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 - Friday
It was a day that did not know what to do with itself. We started off grey and overcast, had some brightness, had some blue sky and sunshine and had some cloud again. For those that remained, it was a fair day to get your teeth into and there was some surf too, although with the Lifeguard jet ski operating all day, there were probably some tricky rips out there.
The second weekend - although officially, I suppose, it is the third, in August is a major changeover day. There will be some awkward souls who choose the middle two weeks but, by and large, people will either have the first two or last two and the middle weekend is thrown into turmoil. The day was busy in parts, with long patches of dullness - much like the weather. By evening we had become becalmed, which allowed me to top up my drinks and grocery shelves, where I could. We did not escape the five minutes to closing rush, however.
This was convenient - the becalmed bit, as the Missus dashed off to visit with her sister, whose birthday it was today - Happy Birthday, sister-in-law. They disappeared off to the Meadery at Trewellard, which I cannot abide, so that too was a convenience that I was left behind to run the shop along with the bleddy hound, who also cannot stand the place on account of her not being allowed in. On the occasions where I have forced myself to attend, she has been left in the van on her own, which she translates as being left alone for all eternity and howls accordingly and incessantly.
Faced with having to make some tea after we closed at eight o'clock, I elected to rustle up some haddock goujons ahead of time and pick at them while we were still open. The great thing about goujons is that you can season the flour with just about anything you choose. Tonight's guest appearance was from the special spice mix that the Missus brought back from Bahama a couple of years ago; it has not lost one bit of its flavour. The goujons were even quite toothsome after they had gone cold, which is an ever present risk of eating in the busy shop.
With most of the shelf filling done and my invoicing run completed earlier in the day, the evening was almost my own, after I had completed the ordering. A whole hour and a half before bed time - I was lost.
August 16th - Thursday
It is not the sort of excitement that we are used to, nor is it the sort of excitement that is welcome here, nor anyway else I would imagine. It all started yesterday when our friends, they of the birthday party, alerted me to a stranger in the shop acting suspiciously. They had previous experience of him in St Just where he had tried to dip one of the girls' handbags and they had taken him outside to explain a few pertinent facts to him - in a non-violent, word to the wise, sort of way, no doubt.
Unbeknown to me, he had already bagged a half bottle of whisky, which, when he saw that I was looking at him, left on a shelf further down the shop. He browsed a little longer, for effect, then left. I made a note of the time so that I could extract the relevant CCTV footage later and though no more about it; it was busy, you understand.
I had quite forgotten all about it until, in the first wave of customers this morning, our boy calmly walks back into the shop. I had the CCTV turned on, which was fortunate as I usually rely on a small child asking why there is a picture of the bleddy hound on the television above my head, to remind me that I have forgotten. Once again, he was furtive and caught me looking at him while he eyed our spirits shelf. This, I think, caused him some anxiety and he approached the counter with a newspaper and bottle of pop mumbling something about not having the right card on him, clearly about to try something on. Unusually for me, I took the initiative and told him that it was about time he was on his way. When asked, I explained that he had been caught with the idea of thieving, which he denied. I suggested that it might be a tad hard to refute the CCTV footage, which took the wind out of his already deflating sails. He left in short order after that and I spent a brisk ten minutes telephoning our neighbouring businesses to warn them.
A neighbour, who overheard us discussing the incident, reported that she had seen him join the bus to Penzance, as was she, and that he had been in the shop at the top before that. He also jumped off the bus briefly in St Buryan to visit the shop there before jumping back on the bus again. Whether he was successful in his ill-designs at either premises I do not know. I was too late telephoning the shop at the top but there were unaware of anything that might have been taken.
I passed our CCTV footage onto our local hero Bobby. This was on the same morning that the Devon & Cornwall Chief Constable had been on the radio claiming that his force was so under-resourced that they were only dealing with emergencies. He reckoned, and he probably has a point, that if London's population increased five fold for a couple of month each year, it would have money thrown at it. Had we been victim to shoplifting I strongly suspect we would be, at best, at the bottom of a list somewhere but more likely, just a statistic.
We were rewarded for our diligence and observation with a very busy day. We had come from a wet and dismal morning, waving goodbye to a weather front that passed in the night, to a sunshiny day. The utter loveliness of it all surpassed all expectations in a week that was supposed to be unsettled from start to finish. It is clear that our visitors were impressed because they turned up in droves; it is as if a tourism agency had run a targeted marketing campaign on us.
It is good that, even while busy, we are still able to have friendly chats with our customers. One proud mother told me that he daughter, there present, had just been accepted for Falmouth University undertaking a course on Marine Photography. I suggested that the subject might be rather limited and, surely, she would be better off at Devonport. I think it was a kindly look they gave me.
The Missus ran off in the afternoon to visit Mother, who had inexplicably returned during the busy weeks. She is still surrounded by people of the family sort and, of course, it is a pleasure to have her back again, it says here. The Missus had a list of Shrew House material to bring back but did not return until well into the evening. We restocked with most of the items but the shoes will have to wait until tomorrow.
