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.
April 17th - Wednesday
I realise that we live in quite a popular part of the country but to find ourselves on Radio Pasty first thing in the morning was a bit much. It seems that the duck pond at Polgigga, which is on the route that the bus takes to Porthcurno, is suffering from a lack of ducks.
Respondents bemoaned that they no longer have to wait for ducks to cross the road or drive around them when they refused to move and that they no longer hold up the bus. There are a few geese remaining, so the pond is not entire deserted, and their eggs are often for sale at the side of the road there. There is some suggestion that a combination of the clearance of undergrowth on the pond's island and the increase of foxes in the area has led to the desertion; I presume a self-respecting goose could probably see off a fox or two.
Some people interviewed suggested that the ducks be reinstated. I think that there is some idea that if anyone could give a duck, or two, they might possibly get in touch - the foxes must be getting hungry by now.
Fortunately, we had another day that was not particularly fit for ducks, unless you could find one that likes sunbathing. It was a little more hazy today and that pesky easterly breeze picked up again but it did not detract from the beauty of the beach at low water. It did not provide for great surf but that did not stop a couple of dozen hopefuls from diving in and trying it out.
The surfers were not alone out there either. Even with binoculars it was not easy to tell, but a large flock of shags or cormorants were out in the shallows all excited by something or other. Normally, these birds will dive from a floating stance but today they were skimming the water in long lines before circling and doing the same again. We do not usually see these birds here in such large flocks or performing in such a way. There was probably a very good reason for it, but it would be rather good to know what that was.
It was the sort of day for different things going on. I skipped the gymnasium this morning on the basis that my neck has not fully recovered from its stiffness, but it is improving in measures. Instead, the Missus came down to sort out the grocery order that arrived yesterday. I do not do it right, which is fair comment, and she is much more efficient, anyway. She also attacked the store room, ensuring that I will not be able to find anything for the rest of the season and until the next stock take in January.
I was sent upstairs to amuse myself, which gave me time to try the third implementation of our new wireless range extender. I purchased this because we have wireless blackspots in and around the place and particularly at the back of the building. The first two trials were dismal failures, with the range extender disconnecting from the main wireless router. Our wireless devices were very cleverly attaching to the extender when the signal was strongest but then finding that it did not have Internet access. I determined the root cause of the problem was that the signal from the wireless router was so weak that the extender could not maintain its connection.
The main issue is that the router is quite low down and sits between a printer and our telephone, both of which run on the same frequency as the wireless router. To move it would require moving a number of cables, too, and although moving the printer and the telephone might prove easier, it may still not completely solve the problem. So, having eliminated the impossible, we resolved that the only choice left, no matter how improbable, was to turn the range extender into an access point and hoist it aloft.
I was very surprised by the immediate and pronounced increase in signal from one end of the flat to the other. Unfortunately, I now have a power cable run across the floor and up the beam to it along with a yellow ethernet cable. It does not look quite as neat and tidy as it should, but I am sure we will be too busy with our noses in our wireless devices to notice.
The other thing I did was to spend twenty minutes hanging on the telephone waiting for the water board to answer it. They owe me some money after charging me business rates since we have been here when the only water supply is to the flat. When I enquired, they told me that they could only go back two years because another company had purchased the original company at that time. I settled for that at first but might enquire about going back further when I have a moment, as it is rather a lot of money.
We started the day on a low and finished it on a high with nearly everyone pushed off the beach by the advancing tide. While there were a few hopeful surfers about in the morning, there were none in the early evening and the swell we saw yesterday at this time almost completely gone. I had thought that we were quieter today, but the till said otherwise at the end of the day. The Missus will tell me that it was when she was behind the counter, of course. I will not argue as I am above that - as well as being comfortable with my anatomical features being where they are currently.
April 16th - Tuesday
It was a glorious morning without the slightest hint of a south easterly or any other sort of breeze for that matter. Atop the cliff, was a big bank of bank of fog that I thought would clear away quite quickly, which it did but it fell into the bay, instead.
We were faced with a bright but hazy morning with a bit of chill to it and thankfully one that was a far cry from the weather of the last three days. Our visitors must have appreciated it, too, as they hit the streets early on and in some abundance. Most of them came through the shop door in a bunch two minutes after I brought my breakfast out to have a pre-rush nibble. It is good to see things get back to normal.
By the middle of the day we were flying. Buckets and spades and beach games of all sorts were heading for the beach where a veritable crowd had gathered above the high water line. Our busyness continued for the rest of the day and even at our normal going quiet time, it was still buzzing a bit. With the sun beating down long after five o'clock, the hordes on the beach seemed to be unmoved by the onset of teatime and who could blame them; the weather nneded appreciation until the last possible moment.
I did try telling our cash and carry driver - twice - that arriving late when it was busy would mean finding it hard to park and he would have to unload the van by himself. He arrived halfway through the afternoon today and found it hard to park and he had to unload the van by himself. He said he did not mind, and I expect he would find it a lot harder to park in, say, St Ives but I cannot help thinking that it would make life so much easier to arrive early in the morning.
It would also make life a lot easier if our waste management firm, the one I have terminated the contract with, would pick up the telephone. I only wanted to ask why our collection had not been made today but had to wait forty minutes for them to answer the telephone. To make matters worse the very pleasant lady who eventually picked up the telephone told me that according to her system I had only waited seconds. I was very polite, after all it was not her fault, so I vented my spleen at the salesman who had asked why we were leaving and offered a low bowl offer to tempt us back. I told him I could think of better things to do with forty minutes, even if it was cheap.
I could not tell you if there was a fine sunset or not as I was collapsed in a heap. It takes a while for body and soul to become accustomed to the ebbs and flows of the business cycle. I would much rather get used to today's buy cycle than yesterday, when the wheels appeared to have come off.
April 15th - Monday
Oh yes, another day of fighting the rain from the west that is being thrown into our faces bythe bitter wind from the south east. Just to add a little piquancy, I decided to wake up with a stiff neck. The Missus woke up with a cold shoulder last week so I must have caught it from her. Gosh, it was debilitating, and I can understand why people call it a pain in the neck.
