better times. We will have to make the effort to try out Big Sis's shop next time, but it is somewhere north of Camborne and there be dragons, I have heard.
For all my concerns about unexpected busyness, it was very quiet today. Not only were there not many customers or people in the street but there was little in the way of sound, too. If I did not know better, I might have thought that I had gone deaf, well, more deaf. It was much to do with the noise of the waves, or lack thereof. If we considered yesterday to be flat calm then, today, someone with a big hand had taken an iron to it. Naturally, this did not stop about a dozen surfers from camping out close in up by North Rocks for a while and why would it?
Mind, it was a very pleasant day - eventually - for bobbing about waiting for a wave that was never to come. Into the afternoon, the skies brightened and while it was still predominantly cloudy, the clouds were white and broken sufficiently to let some sunshine through. Along with the sunshine came a few more people. These were new arrivals I suspect, and I would imagine the real fight will start tomorrow, when we have run out of bread and the things we should have been more prepared with. We will get back to an even keel for Monday, I am sure.
Not that we were at all concerned with shopkeeping today. Today was all about the arrival of the tractor that we spent some time arranging. It was coming from Southampton, which as we know is somewhere the east of Camborne. The driver made good time and the unit arrived in The Cove at around half past four. I had rather expected him to drive it off the trailer himself and to hand over the keys so that we could look extremely foolish by trying to move it without anyone looking. Unfortunately, he handed me the keys and told me it was all ready to drive off.
I had read some of the manual but had been interrupted, plus the fact it was not supposed to be me driving it first. I had read the bit about starting it and how to make it go forwards and backwards but had not got to the bit about how to take the parking brake off. Both the delivery man and I had a good look for a likely lever and concluded that it was not there. This meant that there was some clever way of taking it off that we could not deduce. Our driver had just driven 250 miles and was heading back home in the direction of Dungeness, which is almost as far west of Camborne than it is east. Since it was not being driven very far, I decided to move the tractor with the parking brake on. This worked just fine as long as I did not depress the clutch because the tractor stopped very suddenly when I did that. It is easier said than done, not depressing the clutch, when trying to move at a very slow speed and not stall.
When I returned to the shop we enquired of the Internet and learnt that the parking brake is released by depressing the foot brake. I seemed to remember trying that but perhaps I was not pressing it hard enough. It was not until I went back to meet the Missus in the car park that I discovered she had found a traditional handbrake lever under the seat. I think the manual I was looking at was a bit too modern for our older tractor.
I followed the Missus up the hill with her ice tyres on - the tractor used to be used in ice rinks. We shall make a mint if it snows this year pulling people out of a fix - money up front, obviously. I was going to give her ten minutes head start and catch her up, but she insisted I follow up behind. She would not have been hard to find. I would have just joined the fifteen miles per hour queue up on the main road. She will never make a proper tractor driver - she pulled over to let cars go by and kept to the left so cars could pass her.
Temporarily, the tractor will be parked in the wood shed until we can clear space in the barn for it. That was the plan, at least, until we discovered that the roll bar or ROPS (Roll Over Protection Structure) was too high to fit under both the wood shed roof and the barn door. It is an incredible faff to take the ROPS down, involving spanners and things, so we will have to think of another solution. Maybe dig a dip in the barn floor.
Big Sis may have gone home but she always leaves a legacy. Last time it was my desire to have olives, capers and gherkins in just about every dish I have. This time she mentioned sprinkling sesame seeds on chips and cooking them. I had a fish finger sandwich tonight with some whiting delivered on Thursday, nicely seasoned and rolled in sesame seeds. My, it was 'ansum. Thank you, Big Sis.
October 16th - Friday
It felt that I had to wait ages for some light to creep into The Cove. I held on for as long as possible then ventured down to bring out the outside display and sort out the newspapers. By the time I had finished it was half past seven and with sufficient daylight to take the bleddy hound down to the beach. We are heading towards spring tides and they jumped a couple of days ago; the Missus missed her opportunity to grab some free fertiliser. I think if we were both less busy it may have helped, so hopefully we will get another opportunity during our off season.
It all seemed pretty off already today. Apart from a little flurry of activity from a bunch of leavers early on, the place was a ghost town for the rest of the day. It was so quiet in the afternoon even I thought that we were closed. I had given up hope on selling our pasties and put out only the minimum amount. This clearly was a temptation too far for providence and I had a flurry of pasty buying. With so many leaving I expected a few turning up but with things so muddled this year it is likely that there are a few days between leavers and arrivers to allow cleaning to take place. Whatever the reason, I did not see a column of people arriving, just empty space where there should have been. I was very careful about the weekend pasty order.
Part of the reason for the lack of light this morning was the complete cloud cover to the east and over the top of us. Out to the west and north it was clearer, but it marked the way of things for the rest of the day. It was, however, as calm as it could be with hardly more than a ripple on the water and not a surfer or stand up boarder in sight. I do not think that the Lifeguards had even bothered to put up the black and white surfer flags.
With just three minutes to closing time and still no one around, I leant against the shop doorway and had a geek across the bay. It would have been most useful earlier but our cloud covering decided to move away and leave us with clear blue, well not as blue as they might have been earlier, skies. There was hardly a breath of breeze and the air temperature, while probably not that much different to yesterday, almost felt temperate as I leant there pondering our empty street.
We enjoyed a last supper with Big Sis and Lemmie - he will be getting a leather cowboy hat for Christmas, and a false droopy moustache. The Missus went into the big city for fish and chips, strangely the Missus likes fish and chips, and we dined with Mother in attendance. Big Sis had discovered a place selling small bottles of tonic water, so we ceremonially opened the Dr Squid tin. It is said there is more joy in the travelling than getting to the destination. I can promise on this occasion that there was at least equal delight in arrival and anyway, darned if I can remember the journey, now.
October 15th - Thursday
If I have ever seen a prettier Thursday, I really cannot remember it. That is not quite as spectacular as it sounds as I do not recall last Thursday let alone many Thursdays before that. Nevertheless, it was a rip gribbler of an autumn morning with crystal clear skies and, later, bright wall to wall sunshine filling up the bay. Earlier, when I first headed to the shop because I had forgotten to wrap up the newspapers the previous day, the eastern sky was just about showing a glimmer of lightening up from its deep, velvety blue. There, hanging just above the cliff top, was the smallest sliver of crescent moon I have ever seen. To complete the scene Venus was a little further up and out to the west, Mars.
It was a bit of a disjointed run first thing because of the newspaper thing but I still managed to fit everything in and even remember to pay a few bills that had become due. I think I was jolted into it by a rude and threatening letter that arrived yesterday. I knew the payment was late the previous week, deliberately so because with a couple of credits, three separate invoices and one earlier paymemt, I was not entirely sure what I owed and was waiting for a statement to appear. When one failed to arrive at the turn of the month I telephoned the company to ask for the final settlement number, which they gave me and which I immediately paid.
A week later I received the threatening letter. I was not too upset because it was posted just a day after I made the payment, effectively crossing in the post, as it were. The thing I was most perturbed by was that the statement said one number, the number that I had paid, and the threatening letter said another much higher number - it had omitted to include the two big credits. I rather thought that if you were going to send a letter threatening legal action you would have made quite sure the numbers were right. I will ignore it, of course.
My plans for world domination moved a step closer today when I was interviewed by Radio Pasty presenter, James. He asked in the morning programme what people thought about the new Government idea to arrange for small rural shops to do free cash back. I sent a text to explain what I thought and no more than a few seconds later received a call from the Radio Pasty producer - she must have me on speed dial, I presumed - asking if I would consent to be interviewed on the topic. I told her that I had not combed my hair or seen to my make-up this morning, but she assured me that the listeners probably would not mind. It all went rather well, although I only had a few minutes and was unable to do my newt joke, which I am sure the listeners would have loved. Never mind, I am well on my way.