All this meant that I missed another launching of the Lifeboat on exercise, that I would not have been able to attend anyway. Quite by coincidence, a small child had gone missing, at about the same time as the launch and the Inshore boat was tasked to do a shore line search. It was never determined whether the parents had deliberately mislaid the child, but she was found close by the parents' parked car shortly after.
I observed with interest and determined that those attending executed a textbook recovery, while I committed my shop orders for the following day. I do feel disconnected during these months when I cannot attend but know full well that the task is being well catered for. We are, after all, a very empathetic, very excellent Shore Crew.
Even though we were late closing the shop and hence finishing our tea, I was still ahead of the crew reaching the OS for the quiz. Being slightly ahead made no difference whatever and we lost by some margin. We were not even in the running for the Chase the Ace raffle and Prof will be leaving us before the next quiz, so we are our chances will be that much reduced hereafter.
It was fitting, therefore, that we had a perfect wander home under the stars, milky way and bright planets. It might have remained so other that a loud shouty bleddy hound breaking up the peace.
August 15th - Wednesday
Big Sis gave us a big surprise this morning by deciding to go home a day early. Some trauma or disaster at home drove her thither, along with not being able to abide our company a moment longer. We have to ask ourselves, who is going to cook our tea and who is going to do the washing up and who is going to restock the shelves in the shop? I really cannot understand why she had to leave.
I immediately went to the gymnasium to take it out on some weights and the rowing machine and felt much better afterwards. It helped that the sun had broken through the cloud and it was a pretty super day all around for a while. It did not last, of course, nothing ever does, and the cloud rolled in later to make it all a bit ordinary.
Ordinary is no reason to hold back on the day, it seems, and beach was crowded again with happy beach dwellers. Again, the sea was black with wetsuited people huddled together taking the waves. It was still nowhere near as busy as Monday, but those days are once in a season if we are lucky.
Some of those black specs down there are wetsuits that came from us. For the first year in quite a while we have sold more wetsuits than we imagined. We were not sure what caused the downturn - the availability of rental suits, the fact we have had to buy more expensive suits and that Tesmorburys have got in on the act. The latter suits have been discredited by the local surf schools as being too thin for sustained water use. This year, there seems to have been a bit of a reversal and once again suits have been flying out of the door. Obviously, had I known, I might have spent a little more attention earlier making sure we had sufficient across our sizes.
Our afternoon became rather busy. The Missus went off to St Buryan and shortly afterwards I was pinned behind the counter by a continuous supply of shoppers. This is the second time this season we have witnessed this phenomenon and, if I remember correctly, the weather had just gone off then, too. I think I went onto a bit of auto pilot during this phase because there were a couple of occasions where things were not quite straightforward and that flummoxed me. I think all my synapses were solely firing to keep motor functions going and decision making was out of the question.
We had been warned that a weather front was on the way but we rather expected it overnight. It became increasingly cloudy in the afternoon and by the later stages of it, mizzle set in. It was light enough not to affect traffic very much and we had the usual wandering souls, dropping in and browsing and buying through to closing. We also had a big five minute to closing rush, which we have not seen in a day or two.
I had already taken one box of waste cardboard out to sit on our bin in preparation for collection tomorrow when I remembered it was going to rain overnight. I was quite grateful that I did not have to take the others out, as I was on my knees at the time. I was so on my knees by then that I could not be bothered to bring in the box I had already taken out. I do hope our waste people take papier mache.
August 14th - Tuesday
It was not a morning filled with potential to impress or surprise, like yesterday. Low cloud had settled across the bay during the night and seemingly refused to budge in the morning. It was a bit damp, dragging the bleddy hound around the block first thing, although perfectly mild, and that air of wetness persisted quite a way into the day. It must have been thicker at the top of the hill and the layer of cloud lingered in the valleys and draped down the cliff side. No, definitely not a full on beach day today.
It was big delivery day and today the Highly Professional Craftsperson decided to come and replace the light in the store room. As it happened, he would have completed the work before the delivery arrived but we discovered after opening the box that the light was designed for the end of a run and not the middle of it, as we needed. We would have to move the light at the end of the run to the middle and replace the light at the end, instead; a much longer job for which we did not have time.
Into the darkness, then, our latest delivery was humped. It was not a patch on last week's delivery and the Missus and Big Sis made light work of dissembling it and getting it out on the shelves. We boys also made light work of getting it off the van and into the store room, just in case you think, dear reader, it is the girls that do all the work around here. The pasty delivery was also satisfyingly timely and came shortly after we had finished unloading the groceries. Unlike yesterday, when the pasties coincided with a burst of heavy shopping, we were mercifully free of customers for both deliveries.
The Missus, once again, had to do a runner to coordinate with the very helpful work people who arrived to fix Mother's door. It transpires that she missed them last evening by a whisker, as they turned up at seven o'clock to do the work; who would have thought such a thing? The Missus clearly did not but arranged for the work people to telephone her when they were on their way so she did not have to wait the entire day. What a very good service that is.
I may be coming a little late to this party, as it has already reached the media. Nevertheless, for those of you that it might have passed by, I refer to Visit Cornwall, which used to be a much maligned council department. It seems you can take the department out of the much maligned council but not necessarily take all of the much maligned council out of the department. The agency found itself in hot water recently by apologising for over-achieving in a targeted marketing campaign, extolling the virtues of two lesser visited resorts. Both Kynance Cove and Porthcurno were inundated with visitors after the agency highlighted them in a social media campaign.