I took it down to the Harbour beach with the bleddy hound. I decided not to bother with waterproof trousers as thin gymnasium shorts and flip flops were quite clearly the order of the day. As that did not work, I took it down to the gymnasium on the basis that it would either loosen up my neck or make it worse. It did not make it particularly worse, but it certainly did not cure it either and I had to abandon the rowing machine half way through. After I returned, I gave it some ibubrofen gel and will hope for the best.
It made me feel so much better watching the lashing rain wash down our windows and the very occasional passer by setting off the automatic door so that they could tell me how poor the weather was. The rain came down heavier in the middle of the day and it was comforting to know that both Penzance and St Ives were feeling the pain, this time.
It was the sort of day to hang the expense, more to my waistline than my pocket, and slip next door for a slide of chocolate cake - without nuts. I have been very good this season so far and I think that the cake I had today might only be the second or third slice. Clearly, I regret the economic downturn that this must have visited upon Little Bo Café, but I must consider my sylph-like figure above all else.
One thing that has kept us afloat is the demand for logs. I called in an abundance for the weekend and sold the lot by the middle of the afternoon yesterday. By four o'clock I was serving people who had done the circuit. My first response is to send people up to the symbol group store at the top of the hill. People were reporting that they had been there, the convenience stores in St Just and even Tesmorburys had sold out. This was a bad sign: the suppliers will take a view around this time of the year to reduce supply and cold snaps like the one we are having just now catch everyone out. I was concerned that with everyone ordering for today we might lose out.
Fortunately, we got all that we ordered but by the end of play, we needed another order. We have a big black box on wheels outside to accommodate a small supply of logs. The plan was that we would use it during the summer to hold barbeque coals. This never really did pan out, as we discovered that logs sold throughout the year, in quite some volume. It seems that centrally heated families from up country just cannot resist the urge to have a log fire burning, even in the middle of August.
Last, I will tell you that it is D's birthday today. He is ten years old. Happy Birthday! One thing, here, that marks the passage of time more than anything else, is seeing the young one's grow up. Some, who we met as youngsters when we first arrived are now coming with their own children, which is a tad alarming. Others, like M, D's younger sister, make sudden jumps of maturity in some years and I feel that this is one of them. She came to the shop on her own, as she has before, to buy the candles for her brother's cake and she was so much more grown up than last year. She was serious, in a serious sort of way, which made me start a little. I suddenly thought of Tinkerbell and what a loss it would be if we did not believe in Fairies anymore.
April 14th - Sunday
It was not the most auspicious start to a holiday week; it had been raining all night - someone told me - and it was still raining in the morning. When I stepped outside the door it did not see too bad, but then I turned the corner to the front of the shop and was slapped in the face by a rain laced belt of rain. The bleddy hound was even less impressed, although down on the Harbour beach the wind was much more moderate. It did nothing to shelter us from the rain, though, and the bleddy hound returned home somewhat bedraggled.
I did not muck about today and had the shop door on automatic from the outset. It is not like I inconvenienced many customers because there were not many customers to be inconvenienced, first thing at least. I took the opportunity to top up the shelves some more and to finish my list for the cash and carry that I started yesterday. I was occasionally disturbed by the automatic door opening by itself, which suggests that I have one that is possessed or just very sensitive to rain drops passing the outside sensor.
In the middle of the morning, the rain stopped, which the forecasters omitted to mention in their forecasts, that had rain falling the whole day long. It did, however, rain on and off for the rest of the day, a pleasure that had been reserved for the Far West of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly only. It gave me some obtuse pleasure, though, when I noticed that when the rain stopped at first it was due to a hole in the cloud that covered only from Penzance to Pendeen; everywhere else it was still raining.
It did not help a jot. By the middle of the afternoon, business had slowed to a trickle. It is definitely not what I had envisaged for the weekend or the customer profile I had bought pasties for.
When you have very few customers, the idiosyncratic ones tend to stand out a little. So, the gentlemen who returned his hooded sweatshirt, quite rightly, because it was the wrong size but also complained that it did not have a zipper and that it had a hood, rather stood out above the crowd, such as it was. When he was in the first time, he brought size five shoes to the counter because the size eight shoes, which were his size, were the wrong colour. When I accompanied him to the shoe section, it would appear that the sizes nine, ten and eleven, were all the right colour, too, but as experienced a grumpy shopkeeper as I am, I could not make them into size eights. Fortunately, we had a zipper hooded sweatshirt that was acceptable, even if it did have a hood, so he left a satisfied customer, which is what we all aim for, regardless of the journey to get there.
Since that was the highlight of the day and everything else was about being cold and wet, I shall leave it there. Sadly, it would appear we are in for some more of the same tomorrow, which means that so will you, dear reader. I can assure you that conveying such misery hurts me more than it does you - as my old school master used to day, which even to this day I doubt the veracity of. Gird your loins.
April 13th - Saturday
We were out of the traps with a bit of a rush this morning. It gave me some hope that business was to pick up this week until I noticed half way through the day that our freshly baked baguettes and loaves had not shifted. An education programme for the newcomers is probably required and in the meanwhile it is sandwiches for tea and toast the following morning.
Given that the south east wind had found its feet and ramped itself up to fifty five miles per hour, and possibly more, for much of the day, it seemed such a good idea to have a Lifeboat exercise. In my absence on Thursday night our good doctor had coached the boys and girl in the cunning artifice of CPR. The plan today was to take the practice out onto the high seas, well, out in the bay at least, and see how we all coped including bringing the casualty ashore.
Since someone else was in the warmth of the winch room, I bagsed the next best place, which was in the cab of the Inshore launch tractor. The boats launched at around ten o'clock into the chill air of the bay. One of the boys in the rubber boat noted how cold it was out there after he came back. Perhaps we should have used him as the casualty. As it was, a 'dead fred' - a mannequin, weighted the same as an adult, was dropped into the bay by the Inshore boat and located and recovered by the big boat a short while later. The crew then performed CPR on it, and while most often the helicopter would collect a critically ill casualty, on this occasion we simulated dropping the person ashore for a land ambulance transfer. This entailed continuing CPR during the transfer from the big boat to the small boat and from there to the shore team while the boat was pushed up the slipway by the tractor.
