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.
January 19th - Sunday
Range days at present are a bit of a rush, mainly because I do not get up early enough. I had thought to set the alarm but then set it for the normal time I would get up, which is later than I should. I just could not bring myself to set it half an hour earlier.
It was another cracking little day, although it was darned cold. It was even colder at the top of the hill where a thick frost had formed. The main roads had been cleared, either by a gritter late last night or by weight of traffic this morning. The last little road that runs over Chapel Carn Brea was an altogether different matter and was white from one end to the other.
It was pretty white up at the range, too, and cold out of the sunlight. As the day progressed we were able to spend more time in the sunny bit and we all warmed up. It was surprising how quickly that dissipated once the shadows started to lengthen towards the end of the afternoon. Without a cloud in the sky, the sunset was plain and simple with a graduated set of yellow, reds and pinks running from above us all the way down to the horizon. The sun sank out of sight just before the Missus collected me and headed down the hill.
When we got back it was time to run the bleddy hound out for her pre-tea walk. There was plenty of Harbour beach to patrol and she took her time inspecting most of it. We were preceded in the morning by the fishing fleet's first foray out this year but there was little evidence of them going by the late afternoon. It is clearly not a one-off as the boats are now settled on the slipway ready for another go. While I let the bleddy hound explore I happened to glance under the slipway. I thought at first that it was an odd shaped rock but then it moved - an odd shaped moving rock, perhaps. It was a juvenile cormorant - or a small adult, as you wish. I considered it an odd place for it to be and presumably so did it because the next time I looked, it was gone.
The Missus excelled herself on the tea front, this evening. She has found a new recipe website and is experimenting. Yesterday I had some Mexican wraps, which were wholesome and tonight we had a pan roasted bit of steak rolled around some white crabmeat in a parsley and onion sauce; it was bleddy 'ansum. Mother showed some distain and announced it would be better if the two were separate meals. She normally takes home leftovers for a dinner later in the week, so I snaffled what she would have taken home and will have it for breakfast. Oh, how we suffer.
January 18th - Saturday
We were treated to a most glorious morning and a sliver of beach to go and play on at our usual walking out time. In fact, it was a little bit earlier than the previous one but I clearly cannot have a lie in every day. I am glad that I put an extra layer on to venture out as it was a mite chillier than of late.
I enjoyed a bit of a lazy couple of hours but found that the cold was pervading the flat and that if I did not get up and do something, I would merely get colder. We have purchased some new LED lights for the shop, which are being installed next week but they did not come with any fixings. Given that they are as light as a feather, I bought some small screws to fix them onto the batons with. Rather than discover that the screws were not man enough when the electrician arrived, I decided to install one light and make certain.
I had planned to do the light at the front because, first, it is easier to get at and secondly, the cables are the right length - the connection being in a different place on the LEDs, naturally. That was the plan until I remembered that the Christmas decorations are piled up underneath that light and therefore it was inaccessible. Instead, I did the next one along knowing that I would have to join some cables and that I did not have a junction box to make it legal. The electrician can tidy it up when he arrives, I reasoned, in recompense for doing a seventh of his job for him.
Unbelievably, it was a pretty straightforward job, if a little fiddly. There is a very short space after the cable clamp inside the light before the connector block, meaning the wire length has to be just right. I also had to hack a chunk out of the baton for the cable run but I made light work of that with my multitool, which has been the best value tool I have ever owned, I think. The most tricky part was holding the light fitting up with one hand while trying to turn a screw into place with the other. There is an unsightly wire connection in a connector block hanging next to the light but other than that, job done and very bright it is too.
Having polished off job number one in less time than I imagined I turned my attention to the new containers we acquired for the t-shirts. These stack nicely while providing better access to the stock. They also save some space. The only disadvantage that I had not planned for is they stick out into the aisle a bit further than I anticipated. I had concentrated my efforts on ensuring that the stack will not be so high that the top one would be inaccessible to smaller shoppers. When I sat and considered this before I bought them, I very cleverly decided to ensure that the small sizes would be at the bottom and the larger sizes at the top. Unfortunately, it is only now that I come to commit the event to the page that I remembered that, and I have installed them the other way around.
With the bit between my teeth and a whole week of reasonably decent weather in prospect, I turned my attention to The Farm and our solar panels. The electronic mail I received from our friend the builder who has been fixing the roof up there also nudged me in that direction; he is keen to carry on and some groundwork and ordering needs to be done.
I had hoped to do the groundwork today, while I was up at The Farm, but I ran out of time. The Missus dropped me up there in the early afternoon on her way to take Mother shopping. This left me and the bleddy hound with a list of jobs including digging the post holes for the scaffolding and making the scaffold frame that would support the solar panels. This had me wandering from the barn to the cabin and back again, which kept the bleddy hound exercised as she insisted on following me on each journey.
Having put on extra layers for the jaunt up to The Farm, I found myself stripping down to t-shirt only while I dug out the post holes. Ladies, I am sure the image of Mr Poldark swinging a scythe just swam before your eyes. Please, a few deep breaths and you will feel much better; we shall have no swooning here, today. My state of undress was quite appropriate under the searing sunshine of the afternoon but when I returned to the barn to set about the other scaffold frame, I was shivering in my boots in no time. Switch Poldark image for Eskimo Nell.
The Missus arrived just in the nick of time to offer succour, in the form of a cup of tea just as I made the finishing touches. I will collect some Postcrete on Monday and prepare to finish off the job.
We repaired home for a spot of tea before I was once again on the go. A friend from up the hill suggested some while ago attendance at the Acorn Theatre in Penzance tonight. There was a tribute band emulating Genesis but from the era when Phil Collins was running it. I have to say, I am not that keen on Genesis post Peter Gabriel but a night out is a night out and the Highly Professional Craftsperson, who decided not to risk his street credibility by going, told me his parents were going. Well, someone had to go and make sure the duffers behaved themselves.
I had anticipated it not being quite to my taste, but the band played at least half the set of older Genesis tunes and did it very well. The lead singer even looked like Phil Collins, although he could do with receding a bit. He must have been a Butlins red coat in a previous job because he started cracking poor jokes and trying to get the audience to participate in his strange interludes. What he failed to appreciate was that I was there to listen to the music, not enjoy myself.
They ended on Los Endos, which was a bit cliched, but performed an excellent rendition of it. Mr Phil, while singing his heart out, à la Mr Collins also played drums in a highly competent manner and played organ, too. I have to hand it to him, if you are going to emulate a singer, at least do it properly.
The Missus came and collected me afterwards, which is when I remembered that I had to get up early in the morning to go to the range. I am sure I will be fine but am likely to be humming Genesis tunes all morning.
January 17th - Friday
The bleddy hound afforded me an extra half an hour in bed this morning, which was good of her. It also meant that we avoided the rain as we ran around the block. I also managed to escape it to and from the gymnasium where I had a less than blistering session because I had to hurry home as the Missus was taking our neighbour to hospital again. That will teach me to have an extra half hour in bed.
Throughout the day we were attacked by quite frequent showers of rain. It meant that any attempt to go outside was fraught with the risk of getting wet at any time. I did try very hard not to go out, which largely mitigated the risk. Not only was it wet, there was a fair breeze blowing in from the west, too. This kept the already lower temperatures down to quite uncomfortable levels and made going out even more awkward.
I dragged myself out for the bleddy hound in the middle of the day and we headed for the Harbour beach. Having not done very much for the entire morning I felt the cold despite being wrapped up for it. I had timed it to try and avoid the rain and we managed quite well, only getting the edge of a brisk shower as we piled up the steps to get home. Because it was bright at times with signs of blue sky here and there, we were treated to a classic rainbow that, from where I was standing, started at the big beach and ended over Cowloe. It stayed put for quite a while too, just long enough for me to get my camera ready and to disappear just as I was about to take the shot.
The natural world and beyond was in a treating mood all through the day. When we stepped out to head over to St Buryan to join the in-laws for a meal before they tripped home, the sky was a mass of stars. By the time we reached St Buryan, an exceptionally bright Venus was showing off in the west. We took time to gaze upwards as we collected Mother and walked her to the St Buryan Inn where we had booked to eat.
I mentioned before that the food there is simply just good nosh with no frills and much of it is home made using local ingredients. It seems rare these days to get a lump of decent local meat without some clever chef chucking in a handful of pichuberries soaked in guava juice. We had a range from the menu between us and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it and not a chokeberry in sight.
The temperature had plummeted during the evening and St Buryan being a good bit higher would probably be colder than most. Mother suggested the Inn could have lit the fire in the lounge, which would have been a bit more welcoming and a sight warmer. As it was, we probably were not there long enough to have its full effect even if it were; the in-law family gatherings out are brief. We were tucked up at home by nine o'clock. Some wild night that.
