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.
September 20th - Sunday
It had been unseasonal warm during the night and the morning was not much cooler. It had the look of rain about it with deep grey clouds in the west but I took the risk and managed without a rain jacket on the run around the block. Those grey clouds cleared out a little later transforming the day into quite a belter.
After yesterday's brief hiatus, our visitors were back were a bit of a vengeance. Once again we found ourselves bereft of pasties a little earlier in the afternoon than I would have liked. It was not awful but could have been better but I have to say, I was very surprised. I had been a brave soldier when we placed the order and we had started the weekend with more than 100. It is close to the end of September; this is forty to fifty pasties territory at most.
There were easily as many surfers out in the water as there were yesterday, just more spread out. Today, there was a fair number of beach dwellers, too, and it was a picture of summer loveliness down there, albeit with somewhat fewer people. Down closer to us where the sea was quite placid, people were paddling. I did not get out to see just how warm it was, but I took it to be good enough given the number of people in just swimwear in the water.
The afternoon gave me enough of a lull to complete the grocery order. These days this is more of a fantasy list where we write down what we need and the cash and carry sends us what it has. It irked me during the week that the company sent out a promotional electronic mail extolling the latest in children's confection. I sent a response suggesting that the company concentrate first on some of the basics such as salt, plum tomatoes, ketchup and I went on to list around fifteen items that we have been unable to acquire, for all the good it will do.
I read an article in one of the trade magazines last week regarding the stepping down of the chief executive who saw through the merger with one of the Tesmorburys group. He is to be replaced by a chief from Tesmorburys. It did not make for comfortable reading and the consensus was that things were only going to get worse. I can hardly wait.
The Missus ran off to The Farm as soon as I had had a break. This time she took Mother with her. It must have been quite perfect up there if you were not digging, mulching and turning over steaming compost. I suspect that the Missus would have stayed all evening if Mother had not intervened. I think someone wanted her tea.
We sat by the window while we had our tea and watched the boys and girls jumping off the harbour wall. Out in the bay was a lone kayak and not far from him was the dark shadow of a shoal of fish. It attracted a few sea birds, too far to see what they were but there have been some terns about recently. As we watched, the shoal moved about and at one point completely surrounded the kayak. I bet he wished he had taken a net with him.
September 19th - Saturday
I was fair near bowled over in the rush when I opened the first electric sliding door in The Cove this morning. Sadly, it was not the sign of things to come and shortly afterwards it went so quiet I thought we had inadvertently closed. The quietness persisted through the day, although the Missus said she was quite busy when she came down to give me a break in the middle of the day and we had a late surge. I wondered if the party had come to an end or if it was the weather, for once, keeping the numbers down.
While it was quiet on the land, the sea was inundated by a veritable invasion of surfers. They certainly outnumbered those on the beach by quiet some numbers. In the right place at the right time would have been the watch phrase as the surfable waves were sporadic to say the least but when they did come, they were pretty clean and I heard later, very robust.
It was the poor weather that was the main feature of the day. It was trying to spit at me when I took the bleddy hound around the block first thing in the morning and forced me to take a jacket, just in case. It held off largely until the early afternoon when the showers became quite frequent and, in some cases, heavy.
The small gods of grumpy shopkeepers must have been feeling benevolent today, as I had very little need to use the "3" key on the card payment machine. The few times that I did, it worked except, of course, when I came to run the day end which requires the use of that key for the password. I did think to having a go at changing it to something non "3" but could not find how to do it.
There is payment to be made for the small gods of grumpy shopkeeper's benevolence. The backup machine that I had decided to wait for before replacing the proper machine arrived today, a day after ordering it. I now have to persevere with the threeless machine until the end of the week.
The autumnal spring tides this week are huge. There is not much wall left at high water and in the evening the minimal swell was breaking over the wall. Big though it is, I would have serious misgivings about doing a back flip off the top of the long slip as a young lad did this morning. There is probably less than six week of water there at that point, even on a big spring tide and rocks below. I suggest he was more lucky than skilled.
Because it was so quiet in the shop, I made inroads into the considerable pile of invoices we have amassed since the last time I did a spot of administration and inputting. I considered being very good and finishing off the job after my tea. Aftermy tea I thought, begger it, and sat and watched a film instead. Oh, come on, it is the weekend, after all.
September 18th - Friday
Gosh, today was a bit helter skelter for most of the morning and well into the afternoon. I think I managed to take breath around three o'clock in the afternoon.
As expected, we started the day with a walk around the block, just for a change, but mainly because the tide was giving no quarter on the Harbour beach. It was a little dull still despite there being not much in the way of cloud in the sky but there was no sun either, which made all the difference. The fierce easterly had not abated as the Meteorological Office demanded it did and was blowing just as hard at the end of the day as it was on our walk around the block. I was lulled into a false hope that it was going away when it quietened down just after I opened the shop. It was temporary.
I managed to slip away for a truncated session at the hut with a tin roof, blistering it was, I tell you, but business was picking up before I left as it had been all week. I had checked the fudge and biscuit shelf last night and the cupboard was bare, which surprised me greatly, although it should not have since I had been selling them all yesterday. I made a hasty order and the good thing about this particular supplier is that the deliveries come in before we open. The shelf was mainly full again by the time customers came hunting going home presents again. Now, that is what you call just in time delivery.
By the end of the afternoon there were gaps again in the offering. The Missus had presided over quite a rush, especially for pasties, it seemed, as the surfeit we had at the outset of the day was cut down to a mere handful by the middle of the afternoon. I made sure that I did not stint when ordering in for the weekend as I did not want to find ourselves short like we did last week.
We will also have enough fish. Our weekly order arrived while I was away exercising, and I packed it all when I came back. For the first time in a season we have some ling, not a great deal, I will grant, but it is ideal for kebabs on the barbeque, now that the barbeque season is almost over. It is also good in curries at about half the price of monkfish. If it is in the freezer more than a week, I will nab it for just such a purpose.
We seem to have reached a point when our customers are a less fraught group altogether. I do not think that we have had one issue of mask wars since last Friday - touch plastic keyboard - so we must hope that is an end to it. All we have had is a general outflow of going home gifts in greater quantities than we have been expecting or planned for. I really should not be buying in stock six weeks before we close but at least it is, mainly, not stuff that will go out of date.
I thought that you might like to know the results of the Normandy Channel Race that we saw part of the other night. Some yachts are still getting home but the leaders romped home at about five o'clock in the afternoon. The only Brit in the race - one other retired early - came in fifth, only ten hours after the winner, the Swiss Banque Du Leman, which is not bad going. Credit Mutual, the first yacht we saw in the bay here, came in second after being in front, on and off, for most of the race. Just to point out, no other Cove Diary would bring you such exciting news.