It was not at all easy performing CPR while boats and tractors were whizzing about. The use of several teams was required as the process is very tiring even under perfect conditions. The crews were ably assisted and coached by a pair of visiting doctors, who did a marvellous job of making suggestions and ironing out problems.
Having washed down and tucked away the Inshore boat, I left the rest of the team to bring in the big boat up the short slipway. I had provided some help in setting up the slipway but as the shop was getting busier, I returned to attend my day job. I had some assurance that the remaining boys carried out what was very clearly a textbook recovery up the short slip. We are, after all, a very interchangeable, very excellent Shore Crew.
My return to the shop was marked with the Missus doing a smart exit and running off to The Farm with the bleddy hound. When we moved all the stock from Shrew House, it was unceremoniously bundled into the new shed as an expediency. The Missus has since been trying to sort it out and today spent a good deal of the afternoon counting and organising. She is very good at counting and organising, where I would have given up and roughly placed items where I would remember where they were and hoped for the best. This was the somewhat shambolic state of Shrew House before she took the task over. A couple of days later and there was more space in there than we knew what to do with.
I, on the other hand, dealt with an increased number of customers. This was very pleasing as we had spent a week wondering whether Easter would actually happen or not. I rather suspect that we might have been busier if that pesky south easterly had not been there. It was very chilly all day and at around five o'clock when it started to go quiet, I had enough of standing in the cold breeze and set the door to automatic.
Given a bit of quiet, I was able to go around and fill some of the grocery shelves ahead of the big order tomorrow. I shall take a bit more care of which buttons I press on the cash and carry website, such that I do not end up with a year's supply of salt and pepper or the wrong crisps.
It was clear that most other people had endured enough of the cold wind and we did not even get much of a five to closing rush. I gratefully locked up and bolted myself to the sofa for the rest of the evening.
April 12th - Friday
Some visitors come here for the peace and tranquillity out of season; they would have loved today.
We still have a bit of a cool blow from somewhere in the south east. It made for another chilly day behind the counter. I did not make the same mistake as yesterday and wore an extra layer down to the beach with the bleddy hound first thing. It was the right thing to do. I love these early mornings wandering about because when the sun rises it very often peeps under the cloud and lights our little world in glorious colour for a while.
The cloud we had disappeared in the middle of the day, then came back again for the later afternoon, so everyone that was here had a chance to bask in the sunshine. Unfortunately, the 'everyone' did not count for very many. I suspect we had a bit of a change over day to cope with and as a consequence, business went flat as a dish. There were signs of new arrivals by the end of the day, but it was really too late to make very much difference to us.
Instead, I read a very interesting article about the bottle deposit scheme that is current under consultation in England and Wales. I am not entirely sure that anyone has thought about Cornwall and there has been no whisper of it locally at all. Anyway, the article was regarding a round table debate, hosted by the trade publication that I was reading, and attended by some clever industry experts. It was a well written piece and the ideas, issues and benefits of a bottle return scheme were sensibly considered. These included our concerns about being forced into a scheme when we have no room and would have to deal with the returns manually and all the muck and stickiness that might entail.
Had it been these gentlemen who were running the show and eventual roll out of the scheme, I would have some confidence that it would work and that retailing participants would have their concerns fairly dealt with. The sad reality of it is that some spotty smart Alec, sitting in an office up country, with not the first idea of real world retailing, will be calling the shots. We will have an ill thought through scheme foisted upon us that most likely will cost us a fortune and leave us drowning is used plastic bottles and tin cans. I know this to be true as, until recently, we were sitting on seven kilograms of used batteries that had taken us five years to collect. No one would come and pick them up from us as we had not reached the 25 kilograms minimum and we could not transport them anywhere without breaking the law about transportation of waste.
While we did not have many customers today, those that we did have were an exceedingly pleasant bunch. If you were one of them, I do hope you do not mind being called a bunch and, secondly, thank you. Thank you, particularly, to the gentleman - you will notice he was not a bunch - who stopped by to say farewell but also to grease my palm with coin - actually a note - of the realm. He told me he comes every year - we knew - but regretted that he had only bought a 50 pence postcard this year and wanted to support the shop. He ignored my protestations and left it anyway. I only mention this in case you too were thinking of such a course of action and I wanted to assure you, dear reader, that embarrassing though it is for me, it is something I am willing to try and overcome.
April 11th - Thursday
It had turned a little chilly last night, but the brightness of the morning lulled me into a false sense of warmth and I found myself of the Harbour beach ruing not wearing another layer. The bleddy hound, in her thick woolly coat, sensed this and took her time sniffing every stand of oar weed. There should have been no surprise that it was a tad chill because the breeze, such as it was, came heading in from the north east. Later, however, when I was shivering in my boots behind the shop counter in the whistling breeze shunting in the door, the wind was coming from the south east and that really irks me. There is 150 feet of cliff and field between us and that direction.
The morning, at least, was sedate; it takes the visitors we have here this week a little time to get going, it seems. Thankfully, things improved in the afternoon, assisted by the appearance of the sun that had been hiding during the morning. The seats at Little Bo Café were full from mid morning onwards, which is no surprise since we are woefully short of spaces for morning eating in The Cove. Even in the middle of the day, they are busy, which is more testament to its good reputation, but they would benefit from an inside eating area at least twice the size.
We perked up from the later morning and into the afternoon, but there were still quiet spots throughout the day. This gave me sufficient time to sort our outside flags. For the best part of a year our marine quality flags of St Piran have sat in the store room, unloved and unused, ever since one flew off its perch in the wind and was run over and bent. It occurred to me yesterday, having cleared out the shelf that the flags had languished on, that perhaps I should so something about it. Had I thought about it over the winter I would have sought out a local craftsperson to extrude me a tube in plastic or metal but since I did not, I was constrained to seek one out in the Internet.
I have a very accurate set of digital callipers, which told me that the existing tube's diameter was the imperial measurement of three quarters of an inch, which was oddly pleasing. It was also challenging, I felt, as I could just tell that the Internet would be full of millimetres and metres. It was therefore something of a surprise when the first online shop I approached had tubes greater than a certain size only in imperial. The next thing that I had to overcome was the thickness of the pipe required in something called 'swg'. This, I quickly discovered, is standard wire gauge, which according to the computer is obsolete but, nevertheless, still used on the shop I was viewing.
