Sennen Cove: the final frontier. These are the witterings of a West Cornwall shopkeeper. His seemingly interminable mission: to plumb new depths in literary rambling, to seek out the boring and banal, to boldly sink deeper than any Diarist has sunk before.
August 17th - Saturday
It was pointed out to me last night that the Harbour Commission has changed its mind regarding the parking of motor homes and camper vans in the Harbour car park overnight. The Commission cited "abuse of the infrastructure" for the reversal. The message appeared on the village website's Harbour page, which I would have missed had I not been alerted to it and no notices seem to have appeared in the car park itself. When I walked the bleddy hound around this morning, due to the beach being out of bounds, there were none of the usual collection of those vehicles lining the sea wall. Word must have spread pretty quickly, unless they all received a courtesy visit yesterday evening.
I noted that the, what I call Michaelmas daisies, are starting to wilt, although there are still several dozen around the route. They did not come up until recently, so have not had a very long season. Perhaps there will be a resurgence later on. When I was first trying to identify these flowers, I managed to create some confusion between these and the 'rock daisies', which look similar in flower but come up earlier, are much shorter and have one flower per stem. Perhaps some flower expert can come up with the definitive answer. It does not really matter what they are called, they add some colour about the place.
"Michaelmas Daisies" starting to bloom.
Very similar in yellow
It was a good day for flowers to show themselves at their best. Even early on, there was blue sky out to the west and the cloud in the east soon melted away. There was still some breeze about from the south west and a good bit of swell. Shortly before low water, the waves were breaking over the offshore sand bars giving the more experienced surfers some decent waves up behind them. The beach was nowhere near as busy as it was on Thursday, which was phenomenal, but it was a change over day, which would make a difference.
Later in the tide, with the surf still out the back, the best area was positioned right behind the swimming area. The Lifeguard jet ski was out for quite a while making sure the two did not connect and also patrolling the big rip that was back again on the south side.
Our good weather hung about until late in the afternoon when we were dowsed by a short sharp set of showers. They blew in from the south west and sent everyone scurrying for shelter, clearing the beach pretty rapidly. By then most people had enjoyed a good day of it and were probably off for their tea, although I did have quite a few wet through people appearing straight afterwards. The rain disappeared soon enough, allowing for the after tea sweetie buyers and the oh-we-ran-out-of-beer buyers to return.
The heavy lump in the bay seemed to increase in the later evening but could just have been because it was high water. It was fair drowning the Harbour wall, so there was no fishing out there tonight. There was also no running the bleddy hound down to the Harbour beach, although the Missus took her out to the car park with our new guest who arrived in the afternoon. We normally eschew the appearance of guests during August month but this one is quite useful in the shop so has an exemption. If I up the training schedule, perhaps I can get a day off by the end of the week.
August 16th - Friday
Well, that was exceedingly disappointing. I had scaled back our orders and had no expectations of buying a luxury yacht on the back of today's trading, not even a model one.
It was not raining when I first came down to the shop but obviously it started before I took the bleddy hound down to the Harbour beach. There was not much beach to go down to as the tide had most of it covered. I had thought to go around the block, instead, but the bleddy hound was insistent. She did not stay long. I was still mulling about the oar weed not going out with the bigger tides and she was half way up the slipway on her way home. She does not much like the rain.
I cannot say that I am very chuffed by it, either; it does dreadful things to our business and today was no exception. It rained throughout the day and kept our visitors indoors or somewhere else. We had the occasional group and individual shoppers coming in for essentials and, first thing, a few collections of going home presents. It was not the most awe-inspiring day and one that I would have been happier not staying open until eight o'clock in the evening.
It did not help my mood to have the second person in a day wanting to conduct a transaction with a mobile phone glued to their face. A customer generally demands my undivided attention, so I expect the same from them. I politely tell these customers that I am happy to wait until they have finished their conversation. If this subtly fails, I have a range of options including wandering off or serving someone else.
Fortunately, the vast majority of our customers are polite and pleasant, although they were very thin on the ground today. It was good to see a new contingent arriving and to have a jolly jest with them about the weather. It is possible that we saw quite a few more customers than we might have done else due to the failure of the Internet at the OS and that end of The Cove. This prevented the OS from taking card payments and we saw a flurry of people coming to get some cash out, which in most cases generated some sales of goods, too.
I must confess that the last hour of opening was interminable. Well, not in fact, of course, but it seemed to last a long time. It was also a lonely vigil and I had already read the newspapers - or looked at the pictures, at least. A report told me that the OS was packed, although how they were paying for beer was a bit of a mystery. I concluded that they must have made all the beer free, which would have accounted for the crowds.
It has stopped raining by the time I took the bleddy hound out for her last run. She headed down to the Harbour beach, as she sometimes will. I was pleased to see that the spring tide had done its job and the geet piles of oar weed were nowhere to be seen. The skies had cleared in large sections allowing some stars to peek through, which just about made the whole day worthwhile, even if we will be on bread and water for the last part of the winter.
August 15th - Thursday
We see the shop seasons pass along in a roughly similar pattern each year. We start with a few walkers, then we have the Continental European visitors and couples and couples with pre-school age children and so forth. This time of year, though, is all about the children and one of the high spots, in the main, is the morning collection of newspapers and breakfast goods. It is the highlight for the children, too, in the main, as it is likely they do not get the same opportunity at home. For some, this is a big adventure, but others, maybe not, such as the small boy come to collect a newspaper each morning who sullenly moves about the shop and eventually comes to the till, silently throws the newspaper on the counter, followed by a few coins without a please or thank you or any words at all, for that matter. He will, no doubt, grow to be one of the adults that do that, too.