January 16th - Thursday
Rain stopped play a little bit today and dampened spirits, too. It would have dampened my trousers as well had I not slipped into full metal jacket waterproofs before I took the bleddy hound around the block. The beach is still out of bounds, although not quite as stirred up and busy as it has been. It was only raining lightly when we went out but had increased to proper wet by the time we were on the last leg.
I had thought that I would slip into town on a few errands and also to pick up some screws for our new shop lights that are to be installed next week. It would be wet but at least it would get me out of the house. When I went to advise the Missus of my momentous decision, she told me that she had already decided that she would go instead. I shall stop making momentous decisions and stick with very simple ones from now on like, which socks will I wear today.
With a bit of invoicing work done, hopefully the last of last season's purchases, I set to again with the ordering. It seems to be a bit more arduous than in previous years but perhaps it is because I keep getting distracted by things like the solar panels and finishing off the cabin up at The Farm. At least moving from one thing to the other reduces the level of tedium spending all day on one task would necessarily bring.
I chose very poorly the time to take the bleddy hound out in the middle of the day. I had thought that the rain had passed through but got caught out on a breezy Harbour beach. This time I had neglected to put on any waterproof trousers and was consequently soaked through below the thigh. I have found that there is not a great deal worse than wearing cold wet trousers that cling to you in the direction of the wind. I am not sure that the bleddy hound was too impressed, either, even if she was not wearing trousers.
The day's poor weather was on and off and by the late afternoon we were treated to quite a ruddy sunset reflecting off the fleeting appearance of high cirrus clouds. It set me up for a trip across the road for spot of Lifeboat training. Amongst the delivery of crucial information required to complete our lives we tried out some night optics that the station had been lent to test. A local and well-respected landlord, having shuffled off recently, collected funds in the station's favour that will pay for a device to be carried on the boat. I was expecting to see a green vista as they show on the television programmes, only to be surprised by quite a clear and colourful picture through the lens. The chosen product will add a necessary advantage to the crew's night time activities.
Excited by such a prospect, we advanced to the OS for a spot of quizzing. We were grievously disappointed by the non-appearance of a key team member who holds significant knowledge of cricketing and other sporting matters. Despite having a pilot to guide us, we lost miserably. To make matters worse, it was raining quite heavily when we left the OS to come home. The Meteorological Office had promised faithfully that there would be no rain, which is why I took full metal jacket waterproofs with me and needed them.
The bleddy hound was not exactly full of enthusiasm for a run around the block after she discovered that it was raining quite so heavily. We made it to the other side of the RNLI car park before she decided it was time to go home, which I concurred with and followed her back. We have both had better days.
January 15th - Wednesday
We may well have had a bit of blue sky and some sunshine and a rather pleasant day, all told, but no one bothered to tell the sea that it was time to calm down. An hour closer to high water when I took the bleddy hound around the block and the sea was well up the slipway in the Harbour. The wall was drowned under a constant barrage of waves coming over the top that in the sunshine looked very pretty indeed. I was going to take a picture but the bleddy hound was in a rush.
There was still a fair feisty wind blowing in and I fancy that it had gone around more to the west briefly before returning to the south west shortly after. I was quite comfortable in shorts, although I was grateful for a jacket that did up to the neck.
I had every intention of going up to The Farm in the morning to take a few measurements of the scaffold poles before I committed to the extended u bolts as the finishing bits of the solar panel project. Ex-Head Launcher offered to come up and help install the poles in the ground as he had a bag of postcrete and a special spade for digging small holes. I told him that we would be grateful for his help but there was a bit to do before the digging the holes bit, including moving the caravan that was in the way.
Before even that could happen, I had an appointment at the gymnasium and after that there were a couple of boiled eggs and some bread to tuck away. Not even DIYman can DIY without a hearty breakfast. The long and the short of this procrastination was that I was long rather than short and it was almost into the afternoon by the time I was ready.
The Missus had warned me last night, after returning from Truro, that the truck required diesel. I had imagined a quarter full or somewhere just short of that. What I had not imagined was the truck running on the merest hint of a fume of fuel, gravity on a down hill run and a good deal of prayer. This occasioned a nervous trip to St Buryan, which added a further delay to proceedings.
I took my tools with me to The Farm on the off-chance that I felt that I could get along with some of the remaining work. By the time I got to The Farm I had made up my mind that since I was there, I had may as well do as much as I could to complete the project since the number of days we have, rain free, to do anything at all, are limited.
Since the tractor is out of action at present, I thought to use the truck to move the caravan out of the way. It only needed to move six feet forwards, which was fortunate since the wheels are shot and the towing mechanism, not exactly fit for purpose. The towing mechanism was so not fit for purpose that I reasoned that even if I could hook it onto the truck, I may not be able to unhook it. With this in mind I elected to use a strop that I had the foresight to acquire from a fellow very excellent Shore Crewman some time previously. It was a tad long but after wrapping it around the caravan's towing bar a fair few times it seemed like it would do the trick.
A complete series of failures in this endeavour would have made some excellent copy for The Diary. Typically, the caravan towed forward with not so much as a hitch, a bump or hiccup. It had come forward rather more than I had intended and now sits rather more in the hedge than I had planned but the area into which the solar panels will be installed is now clear.
Having completed what I imagined to be the most difficult part of the remaining tasks, I set to on the second solar panel installing the frame that would support it at the right angle in the field. This also went remarkably smoothly, and I concluded that if I wanted a bit more in the way of disaster and abject failures, I was going to have to do far more complicated tasks in future.
When the Missus telephoned to ask me what I was up to, I had completed all the tasks I had not planned to do at all. She caught me in the process of planning where I would drill the hole in the cabin to pull through the cables. I decided that the rear of the cabin was probably more sheltered but, more importantly, I could see where a drilled hole would come out, either by drilling from inside to out or vice versa. I must now get hold of the u bolts and a couple of coach screws and then book ex-Head Launcher and his small spade to do a spot of digging.
I returned home to a house full of itinerant in-laws, none of which fortunately wanted a cup of tea, which was my next task. They are on holiday because they had heard how sub-tropical the Cornish climate is and, fed up with the rain at home, wanted to find out what rain in a sub-tropical climate felt like.
They stayed and had tea then, then went back to St Buryan with Mother at the end of the first dry day of their holiday. That must have been very disappointing, but we are back to rain again tomorrow.
January 14th - Tuesday
Today was very much a repeat of yesterday, certainly in terms of the weather. The bleddy hound and I were lucky enough to get away with a dry run around in the morning, but the Harbour beach was definitely out of bounds. The swirling, thumping and stirred up sea was doing all those things in the Harbour all the way up to the slipway, as more sea charged over the wall to join it.
There was one car in the Harbour car park, down by the sea wall and a young couple with a small child watching it all going on. The occasional set was running into the footings of Pedn-men-du and coming off worse, being broken into thousands of pieces and thrown up into the air.
Empty car park
There did not seem to be much point in venturing out today particularly as the Missus took a neighbour up to Truro to visit her husband in hospital. Instead, I concentrated on developing more orders, which as I explained yesterday is a time-consuming business. So much so that I was still doing it when the Missus returned in the middle of the afternoon.
She arrived shortly after I had come back from taking the bleddy hound out for her middle of the day run. This time we were able to get down to the Harbour beach. Once again, we found that it had been scraped clean by the vicious sea and over by the top of the short slipway, even more sand had been scooped out. It does, however, produce the semblance of a very clean and wholesome sandy stretch, which is quite lovely to look upon.
The sea had left the bleddy hound some toys to play with in the shape of some small stalks of oar weed. It is not often these days that we tarry to play, mainly because of her dickie legs and because of that I no longer bring a ball. Today was different and she was happy for a short while to chase short distances after the stump. It is difficult to know how far to push her in exercise but I do not think this would have done her any harm.
I would have still been doing stock orders the rest of the afternoon had ex-Head Launcher not turned up for a cup of coffee. He stopped for quite a while and we caught up on what was happening in our separate worlds. That took about five minutes, so we spent the rest of the visit talking complete nonsense, which passed the time.
It is very pleasant to have such visits and useful, too. In The Cove, January and February become wastelands of nothingness as is the case across most of our Far West, the occasional word from visitors and adventurers makes us feel much less isolated - or perhaps, isolated but not completely alone. Were it not for this and the pervasion of telecommunications the rest of the world could be abducted by aliens and we would be blissfully unaware until no one showed up for Easter holidays.
January 13th - Monday
Brendan was already on his way when we awoke this morning. Presumably named after the Irish saint, he was a navigator but no one seems to know quite where he navigated to. He did travel around the Highlands and islands of Britain and Ireland setting up monasteries all over the place.