I was very surprised that I had found what I was looking for so quickly. My jubilation was as short lived, however, as the tubes that this company produced had a maximum length well short of what I needed. The second shop was much more flexible and produced custom length tubes, which I promptly ordered. What was really pleasing was that the shop only offered a standard rate of postage - none of this express delivery for extra money lark, which is a poor excuse for bad service and money for old rope at that. What was even more surprising, despite placing the order quite late in the day, I had an electronic mail later in the evening telling me that the job was done and had been despatched. By three o'clock today I was unwrapping them.
The flags are now, once again, adorning the front of the shop. A little fine tuning is required, as the ends of the tubes are a tad sharp and, due to the lack of a file or grinder, I had to tape over them, which make them just slightly too big for the holders. Additionally, the rotten end batten onto which the holder is attached, is lose and will tear off in anything more than a light breeze. Sometimes, you wonder why you start things.
After all that flag hanging and pole choosing, a good bit of casualty care training at the Lifeboat station would have gone down a treat. Sadly, the shop does not close until seven o'clock, which is when the training commenced. Given that I cannot live by chocolate bars and cake alone, I had to have some tea after we closed so I missed the event.
What I did not miss was a good quizzing down at the OS. The bar was rather busy, but not as busy as I imagined, but which also made me wonder where all these people were during the day. I was going to ask them all, but the quiz started and I was distracted. I was also able to heartily thank the Highly Professional Craftsperson now that the work on the barn has now been completed, down to the installation of a launder to spirit rain water away from the sizable roof and into water butts that the Missus ran out to purchase today. It gave me the opportunity to tell her to 'get her butt out of here' as they say in the movies, which was fun. Clearly it will not rain now until October.
We did not do quite so well with the quiz despite being bolstered by the appearance of Prof, and with the 'chase the ace' prize having been won last week, it was slim pickings. We were blessed with a canopy of stars and a fattening crescent moon above our heads as we headed home and as I ran a noisy bleddy hound around the block afterwards. It made it all worthwhile.
April 10th - Wednesday
It seems that our visitors have, at last, worked out what coming on holiday is all about. They were out and about today in greater numbers than yesterday and this time they were buying postcards, fridge magnets and pasties and then some more pasties. They are still working out what to do with a loaf of bread, though; I threw another three loaves away this morning.
I was set free early in the shop day to ferry some water up to The Farm for our workers. The Missus gave them cart blanche to use the facilities there, such as they are, to make tea and coffee but then forgot to leave any tea or coffee behind ... or milk ... or water. It was good to see that they were not leaning on their shovels, mainly as they had no shovels, but things seem to be moving along. I left them to it before they asked me to lend a hand.
The bleddy hound was happy with today, as well. The tide on the Harbour beach had yet, for the first time in three or four days, to cover the last few yards of sand. It was a bit touch and go as she weaved in and out of the advancing waves, but I think it was better than feet not touching sand for another day.
I can empathise, as I know what it is like to miss out a session at the gymnasium. I was early today, too, thanks to having to run up to The Farm first thing. I was back in time for the Missus to head up there with our neighbour who sold her the tractor, so that he could show her how to hitch up the topper. In fact, she was blessed with two offers of help as another neighbour had read of her plight and dropped down to pledge assistance, too. What is a girl going to do with so many proposals to get hitched?
Unlike yesterday we had blue sky and sunshine all the way to the end of the day. There was a bit more breeze to contend with, still in the east but this time the north east and backing to the north. It was still providing a bit of a chill, but no one seemed to mind too much. Naturally, business tailed off towards the end of afternoon but revived for the after tea treats and not forgetting the five minutes before closing rush.
Also, just before closing, a small team turned up one with a cantilever body frame to support a big film camera. I have no idea what those frames are really called but it looks very clever and supports the weight of the camera along the spine. He was filming out in front of the shop, so I struck my best grumpy shopkeeper pose, just in case I was in shot. It is more likely he got me when I was bending over to pick up the log bin. I just hope he got the good side.
April 9th - Tuesday
The Highly Professional Craftsperson dropped by last evening to tell us that he was turning up at The Farm to fix the roof on the barn. This has had a big hole in it since well before we purchased it but strangely, it does not let the rain in. We are only having the hole fixed for form's sake and to stop the pesky swallows nesting in there - but do not tell the Missus that; she wanted to leave a hole for them. I know, I know, I would make an excellent Baron Hardup, but before you start booing and hissing, there is excellent alternative accommodation for the messy blighters in the stable buildings - next to the barn owl who will probably eat the young. Alright, you can start booing and hissing, now.
We enjoyed the first truly upbeat day of the holiday today. The weather behaved for most of the day and the east wind dropped out enough to put a bit of warmth into the air. There were a few small groups camped out on the beach and the tables of Little Bo Café were buzzing once more. We saw a near continuous trickle of customers from late morning onwards, with a mix of families, older people on holiday and, of course, an army of small children.
You have to admire the parents and guardians who adhere to their principles and keep a strict regime of when sweets and ice creams may be eaten in a day. It is the temporary guardians, looking after offspring of a friend or family member who are in the most invidious position of holding the line between keeping their wards on-side and upholding the standards expected of the parent. We had one such stalwart in today.
Stalwart.: "No, you know you are not allowed sweets at this time of day." [Follows a period of child/adult negotiation] Stalwart.: "No, I know your parent has strict guidelines about that sort of thing and you're not having any. This packet of scones [one each child] is far more healthy and that is what you're having. No argument. Here, Grumpy Shopkeeper, accept this credit card in favour of my £1.50 bag of scones." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "Sorry, we take credit cards over five pounds, sir." Stalwart.: "Oh, erm, I don't have any cash ... okay, kids, choose an ice cream each."
The Missus sent me some pictures of our roofless barn later in the morning, there were side panels missing, too. I asked Highly Professional Craftsperson just to do what was necessary to make the barn roughly waterproof and resilient to the weather, so not every panel will be replaced, even though there are a few holes in them. While the builders were building, the Missus took to her tractor and chain-harrowed the field. She sent me pictures but there really was not much to see. Later she attempted to top the grass but could not get the topper attached to the tractor, which is a shame as that would have been far more visual.