Other children are more user friendly, like the group in Sound of Music height order, each carrying their allotted items. The smallest carried the only glass item, a small jar of coffee, which I thought brave and told her so. Clearly being told they are brave instils in small children glassy-eyed awestruckedness, which then induces them to drop small glass coffee jars on the floor. Thankfully, the entrance rug saved the day and the spell was broken. I assume the jar got home safely, as they was no return visit.
We had anticipated a busy day and we got one. It is the last day of good forecast for many holiday makers and after a day's lull yesterday, we often get a backlash. There was a slow start, which let me have my breakfast in reasonable time - or most of it - and then the fight started. There was a long flurry of beach buying activity as well as going home present buying and food buying through most of the day.
Down on the beach, where the most part were heading, the assembled company set up camp. There was a mass of colour stretched across the beach and deep down from the high water line towards the encroaching sea by the middle of the afternoon. The tents and windbreaks ran out to way beyond the entrance to The Valley. In the water, the swimming area was packed, as was the surfing area that was overrun with surf school learners. Any experienced surfer made themselves scarce and moved over to North Rocks. Just before high water there were some serious waves about as the swell had been building for a couple of days. It will have just about been the icing on the cake of the last day of someone's holiday.
The crowds, together with the large swell, kept the Lifeguards busy all day. They were out on their jet ski for quite some time corralling errant bodyboarders and wayward surfers. Their job was made more difficult by the appearance of a rip again at the southern end of the beach. By four o'clock, two hours ahead of high water, all the action moved to the shore break, but it still looked pretty big. With big spring tides, the waves were also pressing the encampment and there was much shifting of places going on.
This beach activity gives us a bit of a slow down in the shop. Here, we are expected to have the answers to myriad questions alongside our normal job of serving customers. It was quite a while ago we made the answering of questions bit official by becoming the Sennen Cove Tourist Information Contact Point. In this role we can resolve queries about bus times, how to get to here and there, what attractions are suitable for which days and what sort of people. We cannot book accommodation but have often helped people find somewhere to stay and the next minute we can be telling people the tide times and where to go fishing. We have provided advice on where to go rock pooling and crabbing, too, but never before have I been asked how to go rock pooling and crabbing.
I always rather assumed that it was one of those things you are born with, the ability to go crabbing. In the lady's defence she was from Germany, which is a big country, much of it without coastline or, of course, she may have been Austrian, which would explain everything. I had pointed out the best spots the day before, along with the rough time she and her children would have best access to the beach. She duly turned up an hour before I said and asked for the directions again. In less than half an hour she was back, wondering where she might be supposed to be looking for the crabs. Might they be in the sand or in the water, because she had looking at both and they had found nothing. I advised some ferreting about the weeds and some lifting of rocks in the pools and suggested, with the tide dropping, she might find all manner of creatures.
I was rewarded, a couple of hours later, by two small girls, beaming from ear to ear showing me the contents of the bucket they had purchased earlier and filled with small crab carapace, claws and assorted shells. No, there were not live ones, but they were pleased as Punch. We do love it when a plan comes together.
It is entirely likely that this is exactly what happened when it came to launching and recovering the Lifeboat in the early evening. I was unable to attend again, of course, but others more than adequately launched the boat into a big and bouncy sea. While it was out, the short slip was readied for the return and the boat duly recovered in what was most probably a textbook recovery. We are, after all, a very consistent, very excellent Shore Crew.
We are also exceedingly consistent at the OS quiz where we consistently come somewhere after first place. Sometimes this is close to first place and sometimes it is not. Wherever we come it not first, that is for sure. This was no truer than tonight when we managed to force a tie break for the top spot; we lost, of course, because we had no idea what 'first class cricket' meant or when the first ever game was against a team of cricket buffs. They bought us a drink with their winnings, afterwards, which rubbed it in nicely but was a pleasant gesture, nonetheless.
The walk home was, at least, dry and we said farewell to Prof who is going home shortly. There were far fewer campers in the Harbour car park, which I hope is just ahead of tomorrow's weather rather than a portent for the week to come.
August 14th - Wednesday
Today we lost a fine gentleman and the oldest Cover in town, he who made Methuselah look like a teenager. He shuffled off peacefully this morning in his own home with a view out across the bay, which is entirely right and proper. It is also fitting that he should choose to slip away on the 40th anniversary of the Fastnet rescue, a service in which he took part and received a vellum scroll from the RNLI of which he was immensely proud.
When we first came to the shop, he would be all over The Cove and up the cliff and more in November with his poppy collection and was well in his seventies then. More latterly, he would take his perambulations up and down The Cove with his walking aid on most good days. In the last year he was unable to do this, and I am sure it would have irked him deeply.
Not seeing him out and about consigned us to sharing a wave as I walked past, him sitting in his bay window on my way to and from the gymnasium. When he was confined to bed, I could see him wave from the back of the room. I wondered how he knew I was coming past until I was told that the mirror in his bedroom allowed him a good view down the street. How very cunning, I remember thinking.
Now, I shall miss that friendly wave I looked forward to and that heart-lifting smile that always made me smile back and somewhere to send our over-ripe bananas and loaves of spare saffron cake. The dear of him.
He left behind a mizzly morning but a brighter afternoon. Our visitors chose to stay indoors or go to somewhere else. A report later in the day told me that Penzance was very quiet, too, so our visitors did not go there. A few emerged in the afternoon but it was a very sedate day.
The beach was no better off, with just a thin showing of dwellers and water users. There were no especial waves to play with and the surfers must have gone somewhere else, too. The westerly wind heading into the beach would have certainly persuaded any half decent surfers to go elsewhere and very probably the ale house, which would have been a better alternative to shopkeeping, too.