Residents of both areas complained when car parks became full and visitors took to parking in daft places along the roads leading into the resorts. Emergency services said that they were prevented from getting through. On the other hand, an equal number or thereabouts of people were up in arms about the complaints; business was up and what was Visit Cornwall doing trying to deter customers - a good point. The agency quickly responded that it did want the increased numbers, some twenty percent extra this year, but in the right places. Oh, what a circus.
Despite the tricky start, we seemed to have the right number of visitors in The Cove today. The beach was nowhere near as busy as yesterday, but we sold all our pasties and, at last, the bread volumes seem to be coming under control. Business was nothing to be sniffed at today and we finished the day in an orderly manner - well, the Missus and I did, Big Sis went off to the OS with her erstwhile workmates from Little Bo. We hope she had fun; she was out, well after our bedtime.
August 13th - Monday
Today was a much better proposition all around. There were some blue skies here and there but again, there was much cloud too, but it was dry and warm and good enough to prompt a full on beach day.
This is what Cove sunrise looks like on a full on beach day
It was difficult to imagine the beach more crowded than it was today. The beach encampments stretched from under the OS all the way along to the other side of The Valley. Also, for most of the day, there were mid-beach dwellers. These folk were engaged in games - there was a volley ball pitch marked out - and digging big holes, sand castle towns and canal systems using the drainage stream from under the OS. Down in the shallows there were hundreds of people enjoying the waves. I wondered why so many had gathered in the same place but understood when the first of the thumping waves crashed in on them. Way out the back at North Rocks, a big bunch of surfers bobbed about waiting on the big waves to carry them in. It was definitely a beach day, for everyone's tastes.
Even I managed to get in on the fun. One of the Inshore Lifeboat crew was being passed out today on his abilities with the boat. Unfortunately, the only time they could arrange this was half past one, low water on a seven and a half metre tide. It is from years of experience as a launcher that we have found it much more effective to push the boat out into some water and at the appointed state of the tide there was none.
There was some discussion about leaving the launch until later in the tide but an inspector had come all the way from somewhere else to carry out the assessment and leaving it too late was not an option. At first, we reasoned that launching on the big beach was too much of a risk, since it was so crowded. After some consideration we decided to go ahead using the inspector and two boat crew as banksmen. I also drove the track with some caution, as I believe that squashing small children is rather frowned upon. As I noted earlier, the beach was very crowded. This presented some challenge as I made a slalom course across the sand. Not only were no small children damaged in the making of this launch, but I avoided every sandcastle, too. We are after all, a very considerate, very excellent Shore Crew.
Sometime later, after I had recovered the boat on the Harbour beach, the Missus took off for Mother's house. Mother is not there, she is on holiday with another daughter, but the very pleasant men at the house maintenance company had announced, at short notice, that they would come to fix her broken front door today. Big Sis had gone over as an advance party, just in case the men turned up before I had finished with the Lifeboat, and the Missus went over to relieve her. The workmen did not turn up, which was irritating, so the whole process will have to be repeated tomorrow when our big grocery order is expected.
The Missus was going to go shopping after the door was fixed. Instead she came home first as the bleddy hound becomes upset if shopping is put before her tea time. We are quite adept at shuffling our priorities, now.
August 12th - Sunday
Ah, the not so glorious 12th. I do not generally put much store by the Meteorological Office's forecasts and even less by their long range forecast, but I have to agree that I think the party is over. The current North Atlantic weather systems and the position of the jet stream would tend to indicate a continuous stream of low pressure systems heading our way for the next couple of weeks. I have a picture of some blue sky that appeared briefly this morning; it is something to hold on to in the coming days.
That said, the weather today was much better than advertised and certainly a distinct improvement on yesterday, which could not have got much worse. The weather might have had something to do with it or it might have been late arrivals last night or perhaps overindulgence on the first night, but it was very much a slow burn morning. Our first proper run of customers did not come in until gone ten o'clock; the lazy bunch.
They made up for it later and we had a much busier day than yesterday, unsurprisingly. This was certainly helped by reasonable periods of blue sky and brightness between the overcast and grey. The pasty masterplan did not quite meet muster but running out at three in the afternoon was not too bad. We were much better off for bread, meaning that at least we had some this week, which was more by accident than design and finding ourselves two days ahead with orders at the end of last week.
It was not so busy that the Missus felt obliged to hang about all day and after knocking out her grocery ordering duties in record time, did a runner up to The Farm. She has a new incinerator she wanted to try out. Apparently, it is something to do with her composting but do not ask me what. Because she has the bleddy hound with her she also had to buy a pen, but she was not sure whether to pen in the bleddy hound or the incinerator to prevent her from getting close to the fire. It is not all a bed of roses running a farm, it seems; tough decisions need to be made.