The roofing material had only just arrived when she left towards the end of the afternoon. I doubt very much whether they managed to have it installed before the rain started. It had been a very pleasant day until that point and the rain that came was rather heavy for a while. The barn managed to fend off the ingress of rain with one roof panel missing, expecting the same with all of them missing might be a bit of a stretch.
Naturally, it became very quiet in the shop after the rain came through. I managed a few chores at that point and filled a shelf or two. It was the busiest day so far, so there is no complaint there. I must go and lie down for a while.
April 8th - Monday
It was a half decent day and, particularly, that easterly chill had disappeared for a while. It seemed warm, too, although that could have much to do with the lack of breeze but half past seven, even on a day such as this, did not seem to be the time to be cooking aromatic meals. I caught a big waft of garlic as I turned the corner at the far end of the Harbour car park and it really did smell like someone cooking something exotic somewhere. I had to conclude, of course, that it was the abundance of tri-cornered garlic that adorns Mayon Cliff all the way up to the old hotel.
Garlic and rust
I must also conclude that it was the bitter easterly that kept our visitors at bay for the last two days; today was much more buoyant, at least in the morning. We were selling buckets and spades in some abundance alongside novelties and postcards. It was all going so well until the rain appeared in the afternoon, then it all went quiet again.
Happily, our major cash and carry delivery was brought forward a day and was dropped just as it started to rain. Not only did it give me something to do, helping to carry it in, but also working through it and putting it out on the shelves. That was until I realised that it was time for a cup of tea and, with it being quiet, I was able to slip away upstairs to make one. Having interrupted my flow, it was very hard to start up again. It was so hard to start up again I did not bother and will attack it again in the morning.
Well, that did not last long. The guilt got to me - as well as the boredom - so I near enough finished it off. I left a few manners pieces to do in the morning, else what would I have to do then, if it was raining? The Missus then arrived back from The Farm with the result of my picking list that I had given her. There was not a great amount, more the things that I had forgotten on the last list I gave her, so it did not take a great deal to put out. Also, the plan has always been to spend the time at the store, unpacking, pricing and otherwise making ready the stock, so that when it arrives at the shop it is ready to put straight out on the shelf. At The Farm we have been able to organise the space so that this can happen. We love it when a plan comes together.
A chance telephone call provided the entertainment for the last hour of business. The caller told me that she and her party were walking from Hayle to Land's End over the weekend and would like to know the times of public transport back to Hayle. She said that she had tried to decipher the timetables on the Internet but had given up due to their complexity. She did not know whether that might be Sunday or Monday, so that meant two sets of information, one for each day. As luck would have it, the bus times change slightly on the Sunday coming, which gave the young lady some better options.
I sympathised with her plight but told her than even I, who had been studying the niceties of the First Bus Group timetables for some years, would find it difficult to provide the information over the telephone on the fly, as it were. I asked for her electronic mail address and told her I would reply later in the evening, hopefully with something a little more understandable.
My first error was forgetting about the change on Sunday. Well, I did not forget about the change, I did not realise that this Sunday was the date of the change. Fortunately, that just meant inserting an additional two bus times in on the Sunday route. Nevertheless, it too a while to complete and check and because the last bus to Hayle leaves before the last bus from Land's End gets there, I also included the train times. I have no idea how much the bus costs from Penzance to Hayle but I would wager it is a sight more than the very reasonable train fare of £3.90. My apologies if this is incorrect, First Bus Group.
Happily, there is a limited - two buses a day in each direction - reintroduction of the open top bus to and from St Ives starting on Sunday. It is a cracking little journey and all power to the bus people for introducing it so early. Happy travels, everyone.
April 7th - Sunday
I might have said yesterday that the bleddy hound was quite comfortable walking around the block when the tide was in. Well, that was yesterday. This morning she looked most indignant when she looked down the slipway and gave me a look that said, 'It was like that yesterday, for heaven's sake'. She was right, of course, it was not particularly different yesterday and the time of high water had shifted only thirty minutes from the day before. The bleddy hound does not have a great deal to worry about so not having access to a beach for three days running must be a major concern.
Early on in the day a regular visitor dropped by to tell me that he has been watching some choughs up on the cliff. He suggested that they may be nesting up there as they had been around for a few days. I told him that I had been here for fifteen years and, even though I stank about around the cliffs quite a bit during winter, I had never seen a one. I thanked him for indulgence, his time in coming to tell me that he saw them all the time but told him that I knew they did not exist. They are merely jackdaws with a bit of a flush on around the legs and beak, that is all. Anyone else thinking that I would be interested in their sightings of choughs here and there can expect equally short shrift. Honestly, the cheek of it.
If I was unimpressed with people's ornithological observations I was just as unimpressed with the numbers of visitors who turned up this weekend. I had expected it to be much busier, as my pasty order suggested. Perhaps being hopeful that it would be busier is more appropriate as, in truth, the game will start next week and for the fortnight around Easter, despite our schools being on holiday this week and that being the traditional busy time. Clearly the whole world is turned on its head and we must adapt and be ready for anything.
Trade was definitely above the normal average for the time of year, so we cannot complain too much. If that biting easterly wind had abated earlier, we might have seen some improvement on what we had. Unfortunately, the wind persisted for most of the day and only in the last couple of hours of trading did the sun pop out and the wind die down, just when everyone had gone home or given up on the day.
I had an unexpected break from proceedings around the middle of the day. The Missus awoke with a cold shoulder, which was not the one she usually offers me but one that prevented her lifting her arm higher than a few inches. Given that Mother was due to come around, I was parcelled off to collect her, as the Missus could not drive. At the time I went, the sun was making one of its short appearances and was setting off the colours of the hedgerows along the route. I have enthused about the lane before, but it really is a wonder at this time of year with the yellow of gorse, the white of tri-cornered garlic in the verges and the white blossom of blackthorn, called may, locally, overhanging the road.
The visit also provided the opportunity for me to slice up her old garden gate. Brother in law, when he arrived a week or so ago, made her a new one as the old one was rotten and falling apart. Mother had tried to shift the old one, but it was too heavy for her. Rotten or not, the gate weighed an absolute ton, so heaven knows what it was made of and it was not giving up the fight just yet, either. My jigsaw was just deep enough to get through it and the cross members and even cut in half it was still a geet lump of a door.