September 17th - Thursday
It was a bit of a fresh start to the day, a fresh middle and an even fresher end to if I must be brutally honest. A jacket was definitely required on the sliver of Harbour beach that the early morning high water had permitted the bleddy hound and I. It is most likely that we will be walking around the block tomorrow morning. I am pretty sure that the "I" ending the previous sentence is a correct form of the personal pronoun. Microsoft Word insists it should be "me".
So, moving along, me was a little concerned that the sky was looking a bit shabby and cloudy for the bright day that Kevin had promised yesterday. Yes, I know that was yesterday and our forecasters are best at predicting the weather on the day it happens and preferably after it has happened, but it was what I went on, regardless. There, MS Word, bless it objected not one jot at the use of "me was", so I shall ignore it from now on.
I am certain now that The Diary readership is a collective of Mickey takers. I evidence the number of people today who have decided to purchase items by credit card, the sum total of which has a "3" somewhere in the number. The fix I put in seems to have only been temporary and my sticky "3" key is back with a vengeance. I am not sure which is worse, a permanently not working key or one that works intermittently, as with the latter you have to remember to check it each time.
As expected, the courier turned up with the new machine today and wanted to do an immediate swap. I told him that I would need to test the delivered machine first but, understandably, he would brook no delay. We amicably agreed to forget the whole deal and at the next opportunity I called the card people's customer service team. During the course of the call I spoke with three people. I think I must have a blackmark against my name on their system because the first responding agent very quickly disposed of me to a manager.
The long and the short of it was that they refused to budge. They promised the machine was tested before it left their premises, which does not mean a great deal. I have spent a good deal of my working time looking at dead machines that were 'thoroughly tested' before they left premises. The spare machine they sent a couple of years ago was apparently a brick, even at the time of sending it. They clearly knew what they were doing and were now trying to suggest that I paid for a second machine, which or course meant signing up for a new two year contract. I stopped short of telling them exactly where they could stick that, given their record of sharp practice. They will send a new machine again tomorrow that I must trust works.
I fell back on a suggestion made by a reader a little while ago which is one of those standalone card machines. For a single fee and a somewhat higher rate of charge, you get a machine that you can use anywhere. I should have done it ages ago, as I would have had a machine to fall back on now. How complicated life can be, I wonder. It also struck me that I would be able to buy a tricycle and sell ice creams on the beach. I would need a white suit, of course, and a catchphrase. I was thinking, 'stop me and buy one', but I could not stop thinking of the joke catchphrase for selling prophylactics, 'buy me and stop one'.
Again, I felt that it was probably not quite as busy as the day before, although yesterday I was wrong. I suspect I am correct today as any sensible person would have been on the south coast sheltering from the fifty miles per hour easterlies that had started the day in the northeast. I do think that the fewer people who were here spent a good deal more money than the extra few yesterday, it being going home day for many tomorrow. These customers are most welcome back again, too. We managed to take those payments with the help of another squirt of hand sanitiser in the card machine, which limped through the rest of the day.
The Missus left quite early on for The Farm and I did not see her again until the early evening. Left to my own devices, by the time the middle of the afternoon came around I was gasping for a cup of tea. I threw myself on the mercy of a passing waiting maid from The Little Bo Café, who gave me succour and almost immediately, a cup of tea. I was most grateful.
No sooner had the Missus got home when she had to go back out again on an errand, such is the busy lives we lead at the moment. When she got back, we discussed the card machine situation. We both agreed that swapping the machine the day before the weekend would be madness, as a replacement if it was not working would not get to us before Monday. We decided to put it off until the end of next week when the stand alone machine should have arrived, so at least we would have a backup device if it all went wrong.
I will spend the morning tomorrow changing all our prices to even numbers.
September 16th - Wednesday
Kevin the weatherman warned yesterday that there would be mist around again this morning. He was right, but not for us, it was St Just and Pendeen's turn again.
We watched the fog bank all day, hanging over the cliffs of Cape Cornwall and beyond. It also stretched to the west and now and again enveloped Brisons and the horizon as far as could be seen. It was mostly grey but at times it took on a smoky brown colour that, at least, kept it a bit interesting. At one point on the mid afternoon it was pretty close in on the west and would not have taken much to take us in as well. Fortunately, it did not, and we enjoyed almost a full day of unbroken sunshine. The one time I was out in it, for about a minute, I found it extremely warm. I will put on sun lotion next time.
We were busy again, although it was debatable whether it was as busy as yesterday and all I know is that we ran out of pasties a little earlier that we would like. Nevertheless, it was not a bad show and I have ordered extra for tomorrow. Yes, I know what will happen.
I decided not to stint on my exercise today and felt much better for it. The Missus did not look too badly off for the delay and I even managed to finish off my Vivian Olds pork pie that I had been looking forward to since was delivered yesterday. It is the simple pleasures, you know. I was only downstairs for a minute before she was packing her bags for a trip up to The Farm. I do wonder if she is trying to say something to me.
She had spent her time while I was off at the hut with a tin roof finishing off the grocery delivery from yesterday and it was all tucked away when I got back. It left me with the surf jewellery delivery and the fishing tackle that arrived while I was upstairs. I managed to speak with our tackle man just before he left. He has been running the business for years and supplied our predecessors, too. He is the main supplier of bait in the little bags that all the big suppliers use, including ours, so we are lucky to have him on a direct line. It must be intensely hard work and involves catching the mackerel, squid, rag worm and all else, gutting, filleting and chopping then preserving in the appropriate preservative for each item before vacuum packing them. If that were not enough, during the winter months he does charity work in India has two adopted children from his work there. I sincerely hope he outlives our time in the business because I have no idea what we would do without him.
He is not the only supplier that we are still buying from when, at this time of the year, we should be looking at running the stock down. We have to remind ourselves that we are only open for another six weeks, but it looks like they could be very busy weeks. It is also, in part, to do with changing the way we operate and buying a moderate collection of stock that will see us into the new season seems to be a good plan. It is experimental and will require a year to see how we go. Gosh, it is very exciting.
As we issue Mother out of the door on her way home after sharing tea with us, we were caught by the freshness of the breeze. Weather changing by the feel of it. Later, when the Missus returned from running the bleddy hound out last thing, she remarked just how busy it was out there. Please do not tell me we are going to have to start a night shift for all those that could not fit into The Cove during the day.
September 15th - Tuesday
The Cove lost its place in the world today. It was impossible to tell exactly where we might be as we were shrouded in mist. It was worse later in the morning and prompted question of the day, "When will this mist lift?"
I played a straight bat for the first several times I was asked the question but got profoundly bored with that and became playful. This started off with a few, "what mist?" and a couple of "It will clear on Gwenver at 11:23" but in the end escalated to, "Thursday next week" and ended with "oh, the autumn mists don't usually clear 'til March." There was something for everyone, I thought.
The mist retreated to the high ground during the afternoon, but it was with us all day. I had suggested this when I was still being serious, so I was gratified that at least I had been correct in one of my answers. If there was any expectation that it would cool the ardour of our keen visitors, whoever expected it would have been very wrong. By the afternoon we were flying again, and business was not too shabby in the morning, either.