Clearly, it will not be long before I have my name in lights, even without changing it to 'filament', and as with all such bright stars, the crowds came gathering. I could tell that they were a bit intimidated at first but by the middle of the day they were flocking through the door in ones and twos. One had the courage to strike up conversation and congratulated me on our innovation of using cling film on the card payment machine keypad for protection. She told me that Tesmorburys recked not for their customers' safety. I told her that was because all they wanted was her money. I said that we wanted her money but we cared about her, too - at least until she had coughed up. She fair near swooned, I could tell. It will not be long before I am doing coffee machine advertisements with famous leading ladies from cinema, like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman - that is me swooning, now.
It was another odd sort of day. It was reasonably sedate until the later part of the afternoon when the world, its aunts Ingrid and Rita - sorry, they are on my mind, now - and their extended families turned up to do a spot of shopping. It was shortly after I had commenced battle with our first serious fish delivery in a while, albeit mostly for the shop, that everyone turned up. Fortunately, I had managed to squeeze most of the fish into the bags and all that was left was the clean operation of vacuum packing, pricing and labelling. This I did at the next lull in traffic. I never fail to be amazed by the quality of the fish our man delivers. It is very difficult to bag it all away and freeze it as the only thing I want to do is take it upstairs and cook or smoke it and eat it.
Our spectacular day persisted all the way until Big Sis arrived with our tea. It may well have continued being spectacular, but it had turned to night by that time and we could not see if it was spectacular or not, but I would wager that it was. We would have rounded off the evening by broaching the tin of Dr Squid, squid ink gin that I had saved from our last order but Big Sis could not find any small bottles of tonic water locally. I am told another delivery of Dr Squid is on the brink of being ready. You lucky, lucky people.
October 14th - Wednesday
When the morning light eventually broke through it did so on a much kinder day than the one before. By opening time, the sun was lighting up the wide stretch of beach mottled by the long shadows of the cliffs and dunes behind it. The sand was dotted with strollers and dog walkers looking like grazing cattle on some distant rolling plain. Alright, that was just me, then.
The wind speed had diminished but had also shifted around to the north east accompanied by a corresponding drop in temperature. Yesterday may have felt colder but today actually was. The sun, however, and the change of direction and ferocity worked in our - or at least The Cove's - favour and consequently we did not have quite so many complaints about the cold. Our frail senses are so easily tricked, it seems.
My frail senses were working overtime and within a couple of hours of standing in a cold draft, I switched on the first electric sliding door in The Cove. While it did prompt quite a few into believing that we were closed, those who did venture in at least were not met by a grumpy shopkeeper shaped block of ice.
Cold and breezy: it is exactly the sort of weather to be calling a Lifeboat exercise. This was rather more than just an exercise as exercising for mere training purposes has been outlawed in the face of the dreaded lurgi. This was an inspectors' exercise to ensure that the training that we have not been getting is being adhered to. The Boat Crew numbers were reigned in to a bare minimum of the most expendable personnel. The Shore Crew numbers were not so much reigned in as clawed through tooth, nail and bribery to get to three, which is about the minimum for a recovery, although we can do it with two at a push.
Nevertheless, we managed to launch the boat at half past one o'clock on schedule and twiddle our thumbs for an hour until the boat returned. In fact, I took the opportunity to walk the bleddy hound around the block. It did not seem that busy in the shop but the Harbour car park was packed with parked cars and people milling about. I can only assume the same of the Beach car park. Once I had properly started to take notice of my surroundings there were people everywhere. I think that a good number had elected to take the Coast Path over to Land's End and to take the air in other ways. While The Cove was busy, it was not representative of the numbers of cars parked, so I assumed many people were pursuing outdoor activity.
It is certainly what I did after bringing the bleddy hound back to the shop, except I was largely on my own out on the Lifeboat slipway. With no one else immediately available, I dropped down the short slip to install the 'fishing rod' from which the boat picks us the heaving line connected to the span. It is designed to negate the necessity of having someone down there when the boat comes in, although someone has to go down there to set it up and retrieve it.
The main problem with the device is that it must be installed as close to the water as possible. This is not so much of a problem on a receding tide in the flat calm because going to retrieve it half an hour later, the sea has retreated. On a rising tide and especially when there is some rise and fall and even worse a significant swell, a person is going to get wet setting it up. Of course, half an hour later, it has to be retrieved when the tide is half an hour higher. Ideally, we would send someone who does not have a hole in their wellie. He was not available today.
If I am not mistaken, and it is unlikely, I presided over what can only be described as a textbook recovery up the short slip. We were unable to wash down the boat in the normal manner because, like my wellie, there is a hole in the hose. We are, after all, a very damp but not as damp as we might have been, very excellent Shore Crew.
When I returned to the shop it appeared to have become much busier. When I was behind the counter a short while later it not only appeared to be much busier but it actually was much busier. What more could a grumpy shopkeeper/Head Launcher want than a textbook Lifeboat recovery and a busy end to the shop day?
Well, a fish tea, for one thing. Big Sis, since she has been gone, has developed an affliction called vegetarianism. Apparently, it is at its incurable stage, and has been brought on by squeamishness to do with the required shuffling off of animals, although this does not extend to fish, it seems, thankfully. The Missus had a dead cow, but called it steak so that no feelings were hurt in the production of the meal. I think it all worked out. I do not know if vegetarianism is catching but if it involves the eating of a lot of fish like we had, I think I could cope. Let us hope the Missus does not catch it; the Missus hates fish.
October 13th - Tuesday
Things are getting very weird around here. The weekend was the busiest we have had since September, flying it was, and now we are as quiet as an embarrassed church mouse when the priest discovers holes in the communion bread. It does not help that I cannot put out our World Champion Pasty sign because it is too breezy today nor that the occasional shower blows through The Cove in short but heavy lumps - sideways. I just want to know where all those crowds from the weekend have gone.
Perhaps they are staying in their bright, shiny new rooms at the OS. These have been recently completed and opened to ordinary folk. They were bench tested by the pub group management - there are ten new rooms so that must be some management layer the brewery has. Apparently, they passed muster and were open to ordinary people after that. So posh are they that the OS has to put their half dozen 600 litre waste bins on the pavement outside so that the guests are kept unaware that such tackiness exists and pedestrians have to sacrifice themselves in front of buses. Alright, my informant actually said that it is because the architect forgot them in his master plan but what is the point of having a completely honest Diary if I cannot tell a little fib every now and then. Anyway, the rooms must have proved popular as the hotel is fully booked this week.
The showers got heavier and more frequent towards the middle part of the day. Once again, I was not swift enough to notice that the rain was blowing in and soaking the bleddy hound's bed and the floor. Belatedly I turned on the first electric sliding door in the Cove but with the sudden increase in traffic, presumably seeking shelter rather than goods, the action was not very effective. Fortunately, as before, when the rain went away later on and I was able to leave the first electric sliding door in The Cove open, the wind did a cracking job of drying things out. I will leave the underside of the welcome mat for a time after we are closed, I think. The pool of rainwater will do little harm there.