It was a welcome break, but I was happy to return to the shop. I took my time in preparing the grocery order for the coming week, as we have sold some goods since the last, even if it has been quiet. We will need some more firewood come Monday, too, as it seems to have been our biggest seller over the weekend and no surprise. There is always the door in the van but unfortunately it is covered in green paint that probably would not go down too well.
I too Mother home in the evening, just after the sun had set. The sky was quite a wonder and I would have wondered at it more had I not had a car stuck to my bumper through the lane on the way back. It was still quite light when I returned and up amidst the high altitude cloud, tinged by the sun still, was the slimmest of crescent moons you could ever imagine. It was still there last thing when I took the bleddy hound out, glowing red and menacing on the horizon. The cloud moving across it seemed to make it come alive like some malevolent eye watching and waiting. I might sleep with the light on tonight.
April 6th - Saturday
It was some pretty this morning for our run around the block. The beach is out of bounds for a few days while the tide has its way. The bleddy hound seems unperturbed by the change; she takes one look down the slip at the water swilling about and knows that she is not going down there. The consolation prize was seeing the pure white of the foam and spray dancing on top of Cowloe in the early morning sunshine against the backdrop of perfect blue water - not that she cares at all.
My loins had been properly girded for a bit of an onslaught first thing. It did not happen quite that way but there was a general upturn in business compared to what we are used to. It was good to start to have the little chats over breakfast purchases again and to welcome familiar faces once more.
I was going to let this pass but since two of these breakfast conversations turned up the same comment two days running, the bloodhound journalist in me was let loose - alright, perhaps more St Bernard. It concerns the use of the price of a fish and chip meal as the benchmark for how expensive a restaurant or food outlet is generally. Both yesterday and today's customers bemoaned the fact that the price of this meal in the OS is £13.95, or so it has been reported to me. I am sure that the meal is of the highest quality and prepared by professional kitchen people who know a thing or two about cooking fish and chips. Even so, £13.95 is a remarkably high price to pay for a lump of batter covered fish and some chipped potatoes. Today's customer added to this by placing it in context of the same meal from the celebrity chef's restaurant in Porthleven, who is rather more famous for being in the north coast restort of Padstow. Here, fish and chips can be purchased for £9.95, although we must be open to the possibility that portion size may play a part in the difference.
I make no comment but merely lay before you the facts as they were brought to me. Clearly unrelated to this story, I forget whether I made it known that we no longer stock beers from the South East Cornwall brewery that owns the OS. We found that they are about fifteen percent dearer than the rest of the good quality local beers we have on the shelf. I am glad we were able to make that clear.
At least the waves are free - if you discount the cost of wetsuits and surfboards, although today helmets gloves and boots were probably also necessary. Towards the second high tide of the day the surf looked pretty awesome, as they say in 'dude speak'. There was at least a dozen in at our end of the beach and a fair few towards North Rocks. It did not appear to be as big as yesterday and the runs were longer with a smart easterly breeze adding to the fun. I cannot say it was that much fun standing behind our counter with the breeze that became increasingly icy, squirting through the door. I suppose that we could have gone all automatic door, but it was otherwise such a lovely day that would have seemed a little churlish.
I cannot let it go past that a local girl seems to have done rather well in a television musical competition. She is from St Ives, but we will not hold that against her, and has been outperforming the competition on the programme called The Voice and has now reached the final. A neighbour took delight in reminding me that I had not been too complementary about her when she did a turn at the OS a year or two ago. I did have a look back to see what I wrote, and it took me a while to find it as I did not use her name, which was probably lucky.
Tonight's offering was a young lady singist who I had already been warned came with her own karaoke machine. I threw caution to the wind because it was a mucky night and the OS sells beer. She had a good and strong voice, although I am not sure that every note longer than a beat needs to be sung vibrato. Announcing herself as a singer and songwriter she proceeded to sing other people's songs all night; it would have been good to hear a few of her own.
Despite an appalling day at the office I was quite cheery when I arrived. Quite why our girl chose every dour song that Amy Winehouse, Adele and a few others had ever rolled out we may never know. Half way through the first set I wondered if we had accidentally joined a Saga holiday tour for the chronically timid. By the end of the night I contemplated gin to drown my sorrows, but I was already close to tears and I do not think it would have helped. A few up tempo songs would have been very welcome, even if she had warbled all the way through them.
It is a thought that perhaps I should reconsider my career as a talent scout; she won. I must take some credit though, as she seems to have lost her warble.
Given that it took a while to find that entry, I shall have to spend my retirement indexing the nine years of back catalogue entries to make searches easier. Crickey, did I say nine years? Even being conservative that is likely to be 1.7 million words across 3,000 odd - possibly very odd - pages. That is a great deal of drivel, which, by the time I retire, will probably make utter sense in my far off, drooling special world I will be in, while nursey spoons mashed apple down my throat.
April 5th - Friday
We do stock an unfeasibly wide range of goods, which has grown and developed during our tenure of the shop. We hold some most unlikely products such as washing line, boot laces, nail brushes, washing up bowls and tent pegs. It is therefore quite disappointing when the first telephone call of the day was from a local lady asking for curtain rings. Fortunately, I was able to point her in the direction of another local independent store that has an even more diverse stock than we, Clemo's in St Just, in case you were wondering. Have a free plug on us, Mr Clemo.
My expectations regarding the level of business today were also a tad over optimistic. Sure enough, there were a few more people about and signs of arrivals but there was not a great deal of business going about. Perhaps they were all waiting for the Lifeguards who were here in numbers, preparing for service over the next few weeks. I have yet to discover whether they will stand down again at the end of the holiday or work through, but it is a sign of impending summer, nevertheless.
Busy with business or no, the deliveries continue to roll in. Our local lady who produces pots of top class dukkah dropped by with a box for us. I had one lady customer, who apparently eats quite a bit of the seedy mixes, tell me that she looks forward to coming down to buy some, as ours is head and shoulders above the quality of that available up country. That, along with some timely fudge that arrived today, will conclude our gift food for now. There will be more for the busier parts of season to come and with anything new we find along the way.