The big runs on cold drinks are certainly a thing of the past and we have found that we are not chasing our tails trying to catch up at the end of each day. Not only does this make it so much easier closing down in the evening but relieves the pressure on trying to find a supplier that actually has some soft drinks to make cold. We closed on time tonight and the only thing I had to do afterwards was portion up the shepherd's pies so that I could freeze them. I will be up early doors to vacuum pack them tomorrow. There, that did not take long to find something else to fill the gap left by topping up the drinks fridge, did it.
August 11th - Saturday
Well, that was just very disappointing. We were just getting used the to relentless volume of trade and fitting in re-stocking where we could and suddenly, it seems, we have all the time in the world. This is extremely dangerous, as the natural order of things is to immediately relax and do nothing instead. We made a valiant effort to resist this after the morning rush of bread and pasty deliveries went by. The Missus got stuck into a big box of shorts to bolster the flagging display at the end of the shop while I made sure the counter was covered and the pasty warmer stocked - even in poor weather the people still need feeding.
Luckily, we are at the stage where a bit of mizzle is something to be battled and put up with. Visitors will probably carry a stiff upper lip for a day or two before capitulating and beggering off to do something inside, instead. If we do not see an improvement either tomorrow or Monday it will be goodnight Vienna.
There were occasions during the day when the rain ramped up its game and came in much more heavily. Rain such as this does call a halt to proceedings for a while and takes time to recover after each shower. This makes customers something of a precious commodity that need to be nurtured, which becomes something of a labour for those who insist upon asking questions in a negative way.
I will have mentioned before that this is a big of a bug bear for me. Phrases such as 'you do not have' or even worse the same, rounded off with 'I suppose'. Our first customer of the day commenced with 'I suppose you do not have the basics like milk and bread'. To me this roughly translates as 'you have such a pitiful excuse for a shop that you are so unlikely to carry anything useful to anyone'. I turned this around by tweeting, later on - I wish I had thought of it at the time - that we do indeed not have the basics; we have top quality local products from local suppliers, so there.
Against all probability, we also have friends. Well, we have visitors that have been coming down each year for so long that they feel duty bound to invite us to major events in their lives, like fiftieth birthday parties. This was the case this evening when we were asked along to The Beach, Surf Bar or whatever it is called this year. The man is clearly far to popular for his own good as there were many people attending. This was alright by us because we managed to hide in a corner and drink heavily - well, one of us did; the Missus does not drink, although married to me you would think she would. Some things are just not to be understood.
It was a very pleasant party, I was told later, and I behaved myself or, at least, no one noticed if I did not. It was also wet, not at the party, but going there and coming back. We cheated and took the van. The bleddy hound was keen for her normal run when we got back but with the Missus there she completely refused to run shouting and screaming around the block; apparently she saves that just for me.
August 10th - Friday
The rain did not exactly stop play today but it certainly slowed things down a bit. It was absolutely hammering down when I first got up but thankfully had stopped when I went downstairs to set up for the day. The bleddy hound and I got around the block unscathed, too, even taking in a wander about on the Harbour beach on our way. It was a mite breezy but for all that it was perfectly temperate, though nothing like the past several weeks.
Just for a change, the Lifeboat launched again today. This one was scheduled to a degree and had much to do with the radar that had developed a fault. The engineer had arrived today to fix it and the boat launched to make sure it was working properly. According to our pagers, the launch was scheduled for 15:45 but actually launched an hour earlier; I suspect finger trouble on the keyboard or someone does not know their 24 hour clock. Had it launched on time I might have had a fighting chance of helping out on recovery. As it was, the Missus had gone shopping and even though we were not that busy, closing the shop in August is for emergencies only.
In our absence, the Boat Crew stood in. I have no doubt that the boat was recovered because I saw it in the water and then I saw it on the slipway. I cannot testify to the textbookness of the work but if it passed muster we would be most surprised. We are, after all, a very protective, very excellent Shore Crew.
The quietness of the afternoon suggested 'cake' in my ear. I listened carefully and weighed the options in the balance. It has been several weeks since we have been quiet enough to even slip next door to Little Bo Café and look longingly at the cakes, let alone consume one. At one point I had one of the waiting staff describe the cakes to me; it was delightful torture for a moment of two. Today, however, there was a sufficiently long break in the traffic to go and actually order a bit of summer cake with mascarpone - so I did. It was bleddy 'ansum, thank you for asking.
So too was the meal that Big Sis prepared for our tea. She told us that she was making cauliflower and broccoli cheese shepherd's pie, although she was doing without the shepherd as they do not eat shepherds in Vegetaria, I am told. I also wondered what broccoli cheese was until she explained that it was not some sort of new cheese laced with the vegetable and there was a pause between broccoli and cheese.
Due to the slackness of the day we all finished on time tonight. I had found time to input all the outstanding invoices into our ledger and pay the necessary bills, all before we closed. This was all very satisfactory until I saw what it had cost us in the till. Can we have our weather and longer working hours back, please. It is a long winter.
August 9th - Thursday
I am sure you all have had a terrible time on the very edge of your seats wondering what the outcome of last night's Lifeboat shout might have been. One couple of readers, who thought that there were more than one, were so distraught that they had to visit the shop to ask for the next instalment. I told them that, like everyone else, they would have to wait for the next episode. They insisted that they were going home today and might never find out. Like they did not have the Internet where they are from; I am not falling for that one.