Sunset colours in reflection
Wind blown swell
I had a very swift response from our much maligned council councillor today. It was the only swift thing we are likely to get. I was assured that the process is underway, but it can take time to align all the right people. So far, it has taken at least two years and we have just got to the stage of talking to the right people. By the time we have done that the right people will be the wrong people and we will have to start again. I was also told that the parish would have to foot the bill, which surprised me. The parish does not currently foot the bill for unnecessarily painting the lines each year, nor for the pitiful attempts at enforcement so I am not entirely sure why it should be responsible for a consultation costing six thousand pounds. I shall not be holding my breath on seeing some changes coming any time soon.
Restrictions on parking in The Cove were but a mere distraction for today there was an event of unrivalled importance; of such momentousness that it placed all other momentous and important events up to this point in the shade. Not only in the shade but in dark places so black as to make black itself want to sharpen up its act and get blacker. No, dear reader, I switched to big boys' trousers a few days ago and my birthday was back a while. This, today, was the long, well, since she told us a few days ago, long anticipated arrival of Big Sis. Ta da.
She was most tardy in her appearance and did not get to us until after tea time. She brought with her a new partner, another bleddy hound named Hopper and some bloke, too. I had not realised that it was quite so long since we had seen her but after all the clutter filling our heads from the last few months, it was most refreshing. I have no idea what we shall talk about tomorrow night, but they will come for a socially distanced tea with us.
October 12th - Monday
You would have thought that I had learnt my lesson by now and, having weaned myself off of constant referral to weather forecasts, I find myself going to have a sneak look every now and then. To be fair on me, it is often because I am asked to see what the weather is tomorrow and my stock answer of opening the curtains in the morning has seemed inadequate. It was the Meteorological Office that wrong footed me by painting a black picture of the expectations of biblical amounts of rain through the whole day today. When I looked at the weather radar this morning first thing, the heavy stuff had mainly passed and was clearing to the south east. I looked again at the Meteorological Office website and it had been changed to reflect the new picture. I do not wish to split crumpets, but to look outside your window and then say what the weather is, is not so much of a forecast, really, and probably only really useful for people living in underground bunkers.
So, the soaking that I was expecting as I tripped to the hut with a tin roof for a spot of exercise, never really happened. The bleddy hound and I did get a little damp on our trip to the beach in the half light of morning. We were distracted, however, by meeting a young pup retriever who was so full of energy that it was difficult to concentrate on anything else. Being wet, of course, meant that my minimal flip flops - they are not really as they do not flip or flop when I walk - rapidly got caked in the soft, dry powdery sand. It is not often that I have to hose off my feet before I go indoors. The bleddy hound has experience of hoses; I once hosed her down after a wet cavort on the beach and she was not impressed. During my feet washing she scarpered around the corner. She has a very good memory, that bleddy hound.
It was kind of the weather to desist from raining too much because in the middle of the day the polytunnel arrived. The driver very kindly offered to take it up to The Farm to save us having to reload it onto something suitable and take it up ourselves. The Missus bribed the driver with a pasty, which works every time in our experience. It is the pasty driven economy down here that keeps the wheels of industry turning. It is where the term 'to earn a crust' comes from, although it was originally to earn your croust. Luckily, it is a well-guarded secret that everyone here knows to keep under their hat, else the government would have the pasty taxed into submission by now. Erm, you will not say anything, will you, dear reader?
The afternoon descended into a sedate lumber through to closing time. We had a few flurries of busyness but it was largely a dour day. Many of the customers who ventured out complained that it was cold in the breeze but I never found out first hand. Passing the time was the main issue, although I had managed during the morning without a problem. In the afternoon there were a couple of deliveries to disperse, which did not take long.
I was encouraged by a local lady to make representation to our much maligned council councillor regarding the fraught parking situation. Parking is permitted at this stage in the season without restriction. Parkers take this at face value and park anywhere that their car fits, paying no attention to driveways and dropped kerbs or, indeed, pavements. They also park nose to tail thus turning one half of Cove Road into a single track road with no passing spaces.
I had intended to keep my communication brief but ended up, after some vicious precis, with one A4 sheet. There is much to say: the fact that merely making the double yellow lines active the whole year is not sufficient; that enforcement is absolutely key to success; that this is a Lifeboat crew access route. The best proposal I have heard is that three parishes club together and have their own enforcement officer encompassing dog warden's role as well. That was last year and nothing has happened since. Given that the much maligned council councillors have had just one council meeting this year, so far as I can work out, I cannot see much happening this year either. The dreaded lurgi: this year's excuse for doing begger all.
Mind, that is all I did in the later afternoon apart from cook a couple of peppered steak pasties for my tea. The intention was to cook some for the Missus, too, but she had already had a pasty for croust. I had envisaged the peppered steak, which won top place at the World Pasty Championships a few times, to be filled with steak covered in peppercorns until I was given a couple of free ones a while back. Au contraire, it merely has a sight more pepper than the ordinary ones and is a cut above because of it. I ordered in a box of frozen ones for the Missus and I to enjoy and woe betide anyone that asks to buy one in the shop. You hear me? There will be a stunning coincidence that we have just run out. Gosh, I just had a Monty Python cheese shop flash back when I wrote that. "Sorry, sir, the cat's eaten it."
October 11th - Sunday
Our fresh brreze from somewhere in the north has returned. Actually, it returned yesterday, I think, but perhaps it has just not really gone away. The drop in temperature we were warned of has not quite materialised, although I suspect that if you were out in the breeze for some time it would, indeed, feel quite chilly. It is just that I did not feel the need for extra layers when I took the bleddy hound to the beach this morning.
I was reading up on how the weed down on the beach might be used to fertilize The Farm and the first thing that is required is for it to be dried out. I thought that this might be a huge faff, laying it out and hoping it did not rain or laying it out and finding something to cover it with that still permitted the air to circulate to do the drying. While I was down there yesterday evening with the bleddy hound, I noticed that the weed was already drying out on the sand. The weed was deposited during the peak of spring tides and since then the sea has come nowhere near it. We have had a few showers over the week but nothing of note and clearly not heavy enough to affect the natural drying process. In fact, lifting a handful of the stuff from various points on the beach yesterday, it is clear that it is just about ready to use. Now all we have to work out is how to get our trailer down there without getting stuck in the soft sand and without the cctv footage of the incident being posted on social media for the general amusement of the populous.
The oar weed would have got even drier by the end of the day as it was bright and airy today. The thermals might have been good, too, as our hang glider friends were back. I think I saw one a few days ago but he must have told his pals as there were three of four of them today. It occurred to me that you could not be more socially distant if you tried. Perhaps it is the way forward.
It was certainly the better option compared to surfing in the bay today. The surf amounted to some choppy white water near the tide line. This did not stop half a dozen optimistic people with boards hopping in to try it out. I am not sure bobbing about being slapped in the face with cold water would be my idea of fun, however.
Award for the most extreme sport of the day goes to the runners taking part in the annual coastal three marathons that run back to back from Constantine Bay to Land's End. They are tough characters as three marathons on sensible turf must be hard enough let alone trying to run along the Zennor section of the Coast Path, which is recognised as being one of the most difficult stretches. It is no wonder that many of them look fit to fall in a heap on the ground as they pass the shop. That said, there are also many who look like they have just stepped off a bus and are set to do it all again.
While today was clearly the better day for weather and there were plenty of people about, for us it was not quite so busy as yesterday. The pasties that I cleverly arranged so that we would have sufficient stock for today were not really needed. That is not to say that it was not a busy day, it was, just not quite as busy as yesterday. There were long periods when I was twiddling my thumbs having exhausted all the chores that could be done in the busyness of the day before. I should have followed my own advice of not doing today what can easily be put off until tomorrow.