He was not doing too badly with his stormy travels today, either. The winds were not quite as severe as broadcast, at least for the most part of the day, although at around half past three in the afternoon, we were lashed with a particularly nasty narrow line of weather that ramped up the wind speed to near 70 miles per hour.
Fortunately, by that time, we were safe home from our own travels. We have to leave the hotel at ten o'clock and while we did not exactly rush back, we were home around three hours later. We picked up the bleddy hound from Mother's who really could not have been less bothered about our return - the bleddy hound, that is, Mother was marginally more enthusiastic, presumably because she was getting rid of the bleddy hound. We had travelled light, so even unloading the truck only took a few minutes and half an hour later, it was as if we had not been away.
I was in two minds about taking the bleddy hound for a run out but luckily decided I would do so earlier rather than later. It was blustery when we ran down to the Harbour beach but there was little rain at that time. The moisture in the air was most likely to be sea spray than anything else. There was rather less ground sea visible out in the bay but the wind was making a proper mess of it anyway. We did not hang about long to watch as the wind was blowing the sand about which the bleddy hound finds uncomfortable that close to the ground.
It was about an hour after we came back in that the squall blew through. On the rain radar it showed up as a narrow line of red that ran the length of the country but was more intense from North Wales down to about 60 miles south of us. The wind blown rain was so heavy that it greyed out the bay to the point we could barely see to the other side if the street for dancing clouds of smoking wet. It lasted no more than about five minutes and was gone.
I spent the afternoon glued to my computer screen while I tried to commit information we had gleaned from the show into something like comprehensible orders. It does not seem to matter how much information we write down at the show, we always seem to be missing some crucial element when it comes to formulating the order. In short, the process takes quite a bit of eye-crossing time with two screens, cross-referencing information. All the while it is difficult not to try and picture where the stock will go on the shelves and wonder how well it might sell. Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, it seems we are never too far away from the shop.
The rain cleared through in the later afternoon, which was some relief for a while. It meant no dressing up in heavy waterproofs for running out the bleddy hound or, later, preparing the bins for the collection tomorrow. During the season I am guaranteed to be down before the bin collectors so I would leave releasing our bin to the wind then. Now that we are closed it is more touch and go and I have to untie the bin the previous evening and then spend the night listening for it to disappear down the road.
Happily, not only had the rain stopped but the wind dropped, too. It did not stop the sea thumping away, though, and we were lulled to sleep by the waves rolling onto the beach. I know, I know, the struggles we go through here, but someone has to do it.
January 12th - Sunday
There is not a great deal to say about today other than the fact it happened. We headed for the trade show quite early in the day and came back to the hotel at around four o'clock.
Each year over the last five or so, the number of exhibitors has become fewer. They are down to one hall now whereas when we first started going, there were three. It is still useful to make an attendance as we see products and meet suppliers that we might not otherwise have known about. It is just a tiresome activity; a necessary evil, if you like.
We were back to the hotel early enough for a quick zizz and a cup of tea before heading to the bar for a spot of tea.
This may well register as the shortest Diary page in quite a number of years but I felt that I needed to file something; I know you do worry so, dear reader, at the absence of a day. Perhaps next time it will be sufficient to just post 'This page intentionally left blank'.
January 11th - Saturday
We enjoyed a very relaxed departure from The Cove this morning - and it was still morning, which was something. We had already met the bleddy hound's best pal again and had a bit of a romp on the beach. I had omitted to take a jacket with me and found it a tad chilly as the breeze was sitting in the north west and quite robust. I think else it would have been just a dandy sort of morning.
I do not know why it seems appropriate to wash the truck before we embark on a big journey, but I did it anyway. I had some misgivings about the strength of the wind but when I got to St Buryan garage it seemed quite sheltered there. I settled for a quick version of the wash that I normally do and found, quite obtusely, that I had done a better job of it than normal. I also remembered that I was supposed to change out the windscreen wipers and asked at the desk if they had some for our truck. The very pleasant lady asked if I knew which ones I needed, which is when I remembered that I was going to look that up on the computer yesterday. She deferred to a colleague who went out to the truck, collected the old ones and measured them. He then took some new ones and went and fitted them while I attended to paying for them and the fuel. It is the sort of service you can expect from independent shops; the chain purveyor of such things charges for this service - and you have to ask for it.
The journey was uneventful and even if it were not, I would not elaborate, as car journeys are tedious enough. I shall simply comment that we arrived in the middle of the afternoon, which was apparently the ideal time to go shopping.
On previous visits to Exeter, we have taken a taxi into the city centre - because parking the van was too complicated - and visited the shops thereabouts and quite often purchased things. Quite surprisingly, the Missus did not fancy going shopping in the big city and I could think of nothing that I needed, so we agreed not to go. Just when I was thinking how fortunate this turn of events was, the Missus reminded me that we had discussed purchasing some kitchen units for the cabin at The Farm. How could I forget. Apparently, the new Swedish furniture store in Exeter was just the place for such things.
It was a matter of some relief that the store was not very far from the hotel, so we dropped off our bags and set forth almost immediately. We discovered that with the help of the Missus's mobile telephone we got there without getting lost. It was a salient point that I recalled after more than half an hour in the store and wondered if the Missus's mobile telephone had a route for getting out again.
The store prides itself on making each of its big shops identical to the other in every respect, much like the aspirations of a south east Cornwall brewery that has not quite got there yet. The furniture store is very good at it. On our very first trip away when we first had the shop, I was hauled into such a store in Saltzburg - do not ask - and can verify that we could quite well have been there this afternoon had all the prices been in Euros.
We carefully noted the reference numbers of the furniture that we required and eventually navigated our way to the warehouse bit where big boxes can be eased from shelves. Sadly, we were utterly confused by the lack of a bay labelled with the numbers we were looking for, so we sought assistance. The very pleasant lady at the information point told us that the particular item we were seeking was only available to online customers. I expressed some gentle words of disappointment at this outcome as there appeared to be no advanced warning on the Internet page that the Missus first looked at or on the labels of the piece of equipment that was on display on the upper floor.
My how we chuckled about such a thing later in the evening over a convivial pint in the hotel bar. Happily, the store did have some of the items that we were seeking, which saved the journey being a complete waste of time - just mainly a waste of time.
It was much less a waste of time in the hotel, where we had a very acceptable meal and a few drinks, then a few more. There is some shopping that I can cope with.
January 10th - Friday
We began the day with an over-excited bleddy hound who had seen her bestie from our window, disappear down to the Harbour beach. For a bleddy hound with a poorly two legs she certainly made some speed chasing after her. I was still pulling on a jacket having been cajoled into opening the front door before I was properly ready. It is a right fuss for a quick sniff and all over when they meet up.
Even at that first thing in the morning it had the makings of a rather good day. There were blue bits up above us and, for once, the clouds were not in the least threatening. It was not that cold first thing, but the temperature appeared to plummet as we went through the day.
If I had my thinking head on, I would have dropped the Missus over at Mother's and then come back. As it was, I let her run off on her own and was left without transport for the most of the rest of the day. The purpose of her visit was to stand by while the housing association fence builders rebuilt her fences that had blown down - again - in the last lot of winds before last. I toyed with the idea of holding a sweepstake on how long these would last. They completed one side of the garden and the end but left the broken panels on the right. Obviously, they cannot do those panels until the householder on the right reports them broken. I am not saying a word.
In the meanwhile, back at the shop, the suspended grumpy shopkeeper was finding all manner of things to keep himself busy. I had already completed a blistering session at the gymnasium and set about further preparations for a trade show we are attending this weekend. It pays to know in advance that, for example, we are short of girls' bikinis and swimsuits so that we can focus our attention on those and not girls' shorts of which we have a surplus. It saves a terrific amount of time as neither of us particularly enjoy traipsing up and down aisles of plenty, fending off the advances of highly trained and motivated sales people.
I also spent time inputting a pile of invoices that we have accumulated since being open at Christmas. It is quite surprising just how many invoices are generated from being open for only two weeks. I also found that I am now having to input the paperwork twice while we transfer from one system to the new computer based one. There are times when I think that it should be an improvement but keep finding holes, such as not being able to identify which invoices are outstanding, which might be a problem.
All this was, of course, just marking time while I waited for the Missus to come back. Since it was a sunny day it was an ideal opportunity to test the solar panels up at The Farm. I would have gone while the Missus was away had I the foresight to drop her off a Mother's instead of letting her go on her own. When I called the Missus half way through the afternoon to find out where she was, I caught her already up at The Farm. This was almost as inefficient as a corporation fence building operation. I had to go up after she came back.
This was worth every bit of the inefficiency. Having hauled the two of our three solar panels into the sunlight I was able to measure that they were producing about thirty volts of direct current electricity each. I also tested the cables that connect them to the regulator and they were fine, too. So, that could only mean that it was the regulator at fault, which is much better than it being the solar panels themselves. I had a quick look for replacements and found that it was a bit of a minefield as there are myriad types. I feel some research coming.