So, there I was just settling into a very pleasant sleep after a hard day at the tin stope when all of a sudden my pager went off. The boat launched to a fishing boat that had fouled its propeller and was subsequently towed to Newlyn. I returned to bed, leaving Head Launcher minding the store and managed a few hours kip before being called back to action at around two o'clock in the morning. We brought the boat up the short slipway in what was clearly a textbook recovery at around half past three and quickly returned to our beds. We are, after all, a very early, very excellent Shore Crew.
It was shortly after opening the shop in the morning, and discovering that we were very busy from the off, that my pager went off again. With the Missus still upstairs, I left a bemused queue awaiting her presence - at least I did not lock them in - while I shot across to launch the big boat again. This time a small yacht had managed to rupture its fuel tank and be in some difficultly just to the north west of Brisons. After some negotiation the yacht was towed towards Newlyn where our boat met up with the Penlee Lifeboat and changed hands or tows, rather. A skeleton crew brought the Lifeboat up the long slipway this time, in another celebrated textbook recovery and tucked her away at around one o'clock. We are after all a very persistent, very excellent Shore Crew.
It was a very peculiar day. Usually we have plenty of slow periods where we can clear some backlog of orders or put some stock out. Today, was relentless. There were no big surges, just an almost continuous line of shoppers from the moment we opened to the moment we closed. This impeded the normal flow of things like, cooking pasties and attending to customer queries; one of us was pinned to the counter for the whole day and quite often, both of us.
Whether the weather had an impact, it was hard to tell. There were the occasional showers, particularly throughout the afternoon, but these were short lived. Normally these drive customers into the shop in a bunch, but not today. By the end of the day we were both quite exhausted.
It did not stop me, however, from attending the OS quiz in the evening. It was, again, a busy field and the questions not entirely to our taste or field of expertise. I was fully expecting us to be somewhere in the upper quartile, as usual but it was a complete surprise to find that we had won. I was so surprised that I had to check whether someone else had used our team name. We even won the chase the ace raffle, but I managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by choosing the wrong card.
Never mind, the night sky was victory enough on our trek home. The stars were there in abundance and included the Milky Way, which we were looking at when the Highly Profession Craftsperson pointed out a shooting star, that we missed. We are certain nobody missed the bleddy hound, though, shouting the odds around the block.
How about a closing picture, just for a change. This one from an evening a few days ago.
Panoramic of the evening light on the cliffs.
August 8th - Wednesday
This new weather we are having is a bit of a rum do. It is not what we are used to, at all. Although first thing this morning there was some blue sky, it was a brae bit breezy and later on the cloud rolled in and made it a bit of a grey day. Since it was dry this did not bother folk too much and we were just as busy, or at least nearly, as the last few days. It does mark, however, a change in the general weather from the weeks of hot and dry that we have been having to another phase of the summer. This is not yet cataclysmic, but we do hope that the stable dry weather returns because we are greedy and do not give a monkey's about other people's businesses that rely on a bit of rain.
It is all a bit scary, this plastic lark. There are customers who come back time and again and have a bag each time, for the smallest and lightest of items. Others will bring the same disintegrating poly bag back time and again even long after it had ceased to be fit for purpose. I suppose, most concerning are the small children who seem to have no concept of the issue whatever and yet, it will affect them most. I told one parent, in a cynical, talking to myself sort of way, that why should I care, anyway. I will not be around when the problem kicks in big time. It was only a second's reflection that suggested to me that the Buddhists might be right and I might come back as something, then I would be stuffed, particularly if I came back as a fish.
We have tried to push a little bit in the direction of no plastic. We deliberately switched to paper cups earlier this season and discovered that they are twice the price of the plastic ones. Just recently, I had a little look at the comparison between the two products, just out of interest, that revealed that having a blanket downer on plastic may not be all that it seems. I found that while paper cups are far more disposable in a kind sort of way, they are a complete begger to manufacture and cause so much pollution in the process that the overall life of them is comparable to a plastic cup. These are kinder in their production but harder to dispose of. I think we will go plastic again and label them 'eco cups'.
We were faced with a deluge of customers shortly into the afternoon. These people all decided to come shopping at the same time because a shower swept through The Cove at the same time. This Missus had just retreated upstairs to prepare our evening tea and I had to call her back down again in a hurry to relieve the queue that was all the way to the end of the shop.
I was invited to launch the Inshore Lifeboat late in the evening but before we closed. I usually demure on such activity during the season, as we simply cannot do running a shop and playing Lifeboats. Shouts are different and customers will come second to emergencies. On this occasion, however, one of the crew needed the exercise to help him pass one of his 'green flag' training progress levels, so I relented. The situation is not helped by so few of us being passed out to drive the tracked vehicle. As it happened, another crew member offered to put the boat afloat if I could pick it up at half past eight o'clock, a much kinder hour for us. Even then I nearly missed it as we were still filling shelves and turning out cardboard at twenty five past.
Just when you think you have done your Lifeboat best of a day, the pagers run off at just past bedtime to say you really have not. A few of us launched the boat to a fishing vessel with a fouled propeller, some ways west of us.