October 10th - Saturday
It is quite surprising how bright a quarter of a moon is. It was shining through the sky light in the bedroom, lighting up the bed. Capella was up there, too, with a bunch of other stars that I could not name - at least not at five o'clock in the morning. When I came down to make ready the shop a little later I was in for an even bigger treat. Out on the western horizon, Mars glowed bright red (I could not actually tell it was red until I looked through the binoculars) and if I had a more powerful eyeglass I would have seen Uranus, too. On the brow of the cliff to the south sat Sirius, - I thought, it cannot be Sirius (sorry, just had to) - probably brighter than Mars at the time and high above, a little to the east, was Venus. What a celestial morning it was.
Talking of celestial bodies, I took mine down to the Harbour beach with the bleddy hound in a bit of a hurry this morning. Mother was supposed to have a new washing machine delivered on Thursday, but the van never turned up. The Missus got shirty with them over the telephone and had the company agree to take the old machine away for free and secured a discount on top. The delivery was rescheduled to this morning and the driver had called to say they would be there early. This induced the Missus to get out of bed in what she calls, the middle of the night, which to most of us is before nine o'clock. If the Missus was going to hurry so too was the bleddy hound.
They were not the only ones to hurry. A whole host of happy visitors hurried to The Cove today and made the place very busy indeed. We had flurries of custom for most of the day and it was late in the afternoon when eventually it started to calm down.
I had taken my best shot at ordering what I thought to be sufficient pasties but the sales today were well above what I had anticipated. I had ordered in some frozen ones last week so I thought it a good plan to cook some of these and use them to bolster the stock for tomorrow. They are far better straight from the oven but since they take an hour to cook it is impractical to do them on the day they are needed. The only problem with this strategy is that about half an hour into baking they start to fill the shop with the most tantalising aroma. Were it not for the fact that I was really looking forward to my homemade pizza for tea, I might well have thrown in the towel and had one. As it was, I had to break into a bag of carrots that arrived today and chopped through two of them bugs bunny style just to ward off the desire.
With all my chores done - the little sweet bags all put out or put away, the deliveries for the day finished and on the shelves and the customers making themselves absent - the last hour of opening was a long waiting game. I could have waited the whole hour and not seen a soul but, with no one in the street from one end to the other I made the mistake of slipping upstairs for a moment. Yes, when I came down there were customers, tapping their fingers, waiting on a grumpy shopkeeper to show his face. I firmly believe that customers hide around corners waiting on such moments of weakness, a game of cat and mouse and all spoils to the winner.
Frankly, I am past caring and anyway; I have homemade pizza for tea.
October 9th - Friday
I have had to reorganise my morning schedule around the bleddy hound. She is none too keen to get out of bed while it is still dark; it is against nature. I have to admit that it is not all that convenient taking her out before any proper light as I have to take a torch with me. The reorganisation is also not helped by the milk and papers which seem to be arriving later now that we have become quieter. I think we all slow down without any urgency to drive us. I shall tinker with the schedule over the next week to see what works best.
Talking of newspaper delivery, I have eventually received the final answer back from the Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company regarding delivery charges. It is a big fat 'hard luck', which lacks foresight in my view. I will be carefully considering when I stock newspapers from now on, focused mainly on the weeks that I do not make a loss by stocking them. This has its own problem as the delivery charge is derived from an average of sales over a thirteen week period, which, most likely, will include loss making weeks. When the company next runs this test, all my weeks will be profitable ones and thus the delivery charge will increase accordingly. This is something of a catch-22, which will make my considering even more complicated.
We had a bit of brightness for a very short time just after we opened. Quite a few people remarked how glorious it looked and was it a good day for a bit of a stank out somewhere. Less than an hour later the cloud rolled in and made it much less bright and there were no more kind weather remarks. We were told it was going to get colder, but it did not seem it until the sun went in. I suppose that means that it became visually colder.
Despite the drop in the temperature and the clouding over, which was interrupted by bright spells, there were quite a few people about. These disappeared very quickly in the middle of the day when a short sharp shower arrived out of nowhere and soaked everyone through. It took a while for people to start emerging from wherever they went and hid but as the afternoon wore on, numbers diminished.
The Missus disappeared off to collect our solitary fish order as it was too small to be delivered. At about the same time we had some more stock delivered including our ever popular small sweet bags. The remaining items from the last order were pretty thin on the stand and although it is a bit late for such things the stocking up will be necessary in the half term. We also had struggled with fridge magnets this year, so I called some in as those too were obvious by their absence along with tin mugs and water bottles, both of which surprised me with how quickly they sold. We are largely set for the final week, which is likely to be as busy as any during the season, unless they close the gates of the cities from whence our visitors come.
Of the customers we do have at the moment, they are in the main of good humour and full of pleasantness. Now that we are less busy, we can also find time to have a conversation and find out what life is like beyond the border of The Cove - I have not been out for some time. I find, quite often, that I feel the need to explain some of the absences from our shelves, such as our preserves and chutneys, for which I have already been berated and grassed up to the supplier. Close to last knockings today, a lady asked if we had any calendars for next year, something that I deliberately avoided because of the reduced time we had customers here. I told her that we did not get any next year's calendars because I was not sure that there would be one. She seemed to think that reasonable.
If there is not, it is alright. We sat and watched the bay as we had tea with Mother. The sun eventually dipped below the cloud and lit up the whole southern part of the beach and cliffs in a rich, deep yellow light. The sun reflected off the windows in some of the buildings and lit them up like beacons. It did not last long but those brief moments that linger with us are all we need, really.
October 8th - Thursday
The Cove was a place of peace this morning. If you wanted to be somewhere of calm solitude for quiet contemplation or perhaps meditation without the intrusion of the outside world, here is where you should have been. Unfortunately, this is completely the opposite requirements that would keep a grumpy shopkeeper almost from being grumpy. A few Zen customers would have been nice.
At the outset, we could hardly blame anyone for not being here. It was dark and mizzly, though unseasonably warm, which was odd. I had quite forgotten to put a jacket on this morning and set out down the stairs in a t-shirt but did not actually notice until my arms started to get a bit wet in the mizzle.
It was the sort of greasy mizzle that wets a bleddy hound down through her fur coat and makes her very difficult to dry properly. She insisted we visit the Harbour beach this morning, but I did promise her yesterday that we go down there today, the tide being just a little too far in for comfort yesterday. Even today we only had half of the available beach to cavort on as weed had taken over the other half. It gathers around the painter rope that runs the length of the beach and started doing so at the peak of the spring tide. Today, the weed is four feet high and a quarter of the beach across. As we come off spring tides it is likely to be there a while.
Late in the morning, crowds started to gather and wander about when they realised that day had come and it was not too shoddy once the mizzle had cleared away. They are a fickle lot, though, our customers this week. They have been favouring brown bread all week to the extent that I had to throw away two white loaves this morning because they had slipped beyond their best before date. I had seen this coming and reduced my orders accordingly only to discover today that first, everyone wanted bread today and secondly, they all wanted the white stuff. We promptly ran out.
Conversely, we have sufficient eggs to service world omelette day - come on, there must be one. We had a large delivery last week on the basis that we were selling them thick and fast in the week leading up to that point. Subsequently, it all went quiet and our eggs sales took a tumble. For once I remembered to call our egg man ahead of the delivery date but had to leave a message on his answering system. It was therefore something of a surprise when he turned up today with a further twenty dozen. Apparently, it is far better to send a text message than leave one on his answering system, which he routinely ignores. If we still have them all come near their sell by date I shall make equal quantities of scrambled eggs and egg mayonnaise to freeze for consumption during the winter - or until I am fed up to the back teeth with either or both.