I also had a major breakthrough on how I was to join the scaffold pole that will be embedded in the ground and the heavily backed with timber solar panel. I spend a good hour searching the Internet for suppliers who would supply just the right size of u bolt. I will, of course, ask our local independent building suppliers first, but I suspect that since I could only find one supplier in the whole of the Internet that had precisely what I needed, I will have to go there.
It had become really quite chilly by the time it came to take the bleddy hound out pre-tea. Out to the east the first full moon of the decade was rising above the cloud and was huge and resplendent. It was yellowish and large enough to see the mountains and craters and the little flag left by the Apollo team if I squinted. It has, of course, got a name these days, this one being called the wolf moon. If they had stopped with naming just the special ones they would have been, well, special but now they are all named, it is just a commonplace full moon like any other.
What do we care, it was proper 'ansum reflecting off the waves.
January 9th - Thursday
It was another deceptively good looking morning that showed no inkling of what was approaching from the west. Down on the Harbour beach everything was clean and pristine like a new pin, which, as you would expect of new pins, had not a shred of oar weed about nor a footprint on the virgin sand. It looked like it had been smoothed out by some manic master plasterer. Whilst he was at it, he also nicked the sand from under the short slipway again, leaving denuded rocks behind.
The sea was looking much better behaved today, although there was still a heavy ground sea at play. Later on, this was much more in evidence, lumping over the Harbour wall but there was not half so much white water and the waves were less than half the size of yesterday.
I waited until the rain started before heading to our friendly garage man. I had arranged for two new rear tyres for the truck and this morning was the only time he could fit them before the weekend. It was unfortunate that it was also the only time our builder could come and asses the work required in our roof, so I left the Missus with the builder while I went off.
The builder was still at work when I came home. To some degree, this was lucky as it was far easier to discuss the work with him there than to try and do it over the telephone later. We were already aware that the front of the building is only still there through the grace of the small gods of shopkeepers. Our builder confirmed that it was still clinging on through the benefit of smoke, mirrors and bits of sticky tape and string. He suggested we might want to do something about it this time as the front windows were now showing evidence of movement. He pointed out that this was not a good thing.
He also suggested that the gap between the third and fourth A frame holding the roof up was somewhat larger that the gaps between the others and that this too was less than ideal. In fact, it was probable that this accounted for the dip in the apex line of the roof that he had shown me last time he was here. Since he had been so thorough and helpful it was only fair that I reciprocate and advised that he should not consider a career in the comforting of the chronically anxious, for example.
In all we agreed that there was sufficient work involved that it should be arranged in two phases, the second being less critical could wait until next year. The first phase will include the shop front and will require the services of a structural surveyor, which might have been useful the first time around.
We had our first Lifeboat training of the new year, which was good to get back to normality. There were not a large number of us, but the newest members were present and welcomed on as part of the Boat Crew, where previously they had been consigned to the very excellent Shore Crew. Clearly, this may be viewed as a bit of a demotion, but they will be welcomed back to help out at any time they please. We put them on board and dropped the boat out so that they could practise some radar work, while we on shore practised our dropping the boat out onto the slipway work. I am sure both parties benefited enormously.
We would have benefitted much more had we got a few more questions right in the OS quiz, later. As it was, we did not and lost miserably in a field much smaller than the ones of recent weeks. Still, it was in convivial company and that makes all the difference - it says here.
The breeze had got all excited in the latter part of the day, and while it was not as robust as some winds we have had, it was coming in from the north west and we were unsheltered from it. At least we could see how clearly we were being buffeted around the road on the way home under a mostly full moon.
It made life much easier while taking the bleddy hound around when we got home. It had also stopped raining which made the run around the block much more pleasurable. We scarcely needed a torch as we made our way around and it seemed vaguely temperate; is this really winter? I have a feeling we will be made to pay later.
January 8th - Wednesday
It was an exceedingly pleasant morning even though the mist was still hanging about. It actually got thicker towards the later part of the morning, assisted ably by the amount of spray in the air I would have thought.
The sea was very agitated, although it was not completely apparent at first glance; it needed to be studied. It was an especially high mountain of spray, launching up Creedle that caught my eye and after that I noticed other big explosions at Aire Point, on Brisons and over Cowloe it was having a right paddy. It was mesmeric and I stood watching for a fair few minutes both on the way to and coming back from the gymnasium.
I decided that there was no point in waiting in for our visitor and left a note for him to give me a call when he was on his way. He did call, fortunately at a convenient time because he was stood outside our door. It took him less than two minutes to confirm my name, ask what sort of shop we run and to take a couple of pictures. Satisfied, he went off after gaining a signature on his tablet computer.
Much as I tried to drum up some enthusiasm for going down to the shop to complete the stock count, it was far more fun sitting by the window and watching the sea wind itself up into a fury. What started as a few thumping waves running up the cliffs and over the reef ended as a full beach assault. This was no orderly advance, the water was boiling over Cowloe and all over the bay, big waves were deciding which way to travel. Some came in directly at us by the Lifeboat station and some travelled straight into the big beach. Some waves decided neither of these options was suitable and cut across the two other directions. It was a proper mess leaving it swirling in the Harbour and crashing over the wall.
Of course, it was just teasing at this point. By early afternoon it really got into its stride, throwing tantrums all over the bay. It is hard to estimate, but it would not surprise me to know that the big waves running down the centre were more than 15 feet high. I subsequently checked the Seven Stones Buoy data and at three o'clock in the afternoon it had reached 18.5 feet. The waves were probably not much smaller running down the Tribbens as they were heaving geet lumps of water over the wall. The rise and fall in the Harbour, according to the wall ladder, was around ten feet, which would have generated a monumental draw as it pulled back.
Along with the big seas came a bit of rain. This had been expected but I had imagined it to be heavier. It was just the sort of weather to take the bleddy hound to the veterinary doctor. We have only just managed to get her to stop shaking when the Missus takes me up to the range, as the first part of the journey - the first mile - is in the direction of her least favourite place. I think we will need to start all over again.
While she was gone, I eventually managed to drag myself to the shop to complete the stock count. This was relatively easy as there is not a wealth of stock left in the stock room and I had already counted most of it during our open week. It was only the bit I could not reach that were left. Even then I managed to find some surprises of things in boxes that I had assumed were something else. Some of these were popular stock items that we had run out of during the season; we would be quite successful at this shop keeping lark if we were any good at it.
Because of the new system we are using, I did not have to spend hours subsequently keying the information in. I am still in awe of the time savings that we have discovered. This gave me time to be concerned with many other things such as how our alarm company, that we have used for sixteen years, had not got our electronic mail address correct - despite sending them remittance advices at least once a year in that time. As a consequence, when they stopped sending invoices by post, we stopped receiving them leaving us in quite some arrears. They do have our telephone number, I am sure.
I retired early, having been exhausted by such things, to listen to the sea raging through the bedroom window. It must have nincompoop suppliers, too, I thought.
January 7th - Tuesday
I was too early to see the skies cleared last night and by this morning they had clouded over again. Just so that we could see that it was cloud it came in low and stopped half way down the cliff leaving us Covers relatively clear but all the overhillers shrouded in gloom.
It was just the day to head up to The Farm and finish off one of the mounts for the solar panels but the merchant company that is to provide our online card services insisted on sending a man with a form for us to sign. Apparently, they had done a company search and decided that the shop was only listed in my name and since we are registered as a partnership, they had to send someone to make sure we both existed.
In the event, no one turned up. Apparently, he had car trouble, which probably meant that he had not realised how far down the road we were. I took the opportunity to clear the remainder of the rubbish from the shop as it is being collected tomorrow. I had a bit of a shock from the last collection as they charged us for excess weight. I had warned them that there was about eight inches of water accumulated in the bottom and the beggers charged me for disposing of it. It seems that it the lorry automatically weighs the bin when it is lifted and computers do the rest, so consequently I was charged for 110kg of water. I have asked the driver to remove the bung at the bottom of the bin after this collection, which should solve the problem.
At midday, I decided that we had waited enough for our visitor; I was not informed he was not coming until about one o'clock. I slipped into DIYman overalls and collected Mother before returning for the Missus and heading up to The Farm. The ambition was to finish off the preparation of one solar panel so that we knew that the process would work. Having salvaged some old pallets for the cross pieces I decided to use some 6x2 offcuts from the rafters for the new roof on the shed. Happily, all the coach bolts I had acquired fitted and the shape of the support was coming together nicely. However, before proceeding too far with the build I thought it a good plan to test the panel to make sure it was working rather than waste my time with a frame for a broken panel.