The sea state has cleaned up its act since Wednesday when it was just big and brutal but has maintained and perfected its deep rolling waves. This afternoon it showed off some rather good but big surf attracting around ten of the more experienced surfers in the locality. Our slightly more mature friend tried it out but said that at two metres, it was a little too big for him and the runs were short meaning a quick reaction to catch the chosen wave. He said he was too slow for all that sort of thing.
I was feeling much the same by the end of the day. Slow business has a soporific effect and I was grinding to a halt by the end of the day. It really better pick up tomorrow as we are running extended hours for a couple of weeks and I do not want to be falling asleep at the counter; customers tend to notice that sort of thing.
April 4th - Thursday
I was compelled to slip into full metal jacket waterproofs to take the bleddy hound down to the beach this morning. I had got away with it while I put the display out at the front of the shop, but it had started to rain a bit as the newspapers arrived. By the time it came to take the bleddy hound out, it was teeming down.
That, fortunately, was the end of it for the day and it brightened considerably in the afternoon. The wind had dropped as well, which had the effect of not making it feel quite so cold. None of this, however, translated into a big appearance of customers. There were a few people milling about and I rather hope that this is the calm before the storm. We like a good storm of customers.
One very welcome visitor today was our bus timetable man. It was a couple of years ago that we formed a bit of a working relationship after he stepped in when we were struggling to get copies of the bus timetable delivered from the official route. He now turns up unbid and each occasion the times change. It was good to see that this year the open top bus to St Ives will run for a limited period over Easter, even if it is only two buses in each direction a day.
Of the few customers that we saw, some were happy families. I asked yesterday where they hailed from and was told Cumbria, which has settled on its school holidays starting last weekend. Another father and son were in today and they came from Wells in Somerset and they too have an early holiday, but they have to get back because both sons are choristers at Wells Cathedral and are required for Easter services. We only get the best people here, you understand. I am glad that these school holiday facts eluded me as I might have been tempted to be ready for holidays a little sooner and that, as we have discovered, would have been unnecessary.
Towards the end of the afternoon we saw some arrivals that might be the vanguard of the influx. We live in hope.
There was little hope of a Lifeboat exercise launch in the evening as the sea state and tide was a little tricky. With the evenings getting longer we are able to bring our launches back into the training night, but this one was definitely off. We did, instead, launch the Inshore boat and took the opportunity to train some crew on the tracked launching vehicle. I took command of the washing down operation, as I like a good hosing down. We were all tucked away, just in time.
What we were just in time for was a good quizzing at the OS. We had some assistance from a person whose accent suggested that they came from north of Camborne. When I say assistance, I mean that they provided some information, which we wrote down, and that proved entirely inaccurate - often spelt 'wrong'. Because of this we lost by two points, so we will never listen to a person from the north of Camborne ever again.
It was far more inside our comfort zone to run the bleddy hound around the block. It was a surprising evening in that we had been told to expect mizzle and what we got was a dry and crisp night with a sky full of stars. It is so good of the forecasters to provide such a pleasant alternative to what they had promised.
April 3rd - Wednesday
There was absolutely nothing for it; there was no alternative but to have a full on automatic door day. When the bleddy hound came down at gymnasium time, the Missus had to move her bed else neither of them would have had any rest. She, the bleddy hound, did not seem to mind too much and chose to stay down when I came back again.
It might have been she was thinking of the biting cold wind when we ran down to the beach this morning. It was hacking in something fierce from the, well, it was switching between the north and north west all day. You got to just hate a wind that cannot make up its mind where its coming from. I will admit that it did not help being in shorts and flip flops, me, not the wind, but I was not about to change out of my gymnasium clothes just to take the bleddy hound out.
Not quite the image of serenity and brightness we like
Our cardboard collector did not bat an eyelid as to the amount of cardboard we had ready for him. I suspect that we are on the smaller side of the scale when it comes to recyclables collections. I had tried to put one of the heavier boxes outside in the lee of the wind on top of our waste bin but two minutes later I was chasing the contents down the road. It may have been a small scale collection, but it has made a terrific difference in our store room where I can now get to the back to put away the soft drinks that arrived yesterday. Until the next delivery arrives.
Actually, a delivery would have been quite handy today. As expected hardly a soul ventured out and about. The first one that did, took the remainder of the firewood from the box outside, so I had to whip that inside quickly, lest it blow away. I did manage to finish off the last of the grocery delivery and put the soft drinks out and I even remembered to call in our eggs from our new supplier. I did not bother to try the St Mawes eggs as they decided that we were too far away after the first delivery and passed us on to a party up Camborne. They supply eggs to an up-market version of Tesmorburys, which slightly concerns me as there will be no guesses as to who will be first in the queue if it comes to a shortage. Also, if they are producing in that sort of volume, quality may suffer, but as we do not currently have an alternative, we shall see what happens.
As business days go, this was a duff one. The weather was entirely to blame, certainly in the first three quarters of the day. The weather changed to something remarkably bright, though still breezy, in the later afternoon and it did bring a few brave visitors out for a run. If any of them were interested, the sea was a fascinating, rolling mass, churned up over Cowloe but with clean big waves charging in on the beach. It looked very pretty in the brightness we had.
The weather may have been kind to us in the early afternoon but by the time I ran the bleddy hound out for the last time in the day, it was raining again and the wind had revived. As long as it gets this nonsense out of the way before the school holidays start in earnest, I shall try hard not to mind too much.
April 2nd - Tuesday
Winter came back with a bit of a vengeance this morning. Blue skies disappeared and dark hanging clouds came in to threaten us. Even the sea looked grey and unappealing. There was quite an evil and biting wind blowing through The Cove from the north west when I took the bleddy hound down to the Harbour beach and this persisted through the day.
We were told to expect some heavy showers, although these did not materialise for us, we did get some showers, some of them quite long lasting. It pretty much scuppered trade for the day and with the wind swirling into the counter - I had no problem with the north easterly wind yesterday - I set the door to automatic. Fortunately, the Missus had taken the bleddy hound up to The Farm, else we would have had a shop window nodding dog to entertain us.