Our grocery order was late in arriving. The drivers told us it was due to the number of other large deliveries that are making every day. We are clearly not the only ones still busy deep into September when business should be tailing off. We would be better served if we were still not getting only two thirds of our order each week. Fortunately, it is not always the same items missing, although we have not been able to get Vaseline - the surfer and cyclist essential - for weeks and weeks.
Late in the afternoon, the Missus brought my attention to some goings on in the Harbour. There were two large shoals showing off some surface breaking skills and flashing silver all over the place. The Harbour wall was lined with fishermen all facing the wrong way, she pointed out. It is unlikely that the rod and line would have been effective against what was probably pilchards, scad or some such but there were probably some predators out there closing in on them that would have made a good target. It might be worth any angler heading out on the wall to take a bucket with him next to attach to the end of a line.
The fish distraction was welcome but brief as we were getting busy again. If we were to have problems with the technology, now was the time and as if on cue we have had issues with the keypad of the card payment machine: the number 3 has become sticky. It reached a peak in the afternoon when it stopped working altogether.
A while ago, which is more than a year, and after a particular bout of shirtiness from the grumpy shopkeeper about levels of service for payments made, the company that supply the credit card payment machine were persuaded to send a spare, for free, just in case ours broke down. My mistake was that I never tested it and when I broke it out of the packet to use, it did not work and neither is it set up for contactless payments, which makes it illegal. Naturally, our company which is more than happy to take our money but less so in providing a service, failed to put on our records that we had the spare machine, especially as it is a different make and looked after by a different technical team. The team I called for our proper machine were happy to help but explained that the other team would turn me away without the authorisation and I could only get that from the customer service team.
Given that we were busy and calling various numbers would be time consuming, we struggled on with the existing machine. We were lucky that the transactions we had only involved a 3 in the pence side of the decimal point. I simply selected a 4 instead - surely, dear reader, you did not expect that I would use the 2? - and grudgingly proffered the ten pence or penny in cash, when I remembered.
When things calmed down a little, I spent some time on the keypad trying to free the 3. It is highly likely that it would have been frowned upon by the machine company but the only thing to hand, in the absence of isopropyl alcohol, was hand sanitiser. It worked a treat. I will still lobby the company to have access to the card machine technical people and will wait until a quieter time to trial the spare machine properly.
I was still labouring away over a hot keyboard - belonging to the computer upstairs - when the Missus pointed out a catamaran in the bay. It was a biggy, too, one of the Class 40 super racing yachts engaged on the Normandy Channel race that I vaguely remembered, after much wracking of brain cells, from last year. We are on the second leg of the race which runs from Isle of Wight up to Tuskar Rock off Waterford in Ireland. They scoop into the bay here, I imagine, for some wind advantage off the land before heading roughly north east. The yacht Ordago, sponsored by Credit Mutual was in the lead. (When I checked again in the morning, they had made very little progress against a head wind but with Ordago still ahead by a nose.)
September 14th - Monday
It is proper dark in the mornings now. Perhaps I should get up later, By the time I got downstairs there was some lightening going on and the sky was that sumptuous deep colour blue like it was made out of velvet. There, almost overhead but leaning slightly to the east were the crescent moon guarded by Venus looking like they were stuck there as decoration.
The weather appears to be driving a phenomenal run of busyness, as demonstrated today when, once again, we hit the ground running. It was so busy by the time I left for my exercise session that I decided to cut short the session. By the time I got back, the Missus was outside an empty sitting on our bench chatting with ex-Head Launcher. It turned into a bit of a pattern for the day with bouts of mad busyness and periods of quiet lull.
Those quiet moments gave me the perfect opportunity to sit around and do nothing. Sadly, the store room needed to be cleared out in advance of the big grocery order turning up tomorrow, so I set to with empty boxes and today's deliveries. It was all a bit stop/start as customers seemed to gang up together to all come at once. I suspect it is a natural reaction to being told that we can other gather in sixes. I did my level best, but I could not think of six other people I could be in a group with.
Another gentleman all on his own told me that the bus times had changed. He told me that they were now three hours apart, which was a bit of a disappointment given that it was still very busy. A regular lady visitor always asks what time her last bus is and she was here during the day, so I thought that I had better check up. I enquired upon the First Kernow website only to discover that there were no perceptible changes at all, even though the website stated that the bus timetables were new starting from Sunday. I think that they call that a brand refresh in certain circles.
There were plenty of people about promenading and the beach was busy again today. The sea state had upped its game somewhat and the waves appeared to be bigger. The breeze that is roughly in the east of northeast had picked up, too, but was probably quite welcome in the unusually warm air. A fair few dogs were spotted on the beach during the last dew days (yes, and some had other markings, too), which was enough cause for someone to ask when the dog beach restrictions ended. On many beaches this was the end of August this year but the big beach is classes as Blue Flag and restriction finish at the end of September. I can understand the confusion as I do not thing that the Blue Flag awarding actually happened this year.
As with yesterday, business went a bit flat in the last hour or two of the day. This we can cope with as it brings an orderly end to the day.
There was nothing particularly orderly about my pager going off at around eight o'clock when I was settling after my tea. Someone had spotted a someone walking into the sea at Porthcurno and the boat was asked to launch. Someone else clearly thought that there was probably nothing too unusual about a late evening bather or he had walked back out of the sea because the launch was cancelled just after we opened the doors. At least it managed to work off some of my tea.
September 13th - Sunday
It was already trying very hard to be a proper rip gribbler of a day when the bleddy hound and I ventured to the beach in the morning. There is a strange configuration on the beach at present with large piles of shingle at the high water line, which currently is fifteen feet from the slipway. Above that is dry, coarse sand and below, finer sand littered with bits of shingle and weed. There was some swell yesterday but not big. If I had paid more attention in geography classes I might be able to tell what causes the changes.
There was no gentle lead into the business day; we were busy from the outset. I had enough warning during the week that the profile of newspaper sales was changing, along with the average age group visiting in these weeks, but failed to do anything about it. We were running out of what used to be broadsheets during the week so I should have upped the numbers for the weekend. Apologies to all who were disappointed. The numbers have now been increased but will not take effect until Tuesday.
The Missus appeared early on in the day in an effort to blitz the six box delivery of hooded sweatshirts that I had failed miserably to make a dent in over the last few days. She disappeared into the store room and the next I knew was bags of sweatshirts hangers and labels being ejected. Between customers I opened the bags and placed the garments on the hangers. I was still struggling as we were nearly constantly busy. It was not until after she had finished in the store room that we were able to hang everything up and call the job complete. We now have a full range of all the colours and, if I get my finger out, we will have the children's sizes in the online shop this year.
The gloriousness of the day persisted through to the end of it. There was a proper beach gathering, though not on the scale of the August holidays, and they were pressed into a sliver of beach by the middle of the afternoon. There were some decent waves to keep the surfers happy and some real warmth in the air to satisfy everyone else and keep grumpy shopkeepers cooking behind their counters.