My first problem was, now that I had added a very sturdy frame, was that I struggled to lift it off the work-bench. The 6x2 offcuts lent a very heavy burden to the build but it should stand firm in the highest of winds. Eventually, I part lifted and part dragged it out into the open where I connected it to the regulator device. Nothing.
It could have been the panel, the wires or the regulator or even the fact that the mist was as thick as a bag in the village. It may need to have something connected to it for the display to light up but whatever it was it needed, it did not have it. I omitted to take my multimeter with me, which would have solved it so I will need to go again, just to make sure the panels are working. I did try a second panel and that produced no result, either. Maybe we have been duped, but we will not find out until I know a little more about what I am doing. Whatever the case, we left it to its own devices as the fellow who was supposed to visit in the morning was going to arrive in the late afternoon.
I checked my electronic mails when I got back and discovered that my appointment had been moved to tomorrow morning. I could not be bothered to be irked, as we expect rain tomorrow and I shall be in the shop doing the last of the stock take.
I took command in the kitchen to produce one of my signature dishes. At least I could get the cooker to work.
I will leave you with the tale of the shifting sands. I am reasonably certain that quite a few of the rocks were rolled in by heavy seas but I could not find a photograph prior to this one. However, it as very clear that the sand had been eroded, too, and now it has come back to some degree. The first picture is from 17th December.
From mid December much sand taken out ...
and from today, a return to sandier times.
January 6th - Monday
I was out with the bleddy hound at first light, which is not as early as it sounds but it is getting better because it was ten minutes to eight o'clock, an improvement on yesterday or was it the day before. It was grey and not very inspiring but by the time I was ready to go to the gymnasium it was looking even less inspiring, particularly in the west where big black clouds were mustering. Having mustered, they moved across us and brought a lump of rain for a couple of hours, which got me as I left the gymnasium.
I had every intention of going into town to collect some coach bolts that I needed to proceed with the solar panel setting up. I also had every intention to get the bolts, come home and get up to The Farm to commence work but that was until I said goodbye to the Missus and ended up with a list that was far longer than the list I had commenced with.
The mere mention of needing some scaffold poles, which I am now advised should be tubes, inspired a long time correspondent, TL, to correspond with some hints and tips regarding acquiring such things. He gave me quite a broad selection of possible resources, which was most useful. He ended suggesting that I should be prepared to spend one pound per foot and a £20 note pressed into the hand of a likely cove should yield sufficient tubeage for my needs. This is an outrageous amount that I assumed only applied the well-heeled likes of up country builders and second-hand spiral staircase purveyors. In this neck of the woods a fiver would be more than adequate, surely.
It was on my way into town that I remembered that I also had to stop into our regular mechanic as at least one of our rear tyres was showing some signs of excessive wear. He confirmed that both would need replacing and ordered them for us. It is as well we do it now as we are away deep for a few days at our first trade show of the year. Comes around quick, does it not.
I parked in the Wharfside car park at the bottom of town. I have, as of yet, to build up enough courage to try and park in the smaller spaces in the car park to the back of Causeway Head. They were small enough for the van, but the truck is a couple of feet longer and it will protrude very obviously beyond the allotted space. I am not sure if this will attract a parking fine or not but it is likely to attract derision from other motorists who might think that having a huge four by four for town use is an affectation. It is partly why it is useful leaving it coated in mud because it at least looks like we might need one.
The much maligned council has spent quite a lot of money on new technology for the Wharfside car park. It takes a picture of your number plate as you enter and knows exactly how long you have parked for when you come to pay for your ticket. From the parker's point of view, it is a much fairer system and on both the occasions I have used it, I have paid the same as I did previously for my short visit but without having to pick which space I park in and which machine I use. The machines also give change, which presumably results in less revenue for the much maligned council. However, they save on not having to patrol the car park as the barriers at the exit will not open if you have not paid. On the other hand, maintenance is probably more expensive, and the exit system does not work if the barrier is left open, as it was today.
As I drove towards the industrial estate on the edge of town where I hoped to get my coach bolts, the yard of the largest scaffolding provider, possibly in the Duchy, loomed up on the left. It seemed a sensible place to start my search for short lengths of scaffold tubes, although I doubted it would be the cheapest. The yard is a maze of alleyways all created from scaffolding and I wondered if this got them around planning for building offices. I eventually found the office and a very pleasant man called for someone who might be able to help me.
I explained what I needed to this likely looking cove, and he told me that it would not be a problem since they have little use for short lengths of tubing. He took me across the yard, selected some tubes which were of ideal length. He even took them to the truck for me. I had asked in the office for a price and they mentioned one pound per foot and as we crossed the yard he suggested that if I pressed a £20 into his palm, no more would be said. I can only assume I had the look about me of a second-hand spiral staircase purveyor.
There was worse to come as wherever I went I could not find the coach bolts I required. After exploring five likely suppliers I had to make do with some five millimetres too short. I hope they will do the job, but I will not find out until tomorrow.
By the time I got home after this long sojourn there was little time for much else. I settled for a cup of tea and opening the box that the new angle grinder came in. It is big and shiny and much heavier than I anticipated and comes with a big heavy - and expensive - battery. Hopefully we will go to The Farm tomorrow where I will have a good search for some angles to grind. I am glad that I managed to spell angles correctly as the usual alternative would have looked very inappropriate not to mention that I would never get to Heaven.
January 5th - Sunday
Back to an early start, this morning, to give me enough time to get ready for a trip up to the range. I left the bleddy hound as long as I could but at five to eight o'clock it was still dark, so I had to take her anyway.
Apart from being dark it was also grey, bleak and a tad chilly. The breeze from the south west was not up to much but it still brought the temperature down a bit. There was damp in the air, too so I wrapped up warm to head up the hill. I discovered later on that it was probably not quite warm enough as after five hours up there I was beginning to feel somewhat exposed and in need of a warm.
Although it was grey and damp, the visibility seemed remarkably good. From our lofty position at the range the Islands could be seen on the horizon and all the way down to Wolf Rock. I quite often take the time to have a good geek while I am up there as the view is quite outstanding.
I also took the opportunity of stealing a look at the solar panel that is installed there. The club has its panel rooted with two scaffold poles, which would have been ideal for our installation if I had any. I think I may have to invest in some fence posts but short of concreting them into position they may not be robust enough. Apart from all that I also did some shooting while I was up there, which was good, too.
The bleddy hound seems to be obsessed with the Harbour beach currently. It may have something to do with frequent visits by a seal. She is dead scared of them but cannot help being drawn down there; some sort of fatal attraction going on there, I think. It might also be because she just loves the beach and one day last week she had me take her out not long after we had come back from our morning stroll. There was something of a misunderstanding because she thought that I was going to take her to the big beach, her favourite place in the world. Sadly, she can no longer chase a ball but still finds something comforting about being there, although she may well still be expecting to chase a ball and wonders why we do not throw one. It was unfortunate that the tide was in at the time and the during week just gone, the tide has been wrong through the day. Hopefully I will find some time to take her down in the week to come.
There is quite a bit to do in the week to come, so I shall gird my loins - when I find out how to do that.
January 4th - Saturday
There was some brightness around in the morning when I eventually got up to take the bleddy hound down to the Harbour beach but this was quite short-lived. In the main, it was a bit grey and bleak and, to begin with, quite chilly.
The Missus had taken the upstairs decorations down during the latter part of yesterday and today it was the turn of the shop window. This was a far longer job, so the Missus started it late. It might have been later still but when I was down in the shop emptying the dairy fridge my pager went off for a shout, the first of the new year, which did not take long.
It was quite fortunately timed in that I had completed most of the work and had delivered some of the spare to the dire and needy of the village. Well, it was more anyone that I could think of that might want a few pints of skimmed milk and some excess fruit yoghurts. We will also be looking for a good home for some big bottles of Coca Cola in due course.
I arrived at the station in good time to help launch for what might have been a pretty quick emergency and at first we knew it to be a yacht not far off Land's End. It transpired that it was not that close in, and in fact we could see it from the station, and while it was taking on some water, it was not in any immediate danger. The Lifeboat dropped one of the Boat Crew on board and its salvage pump to keep the water level under control and towed it around to Newlyn. We estimated, and were not too far off, that the boat would return to The Cove at around half past four o'clock.
So, at around ten minutes to five o'clock, the boat hove into view and we had already prepared the long slipway for it and turned on all the appropriate lights. The timing was well suited as the boat arrived at the bottom of the slipway pretty much at low water. It is at this time that the swell, if there has been some, which there was, drops away to nearly nothing. It made for a textbook recovery up the long slip with everyone neatly fitting into their roles as if they were born to it. We are, after all, a very natural, very excellent Shore Crew.