To be continued ... same time, same web page, tomorrow.
August 7th - Tuesday
The air was full of mizzle when I came down first thing. This became a tad thicker when I took the bleddy hound around and for the first time in a while we both got wet. It was quite pleasant. The day became progressively brighter as it went on and was just about dry from when I opened the shop.
All our pre-opening orders, including the largest of the year from the cash and carry were mercifully early and were boxed off before the shop opened. Our baker was predictably late but not a soul had touched the few loaves of bread that had been left over from yesterday. It is often the case when customers have been disappointed on one morning that they will either arrive later for the rest of the week or, worse still, find an alternative supplier.
As I suggested yesterday, Big Sis threw herself into helping with the grocery order and it was cleared by mid afternoon. I manned the till while Big Sis and the Missus buried themselves in the stock room. At one point the waste cardboard reached the top shelf in its pile. This will join the rest that we salted away in the van and be carried away on Thursday, hopefully.
The tides are not particularly conducive to beach dwelling this week, although our visitors made a decent fist of it. High water sits around the middle of the day, but I had a quick geek at the end of the afternoon and there was quite a crowd down there. We were still overcast but dry and the temperature was much more comfortable for most people other than the die hard sun chasers.
It all went quiet about half past five when normally it is picking up a little. I discovered that the Meteorological Office had scared people off with a warning of some heavy showers about that time. It did look a bit dark in places but we were largely unaffected - by the rain, but not the forecast. There was some rain about but only in small isolated showers and none of them reached us, even overnight.
Big Sis had deserted us to meet a friend in the West Cornwall heartlands of Camborne, where her friend had selected to stay on holiday. This raised an eyebrow or two as it might not be the first place most people would think of to holiday. To be helpful, I used a search engine on the computer to seek out places of interest in Camborne and it came up with half a dozen, most of which were somewhere else. There is, of course, the Bassett memorial, the towering obelisk which overlooks the town and the Bassett manor on Carn Brea not to mention the King Edward Mine museum in which to pass an interesting hour or so. The most about Camborne to wonder at, however, is that it is there at all. In many towns across the land we are told you are never more than a yard or two away from a rat. In Camborne you are never a yard or more away from a mine shaft or adit.
The Missus made a run into town later in the day and returned with a take away meal, which saved us the fag of having to cook. Between us we ate and restocked our shelves and wondered quite what to do with our stockpile of bread. It looks like I have got a handle on the volume of pasties, so I am doing something right.
We are suffering a drought, however, as our main supplier cannot seem to get hold of any water. After we complained about the only boxes they delivered lasting us two days at most, they sent a selection of what they could get their hands on, none of which will fit in our drinks cooler without having to restock it three times a day. There are also seems to be little in the way of soft drinks about, apart from ginger beer and Coca Cola, which seems to have an endless supply. Beer, however, appears to be unaffected - oh dear.
August 6th - Monday
It was a pretty little day from the outset and no sign whatever of the mist that has plagued our last couple of days. It was just pleasantly warm walking with the bleddy hound around the block first thing. I also discovered the delights of having to top up a parking ticket in the new ticket machine, for Big Sis' car and found out that the new fangled contactless car payment facility is not working. Several customers had complained about this, so I thought that I had better check for myself.
The shop open day started with a rush and continued that way. I had planned to visit the gymnasium as normal but decided to wait until the bread order had come and gone; it is difficult dealing with this while serving a busy shop full of customers. The van was late - again - but after he had gone the shop just got busier and busier. I decided to forego my gymnasiuming, especially as we expected a frozen order to arrive shortly.
I was completely flummoxed by our bakery order, yet again, although I did get the pasties near enough bang on. The plan to have sufficient bread delivered so that we have some the following morning fell in a heap on the ground when the very big number I had dreamed up failed to be enough. There was, however plenty for today but the majority of tomorrow's shoppers will, again, have to wait for the bakery van to arrive. Hopefully he will not be so late tomorrow.
Despite our busyness, I note that from our failure to sell the expected number of Daily Mail newspapers that our phantom newspaper tidier-up is back on the scene. The Daily Express was neatly stacked upon the other newspaper thus obscuring it and making it look like there were none available. I am considering the use of a decoy, another untidy pile elsewhere in the shop to distract this person, but on reflection, nobody would notice elsewhere in the shop what was supposed to be untidy and what not.
We are in clover having Big Sis back because she knows the business inside and out and is capable of just smoothly fitting in with operations. We are being spoilt and for once we seem to be a little bit ahead of the posse; I even managed to finish up before half past eight in the evening. We obviously felt guilty because it is her holiday, but the feeling did not last long. We are having the biggest delivery of the year tomorrow - still not feeling the guilt.
August 5th - Sunday
Our remaining bread disappeared in a trice this morning. The pasties followed suit around the middle of the day. We definitely should have gone large this weekend but it was difficult thinking of a number bigger than the numbers we are used to even on the busiest of busy days; this is uncharted territory.