With nothing better to do, we bought a tractor in the afternoon. Our friend at our regular garage gave us a number of someone who will pick it up for us and transport it down here. We could have collected it ourselves but with a top speed of fifteen miles per hour it might have taken a while to get back, even with eight gears over two ranges. What on Earth will we do with all those. The Missus told me that Daisy has two gears and she was never sure which one to use while topping.
When we closed, I discovered that we had quite an upbeat day. I am not sure how that happened because I did not notice at the time. I celebrated, of course.
October 7th - Wednesday
I bumped into our Lifeboat engineer on his way to check the sea state at the bottom of the short slipway. I, too, had a geek as I continued on the trip around the block with the bleddy hound and concluded that it seemed good enough for a recovery. The bleddy hound did not disagree, so that was settled. Shortly after we came back, the crew were assembling, so it seemed they agreed, too, which was comforting. I spoke with the Coxswain of the day who told me that the boat should be back at around nine o'clock.
I had noticed yesterday that there was a mountain of weed on the short slip that would need to be cleared ahead of any recovery. I arrived early to get a head start on it with a pitchfork. It is quite remarkable just how heavy a bunch of oar weed is especially when it is clinging on to every nook and cranny on the slipway. I cleared just enough to be useful and made a start on our normal preparations when the rest of the crew turned up.
By the time the boat arrived there was some movement at the bottom of the slipway but largely it was calm between the lumps of swell. We had set the cable as short as we could so that there was very little waiting for slack to be taken up. There would have been even less waiting if I had left the cable where I originally set it, but it looked a tad short from a different angle, so I had it lengthened. Never mind, apart from that it was pretty much a textbook recovery up the short slipway with just enough of us to make light work of it.
It was while we were washing down that we had the only mishap of the mission. I was feeding the high pressure hose back as one of the others was hosing down the hull on the starboard side - that is the other side from port, for those of you not of a nautical persuasion - when the hose burst next to me. There was a sharp report as it burst, and the hose made a loud noise too, followed by an explosive escape of water. The hose started to snake rapidly and my automatic reaction was to grapple with it to prevent all in the vicinity getting a soaking, but primarily me as I was the only one in the current vicinity. It took both hands to arrest the movement, an action that was accompanied by various shouted warnings not to put my hand across the spray, lest it cause injury. I confess that injury had not occurred to me and if it had I would have discovered the joys of a fast sprint in the opposite direction. Fortunately, I was unscathed and, more importantly, miraculously unwet.
This appeared to happen again in the afternoon, not the hose bursting bit but the not getting wet bit. We had been promised faithfully by more than one weatherman that a weather front would be passing across us in the afternoon and it would bring a deluge of rain of the sort that Noah would have been familiar with. All we got was half an afternoon of mizzle, which was very disappointing.
In truth, it was very mucky and pretty much stopped play after a while. It did take a little time before it put people off and we had a little busyness selling going home presents for those leaving earlier in the week.
It was later in the day that we discovered that the tractor we were after buying had been sold to someone else. Fortunately, the company selling it had another up its sleeve that we will look at tomorrow. We have higher hopes for success this time as we have been given first refusal, which is very decent of the seller, I thought.
It made the grey and mizzly evening seem much brighter. We can do brightness.
October 6th - Tuesday
Our everlasting wind continues but at least from a direction that is less offensive to us sensitive types in The Cove. It picked up a bit in the afternoon, closer to sixty miles per hour, just to prove that it was merely playing we us earlier. The news today was full of the promise that all houses will be powered by wind in the not too distant future. They will, I am sure, but they will all need to be down here. That may not be too far from the truth looking at the house building targets for the Duchy that have just been increased.
It was not just because of the wind that it was not quite the pleasant day that we had yesterday. Occasionally, we would have a shower pass through but at sixty miles per hour they were not here for long. The afternoon became more grey and overcast and delivered less customers. We liked the morning better. One upbeat and happy soul told me that tomorrow would be better. I said that I had heard a guts of rain was coming in the afternoon. Yes, she told me, but the wind will have gone. Now that is what you call a cup half full.
I raised the issue of Daisy with the Missus the other night. Daisy is the 1958 Fordson Dexter tractor that the Missus bought to cut the grass, mainly, and lug things about The Farm. It is been broken down a few days after being revived with a service and awaits the assistance of a local mechanic, when he has time. A good friend suggested that owning a tractor like that was great if you ran it as a hobby and had the time to tinker and maintain it, not to mention the skills. He was right and the Missus agreed when I brought it up.
Since then we have been looking for a much more modern replacement. Something that is practical and low maintenance and will start each time without being jumped from the truck. We enlisted the knowledge of a local farmer to help us identify the most suitable type and so far, he has come up trumps. It does look like we will not be able to get one locally and will end up buying one without even laying eyes on it, so the advice is invaluable. Daisy, however, will sadly have to go.
The sea state in the bay worsened as the tide came on. It may well have been a different wok of beansprouts in Porthcurno bay, which is why someone was tempted into doing a little bodyboarding. Someone obviously cared for the person because they called him in missing just before six o'clock and the Coastguard asked if we would not mind awfully, pushing the big boat out to go and look for him.
It was a carefully considered launch, making sure the boat hit the end of the slipway between sets of waves. There was a lot of bouncing and struggling to get through the gaps leaving much of the boat airborne at one point. It would disappear between the swell and the spray quite frequently on its trip around the headland but just before it went out of sight the Coastguard called in to tell us that the bodyboarder had managed to come ashore by himself. It did not take more than a few seconds for the Coxswain to report that he was continuing on his journey and would berth at Newlyn for the night.
The waves, every now and again, might have allowed us to bring the boat back on the long slip but it would have been a bit of a gamble. The wind, in which I could barely stand up on the slipway, would have made it impossibly risky. The tide was such that we were not far away from being able to recover on the short slip but even there the sea was dancing in some lively fashion. This is not to mention some daft eejit would have to go down there with a pitch fork to clear the mountain of weed accumulated there. The same daft eejit would also need to affix the pick up gear at the water's edge, if he could ascertain where the edge was, and even worse go back down on a rising, boisterous tide some half an hour later to recover it. We are, after all, a very expendable, very excellent Shore Crew.
October 5th - Monday
It did not appear so in the gloom of the early morning, but it was a much kinder day today. I had finished yesterday in a state of permafrost, which may well have started from the ground up but left me cold to the bone until well after I had snuggled under the duvet. In contrast, wearing big boys' clothes today, I was overly warm and itchy from clothes where I have not had clothes for some months.
I had braved the run around the block with the bleddy hound in shorts and flip flops and was not overly uncomfortable. However, I decided after my blistering session of exercise that perhaps socks and things might be a good plan, at least for today. That is when I discovered that it was a much warmer day, the wind abated - after nearly flattening us in the Harbour car park - and the rain dried up. I was able to put out the ball stand that had cluttered the shop interior for the last three days and as a precaution installed new straps to hang it from the eyelets in the wall.
There is a seal in there somewhere.
We welcomed some familiar visitors all over the weekend and today. I have mentioned before that we have a high number of repeat guests and that some have been coming for years and in many cases generations. Most will turn up at the same time each year and stay at the same accommodation but this year the world is on its head. Our regulars have been arriving when they have been able and have been staying wherever they can, including different resorts. No matter where they have been staying, they have all made the pilgrimage back to The Cove and have very kindly dropped in to say hello - even if it might be a struggle to recognise them under masks and hoods.
The sea seemed a deal more respectful than it was yesterday towards evening high tide. There was still plenty of white water rolling in on the beach and the Lifeguards had the beach red flagged all day from what I could see. Late in the afternoon there was a surfer trying his luck slightly out the back of the white water. He was on his own which probably spoke a lot about the attractiveness of the sea at that time. Even there the waves did not seem very surfable but perhaps he just took some masochistic pleasure in being battered by big lumps of sea water.