The day finished with a bit of a whimper, really, although that probably was not how the small crowd lining up on the Harbour wall to jump off saw it. From time to time someone will complain of the dangers of the practice and the occasional call to the Coastguard. That did not stop one local lad who came to the shop especially to tell me that he jumped off the end of the wall all by himself for the first time. It reminded me of a certain old Cover who told me once what nonsense the fuss was and that he used to do it as a lad. It is probably well that he did not know they put railing down the western slip. The circle of Cove life, remains it seems.
August 13th - Tuesday
It was a decidedly different morning with some rain in the air. It had rained quite heavily during the night but fortunately the wind direction was in our favour and the shop was unaffected. There was a need for a light rain jacket when I took the bleddy hound down to the Harbour beach, although I probably could have got away with it without getting too damp.
The morning delivery routine could not have been better if it had been planned. Both the pasties and the grocery delivery were early and did not overlap and the local cash and carry delivery came in when we were not that busy, as well. With a bit of rain in the air it was noticeably slower to start today but as the day progressed, brightness flooded in from the north west. It was never blue sky, sunbathing weather but it was good enough for a beach day and many people thought so, too. In fact, so many people thought so, too, that we were raving busy for several hours from the middle of the morning.
I cannot say that I noticed the beach being overly busy as it has been for the last few days, so I am not entirely sure what all these people did during the day. There again, we were so busy that I did not have much time to look at the beach to make an assessment. I had reduced our pasty order, despite being overwhelmed with pasty eaters yesterday, which had me worried for a while, but amazingly we got away with it and did not run out until midway into the afternoon.
It was not until the late afternoon that things began to calm down and even then, we were sporadically invaded by small family groups. It was between such visits that I entertained a lady while her partner tried on some shorts. She had rested some items on the counter, which I had to move to serve another customer. One of the items was a bottle half full of a green viscous liquid, which I took to be a cleaning product of some sort. I asked what was in it and was told that it was a healthy mix of components including blue spirulina, which I had not heard of but still sounded like a cleaning product.
I looked it up and it is a freshwater alga that grows in alkaline water sources, lakes, rivers and the like. Its main benefit is that it does not have a fishy taste like green spirulina - there is a green one, too? - and apparently does not poison people, which is handy. It has a cornucopia of health benefits, too many to mention but it still looks like something that Dr Jekyll might take immediately before becoming Mr Hyde. I wished the young lady well, after all she is entitled to eat and drink what she likes, I just hope no one thinks it is a good idea to put it in beer or a pasty.
I closed the shop door - the first electric sliding door in The Cove - on a very pleasant evening, the bay flat calm and peaceful as it had been all day. It was reasonably temperate and despite being cloudy, was quite bright. Rain coming, then.
August 12th - Monday
It was a brae bit cooler than we have had of late and I wore a jacket down to the Harbour, just in case. It really was not needed but I had been working in the shop and was hot anyway. The milkman had very kindly turned up at a sensible time and I was able to finish off all my pre-opening chores, including the newspapers that were also timely, before I took the bleddy hound out. So far ahead of myself was I that I managed to clean the entrance rug that had harboured flood water underneath it since the last north westerly rain we had. It dried remarkably quickly with the aid of some mopping up and a heap of sand dropped on it. I even managed some stocking up; I was a veritable man on fire. It is a shame that no one was there to see me; I was rather put out.
It was much the normal sort of day up to the point that I headed for the gymnasium. The pasties were late arriving and then came in with the local cash and carry order, which led to some pandemonium. It was lucky that the Missus had come down because the crowds had started gathering in the tail end of breakfast buying and the start of beachware buying and the till was busy at the same time. I left the Missus at it but when I returned, she had almost burned through the ridiculously large order of pasties I had put in because we had run out by early afternoon the previous Monday. A man barely smouldering, now.
Needless to say, it was a very busy day, which is probably just as well given the forecast for the rest of the week. The beach was fair packed again, made more dramatic by the timing of high water. Most of the action was in the shore break as there was nothing further out for surfers to get excited about but there were still a fair few people in the water jumping about and enjoying themselves.
We are graced, from time to time, by the presence of some quite famous people here in The Cove. Today I was quite taken about to be visited by Royalty, in mufti of course, but she let slip her real identity quite unexpectedly. She was buying, if I recall correctly, a bangle or bracelet and referred to one of her entourage to acquire the appropriate funds - a big clue; they never carry money. It was a twenty pound note, which was significant as it turned out. It was in the handing over that the small child slipped and pointed out that it was her grandma on the face of the note. There were gasps from the assembled company and she tried to cover her mistake by telling us all that Adam Smith was in fact her grandfather on the reverse of the note but it was too late and the game was up. They, of course, tried to make light of it and pretend it was not her, you know Charlotte or whatever their names are, but I bowed and curtsied anyway because I knew and you do not toss a knighthood away, just like that, now, do you?
Well, I was in a state for the rest of the day, I can tell you. I cannot imagine why but the Missus did not believe a word when she came back from The Farm with another load of stock. I was quite amazed how quickly and efficiently we managed to disperse it to our shelves and serve the five minutes to closing rush all at the same time. Perhaps I should write to The Queen and ask for more visits.
August 11th - Sunday
We woke up to a very pretty day. The wind had eased quite a bit and the sun was out. Down on the Harbour beach it was pleasantly warm, even at seven o'clock. It was the bleddy hound's breakfast time, but I was not about to let her feast on scanky mackerel. For once she dropped it when I told her to, but I suspect that was more coincidence. I chased her off to another part of the beach and she was right behind me as I returned up the slipway but as soon as my back was turned, she scampered off down the beach again to try and find it. That is one bleddy hound full of artifice.
We had an unremarkable morning, if anything I would say that it was a bit slower than we have been used to. I checked down on the beach later and it was packed full of happy beach dwellers but it was high water at the time so it may have been deceptive. We did not make quite the impact with our pasties like last week but at least we did not run out half way through the day.