After a debrief and a wishing of our fellow crew a happy new year and so forth, I returned to the shop where the Missus was still working away. I took the bleddy hound out for her pre tea walk, leaving the Missus to finish off. Everything is in the boxes that I purchased during the week but, I am told, there is an amount of sorting out to be done before they can be whisked off to the wobbly tin hut up at The Farm.
It was an unexpectedly eventful day that was completely different from the day that had earlier appeared to be unfolding. We do not mind unexpected, but it would be better not to be launching Lifeboats as part of the surprise, though.
January 3rd - Friday
The rain from last night had not quite all cleared away by the time I got myself out with the bleddy hound. I could see some mizzle heading in from the north west and I remembered to take a jacket with me this time. It was not intense, but the stiff breeze made a proper meal of it.
The very pleasant lady at the power supplier comparison company was not about to make the same mistake twice. She telephoned me at precisely nine o'clock, bless her. She checked a few details with me then said she would pass me onto a comparison consultant. I suggested that seemed to represent a bit of an over-complication of the process and thought that she could probably have done the job herself. She thanked me for my confidence but still passed me on anyway.
The very pleasant man that I spoke with next told me, in between offering me business insurance and telecoms services, that there was only one company that might be competitive with my current supplier and shared the rates with me. They were worse than my proposed offer, which I thought that they might be. I had another look at the original proposals and noted that a two year contract was offered at much the same rates as a twelve month, so opted for that.
I celebrated the completion with a blistering session down at the gymnasium. As if one contract done and dusted in a day were not enough, while I was still pumping iron - as we gymnasium goers say - I had a call from the website payment card people. I apologised for my heavy breathing on the telephone and finalised some details with the very pleasant lady who was helping me get sorted. The cheaper company that I first selected had been procrastinating over a contract we us since the beginning of December. This lady at the slightly more expensive company had us sorted in two days.
The major plan of the day was to make some headway in installing the second hand solar panels we acquired for The Farm. I had to wait until the afternoon as Mother needed to be collected from St Buryan. I combined this venture with a quick wash of the truck despite knowing that I would get it muddy again up the lane half an hour later. At least the top half remains clean for the moment, the bottom half looks like I did not bother with it.
I had no real idea of what I was going to do to set the solar panels up at the appropriate angle and to ensure that they did not take off on the first big wind we had up there. I scouted around and took a selection of bolts and screws with me along with most of my power tools, just in case - and one in a box, as it does not have a case. There was some more scouting around when I got there as there is quite a bit of timber lying about and I salvaged some likely looking planks of roughly equal size. I had two spare coach bolts with appropriate nuts which were just the thing to attach one of the planks to the back of the panel. I now have a plan but will need some more coach bolts, so it is off shopping next week. The weather is set to deteriorate but most of the work can be done inside.
The weather today was quite pleasant, apart from the bracing breeze from the north west. It brought the temperature down considerably and up at The Farm it was quite exposed. Luckily, I was moving about a fair bit which kept me warm, that and having three layers and my DIYman overalls on. The sea state was agitated, which is one word for it, and waves were banging up the cliffs opposite all day. It was most alluring watching it from the gymnasium window as it danced and jumped all over Cowloe.
Bit of a blue bay this morning
In the late evening as I took the bleddy hound out for her last run, the stars were out in abundance. We were under the light of the boathouse door, so we did not see them at their best, nevertheless it was a sight to behold and for the first time in a while.
It is not often that The Diary gets serious, but I had a report from our Tasmanian correspondent, NC. He sent some pictures, too. The one of the left shows smoke from the mainland bush fires and the one on the right, a few hours later after the wind had changed. The Launceston he refers to is the one south of Camborne, not the one east of it, just to be clear.
"Thought you might be interested in these photos taken at 9:00am from our veranda. This is smoke coming across Bass Straight from Melbourne and beyond. Melbourne is 550 kms from Launceston so this smoke is coming from up to 1000kms!!"
January 2nd - Thursday
I am freeeee.
Running the shop is an absolute pleasure but it is an awful tie, much like having a bleddy hound. Every now and then it is good to break free of the bonds and to go off and do something really exciting. It is good to do that but on this occasion I went and did something quite mundane instead, but to me, it felt very exciting.
The first statement of freedom that I made was to stay in bed until eight o'clock in the morning. Surprisingly, the bleddy hound did not complain but she very much relies upon there being daylight to rouse her from her rest. It was light a little before eight o'clock but not much.
I was a little tied to a promise made by a comparison company that had agreed to call me at nine o'clock. Our existing power company has changed its pricing arrangement, putting its daily rate up 25 percent from last year. It did drop the kilowatt hour rate to compensate but I focused on the headline increase, became irked and decided to look elsewhere. I used the comparison company last year and it was very good. I hoped for a repeat service. As a small aside I reran my figures with the new rates last night and discovered that I would be paying less than last year, so we probably will not be switching anyway.
At twenty past nine o'clock I gave up on the company and went to get ready to go out. They did call much later when I was in the middle of the field up at The Farm. It was hardly convenient and they did apologise so very pleasantly and promised to call tomorrow at nine o'clock.
My exciting trip out included dropping a payment over to a farm in St Buryan for keeping the lane hedges trimmed, dropping some surplus clothes into the collecting bin at one Tesmorburys, buying some cereal for the bleddy hound from another - the small independent shops do not sell it, I know because I looked there first - and picking up some big dump bins for the Christmas decorations that will be dismantled very shortly.
For this long and interesting sojourn, I picked up Mother so that she could enjoy it, too. I can sympathise, as even a trip conducting mundane errands is better than staring at four walls all day long. As another small aside, we have enhanced Mother's four wall staring (and looking out the window and all that goes on) by purchasing her a CCTV camera. Not only does it provide a wider angle view than she can comfortably see from her seat at the window, but she can also review footage of what she has missed when she has been out. Oh yes, curtain twitching goes digital.
For many years all the Christmas decorations have been kept in the loft. Each year getting the decorations out has meant foraging in a dusty loft, dropping the decorations onto the bed, then in a second phase, moving them to the sitting room and in a third phase, taking them downstairs for the shop window. Given the amount of decorations that have accumulated over the years this multi-stage process has become increasingly burdensome.
Last year, we made the decision to store all the decorations at The Farm. However, our focus had been on preparing the stock room up there and so the decorations were dumped anywhere they would fit, including some back in the loft. We purchased a tin shed, spurning the easy build plastic one, which was a huge mistake. The tin one came with pictorial instructions, inadequate screws and was constructed of metal so thin it barely held its form. Most of the construction was complete by the time the shop opened but it required two people, especially the fitting of the roof that needed someone on the inside to hold the nut while a second person turned the screw from the outside. Work stopped because the screws supplied were not long enough to meet the nut on the inside and before we could do anything about it, I was back in the shop working.
Just before Christmas I purchased some nuts and bolts of the correct dimensions to fix the roof on. Today was the first opportunity we both had to attend the completion of this hopeless box. It took the best part of an hour - interrupted by the telephone call I should have had an nine o'clock - to bend, twist and cajole the thirty or so bolts through the predrilled holes while the Missus sat inside and held the bolt firm and I turned the screw from outside. The unit still sways and rattles and the doors are so inadequate by virtue of their gossamer thinness, I doubt that they will last a couple of opening and closings. They will need to be braced, which I will set my mind to.
I did set my mind to it and decided that the best use I could find for the tin shed is to test out my new angle grinder when it arrives next week.
We were given another evening off Lifeboat training - anyone would think we were in the building trade with three weeks off over Christmas. Early on it looked like it might have been ideal for a launch in the evening but the swell increased all day and made it a bit of a mess by evening time.
Instead, I headed off for a big quiz session with most of our usual team plus Prof. There were still no questions on the Britains in Egypt, which was a huge disappointment and we lost out on capital cities beginning with 'H' and lots of other questions we did not have the answer to, really. It scuppered our chances of a big win and we lost out on the raffle as well. Thankfully, the OS sells beer, which we were very good at.
It had been raining on the journey down so I returned home wearing full metal jacket waterproofs in the perfect dry. I was still wearing them when the bleddy hound decided that she could quite happily manage a run around the block, although the shouting has diminished of late. We said farewell to Prof who is taking some time out to research India. We gave her some useful tips such as it was big and was a long way away and quite hot in places, which we were sure was very useful. We will, of course, look forward to a more thorough slot in the acknowledgements of the new book. We are easily pleased.
January 1st 2020 - Wednesday
Happy New Year, indeed. It had the temerity to rain on me first thing in the morning. It was not very hard and for some reason I forgot that it was raining when it came to take the bleddy hound around and I did not put a rain jacket on. Perhaps it was the excitement of it being a new decade.
The rain had cleared away by the time I came away from the gymnasium, late in the morning. There was a big wedge of blue sky to go along with our dryness. It put a flood of sunlight on the beach and all along the cliff opposite. We will have to wait for our sunshine on this side of the bay until Valentine's Day. There was a big bank of greyness out to the north west which gradually swallowed us up, but the sunshine was pleasant while it lasted.