Once again we coasted to a quiet end of the day. The breeze appeared to have gone altogether. Perhaps we were just too used to it taking your head off when you poked it outside and forty miles per hour is hardly noticeable by comparison. It helped that it had backed to the south west for a while towards the end of the day.
It was also time to rip my excess clothing off to let some air in. Utter relief.
October 4th - Sunday
It was a cold, damp and dour day, the sea was throwing a bit of a fit, it was windy and now and again there was rain in the air. It was not one of the best days to have a shop on the windward coast, although the numbers of people about were quite surprising. Later in the afternoon the rain came in more frequent showers, although not heavy, and finished things off completely.
Perhaps it was not the best day for shorts and flip flops, either, but I wore them anyway as I will have to acclimatise myself to big boys' clothes and I was not in the mood for acclimatisation today. It was more a day for watching the sea state worsen through salt encrusted windows and waiting for the rain to wash them clean.
I had an enquiry regarding beach casting yesterday and the man was in again today. I had rather assumed that he knew what he was doing and had sold him a couple of packs of sand eels. When he was in again today and asking about times of tides and where on the beach, it transpired that he was a bit of a novice. It was only then that I looked up the sea state forecast and realised that unless he liked fishing on his back with water rushing up his trouser legs, he was probably better off leaving it this week. He thought he might have a look at the south coast, instead.
I would wish him luck with that, too. I closed the shop at around the time of high water and the sea was thumping in. Geet waves were running from everywhere and in every direction towards the shore. Large plumes of white water were flashing over at Creedle and the beach from one end of the bay to the other was inundated. The waves were big, vicious, unrelenting and slightly scary but good to watch from a distance for a while.
It was the highlight of a day was just as dour and grey as the weather, especially the latter part of it. Perhaps we shall gently turn over this leaf and leave it where it is.
October 3rd - Saturday
I woke up with a whining and howling in my right ear 'ole. I turned over to lie on the other side and had the same in the other ear 'ole, which was something of a relief and meant that it was still a brae bit breezy outside.
I had succumbed to wearing big boys' trousers yesterday and proper shoes, which felt strange and uncomfortable and I was determined that today I would revert to my normal small boys' trousers and my xero footwear, which have proven to be most remarkably comfortable over the last four or five months and often twelve hours a day. No wonder I missed them. Despite being battered by blustery winds it did not seem to be very cold and thus my attire appeared to be completely appropriate. The bleddy hound did not care one way or another but at least ate her breakfast this morning, which after a bit of a relapse yesterday, was encouraging.
The mop and bucket still sitting next to the ball stand in the shop reminded me that there was still some flooding to mop up, this time under the entrance mat. Normally, this can stay there for some while because it is out of sight and does not cause too many problems. Mainly it is left because I do not know it is there until I lift the rug to knock out the sand that has collected in it. Unfortunately, knowing it is there is the problem; it nags away at you until it is fixed.
I had put the mop and bucket into the store room when I opened the shop and noticed later how the wet patch where it had been had rapidly dried in the breeze blowing through the now open first electric sliding door in The Cove. Seizing the moment, I heaved the rug out upside down onto the newspaper box outside so that the back would dry and mopped up the pool that was underneath it. It is a mucky operation as the water is full of sand but once done, as expected, it dried in record time. As soon as the damp had dried, the sand could be simply swept away. We rarely do this when the shop is open because it normally would take all day for the remaining dampness to dry up and the back of the rug can take much longer. Today, all the work and drying were done inside an hour, just ready for the next lump of rain banging in from the north.
We were lucky today as all the expected rain was falling a way to the east of us. In fact, it was raining everywhere except for us, the western tip of Wales and the south east of England. Bits of sunshine emerged from quite early in the day and a diminishing wind made for quite a reasonable day, just right for a stank up the hill or across the moor if you were so inclined. It seems that quite a few were as I had reports of short walks over to Land's End and around about that were quite exhilarating.
So too was seeing some of our produce from The Farm arriving on our table. The Missus stopped by the vegetable stall in Polggia on the way back from collecting Mother today and found someone had cleaned out the stock before she got there. Sensing disappointment all round she decided to venture up to The Farm to see how her own produce was fairing. She came back with a bag brimming with greens, courgettes, broccoli and calabrese, or cauliflower and broccoli to you. This is very good news for the produce project and gives us some confidence that we will be able to supply the shop. I would prefer we displayed these in our vegetable fridge in the shop but the Missus wants to have a box outside on our newspaper bin. Next year you can expect to find Boathouse Farm, Sennen Produce in our fridge or outside in a crate being eaten by seagulls.
Produce of Sennen, Boathouse Farm
October 2nd - Friday
Oh gosh, now this is a day that will go down in infamy purely on the basis of the weather. It was pants.
Although it did not appear so at the time, the bleddy hound did us both a favour by waking me up at five o'clock, again feeling a bit under the weather - which is probably the most inappropriate metaphor to use today - and in need of some care and attention. By half past five she had me out promenading the street, a good hour and a half before we would ordinarily be taking the air. One and a half hours later it was lashing down sideways. I felt much better about being roused at such an early hour.
The wind was relentless all day long and even the mere sound of it wore at the nerve endings. By closing time, I was completely exhausted by it, not to mention bored rigid. Fortunately, there were breaks in the rain and I used one to slip off to the hut with a tin roof for a blistering session of exercise. Before I left, I had to bring the net bin back inside and by the time I returned, the Missus had done the same with the ball stand as the balls were being blown out of the heavy netting put in place to stop them blowing out.
The biggest gusts of wind were expected in the middle of the afternoon but by noon it had already reached 60 miles per hour at Gwennap Head on the sheltered coast. Our newspaper bin, which remained outside and is laden with big rocks, was being blown around like it was not. I had to restrain it with the ropes we provide to tie up big dogs and small horses outside. Needless to say, one of the first things I did when we opened the shop was to switch to automatic the first electric sliding doors in The Cove as they are provided for just such a purpose.
I hastened back to the counter after my blistering session as the Missus needed to get over to Mother's in the early afternoon. I had arranged for a man to come and see about her washing machine that was making a knocking noise as the drum rotated. He told me over the telephone that a knocking when the drum rotated was probably not a good thing, suggesting it was probably terminal and I alerted Mother to the possibility of having to purchase a new machine. She told the Missus that if she needed a new machine that she did not want one too grand at her age. The Missus reminded her that she was saying that about things when she was 80, some ten years ago or more.
We jested that we could get her a Porsche washing machine - quite amusing until I discovered that Porsche have, indeed, designed a washing machine - or possibly one that you could converse with by voice, which also exists. She already controls the lighting in her house from her Bramley iPad, so it is not such a stretch to imagine her managing her wash day from The Farm while she pots a few plants.
With hardly any customers and only the howling of the wind for company, the afternoon passed exceedingly slowly. Even the arrival of another refresh of our gift soap range only occupied a few minutes of my time. I faffed about with some new software for the in-shop cameras, which was not all that fun and between times with the Missus, we mopped up the rainwater that was flooding the shop after blowing in the door.
If this continues, I will have to start reading the book I was sent a while ago. This will guarantee a customer every few minutes.
October 1st - Thursday
I got a brae bit wet putting out the shop display this morning; it was fair hammering down for about ten minutes. Happily, it went away by the time I got the bleddy hound down to the beach and largely stayed away until the start of the afternoon.