I had a particular visit in the afternoon of which I had been prewarned. A young man was walking between Lifeboat stations, raising money for the RNLI and to prove that he had been to each one he was carrying a t-shirt which he asked a representative of each station to sign. This would normally be the prerogative of the Coxswain but first, he is on holiday this week and secondly, it was Sunday and the station is not manned at the weekend. He asked first at the shop and they had not been advised of the visit so declined to tell him where I was on the grounds of it being personal information. Someone spilled the beans and he collared me at the counter. He now has a t-shirt signed by the luminaries and Coxswains across the South West - so far - and one lowly Head Launcher from the station furthest west on the mainland.
Busyness took a tumble in the later afternoon and was confined to a small stream of late food buyers and beer seekers, everyone else must have gone home for their evening meals. Everyone, that is, except for a small army of surfers out in the bay. There was some decent surf now and again and the wind was offshore, which is just what they like. I do hope their mammies were not too grumpy about them missing their tea.
September 12th - Saturday
I looked out to clear blue skies this morning, well, looking to the front I did. Both to the east and west were dark clouds but I think they were only dark due to the sun having not yet risen about the cliff. It had been raining, it seems, during the night as the street was wet, which is a good indicator. It was the only thing I had to go on because I heard nothing during the night.
The big clouds persisted out to the east in big cumulus lumps but across The Cove, the skies were clear and the sun was out. It was so warm early on that I had to wrestle the fan from the bleddy hound and take it down to the shop. I am sure that there would have been a few more on the beach had there been some more beach to dwell on. As it was, we were well into the afternoon by the time there was a decent area of sand to settle on.
If I was after some indication about how busy it was going to be during the week I got it during the latter part of the morning and the early afternoon. We were fair inundated with customers, particularly those after a pasty or five. I had agonised yesterday about raising the number to sixty, but I rather wish that I had let rip with 100, which would have been more like it. We sold nearly our entire weekend stock in just a few hours. Last year at this time, even on a sunny weekend we would not have gone through forty in a weekend. I am going to have to invest in a crystal ball and preferably one that makes pasties.
Earlier in the day, I had read on social media that there was an intention to fly a Spitfire over all the hospitals in the region as some sort of recognition of their efforts on the dreaded lurgi. I noted that the time it was set to pass over West Cornwall hospital was 11:55 and over Hayle five minutes later. I reasoned that it would not detour as far as Land's End and did not think about it again. At around midday, a lady asked me if I had seen the flypast. She was surprised that I had missed it as there were quite a few aeroplanes in the flight. I had been busy at the time and did not even hear it. I was sorely disappointed. Later, when I looked at the local news, it reported that the Spitfire was a lone wolf, so I have no idea what aeroplanes my informant saw and may not have been the Spitfire at all. I was deeply confused.
The crowds thinned a bit towards the end of the day. There was the signs of new arrivals here and there, more genteel and senior couples by the look of it, which will change the landscape new week. One gentleman paused by our artisan alcohol shelves and remarked on the Marmalade Old Tom that we have sitting there, say that it was two of his favourites rolled into one. I told him it was breakfast gin but I could not tempt him into a sale.
There was no mad dash towards closing time, for which I was grateful. It is always good to end the day in a peaceful way, I find. I celebrated with a small libation. That is also a good way to end the day.
September 11th - Friday
You have to love our Lifeboat mechanic. A man who can turn his hand to anything and frequently does for anyone that asks. If he is not oiling and polishing the Lifeboat engine he is under his truck or making spud guns out of scaffold poles and out of date fire extinguishers. He has done some welding for us in the past and today he was over the road with our post lady fixing the post box. It had a post office sack pressed into the hole after the postman had been last afternoon and had remained out of service with no explanation. I reasoned, for those that asked, that it must have been official and surmised a strike or a broken post box. Had it persisted I might have had a problem posting a birthday card to an old chum later today, which would never do.
After yesterday's sparkle and sunshine, it was all a bit dour today. We had a covering of thick grey cloud that persisted for most of the day, which, of course, did not stop a good gathering of visitors appearing in The Cove for a promenade and an even better sit down opposite the Little Bo Café. We were not desperately busy but like last week, the change over days are becoming more pronounced. I held off ordering pasties for the weekend after last week's experience, which paid off as my pasty order went from thirty to sixty in ten minutes. We will, of course, be eating pasties for a week afterwards but them's the breaks.
The mysterious wee beasties had gone from the beach when the bleddy hound and I were down there this morning. They were clearly alerted to the potential of a tabloid storm and wanted to avoid the attention, after all, we know what happens to big sharks after the media get hold of the story. Oddly, and something that only struck me later, the bleddy hound completely ignored the glassy creatures. Perhaps they were just too fresh.
Despite the lack of threat of being stung, the big beach was neither well populated with people or very big. It is neap tides again and the main force of the tide is here during the day. It was not much of a beach day, anyway, and by the look of it not much of a surf day, either. While not being a beach day or a surf day, there were still at least ten little camps down there, manned against the odds. You have to admire the tenacity - or possibly sheer bleddy mindedness of it all.
Talking of which, we had some traffic chaos yesterday at the busiest time of the day. Cars, as they do when the authorities pay no attention, were parked with abandon all along the road. Enter one driver of an estate car, owner of a disabled badge, who parked just short of the bus turning point keep clear zone. He parked half on the pavement at one of the narrowest parts, thus restricting pedestrian movement and giving no hope for any wheelchair user to come by. He arrived behind one bus and ahead of another and once the first bus was in the bus stop with a queue of cars behind it, he stopped traffic in both directions.
Several passers-by advised him of the predicament that he had caused but he was adamant that his disabled badge permitted him to park anywhere at all regardless of the mayhem it caused, and he refused to move. It was only after some time of impasse that he capitulated when the bus behind decided to force the issue by attempting to get through the impossible gap he had left and threatening the safety of his car.
Twenty four hours later and presumably after the bus company had registered a complaint to the much maligned council, came the appearance of what I dimly recall as being a traffic enforcement officer. These are rare sightings indeed and are only generally seen when there is hardly any traffic or people about to cause complaint. It was much safer for him today as the road was mostly clear. The last visit here was so long ago, I really cannot recall when it was, only that it was well before the summer busyness, which is when the visits are most needed.
Even after a not quite so busy day I have been unable to get started on the six boxes of hooded sweatshirts that turned up a few days ago. I have barely been able to keep the gift boxes and bags of fudge filled up they have been emptying so fast. It is difficult to determine exactly the nature of next week's busyness but it is showing no signs that the numbers are abating. One person in the know told me that there are heavy bookings all the way to the end of November. I shall wave at them from the comfort of my window seat in the flat.