Having cleared the store room in anticipation of our delivery today, I had a couple of idle hands to play with. Earlier in the morning our telephone company had send an electronic mail to tell me that our IP telephone service was moving along and that I could set up the online portal. I confused this with thinking that I might actually be able to make telephone calls on it but after a long trail of talking to customer support people on the telephone, apparently not.
We had a big sweet delivery in the afternoon that helped tremendously. The Missus usually sets to with this and has them all displayed in colour order. All I can say is that the same types of sweets are on the same pegs. Where, or even what, the colours are will remain a mystery for me.
The Missus came back from The Farm quite early in the afternoon. The cold had got to her up there and even in the shelter of the shed, she could stand it no more. She made no comment on the distribution of colours of the sweet bags so I either did not do so badly or it was beneath contempt.
It was long into the afternoon before we got our heavy shower that we were promised. I had just opened the door again, after having it annoy me on its automatic setting. I saw the squall coming across the bay, too, but was in the middle of putting out the cash and carry order that had arrived only half an hour before. Some rain had splashed in and wet the floor, but I did get it shut again before the hailstones arrived. It was gone in trice, really, but the next customer who dashed in had a layer of ice on his hood and flecks in his beard, so it was quite intense.
I cleared quite a bit of the grocery order and salted away the waste cardboard; we have quite a collection for tomorrow. I felt that I had done so well, I rewarded myself with an hour in front of the computer, filling out the application form I was supposed to do last night but had the wrong form. I know how to have a good time.
April 1st - Monday
Some mornings you get a little unexpected boost.
Bank Telephone System.: "Enter your customer identity number." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "?" BTS.: "It's the number that takes the format xyz." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "Ah, yes." [Keys in code] BTS.: "Enter your telephone banking PIN." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "I don't have one." BTS.: "I didn't hear anything. Enter your telephone banking PIN." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "I DON'T HAVE ONE." BTS.: "Sorry, I still didn't hear anything." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "I DON'T HAVE A TELEPHONE BANKING PIN." BTS.: "Sorry, I still didn't hear anything. Transferring you a Very Pleasant Lady."
Very Pleasant Lady: "Can I have the third and fourth number of your online PIN, please." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "Ah, yes. I know that one. Your telephone system asked for my telephone banking PIN." VPL.: "It's the same PIN." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "It would have been helpful if you telephone system suggested that." VPL.: "How can I help?" Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "I want to pay in a cheque. Other banks let you take a photo of it and do it via online banking." VPL.: "Yes. We don't do that. You can take it to a branch." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "You closed my branch." VPL.: "You could take it to a post office. You just need to get a form from the post office and a special envelope to put the cheque into." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "Do you think you could make it a bit more difficult?" VPL.: "?" Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "I just want to deposit a cheque. That process seems a little involved. Besides, the post office is five miles away and I am running a shop. Can I send it somewhere?" VPL.: "You could send it to your branch." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "You closed my branch." VPL.: "Oh, yes. You could send it to the next nearest branch." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "Can you give me the address of the next nearest branch, please. We are near Land's End in Cornwall." VPL.: "Yes, of course, let me see ... um ... er ... I'll just ..." [Grumpy Shopkeeper hums Wangers Ring Cycle to himself by way of amusement while he waits.] " ... erm, you could post it to a Nat West branch." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "Yes, we have one of those, only eight miles away. I just pop the cheque an envelope with a covering letter." VPL.: "You will need a special cheque paying in form." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "Where will I get one of those from?" VPL.: "The post office will have one."
[FX: Sound of forehead being repeatedly knocked against telephone receiver.]
VPL.: "Sir, sir. Are you alright, sir?"
Set me up for the day, that did. I have been singing, 'There's A Hole in my Bucket' ever since.
What a day to be set up for, it was. There was a big black cloud to the east and another out to the west. Overhead, there were blue skies and loveliness, even if it did come with a very sharp easterly breeze. It improved later, with the big dark clouds disappearing off somewhere, leaving just a heavy haze about the place. We could cope with that.
We had our first fish order of the season yesterday. I added a few fillets of haddock and pollack for our freezer and we have spare scallops, too. Hopefully this will be just the start of another fishy year, as with past years we have had some success with our fish promotions, especially driving MSC certified hake sales to people as yet unfamiliar with the species. It will have to wait a day of two as the price is rather high at present and I will wait for it to drop before ordering is some for our stock.
I met with our friendly crab fisherman who has now retired. We suffered last year, mainly due to the lack of brown crabs being out there, inshore at least, and the fact that our man had hung up his pots. He has now sold on his boat and we hope to meet the new incumbent but even then, it will not come to much if the brown crabs do not come back. We have an alternative supply and they will come cooked, but what fun is there in that?
After the effort the Missus put in up at The Farm yesterday, it was my turn to finish off the preparations up there. The rack, which she had arranged in the position that best suited her, needed some wood under the legs to stop them working their way through the wood floor and to be screwed to the wall, to stop it listing. This would have gone exceedingly well, and did when I eventually got up there, but the Missus warned me that the van needed fuel so I had to venture via St Buryan first.
It was on my way back that I remembered that I had forgotten the keys - I had remembered everything else I needed to take, I should have you know - and had to return to base. Here I discovered that the Missus could not remember where she left them, so assumed she had left them up at The Farm. I took the spares, just in case, and needed them as I could not find the keys up there either. I carried out my work in the dark of the shed having just remembered that I had forgotten my clever head torch, which would have been ideal. Yes, I know, I did not remember everything else.
I was quite relieved to get back to shopkeeping for the last hour or so of business. I managed to clear what remained of the stock the Missus brought down yesterday and tidied up the store room ahead of the big grocery order arriving tomorrow at some time. I did not mention the preferable early start last week but might this week if they arrive in the afternoon.
The wind dropped towards the end of play and, obvious, after I finished working outside. It was remarkably warm with no breeze. However, the skies were clouding over and I think we have some poor weather to endure over the next few days. Enduring a bit of poor weather is nothing compared to enduring yet another application process for the banking switch we are going through. It might have been a tad easier if they had sent me the correct form, a nuance that I only discovered after an hour working at collating all the requested detail. I had to go and listen to an hour in Parliament just for some light relief.