The sea was much kinder today, allowing people to use the water at will. The kayakers without lifejackets were out again and were joined by another without a lifejacket. At least they were not in such peril as they were yesterday. The majority of the water users were in the surf at the shore line as there were very few decent waves, even further out.
The afternoon was plagued a little bit by light sprinklings of rain. It chased some people off the beach, but the main party stayed put; they must be made of sterner stuff - and probably had offspring in the water who were not induced by the rain to come out. Half past three o'clock brought a slightly heavier shower and a further group of deserters from the beach, which saw off some more pasties. Ker-ching! Ay thang yaw.
The busy season has been going on long enough now for us to notice some changes in shopping patterns. We acknowledge that fashions and tastes change over time and are influenced by advertising, health benefits and scares, prices and any number of other contributing factors. This year it is the turn of the humble scone or scone, if you prefer. We have noticed that the plain scone or scone, if you prefer, is way ahead on sales over its fruited counterpart, at a guess, possibly as much as fifty percent more. This has been consistent over the holidays and so encompasses more than one holiday group, but it is hard to fathom why people do not want fruit in their scones; there has to be a raisin. Perhaps it is a currant fad. I am thinking that a study might be required to establish the facts with flow diagrams and pie charts. In the meanwhile, we are going to have to start measuring the sales of each so that we can identify the exact split.
Alright, I am finished now, thank you. I think I will go and lie down for a bit.
August 10th - Saturday
The wind had probably been howling all night - how would I know; I slept like a brick - but it was still howling in the morning, so I surmised. We found out just how gusty it was when we ventured to the Harbour beach first thing and were sand blasted. My legs remained with a coat of sand for most of the day.
The sea was also much changed from yesterday. The wind's attendant low pressure system had driven up some ground sea and the wind had all night to whip it into a fury, which it had done to some degree. There was not much low at low water and as the tide advanced it turned the sea increasingly white. There must have been a shoal of bait fish out there, in close, as around fifty gannets were repeatedly plunging in, pock-marking the waves with little explosions as they hit the water. Quite understandably, the Lifeguards red flagged the beach all day.
Despite the decreasing breeze, it was a pleasant enough day. The rough sea brought some sightseers along and we missed all the showers that we saw passing to the north of us and wetting St Just. Although it was warm, as well, I would not call this our busiest day even factoring in that it was a change over day.
It was probably not the best day for a beach goer who was whisked away by air ambulance in the middle of the day. We do not yet know the details, but he was taken off on a spinal board. There were also matters going on at sea as there looked to be a handover of escort duties between Lifeboats. While listening to the radio traffic on the beach, I caught Penlee Lifeboat talking to the Coastguard. The only explanation was that it was out to the northwest of us, else we would not have heard it. It looks like they were taking over an escort duty for a French fishing vessel from the St Ives Lifeboat.
I am often bemused when people ask about the weather when there is nothing much wrong with it. Today, with blue skies, warm but with a little breeze I was asked if the weather would stay like this. I had no idea if he was asking if we were expecting cloudy skies and rain or whether he wanted better weather. I asked which aspect of the current weather he was referring to, but I got the impression he thought I was being daft. I told him that we were expecting the wind to ease and the showers, such as they were, to decrease in regularity before they all came back with the next low pressure system. I might have omitted the last bit. He still looked disappointed and I cannot help thinking that he was wanting me to say that a heatwave would come and last the remainder of his holiday.
The Missus had arranged to party with her big sister at the Meadery in the evening, as it is the sister's significant number of years birthday. I still cannot bring myself to dine off a wooden chopping board in the near dark, even if I could have got away from the shop at the hour they ate, so the Missus went off by herself. She left the bleddy hound behind as bleddy hounds are not allowed in, presumably in case someone trips over them in the gloom.
At six o'clock the Lifeguards go off the beach. Today they took their red flags with them and despite a vicious looking sea, this seemed to be invitation to go out into it. I watched a couple of young people bob around in a kayak, no lifejackets or buoyancy aids, on a little fishing trip. There was also a surfer, a little way out the back, and slap bang in the middle of a large rip that was forming at this end of the bay. It did not take too much imagination to assume a Lifeboat shout was coming and it did.
I was kitted up and in the Inshore boathouse when I was told that the Lifeguards had managed to get back before us and had pulled the surfer from the water. I assume that they pointed out the error of their ways to the kayakers, too, because when I looked again, they were not there.
The consensus was that we should remain on standby as there were more people entering the water some minutes later. I returned to the shop as I was alone with the bleddy hound and a shop to reopen. When I looked up again the Inshore boat had launched, presumably as a precaution because another shout was not signalled.
The rest of the evening was uneventful on the water, at least. In the shop we welcomed the new intake and some more familiar faces for the next holiday weeks. Due to the Lifeboat call I missed my usual window to top up the drinks fridge but the five minutes to closing dash never came and I had time to do it before we closed. It was on my way to or from the drinks fridge that I noticed at least another half dozen jobs that needed doing. I swear the number of plates we have to keep spinning increase each year. It is either that or we are becoming less efficient. I hope it is the former.
August 9th - Friday
I must have been blessed this morning as I managed to avoid all the showers that came through first thing. Since I was way ahead of the posse - and the milk and papers - I made the fateful decision to take the bleddy hound down to the Harbour beach about half an hour before I would normally. It was quite pleasant down on the sand and warm, but very muggy, and we came home for her breakfast and my cup of tea before I returned to the shop to finish my chores. At some point between doing the milk and newspapers the rain came down in buckets, so I paused until it had finished. What a lucky grumpy shopkeeper.