September 10th - Thursday
The bleddy hound and I were met by a legion of wee sea beasties on the beach this morning. At first I thought that the squid season had begun and these were bits of quill but the fishermen do not clean the squid, so that was unlikely. I placed a cautious toe upon one of the items and it squirted water a couple of inches ahead of it, which made me suspect that it might just be organic. On closer inspection it was contracting and expanding at a regular frequency, as if breathing.
Wee sea beastie - the clear thing on the right.
I took some pictures and posted them on social media to try and elicit an educated response, which was a daft thought and did not. My search of the Internet revealed a result from one of the red top newspapers that suggested that it was a mysterious monster of the deep but also, more helpfully, suggested that it might be a sea salp that come in several sizes. Given nothing else was forthcoming I will have to fall back on this for now. Later on in the morning, after we opened, several swimmers came to me to report that there were bigger mysterious monsters of the deep on the surface of the sea near the Harbour and that they stung. Sorry, still no idea.
I have reported so many poor stories on the use of masks it is very pleasant to be able to present some happy news. A lady came in the morning sporting a homemade mask that was secured by a ribbon tied in a big bow on the top of her head. I congratulated her on her foresight and told her that later it would make a wonderful Easter bonnet. She was a little aghast and retorted that she hoped that the situation would not last that long. I told her that after hours a day using my mask, I now felt uncomfortable without it. I intend to wear mine as a fashion accessory long after its mandatory use is rescinded. She looked aghast again. I have no idea why.
Given a bit of sunshine that developed and stayed for much of the day, The Cove was once again flooded with happy visitors. We had what is now a regular profile of busyness and quietness but, on balance, I would say that the afternoon, particularly, was much busier than yesterday. There was, of course, the usual march of going home presents leaving the shop and the frantic topping up of the fudge and biscuit shelf. I have had to be somewhat blasé about the buying of fudge bags because the supplier is not yet up to full production. They are producing a few flavours at a time. Given that I do not know which ones, I order them all when I need one or two and hope that the same ones do not turn up twice.
There was a proper five minutes to closing rush in the evening at five minutes to closing. The Missus had suggested we have one of Mr Prima's excellent frozen pasties for our tea which take an hour to cook. She has not long returned from The Farm and had yet to do a customer delivery and take Mother home, so I was keen to get upstairs and get our pasties in the oven so that we were not tortured too long by the small of cooking pasty as we waiting for them to come ready. It is clear that our customers know such things and procrastinate over which size box of fudge or which postcard to take home - "Sorry, are you waiting to close?" - before taking even longer.
The pasties from frozen really are worth a try, although the cooking of them takes a couple of times to get right in a particular oven. Gosh, I could have one all over again.
September 9th - Wednesday
Now, what was I saying about the weather not making much difference to the amount of busyness in The Cove? Me and my big mouth.
The weather seemed quite pleasant first thing on our walk down to the beach. It was cloudy but quite mild and the breeze blowing in was not in the least uncomfortable. The sand down by the western slip was a mess of boot prints both coming up and down the beach. You would certainly know that a lot of Marines had been down there - or perhaps one Marine many times. One thing I did notice was that one of them had very small feet.
It was when we were at the bottom of the slipway and about to go home that I heard the engine whine of four black rubber boats approaching. They were coming in very fast and looked particularly menacing. We were half way up the slipway - we walked very quickly - when they hit the beach without slowing down. They must wear out a lot of boats that way. I do hope they carry a puncture kit, although we do have a bicycle tyre repair kit in the shop if they need one.
It was coming in to ten o'clock in the morning that the low cloud that had been lowering since first thing, lowered some more. When I came back from the hut with a tin roof and another blistering exercise session the cloud had lowered some more until we were very much in it. We could not see beyond the railings opposite. Although there were a fair few people milling about, it did slow business down for quite a while.
By the middle of the afternoon the cloud had lifted completely, patches of blue opened in the cloud and brightness appeared all about. It did not make much difference to the assembled company other than they stopped getting wet in the occasional mizzle. It did not make any difference to our pasty sales, which were not quite as buoyant as I had hoped. I have moderated tomorrow's order in response.
I had arranged, for the second time, to meet a man about a roof up at the F&L car park after we closed. He surprised me by being early and with a little nifty footwork with the Missus I met him at the F&L car park and took him up to The Farm. Despite the Missus doing her best with a transparent tarpaulin for her greenhouse roof, it has not been a raving success. It needs a proper transparent roof and the person I was with was just the man. He was most amicable as well as knowledgeable and as with all work people of that type, is very busy. He will do our roof quite happily, but we will have to wait for his time. As long as the work is done before the bad weather sets in, we are happy, too.
I can understand why the Missus loves being up there. Even our roofer commented how peaceful it was. I also noticed how very agricultural it was with all the growing going on about us. The Missus has been most industrious.
September 8th - Tuesday
It is odd what can catch your attention sometimes. Today it was the back of a t-shirt worn by a dad sitting at one of the Little Bo Café tables. It read simply, "PROVERBS 22:6", which is a commendable note by itself, so I was keen to see what was on the front, if anything. It was a short while later that dad was opposite the shop taking son, just starting to walk, for a bit of adventure. Dad turned around to show that the front of his t-shirt had a picture of something I could not tell, but possibly a record cover because above it was the word "ORIGINAL". The son turned about shortly after. He was wearing a similarly t-shirt but above the picture on the front was the word "REMIX". I had to chuckle.
The day started off in fine form with plenty of blue sky but in a reversal of yesterday, it clouded over by the middle of the day then became brighter again later. I had not been wrong to increase our pasty order because a similar size crowd to yesterday pitched up in The Cove to enjoy a bit of promenading. There were a few more people than yesterday taking advantage of the beach by setting up camp on the high tide mark, which is receding a bit now that the spring tides are slackening. It was difficult to determine at first but its is now clear that it is exceptionally busy for this part of the season.
The thing with having all this extra business is that our stock is depleting at a much faster rate than we are used to. Instead of running down gracefully at this time of year we are having to reorder to replace it. This is quite difficult as we do not want to have too much in the way of perishable stock left when we close at the end of October. In a normal year we would know roughly what to top up and when, but this year is uncharted territory - there be dragons, for sure, as well as a nasty edge to fall off. I was painfully aware of this while ordering in the latest consignment of fudge and biscuits. Fortunately, I was not quite so wary for the large gin order, although it is a long winter if we do not sell it all.
I had been meaning to write to our friends at the Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company who had written to me first explaining that they were about to charge us more for delivering newspapers, when they remember to. The charge is phenomenally high already and the hike is quite impressive. They must make a fortune from delivering in this area alone, although I concede that the driver must work seven days and drive some miles each day. Nevertheless, the latest raise leaves us with just £1.60 gross profit in a peak week. It does not take a mathematician to calculate what profit we might be left with on a cold week in the middle of March. I have (very politely) given them an ultimatum that if we cannot come to terms, then we will be only doing newspapers in peak weeks.