We were a bit short on pasties, but we did rather better yesterday than I anticipated. It did not seem quite as busy today but it was good enough for our last hurrah. My only regret is buying quite so much bacon, especially small packets of smoked back which we ended up with as many as I had ordered. I think it was a conspiracy as most of the large packets of smoked back had gone. Our biggest surprise purchase of the day - and whole period, for that matter - was a family's swimsuits, although on reflection they could have been for under a wetsuit.
It was sometime in the later afternoon that we ran out of cheese pasties.
Man.: "What pasties have you got?" Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "We have a choice of steak or steak." Man.: "Ah, I had better have a steak pasty, then, please." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "Excellent choice, sir." Man.: "Hold on a sec', I will just ask the wife if she wants one, too." [Man calls to wife who was outside. Wife enters shop.] Man.: [To wife] "Do you want a pasty?" Wife.: "What have they got?" Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "We have steak or steak." Wife.: "Oh, um ..." [to husband] "What have you got?" Man.: [raises quizzical eyebrow] "Er, steak." Wife.: "Oh, alright, I will have one of those then."
As has been the case each day this week, we became busy in the last two hours of our opening. During the day, however, we had a reasonably steady flow of customers sometimes less frequent than others. I discovered that by the end of the day I had completely worn out the two phrases, 'happy new year' and 'and to you, too'.
December 31st - Tuesday
Well, that upset the applecart. A weather front full of low cloud and mizzle swept through the bay during the first half of the day. The only good thing about it was that it started after I had whisked the bleddy hound down to the sliver of Harbour beach that was available this morning. I was going to walk her around the block again, but she was absolutely insistent that we went down the slipway, so of course we did.
Ably assisted by the introduction of the mizzle, we are back to our quiet morning and busy afternoon routine again. I spent the morning fretting about the surplus pasties we would have and the afternoon fretting whether we would still have enough for tomorrow when business picked up. We were once again very busy but perhaps not quite as busy as we were the last two days. It was, however, quite sufficient to put a smile on a grumpy shopkeeper's face on the last day of the decade.
It should not have been too surprising that we sold a few pasties; the temperature dropped like a stone after the cold front went through. This did not stop a good crowd from congregating on the beach and a healthy number promenading the street. There was also a small knot of optimistic surfers out in the bay. I think that by the time I spotted them they had stopped being optimistic and were just gathered about for a chat. I can think of warmer and drier places for such things.
The sudden cold spell also saw us run out of firewood in the later stages of the afternoon. Sadly, we will not have any deliveries tomorrow so those without will have to resort to the old methods of keeping warm - heading off to the alehhouse. I fended off increasing enquiries as we headed towards our closing time.
One of these customers fielded a question about the bus service, which was very current given yesterday's Diary entry. They asked if the buses were running tomorrow, New Year's Day, as they wished to take a bus to Porthcurno and walk back rather than taking their gas guzzling, carbon producing, fossil fuel burning motor car. I commended them on their greenness and told them the buses were not running New Year's Day.
The Highly Professional Craftsperson passed by towards closing time. I explained that for the first time in about forty years I did not intend to go out and see in the New Year and, very possibly, without imbibing, too. The forty years may not be true, but it is to the best of my memory, which, admittedly, is a bit hazy about this time of year. Keen not to make the transition too extreme all at once, we decided to meet in the OS for a late afternoon session, shortly after I shut the shop, instead. While not quite the same as the spontaneous pre-Christmas drinks there, it was most agreeable for a quick libation and to wish him a Happy New year ahead of the event itself.
Before retiring for the night, I partook in a little nip of the whisky the Aged Parent had sent. That was most agreeable, too, and is to be highly recommended - the drinking of your own whisky, or whiskey of course, as mine is unlikely to go around.
By the time you read this, Happy New Year.
December 30th - Monday
Stone the crows - can you still say that? We are rapidly running out of decade here, although we will run out of it slightly after those east of Camborne. The other end of it does not seem to be that long ago and not a great deal has changed in that time, for us at least. Oh, apart from introducing the first electric sliding door to The Cove; how could I forget?
There were signs of brightness a little after we opened, despite being told that blue skies would be the preserve of the east of the Duchy. It was very pleasant to see a bit of blue sky having been consigned to grey and overcast for the last few days. However, we would still prefer dull and cloudy to the high winds and wet weather we have been having since September.
It was still gloomy, however, when we came across a car parked in the middle of Coastguard Row. The lane is not very broad and a car parked in the middle makes the thoroughfare difficult but not impossible to navigate. I had assumed that someone staying in the cottages there was packing their bags into the vehicle. It was not until I got closer that I discovered that it was a very posh Jaguar that requires electricity to run it and to that end, it was attached to a wire hung out of the window. It did strike me as not being very practical as it would need a very long extension for it to get anywhere at all.
It does very starkly bring into focus some of the not very well thought through issues regarding electric cars, no matter how commendable the notion. It probably works exceedingly well for people with gardens in towns and cities doing circular trips - where, incidentally buses are prolific and you could probably well do without a car in the first place. I know this to be true as I did it myself for ten years. Having been ahead of the curve, I have paid forward enough greenness to run a 2.5 litre, four by four truck quite smugly - my excuse and I am sticking to it.
Here in the outer wilderness and for people who cannot park next to a convenient charging point overnight, electric cars are a bit more tricky. The much maligned council is urging people to get out of their cars by cutting the number of parking spaces in towns and cities. It seems to be blissfully unaware that people have got to get there first and have not bothered with that part of the equation.
We were busy again today and we ran out of pasties in the early afternoon. I do hope that was not the reason everyone left soon afterwards. It is more likely that the sudden overclouding had something to do with it. Even the surfer friendly swell we have had for the last few days deserted us. The change rather ruined the consistent daily profile we have enjoyed every day until now and made me wonder if the ramped up pasty order I had placed for the next two days might have been a mistake.
The day shrivelled away to gloom again in an uneventful sort of way. The Missus, who had taken the bleddy hound down the big beach for a decent stank, had found some keys on the beach. She sought in vain for a car matching the number plate than was on one of the key rings before posting the find on Face Page. She looked in both car parks and along Maria's Lane when she went out later on, but the grateful owners knocked on our door half an hour after we had closed. A happy result, which is how I felt after a day's worth of jangling till. Almost seems a shame to close in a couple of days.
I leave you with this by Neil Innes, sometime Bonzo Dog, brother of a decent compost maker and genius with a daft song, shuffled off today, bless him. Will we never hear his like again?
In the canyons of your mind I will wander through your brain To the ventricles of your heart, my dear I'm in love with you again! 'Cross the mountains of your chest I will sticker Union Jacks To the forest of your cheek Through the holes in your string vest
My darling, in my cardboard-coloured dreams Once again I hear your love And I kiss, yes I kiss your perfumed hair (But she's not there) The sweet essence of giraffe And each time I hear your name Oh! How it hurts In the wardrobe of my soul
December 29th - Sunday
It was awfully gloomy for a while during the early part of the morning and so gloomy when I took the bleddy hound around, I needed a torch. It is a strange phenomenon that it actually gets darker for a few days after the shortest day - or at least it does not get any brighter. The bleddy hound and I will be running around in the gloom until at least the middle of January but I will be getting up later after the shop shuts on Wednesday.
On the bright side, I was able to finish off counting the stock in the shop today. The other side of that is I will have to find something else to do for the rest of our open days. The count took less than half the time of previous years thanks to our new stock application, which is really a glorified spreadsheet. No more scribbling items down then wondering what they are when it comes time to key them in. Now I can key them straight into the system from my mobile telephone. What a jolly wheeze.
There was a slow build up, but it looks like this was the busiest day so far. Our end of The Cove was humming with activity from the middle of the day. At one point I struggled to keep enough pasties in the warmer for the demand that was coming through.
It seems that many of our visitors were trippers including a number of motorbikes that came and went during the afternoon. A couple had parked their vehicles on the pavement opposite while they took a seat at the tables there. On her return from St Buryan, the Missus parked across their sterns while she dropped Mother off. This elicited a tart response from the bikers, which was exceedingly ill-advised - or brave; a polite enquiry whether she had intended to leave the truck there or not would have been much better received. Later, I commended the Missus on her restraint as the broadside she delivered was more conventional than thermo-nuclear. They were left in no doubt that delivering Mother safely was a priority in which they did not figure. They were also apprised that they seemed to be in an untenable position having parked illegally and were blocking access to any wheelchair user that might come along. I think that they got the point.