That was the last we saw of the rain and the skies brightened and the sun came out. We had a few darker spells and some spots of light rain but other than that, it was a perfectly reasonable day. Too bad, then, that I had followed the weather forecast and bought a rainy day's worth of pasties, which promptly ran out in the middle of the day. I might have said a few unkind words about our forecasters but heavy showers landed at Mousehole and Penzance and came as close as St Buryan, so it appears we were just lucky.
On a much brighter note, the results are in from the International Beer Challenge, the bastion of prestige beer tasting and testing and now in its 23rd year and which is so famous and well respected that I had never heard of it. Gold, silver and bronze awards are given for how good the beer tastes and covers different categories such as ale, lager, stout and so forth. Sixty judges from a wide range of interested groups blind tasted and passed judgement on beers from all over the world including new markets of Myanmar, Paraguay and Taiwan - who would have guessed? In all they awarded 64 golds, 196 silvers and 282 bronze awards. Local brewers Sharps and St Austell won bronzes for Doom Bar and Proper Job and silver awards for their stronger ales. Sharps also won a bronze for its Offshore lager, which is no surprise as we find it difficult keeping enough in stock.
While we may have had the fine weather in The Cove, it was blowing up a hooley on the south coast. Winds topped fifty miles per hour on a couple of occasions but were mainly lighter in the mid forties. We could see the evidence of this outside the bay where a million white cap waves appeared during the morning and that is just where I stopped counting. As the day wore on, we watched the seas build and start thrashing against the cliffs on the other side of the bay and the surfers had something to play with. There must have been some shoals out there, too, as the gannets appeared to be having a feast.
Later in the evening the wind speed increased quite a bit and we began to feel some effects in The Cove. Our blinds were rattling on the western windows and the wind started to howl in the eaves. I checked at Gwennap Head where one gust was recorded at 70 miles per hour but mainly in the sixties. All day long I had people asking where 'the storm' had gone, which had mainly gone off with a whimper, but clearly the low pressure system had decided to lash its tail as a last hurrah.
August 8th - Thursday
So, we have a weather system pushing in from the south; a storm if you will. There will be some rain and a bit of wind, which frankly, for these parts is no more than a strong breeze. Those on exposed, higher ground and south west facing slopes will feel it the most and it will, no doubt be uncomfortable if you are in a tent. The media has hyped this bit of bad weather to Armageddon levels, bolstered by a risk averse festival management team up Newquay way.
It has set fear in the hearts of many and all we have had today has been concerned visitors asking about 'the storm', as if all the climate change disaster movies are coming true together. It has not been helpful in the least.
Our morning was pretty fair. The bleddy hound and I enjoyed a brief run down to the Harbour beach and all the morning deliveries were helpfully timely. We were busy, too, for quite a time but the mizzle came in around half past three o'clock and became quite heavy now and again. This had the effect of terminating trade for the day except for the hardened few who provided a random trickle of business.
It was an afternoon of trying to find things to do and then, having found them, generating enough enthusiasm to go and do them. This worked to a degree, but I also read my first newspaper in a couple of months and vented my spleen on a number of cardboard boxes that needed to be flattened. The drinks fridge is nice and full, although it was never really emptied today, and the beer shelf has been topped up. I also rehomed toys and gifts and collected eight pairs of shorts and swimsuits that had been tried for size and discarded on the floor. This, at least, was fruitful.
I watched as the Lifeboat launched on exercise, again without my assistance. After the slipway was set up for the boat's return, several of the crew were trained on the operation of the Inshore Lifeboat tracked vehicle driving. There used to be unhealthy reliance on just a few people to drive the track but after the last group of passings out there are at least half a dozen more to share the load.
The boat was gone for the best part of a couple of hours and was recovered up the long slipway in what was clearly a textbook recovery. We are, after all, a very separated, very excellent Shore Crew.
I enjoyed a more timely tea in the evening and repaired afterwards to the OS for a spot of quizzing. We came second but by a margin that was ridiculous but still a fair result given the large field we were against and we slipped the chase the ace, too, which now runs on for another week at National Lottery levels of reward.
I had asked the Missus to take the bleddy hound out for her last run in case the rain was too severe for our normal run around the block. As fate would have it, the Missus took the bleddy hound out in the pouring rain and we walked home in the dry, long after the last heavy shower had gone away. Down here, at least, the rain was nowhere near as bad as was forecast. While the downpour was heavy in parts, the forecasters should consider their warning a little more carefully in future, lest we ignore a warning of real intent next time.
August 7th - Wednesday
Alright, let me have a little guess what happened here today. We woke up to the news that Boardmasters, the big surf themed festival up Newquay way, had been cancelled after the Meteorological Office issued a weather warning for the weekend - rain on Thursday night through to Friday and wind on Saturday. Today was pasted up as being fine and warm, the last such day ahead of the forecast storm. News travels fast these days and the hosts of visitors will have noticed that today was the last beach day for a few days and headed in this direction. This is my theory.
Whether that is true or not, we were busy from early on and stayed busy for most of the day. It was not until around half past three o'clock that the pace slowed and by that I mean there were gaps between being inundated at the counter. It is fortunate that I go to the gymnasium because it helps with stamina and the requirement to stand up all day long. What it does not help with, and something that I must take into consideration for the future, is the dexterity, suppleness and stamina of my fingers on the till keypad; they were nearly worn to mere stumps by the end of the day. It would be pleasant to think that it is recognised, the pain and suffering I endure to bring comfort and satisfaction to the shopping masses. Obviously, it is not the praise or adulation that I do it for; my reward is the joy of seeing smiling, happy faces of our customers as they leave, delighted with their purchases. Just thought that I would make that clear.