The story has always been that selling newspapers results in a greater footfall and consequential sales. More and more now people are getting their news from digital sources but, sadly, it is more the older generation who will suffer by us ceasing to supply newspapers in the shoulder seasons. We are very sorry, but the game has come to and end and we can no longer afford the loss. I cannot see the Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company bending on this, else they would have to do it for everyone, so this result seems inevitable.
It was after I sat down that the Missus called my attention to the window. Out in the bay you could just make out four dark rubber boats speeding away from the Harbour full of Marines. It looked very sinister or could have been a shot from an action film. Earlier in the day, we had watched them dropping off the Harbour wall in a precise and ordered fall and clambering onto a tethered boat in the Harbour. They clearly have no idea. They are supposed to wait until the waves are bashing over the top and launch themselves, whooping, along with it. Honestly!
September 7th - Monday
There was no jacket required this morning as we headed for the beach. The tide had allowed us a sliver of sand to run about on for the first time in a few days. Nature was probably frightened that I would find some other floral presentation to write about, else.
There were some threatening clouds about during the morning and clouds persisted for most of the day, although they were more benign later in the day. Towards the end of the afternoon the sun broke through and we had some proper sunshine. I surmised that the weather would keep the crowd numbers down but, oh, how wrong could I be.
These are definitely not beach days and all our visitors were perambulating up and down the promenade, sitting about at the café and coming into the shop for pasties. After the weekend I had upped the order for Monday but still found it wanting by quite a margin. It was unexpectedly busy today and I have no idea what might have driven people to come here today particularly, and I have no idea what will happen tomorrow. I have upped the pasty numbers some more but know full well that tomorrow may well be completely different from today and for no good reason.
Overall, it is much quieter than August, which is understandable but, at times, by not much. Therefore, I am able to start extending my exercise sessions at the hut with a tin roof, which I thought might be quite a struggle. I had not yet pushed myself back to the sessions I was having before the summer, but I am finding it remarkably easy to get almost there in this first full week. I have the body of a man half my age, although definitely not me at half my age, and if he ever wants it back, I will be mortified.
The Missus has been hankering after a polytunnel almost since we acquired The Farm a couple of years ago. Clearly hankering has a finite life and the hanker had reached fever pitch and eventually broke into wanting a polytunnel now.
This has been an experimental year on The Farm where the Missus has trialled growing a range of products, some more successful than others and it has been a learning process. The ultimate aim is to be able to grow produce for the shop and also sustain us through the winter to some degree. We have seen sufficient progress this year to imagine that scaling up is definitely on the cards and the polytunnel is the next logical step.
The Missus did some initial looking, particularly at suppliers who could install the thing as well. Not many do. She handed over to me this morning as procurement used to be a forte and part of my life when I actually worked for a living. My main concern was the investment, which is not inconsiderable, should be able to withstand the half dozen or so eighty miles per hour winds that blow across the field each year.
I was lucky enough to find a buying guide in the pages of an online gardening magazine and one of the suppliers it listed seemed to have just the product. Not only did they sell an 'easy build' version but it also had a reputation for being extremely robust. All its relevant bits are, as you read, dear reader, being collated and put in a very big envelope to be sent to us in short order. I will keep you abreast of developments.
The most unexpected development came half an hour before we closed when I had to eject a customer from the shop - again - because my Lifeboat pager was going off. Fortunately, there were a few more shore side today, which was hand because both boats were required, so I sent one of the others to open the big doors while I went and opened the small one so that I could drive out the little boat. That launched, I returned to assist in launching the big boat, getting both away in very good time.
The boats were called to a climber who had fallen down at Tol Pedn between Land's End and Porthcurno. When the boats arrived the Coastguard team were already there and the faller had received medical attention from a doctor and paramedic who were there for the Marines. Whether the faller, with a suspected broken leg we think, was also a Marine was not clear. The Coxswain quickly assessed that the casualty could not be taken off by boat due to the sea conditions and the Coastguard helicopter was called upon. The operation took some considerable time.
It was gone eight o'clock when the boats returned to The Cove. We had initially set up the long slip for recovery, as the initially report was that the casualty was being brought back on the boat. When the situation changed, we switched to the short slip as the tide was rising and by the time the boat got there, the short slip would be the only option.
The big boat arrived shortly before the smaller one but both were brought in at roughly the same time. With a little rise and fall on the water we brought the boat to a textbook recovery up the short slip, washed her down and strapped her down for the next one. We are, after all, a very thorough, very excellent Shore Crew.
September 6th - Sunday
There was some quite heavy rain through the first part of the morning, which kept the lid on things rather. Unfortunately, it came too late to drench the very obnoxious couple of mask wars losers who ventured into the shop first thing. I do not quite know why it is my fault they were breaking the law, but I shall have to live with it. Happily, the rain arrived after I had walked the bleddy hound around the block, so that was a good thing.
The rain cleaned things up considerably and the bright skies and sunshine that ensued, ensured some merriment and jollity in The Cove. We were not exactly flush with customers but it is very difficult getting used to the new pace after the main holiday season has ended. We were not flush with pasties, either, having sold the majority of our weekend stock yesterday. This is something else that we need to get used to, the required numbers of pasties for weekends in the new part of the season.
It is good to see that we are still selling some beach games, meaning that the beach has not yet lost all its charms. Earlier in the day we sold some short badminton sets and some paddles bats and around the middle of the day a lady came to the counter with a coupe of our half size rugby balls. If they have been sitting in the homemade ball stand for too long, they deflate. I had to have stern words with them. I told them, "You've let the ball stand down; you've left the shop down but most of all, you've let yourselves down." I know, I know, but it had to be done. Alright, perhaps it did not.
The Missus spent a glorious afternoon up at The Farm while others of us slaved over a hot counter. Trade was mixed between quite steady and quiet and in the quiet times I ran around the shop filling up the grocery shelves. Today is the day we do the grocery order and it makes it easier knowing what we have. It does not in any way help with what we will sell next week and how busy it might be. This is complete guess work particularly at this time of the year even in normal circumstances. We appear to be a little busier than perhaps we would be in previous years but that could quite easily change next week. It is time to put our best foot forward and take a best guess at what we want.
We started on a dour note, so it is just the ticket to end on a pleasant one. One of our neighbours, a regular customer, pitched up this morning bearing a gift box, wrapped and tied with a big ribbon. I took it up for the Missus to open just in case it was a jack-in-the-box or an exploding cracker but she discovered that it was two rather posh tumblers - we can tell because they were very heavy and did not have Esso on the bottom of them. They have a little glass bee motif embedded into each side and are a gift just for being here, which was exceedingly pleasant and quite unnecessary - we were here anyway - but thank you most kindly.
September 5th - Saturday
It is quite remarkable the things that you do not see when you have been looking at them for years. This morning I caught a glimpse of the hydrangea bush between Coastguard Row and Roberts Row as I walked with the bleddy hound into the Harbour car park and it is a thing of wonder - the hydrangea bush, not the car park. It is quite the largest hydrangea bush in the world; there can be not one bigger than it. I made a note to look at it more closely as we passed closer on our return journey.