It seems that the mist that returned again today still did not put anyone off, although it closed the beach from time to time as the Lifeguards lost sight of everyone. We were flying from early doors all the way to early afternoon before it calmed down to a steady flow. It was only then that we looked about our food shelves to see the scene of devastation; a big food desert. We have spares of most items but there is a lot of time and effort involved in transferring it from the store room to the shelf, which, when we are both firing on all cylinders behind the counter, is a tricky job. Later when it calmed down sufficiently, order was restored and the shelves looked a little more respectable.
The mist cleared out in the middle of the afternoon for just a short while. It was back in a hazy sort of way by the late afternoon. Then, into the evening it completely cleared and made for one beautiful day - except everyone had gone home.
We had an arrival today. She has been missing less than a year but a new job took her away and now Big Sis has come back for a bit of a holiday. We would have killed the fatted calf for her, but she sent ahead to say that she has become a vegetarian, so we killed some fatted Cornish sardines instead. Obviously, the Missus had something else; the Missus hates fish. We used one of the mistakenly supplied large disposable barbeques and set it up on one of our benches across the road, where a visitor promptly came and sat, so we had to move it.
The sardines, or pilchards if you prefer, were 'ansum and the first we have had this season. They will be hauling them in from Mount's Bay through until early next year but somehow they do not seem right during the winter.
We closed the day with large orders going hither and thither and thence large deliveries, mainly tomorrow. My golly gosh, how much busier can it get?
August 4th - Saturday
Well, I was always going to be held to ransom by my statement that we would never again have to ration our half baguettes and bake-over bread now that we had a supplier that delivers every day. While the delivery every day happens, it is not for all goods, it seems. It was pure misfortune that we reached our reorder point on a Friday and just forgetfulness that I failed to tell the Missus until it was too late for a next day order, else we would have had it today. Oops.
Once again, I thought that our business would be affected by the weather that had a bright sunny day for everyone - except for the 'Isles of Scilly and the Far West of Cornwall'. Sure enough we were overcast for the first half of the day but we were dry and warm and there was a brae bit of a northerly breeze to make things comfy. The day came into its own in the afternoon, when the skies cleared a bit and the sun broke through. By this time the beach was already crowded and the sea flooded with happy wet people.
We have a select and sometimes particular customer base here during the season, which is why we stock some select and particular goods. We also stock some less expensive products in a fit for purpose sort of way. One of our select customers of today required a pair of sunglasses because she had left, what I imagine were a high fashion pair, in her car or somewhere else she was not prepared to return to. We keep appropriately priced sunglasses for this very purpose, as she is not the only visitor who has left, lost or broken a pair while here.
She had already spent some time making a selection from our stand. Possibly due to her height - lack of it - or perhaps because the mirrors on the stand are not of particularly high quality, she asked if we had another mirror in which she could make her assessment. She had narrowed her choice down to two options and spent some time in front of the mirror that I was holding up. The amount of time was such that my arms were beginning to ache and other customers were beginning to have to wait. She asked my opinion, which perhaps was not the best idea, as my knowledge of fashion is limited and I did not think something non-committal with 'yes dear' at the end was wholly appropriate in this case. Fortunately, the chap behind in the queue was much more eloquent and said something clever about one being cool and the other being smart, which I wish I had thought of. This was not nearly conclusive enough, so she went and asked the Missus, who had pulled the van up outside to load some boxes. The Missus was a bit more decisive, so the lady chose the opposite ones but as she approached the counter she found someone else to ask.
I lost track of time and the number of people who became involved in the process. At one point I suggested that she visit the Surf Company in the Beach car park as they would have some brand named glasses that might be more to her taste, but she persisted with us. Did I mention that these are £7.99 sunglasses and the lady was dressed for the beach? Welcome to Sennen St Tropez Beach.
The rest of the day became a bit of a blur. We were busy. This is the busiest year we have had for as long as I can remember, which, if I try really hard, was last year. Fortunately, we have numbers written down which tell us that this really is the busiest year for a long time. Still, there is plenty of time for it all to go sadly wrong. This is no time to become complacent.
August 3rd - Friday
It was a day of indecision. Not us, you understand, we decided to open the shop and we did. It was the weather, finding it hard to decided whether it was going to be misty or not. One moment we could not see the sea and the next it was all clear blue loveliness. There were in between bits, too, where the mist hung in the valleys and clung to the cliffs in varying amounts. At one point it perfectly framed Cape Cornwall, top and bottom, with a wreath of cloud. It did nothing to dampen people's spirits, as there were crowds along the street, in the Little Bo Café and down on the beach, much the same as every other day this week.
There was a bit of a different dynamic in The Cove, which was down to it being a change over day. There was the usual round of buying leaving presents and the odd drama such as handbags being left behind in the mayhem of packing and leaving. Pasty sales were a little slower today, which was expected and altogether it was a bit more sedate.
It was during the handbag episode that I found myself on the foot of Stone Char Lane talking with a neighbour. She told me that she had been observing a young herring gull on the roof of a property opposite that was clearly in distress from lack of drink; I am sure we all know that feeling, dear reader. She had tried to alert the visitors in the cottage but they could not open the upper window, through which they could have supplied a bowl of drink for the bird. It was only today, when presumably the cleaner was able to open the window that some succour had been delivered. The bird took immediate advantage while the erstwhile anxious parents - there were three adults on the apex, one must have been an aunt, perhaps, or the nanny - looked on.