It was something to look down on the beach and wonder at the crowds of happy beach dwellers there. There appeared to be one long camp above the high water line, stretching from under the OS all the way to The Valley and beyond. This did not account for the hundreds of people littering the sand between there and the tide line or the hundred or so splashing about in the water. Oddly, the Harbour beach did not seem affected, although, I know that people seem to prefer to gather on the far side of the western slip, where they cannot be seen from the Harbour webcam. I think that every one of these people happened into the shop at one time or another during the day because it certainly felt like it.
Busy summer beach
After standing in for my gymnasium session in the morning, the Missus headed for The Farm again. Before she went, she finished the temporary labels for the honey, which is now on sale in the shop. Do not get too excited, dear reader, there are only three jars available after the needs of family and selected dignitaries have been met, but it is a start. You may be assured that I will maintain pressure on the producer to ensure adequate supplies in future.
She went back to The Farm again in the evening as she is keen to resolve her water butt issues. She was thwarted again because she had lost the drill bit that drills holes in them, which means that I was thwarted in filling up our drinks fridge, which meant working into the night after we closed. It will all come out in the wash, I am sure and I shall be bouncing and ready for anything come morning. For now I am a brae bit sleepy.
August 6th - Tuesday
I always start busy Tuesdays with some trepidation because of the large grocery order. If it arrives late, when we are open, there is that to deal with, customers piling up at the till and the ever present danger of the bakery order coming at the same time. Today, I was let off the hook early by the timely arrival of the pasties and the bread well before the grocery order arrived. So timely was it that it caught me off-guard and sent me scurrying for the pasty boxes and somewhere to put the bread.
Despite and early robust breeze and dark skies, we were still busy for our newspapers and morning goods session. It did die off a bit after that, but the weather improved in the afternoon and, it would appear, that all was forgiven. The enforced lull in proceedings ensured that our pasty order was a better fit and we had offerings into the afternoon.
When she came down to the shop, the Missus set to with the grocery order and I manned the battlements. Possibly, seeing each other a couple of times as we passed in the shop, and this was our day until later in the afternoon when I was released for a small zizz to revive me for the rest of the day. The Missus headed off to The Farm, I asked not why, but she took the bleddy hound - so it was not strimming - and I saw her again just before we shut the shop at eight o'clock. It might seem like an odd way of life to some but not seeing each other all day seems to work well for us.
The sea was working a bit better for our surfers, too. For the first time in several days there were actually some waves to play with. It looked grand down on the beach in the afternoon sunshine, with joyous surfers heading for the sea and bobbing about in it. There were clearly several surf school sessions going on, with the surfers running in line into the sea with their big surfboards. It has always reminded me of those nature programmes of ants carrying leaves several times bigger than they, as they march towards their ant hill. Alright, maybe that is just me, then.
It looked grand everywhere for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. Perhaps that is why we had a whole hour of pre-closing rush rather than the last five minutes. We never like to turn people away, though sometimes it is inevitable as we have to close at sometime after being open for eleven and a half hours. I had advised one family that we were closed when they strolled in at five minutes past eight o'clock. They went off in a huff in the middle of me saying if they knew what they wanted and could collect in in a timely manner, they were welcome to come in. We are flexible that way, especially if it is an emergency like a plaster for a cut, milk for a child or a cold beer for the needy.
Since there is not much room between the closing hour and bed into which I must also fit having some tea, I will leave you with the thought of a perfect Cove sunset and evening. If you had to remember one thing at the end of your holiday here, you could not do much better that this one.
August 5th - Monday
There were blue skies when I first went out in the world, this morning but it was somewhat short-lived. We then had to suffer the next several hours of people asking when the sun was coming out. I did venture a few times that it was perfectly good at half past six o'clock and they should have seen it then, but it did not go down well.
We put a tentative foot on the Harbour beach, the first in a few days since the tide has chased us off. The tide was threatening to do the same today as was the Harbour tractor that was recovering one of the fishing boats just before we left. One item that I have been meaning to mention but thought it better to wait until I had a photograph of the subject is railings. It seems that health and safety has caught up in the Harbour and new railings have sprung up along the wharf side and on the western slip. The latter has been there since 1923 and the wharf a good bit longer than that. I am not aware of anyone who has come to grief by toppling off either in the intervening, roughly, one hundred years. Perhaps we are more accident prone these days. You may, however, with some determination, still topple off the front of the wharf.
No toppling off the wharf from now on.
Those requesting brighter skies had their way in the middle of the afternoon. It cleared from the west but, out to the east, it still looked quite cloudy. It did not seem to make too much difference as our morning was, once again, filled with busyness. So busy were we that we ran out of pasties - again - a little way into the afternoon. Judging from the numbers that asked after we ran out I was probably only around ten pasties out and I had not held back on my order for the day, either. Business tailed off from the middle of the afternoon, so our embarrassment was mitigated slightly. In my defence, the volumes we are selling are way ahead of our experience from a busy last year. Perhaps it is the stockpiling that we have been hearing about.
We had also sold a fair bit of beachware stock over the last several days since the Missus had been up to The Farm to replenish it last time. I prepared a list at the start of the day, which is about the only time I have to prepare lists and the Missus took it away later in the afternoon. It was a long list, which she clearly felt was not long enough because she went down the gift aisle and added things to it. I quite often forget our gift aisle when considering restocking. I also forget it generally and am sharply reminded when I find a puffer teddy or bottle of fairy dust amongst the fudge bags or sitting atop a can of chopped tomatoes. Then, I am compelled to go into the gift aisle where I discover a scene of devastation. It is just too awful and I would rather not talk about it.