With the weather deteriorating I had not expected there to be much pasty action going on, so I was rather surprised when we ran out by early afternoon. We disappoint some people who passed by later but there were not that many. We often find that after the rain had chased away those who were here when it started, it takes a while for business to revive. Today, it seems even that was too much to expect.
It was some surprise to me when our Deputy Head Launcher telephoned to ask if I was attending the Lifeboat launch this morning. My first question was, 'what launch?' and discovered that the plan had been advertised on FacePage to which I am not allowed to have access to. The Missus does, but very rarely looks at it unless there is something specific she is after.
The Lifeboat has been stationed on the slipway while the winches have undergone a major service and refit. Today, the engineers doing the servicing and fitting wanted to test their handiwork by launching and recovering the boat on both slipways. It is supposed to be done four times on each slipway but if the results are helpful and circumstances demand, they can reduce that to a couple each.
The launching aspect of the test is merely to put the boat in a position where it needs to be recovered so that the main cable can be tested. This involved fitting a big heavy device in between the end of the cable and the boat and taking pressure measurements as the boat is drawn up the slipway. On this occasion, I took the role of the winchman in the nice warm and dry winch room while two other keen volunteers did all the hauling, lifting and connecting in the cold rain that started soon after we commenced the tests. Obviously, I empathised with them and felt every cold drop going down my neck, metaphorically speaking. We are both parts of the same being on the very excellent Shore Crew.
Lifeboat recovery under test conditions is slightly different from Lifeboat recovery in normal circumstances. However, as you might expect there is a particular way of doing it and the way it was done today was probably an exemplar of the procedure, what you might call a textbook recovery under test conditions - four times. The other two were conducted on the short slipway but did not involve a launch. We ran the boat down the slipway as far as it would go with the test equipment attached and hauled it back up again. We are, after all, a very tenacious, very excellent Shore Crew.
By the time I got back to the shop two and a half hours later, the Missus, who was expected me to be gone for an hour, was slightly on the boil - it is quite warm in the shop - but as you can imagine, hugely understanding. I took the much revived from her short illness bleddy hound down to the Harbour beach before I resumed my duties. Here, she discovered that tractor tracks, filled with waterlogged sand from the recent downpour, can look exactly like solid sand. She sank up to her haunches at the back and took some effort to haul herself out. I would have provided some assistance had I not been laughing so much and the look on her face was priceless.
The weather turned rather more grey and grim to the latter half of the afternoon. It cleared out almost all our visitors but for the most hardy. I found myself, with the shop nearly tucked up for the night, drumming my fingers on the counter for the last half hour with little else to do. The thin orders that we have been placing are testament to a real drop in business, which is more in line with what we might expect of this time of year. It is something of a relief as we have made the decision to close when we would normally.
I got a brae bit wet when putting away the shop display this evening; it was fair hammering it down for ten minutes.
September 30th - Wednesday
It was a very mucky morning all told. It was the first proper rain to mar my opening of the shop and running the bleddy hound out in ages. It carried on for a fair bit, too, and stepped up its game when I headed to the hut with a tin roof for a blistering exercise session. I had to do my rowing in wet socks, so I suppose it added a sense of realism.
When I returned, I stopped upstairs for my breakfast. I combined this with writing an electronic mail to the chaps at Penryn Plastics who I had telephoned earlier. Our cash box has required some proper division for ages. At the moment some makeshift dividers are in place separating the various denomination of coins but they are loose and require pushing into place every few times the box is used. I devised a plan to build some proper divisions and I am sure it could be achieved with plywood but a slicker solution, and one that involves me in less effort, would be to have custom made acrylic dividers in place. There is no real urgency for the work to be done but at least the ball is now rolling.
It was while I was upstairs that I spotted some bird watcher types across the road. One had a big lens camera and the others field binoculars. They were not actively engaged in watching but were clearly waiting on something that perhaps they had advance information about. I had a look through our new powerful binoculars but could not see anything particular.
I am quite disappointed with our new binoculars. I have used them a few times now and I have not seen one rare bird or endangered species of wildlife. I had even been quite excited by the prospect of perhaps seeing a chough that everyone talks about but that is a bit of a stretch since it is a mythical creature like a unicorn. If I do not see something soon, I am going to send them back.
The sun broke through from the middle of the day and it turned into quite a pleasant afternoon. It brought out a few people to wander about and we had some brisk business now and again. The strong breezes coming up from the south hardly bothered us at all, although I had my hood knocked back when we were down on the beach earlier. It was not very handy if you were a surfer, either, and the beach, or certainly what was left of it by the middle of the afternoon, was nigh on deserted.
While the skies may have been behaving through the afternoon, the sea did not see why it should have to. It was a little rough to start the day, but the swell started to build during the afternoon. By the end of the afternoon waves were racing over the Harbour wall and white water was beginning to climb up the footings of the cliff opposite. It had some potential to become more boisterous but if it did it did so under cover of darkness.
It also produced some better surfing waves. The local boys who surf the break just along the front from us appeared while we were at the table. I casually watched while we had our tea. I think that one of them might have paddled just a bit harder had he noticed the enormous seal that rolled across the surface just a few feet behind him. I reached for our binoculars but the seal was gone before I got them out of the bag. They need to be faster binoculars than that if they are going to be kept.
September 29th - Tuesday
It was a stunning morning, clean and fresh with only a few wisps of cloud in a brightening sky. It started off that velvet deep blue and Venus just visible above the cliff behind us, although that could have been a street light on Maria's Lane. The Lifeboat has been on display on the slipway for a couple of days now and it looked quite resplendent in the light of the rising sun.
It was possibly not quite so warm as yesterday but it was enough to tempt a fair few down to the beach to set up camp and do a spot of bathing. There was a good number of surfers out, too, trying their luck at catching a wave in the not too wavy water. Perhaps they had taken note of the weatherman who told us to enjoy the weather today as we probably would not tomorrow.
Today, therefore, seemed like a good day to have a new bed delivered. I had erred on the side of caution and not selected the option to have the old one taken away, just in case we had a problem with the new one. This seemed more likely as we left it until last night to measure the dimensions of the new bed into the room. The Missus had alerted me to the fact that it was a bit wider some while after the purchase. I had wrongly assumed that all beds in the same size class would have the same measurements.
This one, for some reason, has a step around the mattress thus making it about 30 millimetres wider. That may not sound like much, but the present clearance is pretty tight, and I felt a little reassured that we did not choose the option to have the old one taken away. It was only after the Missus had dismantled the old one and left the pieces piled up that some nervousness crept in. It looked big and heavy and made we wonder why I did not choose the option to have it taken away.
While not the busiest day we have had recently, there were still some promenaders around promenading. The Little Bo Café was closed, for some reason unexplained, which would have had an effect on the numbers hanging around at this end of The Cove. Nevertheless, we had fits and starts of customer visits all the way from the middle of the morning.
Towards the middle of the day cloud started building from the west and in the early afternoon we had a sprinkling of rain. It did not seem to dent the spirits of those wandering about too much and a little later after that, the sun came out again.
It was just after the first shower that a couple took shelter in the lee of the shop, just beside the first electric sliding door in The Cove. A passing couple asked where they might procure a pasty from and the sheltering couple pointed in the direction of the Ice Cream Kiosk. I caught their attention and asked how much the owners of the Ice Cream Kiosk were paying them. They looked quizzical and I explained I would pay them more to stand outside the Ice Cream Kiosk and direct pasty buyers back our way. Fortunately, they laughed but looked slightly embarrassed - and so they should.