The sea state in the morning was just as noisy as the previous night but during the day it calmed a little. There still appeared to be plenty of good waves about for our surfers who numbered quite a few at one time or another. The little groups dotted about the beach were clearly not the same ones all day but every time I looked there seemed to be little groups dotted about in roughly the same places. From reports I had back from regulars and locals throughout the day, it seems we were busier today than at sometimes during the season. So, busy was it that visitors were parking in the car parks, for heaven's sake.
Then, at half past three o'clock, just as it has every other day this holiday, the street emptied. It is quite extraordinary.
December 28th - Saturday
I do not recall the last time that I set out with the bleddy hound without the need for a waterproof jacket of some sort, so it was entirely refreshing to be able to do so this morning. It is also the first morning for a while that we were forced off the beach by the tide. I thought we have had the shortest day; why am I still going around in the dark?
It had to happen eventually. I have always maintained a fiercely independent and non-partisan position when writing the Diary, taking no influence or pressure from any quarter and certainly not succumbing to financial inducement or bribery - largely because it has not been offered. Still, times change, the place needs a new roof and, begger it, everyone else does it.
So, for the first time in history this Diary page is sponsored by St Ives Theatre Panto - oh, yes it is - which is populated by small children performing Sleeping Beauty and, I am told, is very amusing and professionally presented. In fact, the only dampener on the whole thing is that it means going to St Ives. There are a few days left if you would like to see it, today - Sunday by the time you see this - and tomorrow, either at two o'clock in the afternoon or, preferably because they are a bit quiet in the evenings, at six o'clock.
While not our usual fare, I should be grateful for such patronage that fills column inches. Journalists and Diarists pray to the small gods of daft scribblers for little gifts to be dropped into their metaphorical laps. The journalists of the Western Morning News (did I mention I once had a review ...) must have been praying especially hard in this dire time between Christmas and New Year. In the thin pages of this weekend edition, though hardly amusing to the residents of the town, we learn that Puddletown in Dorset has been flooded. If that were not gift enough, the reason why it flooded was because the River Piddle broke its banks. Sadly, they avoided the headline, 'Piddle Pours Pool in Puddletown and Pees off Parish' but then again, it is not that sort of newspaper. I would bet that they have a monitor on high alert there during times of rain as they do at Burnt Oak and Chard in heatwaves.
Back on track, there was quite a hidden swell running in the bay. Just as we passed the Harbour in the morning a geet wave thumped against and over the wall. It caught me by surprise and made me jump a bit. Through the day the only indicator that the swell was still there was a line of white on the cliffs opposite as waves thunked up Creedle and Aire point. Later on, this gave the holiday surf crowd something to crow about and just offshore about twenty of them gathered to take turns. It looked pretty good from the shop doorway.
It was into the early afternoon before the numbers wandering the street reached anything like a decent crowd. Trade was better than yesterday and at certain times I was running with a small queue. It gave us about two hours of brisk trade, which was good enough when you consider the other hours we were open for were ticking over quite nicely. Once again, the street thinned out towards our closing time of four o'clock but by then we are still heading in the direction of dusk. Perhaps we should open just for the first hour and the last two.
December 27th - Friday
Despite the grey, shoddy exterior it was quite an upbeat and busy day. It always is busiest between Christmas and New Year and today was living up to my expectations. It took a little while to get going but in the end we cleared out our pasties and a bunch of gifts and groceries including some going home type presents for the Christmas crew just leaving.
I escaped to the gymnasium for a swift but blistering session. I managed to get a quick one in on Christmas Day, too, so I am up to peak condition despite the excesses of the season. By the time I got back, our Christmas guests were keen to be leaving. Bags were loaded up in quick time and they whisked Mother off back home before heading off themselves. Gosh, we will not know what to do with ourselves tonight.
Busier though it was, I still had plenty of time to twiddle my thumbs during the day. There is still a bit of the shop that needs to be counted for our end of year stock but we do not want to rush into these things. I might well have conjured up enough enthusiasm to do a bit more of it tomorrow. Really, other than the store room, which I cannot do yet, the only major piece of work will be counting the surf jewellery range as there is quite a bit of that. It would be rather good to finish it off before we close as it will save much time in the shop when I should be doing other things.
For some reason closing time came around very quickly. We had slowed to a quiet crawl by the middle of the afternoon and I cannot imagine anyone being inconvenienced by our closing. It was followed by a very sedate later afternoon and evening, back on our own and scratching our heads over what to have for tea. I cannot imagine why the Missus seemed reluctant to cook anything but fortunately we had one or two things in the refrigerator that we had no other use for.
Looking back, it was a very beige sort of day and if the weather was not grey, I am sure it would have been beige, too. We will try and introduce some colour for tomorrow to make it a tad more interesting.
December 26th - Thursday
Well, that is that for another year, all done - or nearly. It seems that the seasonal weather we have been having since the middle of September is still not done with us. It had already thrown a big lump of rain at us this morning along with an eighty miles per hour wind. The forecast that I heard first thing when I went down to ready the shop was that it was going to get windier and some more rain was on the way. Something to look forward to, then.
It was windy enough on the Harbour beach in the darkness of the morning. The bleddy hound seemed a little disconcerted. I am not surprised as the wind was nearly taking me off my feet. It is particularly keen around the corner of the Lifeboat station where it must funnel somehow.
I will not dwell on yesterday as I expect the day was much the same for many people. You know, bit of toast, present opening in your pyjamas and then without bothering too much about your attire, run down a wet beach into a cold sea for a bit of a splash. This year technology has caught up with The Cove and someone with a drone took some rather clever footage of it all going on.
There were a number of us, families included, watching from the eerie of the Lifeboat station crew room, which affords an expansive view of the big beach. For several years we have put a skeleton crew on standby for the swim as reaching the station in an emergency would be nigh on impossible because of cars parked both sides of the road in the most uncaring manner. In the last two years, the parish council has deployed parking cones along the road to deter mindless parking. For two years we have watched as mindless parkers carefully move the cones so that they can park. Despite the efforts of those giving their time to deploy the cones we would still struggle to launch the boat for a major shout in anything like a reasonable time.
Today the shop was open again for a brief period in the morning. This allowed those short of a loaf of bread or pint of milk the opportunity to top up without travelling too far. I think if we had opened a little longer, I might have shifted a few more pasties as there were quite a few walkers on the beach. The rain was just starting when we closed, which would have sent them scurrying past the shop door.
As it was, there was a Boxing Day shoot to attend. The venue for this year's event was quickly moved because the F&L had unexpectedly closed just before Christmas. I found myself heading down a mucky track at the other side of Tregiffian Farm, above Gwenver beach, congratulating myself on not being part of the fifteen or so ramblers I met coming the other way. Of late the location has been used every other week for a cunning and inventive clay shoot in and out of the woods there. For the parish shoot, however, and largely due to the inclement weather a simpler shoot was set up.
By the time I arrived most of the sweep rounds had been concluded and I was lucky to get a look in. Happily, they squeezed me in at the end but based on my performance I rather wish they had not. I did not fare much better in the open and parish cup rounds. I had chosen exceedingly well in wearing wellies as the site was thick with mud and I was also grateful yet again for our choice of vehicle. These were my only winning attributes of the afternoon.
However enjoyable it was it was still very pleasant to come home and settle in for a cup of tea. I was able to look out at the grey bleakness of it all and the few people moping about and think myself lucky that we had not opened for long today.
Quite surprisingly there was an OS quiz in the evening. I mean it was the proper day for it but it certainly did not seem like it. It also followed hot on the heels of a few beers there on Tuesday afternoon and a few more on Christmas morn. Much as I am loathed to pour too many shekels into the over-full coffers of the south east corner brewery, I could not miss out on a quiz, especially when we had a visiting dignitary in the form of Prof and her pal.
Naturally we had high hopes, which, if we are not to be greedy were realised by a second place. Unfortunately, we are greedy and that was just not good enough, but we were undone by some schoolboy errors and a deaf writer down of answers. However, we had some jolly japes in the interim and revelled in the knowledge that we had been noted for our regional individuality in the front section of Prof's latest publication regarding the British in colonial Egypt (available online - hardback - at an exceedingly reasonable $108 if you hurry - it might also be available as an English translation). We feel that it is an important and timely work, meticulously researched and well written. It is an absorbing and illuminating portrayal of a neglected dimension of British imperial history and we are not alone in these views, some of them previously voiced by luminaries of the academic world and carefully plagiarised for the Diary's hallowed pages. Sadly, there were precious few questions in the quiz on this area of history, which I can only assume contributed greatly to our loss.
The rain had long disappeared by the time we decided to wend our way home. It was less of a decision and more that we could not acquire any further drink that propelled us thus. The bleddy hound joined us in the last few yards and took off with me around the block, just as we used to in days of yore. She loosens up after a bit but was still keen for her bed on arrival back home. I concurred and joined her.