Instead, I shall tell you that we had a fun time putting out all the goodies the Missus brought back from The Farm. She went back almost immediately, ostensibly to sort out her water butts and to install a hose fitting. She had set them to drain when she left earlier but on the way back had a revelation that she should connect them at the bottom so that they fill up, and consequently empty, together. It is a grand plan with advantages and disadvantages. The main disadvantage is that if there is a problem with one butt or the fitting on it, then all three butts would need to be emptied to remedy the problem. I suggested that to get around this the Missus fit a stop tap between each butt so that each could be isolated as need be. The Missus could see the logic in this but did not have the equipment to implement it. It was I who suggested she fix her tap today as rain is promised later in the week and the butts would sit empty for the minimum of time. This did not make me entirely popular, but I did point out that she had only just shared the idea of joining the butts at the bottom. This, obviously, was of no consequence and I am still persona non grata.
I consoled myself with the mackerel that I had baked for breakfast but because of the time it took had to leave it for something else. It was bleddy 'ansum, thank you, boys.
August 4th - Sunday
It was a little grey to start the day as it had rain overnight, which is when it is supposed to rain during the busy times. Sometimes it forgets. It was also warm and very humid and had been throughout the night, or at least the bits I had woken up for. It remained somewhat humid through the day; the cloud stayed put but it was bright enough. I was asked by a customer early in the day if it would get brighter later and I thought that it was none too shoddy the way it was.
We were busy almost from the outset this morning. When I had time to look at the clock it was half past two o'clock and we had been just about been pressed constantly until then. The glut of pasties I had ordered were just enough, but we ran out of bread. I scaled back our numbers based on the sales from the last two weekends, which obviously a daft thing to do. We were not alone, and I do not think that there was a single loaf of bread in The Cove.
There appears to be at least some mackerel swimming about in the bay now. There are rather less than there were yesterday as two of our neighbours dropped by after a trip out and thrust some mackerel into a bag for us, erm, me - the Missus hates fish. I would love to smoke it, but I doubt whether I will find the time and a barbeque is out for similar reasons. I was going to bake it later for my tea but the Missus had other ideas. I shall bake it for my breakfast, instead.
The Missus, who had been potting her second batch of honey during the morning, turned up to let me have a quick zizz mid way into the afternoon. I was gone no more than an hour when it suddenly rained, without permission. It was not a long shower, but it was heavy. It was heavy enough to chase the less hardy off the beach and pre-empt our coming off the beach rush by a couple of hours. It put out of kilter our normal run of business, but we are made of sterner stuff and adapted accordingly.
With honey production taking priority, the usual intense activity associated with the weekly grocery run was delayed and carried on into the evening. It does result in a completely full set of shelves in the grocery aisle, except for the items that we have run out of. This is clearly helpful, although the bleddy hound was not at all impressed because it meant she had to wait for her tea.
I wrote yesterday with some fervour regarding the beach dog ban and suggested that all and everyone were able to contribute. I made some enquiries and it seems that. Although it was only in the newspaper this week just gone, the consultation is now closed. We await developments.
The rain and the associated gloom that followed it put paid to any serious business for the rest of the day. It permitted time to tidy up and close down in an orderly fashion, although, I am pleased to report, that the five minutes to closing rush was just as busy as it has been on any other day so far. It is good to note that some things remain constant no matter what I thrown at us.
August 3rd - Saturday
We woke up to a cloudy and hazy day. Mist that we were promised early on, thinned very quickly and left us with a warm, sultry day that felt like we were swimming through glue. Again, we were threatened with a few showers and although there was evidence on the ground from time to time that it had in fact rained, it must have been so light that nobody noticed.
We did not have the same inundation of visitors that we experience yesterday, but it was not what you might call quiet. In the morning it was very obviously the no man's land of change over day, but it soon perked up to be another busy shop day. It took a while longer for the beach to revive and never really reached the giddy heights of busyness that we had yesterday.
Despite dog bans on beaches and the only beaches dog friendly - at least in the West - being the most inaccessible, there are still plenty of dogs about. Many of our customers are dog owners and we get to know many by their hounds first, as if it is not too busy, they get treats when they visit. This may seem a gratuitous waste of resources but subsequently, every time the owner walks by, they are dragged into the shop by their eager pups.
I was given some advance notice that the Parish was to consult with the residents over reviewing the dog ban. My informant and I both felt that it started too early and that for most of May and June the beach could easily accommodate both parties without issue. Somehow, the consultation eluded me, and it has passed to the much maligned council to make the decision. It is holding a consultation that is open to all, coast dwellers, inland residents and visitors alike. There was the suggestion that the control orders be harmonised across the Duchy, which in my view would be inappropriate; Newquay, for example would be much busier in May and June than we. So, if you are dog owner or not, you are all cordially invited to express your opinion on the much maligned council website. I did have a geek to see what it was all about but there is no mention of it at all. Perhaps it is a secret consultation.
The beach filled up towards the middle of the afternoon. This was either new arrivals unable to contain themselves after getting here, or late risers. We had the same configuration of sand bars at low water, but this at least gave a few waves for the struggling surfers. Later in the tide there was nothing at all other than a bit of a shore break over towards North Rocks. Paddleboards to the fore, then.
There is a quiet time soon after six o'clock when I assume families are having some tea. It is the ideal time to squeeze in some bottling up between the few customers who do venture out at this time. Miss this window and it will be bottling up after we close at eight o'clock and nobody wants that sort of thing, least of all me. This is the soft drinks, mind. Grumpy shopkeepers are at risk of being lynched if they try and serve up warm beer on a warm summer night. Beers must be topped up in the morning unless they run out completely during the day; beer drinkers will favour warm beer over no beer at all.
Our perfectly pleasant day turned into a perfectly pleasant evening. It was the sort of evening to be brave and dive off the Harbour wall if you were seven years old or so or just do it because you do it every year you are here. With the tide nearly in, the Harbour is the place to have a safe swim and splash about and with no wind, either, to play with your favourite giant pink flamingo, perhaps. If you are a grumpy shopkeeper, it was a perfectly pleasant evening to shut the shop and go and collapse on the sofa, so I did.