The Missus abandoned bed making in the later afternoon for taking the bleddy hound to the veterinary doctor. She had been poorly in the night and while it was probably a passing ailment, it was worth a check up and she needed her regular procedure, anyway. I cannot imagine how she feels - the bleddy hound, that is; the Missus tells me exactly how she feels. The bleddy hound is feeling unwell anyway and we take her to the one place in the world that scares the pants off her - if she wore any. She will have rice and chicken tonight and be right as ninepence or 3.75 pence if you are feeling modern, hopefully by morning.
It was after she returned that the Missus concluded bed making. When she called me up to have a look, she sounded nervous. The bed had been rotated from the old position with the head under the Velux window so that we can romantically look up at the stars, she said. I told her that we can also wash our faces when the rain blows through the open window in the middle of the night. Some might say that demonstrates that I am just unromantic. I like to think that I am just juxtaposed ... and practical.
September 28th - Monday
Alright, I will get it over and done with at the outset. No, our replacement card payment terminal did not turn up and I had a big fight with the company, mainly as two of the employees promised faithfully to call back with updates but never did. Everyone I spoke with had strings of excuses, blaming other people and not one was willing to take responsibility and get the problem fixed. I was incensed and will write to the CEO, again. We are promised our machine tomorrow, but I will not hold my breath.
It was difficult to notice straight off and needed Kevin the weatherman to tell me that we could not see very much outside because of low cloud affecting the Far West. I thought it was because it was dark. When it became light, I could see that he was right, but it did not stop the bleddy hound and I from venturing down to the Harbour beach for a run around first thing. Gosh, it was warm, which was most unexpected; Kevin did not say it was warm.
The mist stayed with us all day in one thickness or another but did not stop a good showing of visitors from turning up. We were not overly busy in the shop but the Little Bo Café seemed to be having a good time of it The quietness had given the Missus the opportunity to clear the delivery from yesterday while I went off to the hut with the tin roof for a spot of blistering exercise. It fired me up sufficiently to shoot off an Exocet in the direction of the card terminal supplier and to upset them enough to actually take some action.
The middle of the afternoon became so sedate that I considered taking an easy chair outside for a bit of a snooze. I have long since ceased to read any of the newspapers, not just because I cannot fit them on the counter with the executive smoked screen in the way, but as they seem keen to spread fear and despondency and I am keen to avoid anything being spread around at the moment, with the exception of hard currency. Instead, I amused myself by spending a lot of money by paying some off some of our invoices which were becoming due. It is like the reverse of retail therapy and I reflected that I might have felt much better about it if I had paid for the goods at the time they arrived.
I had, in fact, indulged in some retail therapy toward the end of last week after a week's worth of research. I have for some while considered our binoculars to be a bit long in the tooth, despite being one of the better quality ones we have had - they were the aged parent's. We, I did it on behalf of the Missus as well who uses them as much as me, invested in a mid to high end pair of powerful binoculars but not quite in the Swarovski league. They arrived on the one day that I could not see much beyond the railings opposite, so the excitement of using them for the first time will have to wait.
I have still not had, at the last knockings of the day, notification that our new payment terminal is on the way, perhaps they are keeping up the suspense until the last minute. Just thought that you would like to know.
September 27th - Sunday
After the apparent busyness that we enjoyed yesterday it came as a bit of a surprise that The Cove was so quiet for a while in the morning. It was a perfectly fine morning, too, although you might have railed a bit at the renewed strength of wind that was swirling about from somewhere in the north west but a tad closer to north than it has been. We tend to take the breeze for granted here, unless it is particularly strong, whereas if you are from more sheltered areas, and let us face it, unless you live in another coastal spot or Salisbury Plain, you are most likely to be in a more sheltered spot, you are probably unused to it. I would definitely call it a pleasant morning and just right for being out in.
I cannot claim, exactly, that I used the time wisely. I did pull out a few more hooded sweatshirts as we have been selling quite a few in the last week or so and there were gaps on the hangers. This did not take overly long. Yesterday, the Missus did a quick round robin of the shop to supplement the short list I had made of things we required from the store at The Farm, so that did not need doing. It left me very little to do and it did remind me that it is much the same each year at the same time. I found that strangely comforting in this very different year.
It was late in the morning before the momentum started to build and The Cove saw an influx of visitors. It was busy on the beach, too, but not so much in the water. Yesterday showed some improvement but with onshore winds for the last few days, the surf is not up to very much at all. Most of the people were strollers taking the air but there was a small collection of beach tents scattered along the high water line. With a little bit of shelter, it was likely to be quite pleasant down there.
There was a distinct lull in the middle of the afternoon. It lasted until the Missus returned from The Farm with a truck full of stock that needed to be unloaded and distributed to our shelves. At this point every visitor from one end of The Cove to the other decided that now would be a good time to come to the shop. How kind, we thought. The store room is still filled with gifts and toys that we were unable to put out and will wait until a quiet time tomorrow.
You may well be fed up, dear reader, hearing about the sticky '3' key on our card payment machine. I can assure you that we are fed up with it, too, especially as the machine should have been swapped out on Friday if it were not for an inept customer service agent at the support company. I still have not had confirmation of the delivery from the delivery company, so there is potential for this story to run some more. Dear reader, unfair though it may seem, you will share our pain. I would hate to suffer alone.
September 26th - Saturday
I managed to get out of bed on time this morning, which was probably unnecessary as there was very little milk and dairy and our newspapers were late. It was the magnificent dawn sky that made the effort worthwhile in all its reddy glory and while still fresh from the north west, it was not unpleasant for our trip down to the Harbour beach.
Even yesterday there was a fair amount of oar weed about the place. It was clinging to the painter rope that runs down the beach and has elevated it six inches off the sand where the weed has formed into clumps. It is probably not a great plan to go running about down there in the dark at present, should you feel inclined.
There was no chance of any darkness in The Cove during the day, the sun came out early and despite the blustery breeze, was an altogether pleasant day. It attracted back our visitors who had been sorely missed over the last two or three days and they came in abundance and also in cars.
During the season we are occasionally required to apply ourselves to matters other than shopkeeping. So it was for the Missus at one of the busy times during the latter part of the summer. A lady had fallen and hurt her arm on the Coast Path and the Missus provided some succour. There was not much in the way of medical help but she had the lady sit on the bleddy hound's bed - she was not in it at the time - and provided some tlc, I believe. I had quite forgotten the incident, mainly as I was not there at the time, so it came as a pleasant surprise to have a thank you card from the injured party's spouse. The Missus was rightly chuffed and I proud.
Thank you, too.
Our little drive of busyness petered out towards the latter part of the afternoon, as we might expect. We had made a good dent in our pasty order, although we will have to go some to finish them off tomorrow. I might show willing and have one for breakfast or two. Pasties, however, can be relatively easily managed it is less well selling items which we now need to be careful with, especially those with short use by dates. We do not want to be left with stock we have to throw away, but we also do not want to short the customers who will be here over the next few weeks. In a normal year we would have our closing down nailed but this year, when all preconceptions are not worth a jot, we do not have a clue.
I also have no idea why I am currently being plagued with technical problems. If a missing '3' were not enough our backup machine, which is working in all other respects, has an intermittent printer problem. It completely flummoxed me when a customer asked for a printed receipt and the option to print one was missing from the list displayed at the end of the successful transaction. I could have sent it by electronic mail or text message, neither of which looked like an acceptable alternative to the customer in question, although perhaps I should not make such generalised assumptions about elderly gentlemen. I have also had software problems with our main computer, but I suspect that is more an incompatibility between anti-virus programs, which is quite a common thing.
We may well be heading back to a Neolithic age the way things are going and I am being to wonder if that might not be such a bad thing.