Now, having heightened my visual sense to look at hydrangea bushes there is, of course, one on the corner of the Coast Path as it goes up the cliff that demanded my special attention today. It has been there years, disenfranchised from any domestic garden, growing and flowering now as it pleases. Further on, in Betty's garden, belying the years of neglect, are three prodigious examples of the plant in full flower and what magnificent blooms they are, even trying to escape their confines and into the row itself.
Then, the piece de la resistance, the nom de bloom of hydrangea bushes, exploding in the alley between the houses between Coastguard and Roberts Row when Coastguard Row used to be a bit longer. How it managed to grow to such a prodigious size in such a confined area who could possibly tell. The fact that the houses are now gone may have helped some. It is, perhaps, not as well manicured as the ones in Betty's garden but for what it lacks in finesse it makes up for in sheer brutality; it is a beast.
The Beast (there's more of it behind the red bush)
There was nothing large about our supply of newspapers this morning. Revolting people blockaded the gates of some of the newspapers, as they were reportedly upset by what the newspapers were printing, or not printing. They felt the best idea they could come up with was to stop them printing at all. It did not say whether the group of protestors cut the wires so that the online editions could not seep out. It seems grumpy shopkeepers are merely grist to their mill and being unable to eek a simple existence out of the purveying of newspapers is acceptable collateral damage. It is a bit irksome when they can still afford fancy dress.
Fortunately, we found other ways of earning a crust. Since the early showers cleared to a fine day we had a bit of a crowd turn up. We had reasonable steady business for most of the day, even from the early off, which shows just how keen this week's intake are. They must be keen surfers to a man, as the sea was chock full for most of the day. Of course, that may also have had something to do with a decent bit of surf making an appearance, particularly in the afternoon's tide. There was, however, not much in the way of beach dweller encampments, although the temperature may have had something to do with that.
I spoke with one of our fishermen later in the morning and he was hoping to get out tomorrow. The way the swell was running into Aire Point later in the day might well disappoint him. I have not seen the fleet out since the middle of last week and the season is running out.
I had a hankering to try the haddock that turned up on the latest delivery as, once again, it looked irresistible. It was, because I capitulated and slipped some out of the freezer for my tea. It was one of the smaller fillets at 300 grams but still too big for a sensible portion, especially when you just threw together a little sauce with butter, double cream, cheese and prawns. I did suffer for it later, feeling whale like on the sofa, but my, was it 'ansum at the time.
September 4th - Friday
I wore a jacket around the block again this morning and once again discovered that it was unnecessary. There had been the lightest of rain showers when I was putting out the shop display, such as it is now, and I feared the worse.
There is a geet rubbish bin in the Harbour car park, all shiny and new. It came after some pictures were put about of large piles of rubbish in the entrance of the closed Harbour toilets. I am not sure that it is a great trade off, the savings from the toilets paying for the bin. For a start I am not sure I could reach that high.
It was a rather sedate morning, but we will expect these from now on. The weather was with us after that shaky start and it was exceedingly pleasant all day, despite dire warnings of rain catching us out in the afternoon. I slipped away for a punishing session at the hut with a tin roof and rewarded myself with a plate of smoked mackerel with mustard mayonnaise on my return. It is a dish that keeps on giving as it does come back to haunt the eater for hours after the event. It was very much worth it though.
The Missus ran off to The Farm in the afternoon via our accountants. We thought it best to hand deliver this quarter's accounts since the three letter acronym courier company, that includes documents on its list of prohibited items, lost the last lot we sent.
Less than an hour after her departure I thought it might be a jolly wheeze to run across the road and launch the Lifeboat. Alright, it was not all my idea - my pager told me to do it. It was going on toward half past three o'clock and we pressed on with a rather speedy launch to a windsurfer off Gwennap Head who had run out of wind. He was recovered onto the Lifeboat and brought back to the station about thirty minutes later. He had done well before he came to grief, windsurfing all the way from Penzance, which he left at nine o'clock this morning.
Knowing that it would be a short call, I began to prepare the slipway on my own but very shortly after I started other crew members started turning up. Despite many of our visitors going home, the roads are still busy and the crew that latterly arrived had found themselves abroad and their journey to the station frustrated by traffic. With less crew living in close proximity or working away, it is a growing problem.
One of those arriving, mainly Boat Crew by profession, has been helping out on the shore side for some time. She is keen and bright and has run the show under a Head Launcher aegis a few times, so I thought it apt that she run solo today. It was a textbook recovery up the long slipway from where I was standing at the top of the slipway. We are, after all, a very equal opportunities, very excellent Shore Crew.
There were a few people waiting when I returned to open the shop at gone half past four o'clock. I had ejected one customer, in the nicest possible way, when the pager went off, but she did say that she would come back tomorrow morning. I do not know how much trade we may have lost in the interim but no one was jumping up and down, so I think we got away with it.
There would not have been too many disappointed people if I had not reopened; it was not at all busy in the late afternoon. Just before we closed it started to rain and the few people who were left soon disappeared.
We had our first Chinese take away meal in quite some time in the evening, along with Mother who joined us when the Missus came back from The Farm. I cannot say that I have missed them much and while it was a pleasant change, I am not eager for another all too soon.
I concluded the evening with even more administration, which was lovely.
September 3rd - Thursday
The fog was thick as a bag for most of the morning and remnants of it hung around for the rest of the day. When I took the bleddy hound around the block - spring tides again - it was completely dry and reasonably temperate. I could have done without my light rain jacket, but I could not tell before I set off just how wet the mist was.
Before the morning was out, the mist turned so wet that you might have wanted to call it rain. It was that oily, thin stuff that soaks you through without you immediately knowing. I stayed inside and was so wrapped up in doing the quarter end accounts I did not notice that it was raining until someone pointed it out.
The quietness that came with the poor weather allowed me to mainly finish off the quarter end, keying in the last remaining invoices and gathering together the statements. If done piecemeal, it is fairly painless, but at the end of August it is all a big mad dash and the volumes of everything are huge.
It demonstrated just how quiet it was today. Not only did I finish off the books, but completed the fish order, packed and priced without the Missus having to look after the customers. I took a little time out towards the end of the afternoon to smoke the mackerel that the Missus bought a day or two ago. I had almost forgotten them but found the bowl of brining fish when I went to stack away some drinks in the fridge. I had a little taste while it was still warm - bleddy 'ansum.
The afternoon's weather improved by measures and in the end it was a fair and decent day. It was not enough to bring back the business lost to the weather but there were a fair number of people about, taking advantage of Little Bo Café's wares while the youngsters dived off the Harbour wall in the background.
The Royal Marines have been here all week doing their Mountain Leaders course, like they do every year. They have not been so prominent in The Cove but at least they do not need to be prompted to wear masks in the shop of the café when they are down here. Late last night an ambulance met some of them in the Harbour car park. We do hope that no one was too seriously injured.