The slower nature of the day permitted the Missus to whisk the bleddy hound off to the veterinary doctor. She said that the bleddy hound looked glum. I was not sure that taking her to the veterinary doctor was going to make her any happier; she shakes like a leaf if we so much as point the van in that direction. It is a routine procedure that needs to be done around once a month else she gets a little uncomfortable.
By the time the Missus came back we were getting busy again. The sea mist, that had retreated for the most of the middle of the day, came back in the later afternoon and evening. I would say that it was much thicker at the top of the hill but it was isolated. A lady came back from Porthcurno where, she, said it was baking hot and without a single bit of mist. I am glad she shared that.
I managed to get the restocking done during open hours and was able to look forward to the rest of the evening doing paper work and keying in invoices. It is a charmed life, I tell you.
August 2nd - Thursday
I awoke to an overcast scene this morning with some low cloud hanging about the cliffs opposite. It had been accurately forecast by the middle of the day yesterday, at least, but it still scuppered one couple's day trip to the Islands.
It is a shame that they could not wait because by mid morning, although it was still overcast, the low cloud had cleared. If we had expected a quieter day due to the weather, we were very much mistaken and we seemed to have just as many customers as we had the day before and the day before that. While a rest day might have been secretly welcomed, it is a long winter and busy days are better for the soul - it says here.
Down on the beach things were getting back to normal. The sea had regained its composure and swimming and surfing areas were back to where they normally are. Oddly, the southern end of the beach where everyone was packed in yesterday was red flagged today. It did not look at all threatening but it had attracted a couple of rebels who decided to make a stand and paddle there in the middle of the day. Their names are doubtless on a Government list somewhere.
I was still working, sorry, being in the shop when the Lifeboat launched at seven o'clock or thereabouts, so obviously I was not the one pushing it out on this occasion. Neither was I the one pulling it back in up the short slip some time later on, but that is just the way of things during busy summer holidays. I have no doubt the remaining members carried out a textbook recovery because, I have to admit, even without me they are only a very slightly depleted, very excellent Shore Crew.
One effect that an evening launch during our opening hours has is that we are deluged by small children who have been allowed up late to watch it. They run in afterwards for ice creams and sweets and all at once at that. For brief minutes the shop is a cacophony of ice cream comparisons and shouts of who is having what before it all suddenly goes quiet again.
I did drag myself to the OS after we closed to partake in the quiz. Prof very kindly gave up some of her precious holiday time, which she tells us consists mainly of working, to help us lose miserably again. We had a peaceful walk home until the bleddy hound joined us. Even in our mad busyness, some things do not change.
August 1st - Wednesday
Being a respected grumpy shopkeeper - well, respected by some small children under six years old who do not know better - has some advantages. It gives me carte blanche to dispense sage advice. Such a young lad passed through the shop this morning and showed me the cardboard cut-out kit - to think that they still manufacture such things - of a Severn Class Lifeboat that he bought at the Lifeboat shop. He told me that there were contents and a whole set of instructions. I suggested that as he was obviously a real man, the instructions would be superfluous, and he should just put it together doing what felt right. I think at least one parent saw that I was right.
I could have done with this child's skillset later in the day when the Missus sent me a text. She had forgotten her shopping list and asked me to text back a photograph of it. Now, there is something about the word 'text' that suggests that sending a photograph to be rather against the remit of the application, however, I was assured that it was perfectly possible. I know how to send a text and I know how to take a photograph, merging the two presented something of a challenge. I looked at the text screen and could see no obvious button that suggested attaching a photograph. With the help of a customer, a grown up one, I was directed to the camera application where, buried in a submenu, options became apparent. Next time I think I will type the list, as it would have been quicker.
If you would like to know what the beach looked like today, the paragraph in yesterday's Diary will suffice; it was exactly the same, or possibly slightly busier. For the first few hours, the Lifeguards had the beach red flagged because the swell had not subsided from yesterday. As the tide receded the Lifeguards relented and let the eager hoards into the water. It was still fierce in places and the swimmers and boarders were consigned to the far southern end of the bay. Even then the jet ski patrolled for most of the day, rounding up errant boarders like some latter day cowboy.
We did not quite equal our record from yesterday, but we were not far off. We are still seeing deliveries roll in, which is satisfying. A big palate arrived in the afternoon, stacked about eight feet high with bodyboards that we had only just run out of. We also received a back order of parasols, which we discovered are subject to a national shortage, so heaven knows where these arrived from. Luckily, all but a box or two that we needed in the shop fitted into the van and the Missus whisked them up to Shrew House for putting away. She came back with a big pile of buckets and spades that were running short in the shop. That is another plate kept spinning for a while.
Having topped up our drinks during a quieter moment toward closing time, we managed to get away without too much extra work after the doors closed. Fortunately, we were not deluged by too much of a five minutes to closing rush, although it would not have been right to not have one at all. This gave us a full-ish evening to ourselves spent gainfully collapsing in a heap on the sofa.