August 2nd - Friday
Entering August it feels like we have arrived at a destination - much like Waterloo Station at rush hour. Although we have had a good share of busyness in the preceding two months, it is August that we have been building up for. It is also a month when the weather can start to misbehave and throw a few googlies in from left field.
Today, though, gave us beauty, warmth and sunshine despite Kevin the weatherman trying to convince us that the afternoon would bring us rain in the Isles of Scilly and the Far West of Cornwall. It was, instead, a day of wonder, a right rip gribbler, which brought the sunseekers from far and wide - the ones who had not gone home, that is. To be honest, it did not look very much like a host of people had gone home. There were many hundreds down on the big beach and made a pretty good fist of filling it even at low water.
Low water was an interesting spectacle. The tides are big this week and low water is particularly low, just a half metre above lowest astronomical tide. At its lowest ebb, it was pretty far out into the bay and the surfers were even further out trying to catch some elusive waves. Half way between them and the shore was a small sandy knoll, perfectly round, standing out above the waves. A single palm tree on it would have made it the perfect cartoon desert island. Further over, towards North Rocks, a far larger sand bar lurked just under the surface. Even with very little swell it was setting up some decent waves had it not been so close in.
The thronging crowd on the beach did not seem to detract from the crowds wanting to do some shopping; I was busy from the outset and the Missus reported no let up when I was at the gymnasium. When I returned, it was just as busy, and the relentless onslaught did not abate until late in the afternoon. The whole day, practically, was filled with the trilling of the till and I almost felt like dancing a little jig to the tune but restrained myself for decorum's sake.
The Missus went up to The Farm around about the middle of the day. The hive needed checking again and she returned with another three frames from which we may expect another twelve jars in a day or two. While there are a few more people on the most favoured list, there should be sufficient left to put a few out on sale. The proper labels are not yet produced but we should be able to cobble something together that is aesthetic enough for the shelf and, more importantly, legal.
I had seen a few hints and tips on other council web sites, which were most helpful, so I thought that I had better check with the much maligned council. They had nothing about honey but did have a link to hints and tips of the legal kind related to making and selling preserves. I followed it to discover that to establish whether you are on the right side of the law with your potted strawberry jam will cost you £20.50 for a pamphlet. Fortunately, the British Bee Keepers' Association has the appropriate advice for free on its website.
After such a busy day and evening topping up shelves, it is time to take some brief respite before starting again. Bring it on, August.
August 1st - Thursday
Yesterday has been downgraded to just quite busy because today was definitely very busy, certainly in many parts. Our pasties, of which there were a substantial number, all disappeared by early afternoon. The beach was packed full of happy beach dwellers stretching out to the other side of The Valley and dotting the sea like an army's amphibious landing. All this was on a bit of a cloudy, bright in places, but warm day, heaven knows how we would have been on a blistering rip gribbler.
I had thought about putting 'the end' after that as it pretty much summed up the day, which might have been some relief to many readers. However, there were other things going on such as the mountain of fish that I decided to order in for today. On the face of it, placing such a large order for a day that was full on, wall to wall, serving customers might have seemed a little masochistic. Had I known just how busy it was going to be today I think that I might have left it for another day. Never mind, it satisfied an order for ling that will end up in someone's curry tonight, which made me feel peckish very suddenly.
We find ourselves being asked the oddest of questions sometimes. It does seem that our remit extends far beyond the environs and the matters of shopkeeping. Today's odd question concerned a shag that was standing on a rock the other side of the Harbour wall. It was in close proximity to its watchers and flexing from one foot to the other but not inclined to move anywhere, despite being closely attended by humans. I was asked if there was any cause for concern, which given the description, I considered not. If they had said it was lying on its back with its feet in the air, I might have thought otherwise. A gentleman, a regular customer, who overheard the conversation enquired if there was no subject that was beyond our help. He asked if we could assist on the matter of children to which I replied that most advice we would give in that area was probably too late.
One question that we do not get asked is 'where is the nearest bin'. There is one opposite, ten yards away. We know that this question weighs heavily on people's minds as, like today, there was rubbish piled up on the ground outside our commercial bin. I can only despair that the mindset that says it is perfectly acceptable to throw rubbish on the ground if there is no bin, still exists. I collected it myself and took it across the road; it took ten seconds.
I watched with some misgivings as the Lifeboat launched away on exercise. I will be unable to attend any exercises during the summer months, but I should be used to that by now. There was quite a gathering for the recovery, so in terms of numbers I was not missed. No, alright, I was probably not missed for any reason. The boat was brought up the long slipway in what was almost certainly a textbook recovery and tucked away by nine o'clock. We are, after all, a very replaceable, very excellent Shore Crew.
I drowned my sorrows by repairing to the OS for a spot of quizzing. I had no illusions that it would not be busy in the bar and I was right, it was busy in the bar. It was a bit of a farewell night for many and for many that we have known for years. They have had a fair run of weather of the last fortnight, so that is something to take away. We wish them well.
We did not wish them so well that they beat us in the quiz, but I am sure that some of them did. Is that any way to thank us for pandering to their every shopping need over the last couple of weeks? Thank the heavens they are going home tomorrow, I say.
For the first time in a while there was a host of stars to gaze upon as we walked home. Perhaps they had come out to welcome Prof back, who after many years working for a university has now been given a job there. She is to be commended because most people would have given up and got a proper job by now.
Anyway, I digress. Now, where was I? Ah, yes, the stars put on a proper show with the Milky Way in evidence up to the north east. They would have been even more obvious as I walked through the Harbour car park, but I had to keep my eyes looking forward to make my way through the maze of camper vans parked there. These camper van types must go to bed early as there was not a light to be seen anywhere.