The Missus tells me that the stars were out in abundance. She discovered this when she went ambulance chasing with the bleddy hound last thing. I will just imagine them, for now, as bed is calling louder than they - I suppose because it is closer.
September 2nd - Wednesday
I had shifted down on the number of pasties we had in today because I had looked at the weather forecast. Silly me.
We had a cracking bit of morning to enjoy and everything was peace and light down on the Harbpour beach when we visited, bleddy hound and I. The fine weather persisted through the morning and while it clouded over toward the middle of the day, the rain and mizzle did not kick in until well into the afternoon.
The early part of the morning was particularly quiet, leading me to think that I might just get away with my light pasty order. Even after I came back from the hut with a tin roof and having had a blistering session of exercise, business was still just ambling along. It was after I came back to the shop a short while later that the crowds had mysteriously arrived all at once. For all the people wandering about, we were not that pressed, although we had a trickle of customers right through the afternoon - at least until the rain stopped play.
For the last couple of days I have been wondering at a scar that has appeared on the cliffside between Carn Towan and Carn Barges to the north of the Valley. I had the chance today to put the binoculars on it and discovered that it was, indeed, a landslip. I would say that the good people in Carn Keys, the black huts over there, were a bit lucky as the tail end of the slip is not far off their back yard. There is, of course, very little in the way of depth of soil in that area but it is difficult to fathom what triggered the slip at that point.
Parallel to it, and a bit closer to the Valley, is another smaller slip and this one is sand. Both have made a mess of the foot path that leads up the cliff from there and are likely to have been the result of the downpour we had a few days back. The small cliff at the back of North Rocks has been dropping away for years, hence the Coast Path moving up the hill, but slippage further up is a new one on me.
I thought that I might get away with inputting the rest of the last month invoices in the afternoon but there was sufficient trade to deter me. Instead, I installed the new printer that turned up mid-afternoon. I did it between customers and tried it out toward the end of the day. It is quite a novelty having a printer downstairs that actually prints without having to kick it first.
I was supposed to meet a man about a roof up in the village after we closed but, having waited until seven o'clock for his call, I telephoned him. He had forgotten all about it. I had to have some sympathy with him as I get the impression he, like the rest of us, have been working flat out during the summer. We will re-arrange for next week sometime.
After a month, Mother's minders have gone home, which meant she came to tea with us again. It is another hint at the return to normality and before we know it, it will be like it was never interrupted at all.
September 1st - Tuesday
I was a little dubious about the pasty order that I made yesterday but had been brave, nevertheless. When the day developed into yet another rip gribbler, I was much heartened and with good reason, we sold most of the large order by close of play.
The good weather certainly livened things up. We were busy throughout the day but not the sort of busy that we have been used to during August. This is a more reserved sort of busy; more 'excuse me', 'no, no, after you, 'oh sorry, my fault' type of busy. It is a welcome change after the manic bustle of the last several weeks and all these phases have their place in the grumpy shopkeeping year and without them, things would just not be right.
The Missus ran off to town after the last big grocery delivery of the year had been taken into the store room. The battery in her scales had expired and this is a key piece of equipment in the bottling - or jarring, perhaps - of Boathouse Honey which has been flying out of the door since the first jar came into view at the start of the summer. The latest batch is significantly darker than the very first and must herald a change in the bees' diet. The popularity of the honey has highlighted the importance of getting our fingers out and ordering the other three hives that were supposed to be ready for this season. Given the labour intensiveness of the whole process I am not quite sure how the Missus will manage, especially if we are as busy as we were this year. I suggested a honey apprentice and she suggested a shop apprentice, instead. We will negotiate.
Our five minutes to closing rush was a thing of wonder and happened a good half an hour before closing. This was a good thing because it went on so long, I would have been closed much later than our closing time if it had happened at five minutes to the hour. We sold much beer.
With all the shenanigans we have had to adapt our beer offering to what has been available from the brewers - well, all but one of them. This year, probably because it is easier and cheaper to produce at a guess, there is much available in 330 millilitre cans - the same size as a can of pop. I suspect that these are the future as they have been exceedingly popular and difficult to keep enough of in the fridge, despite being able to stack them three high and get an entire case at a time in there.
When the Deposit Return Scheme kicks in, a few years from now, these will be a godsend as they can be crushed to save storage space on the empties. I imagine that I (if I have managed to make it that far) will be delisting glass bottles very quickly as these will be exceedingly difficult to cope with. If it is anything like the battery collection scheme, I will have to give over half the shop to returned empties awaiting collection from the designated collecting people.
It was late in the afternoon when one of the local lads stopped by, touting some mackerel that he had caught. The Missus was keen (the Missus hates fish) to encourage local youth enterprise and bought half a dozen against my better judgement. I went to fillet them after my tea and discovered that he had headed and cleaned them. This is not ideal for filleting but demonstrated some willingness to make the fish more attractive to his perceived customer base. I offer him a belated, virtual pat on the back for effort and business acumen.
It was an exceedingly pleasant evening. The Missus decided to enjoy it more at close quarters and took the bleddy hound across the road to sit at one of our benches while I concluded today's Diary. I had considered joining her afterwards but that might have necessitated some sort of communication, which seemed a little gratuitous. I went over anyway a little later on and it was very pleasant. It was also very busy with people wandering about, though I am sure none of them required the services of a shop; quite certain of it.
August 31st - Monday
There were signs of an impending proper rip gribbler when I headed to the beach with the bleddy hound in the morning. There was an autumnal chill in the air that we discounted as just being sour grapes by weather that would rather be wet and miserable. The day blossomed and, unlike yesterday, there was the feeling of brightness and enthusiasm for the day right from the very off.
There was so much excitement in the air that I thought I had better cancel my visit to the hut with a tin roof and the second exercise session in two weeks. Gosh, there will be some making up to do when all this eases off a bit. As it happened, the big rush did not come to fruition, but I reckoned that it was better to err on the side of caution since we have few potentially busy days left this season.
I was not the only one being idle. With high pressure building in the area, the sea had gone flat as a dish and there was absolutely nothing for our body of surfers to do but paddle board or bob about aimlessly. It seemed that at least two surfers fancied the latter option.
It was not the busiest day on the beach but there was a fair few dwellers down there. Certainly, it was a few more than we have had over the last several days of poorer weather. Pleasant though it was there was not quite enough heat and sun to keep our beach dwellers in the one place for very long and we had a constant trickle of shoppers throughout the day. We were still moving pasties, but it was clear to tell that we were on the downward spiral and we shall be sliding effortlessly into the shoulder season almost without noticing too much. Shame then that I ordered a big heap of them for tomorrow.
At four o'clock, as expected, we watched the tail lights disappear up the hill (metaphorically speaking, of course, as it was still daylight) and business dropped off a cliff. Like closing at six o'clock, it is expected, but it still takes some getting used to.
To celebrate, the Missus cooked a roast dinner with vegetables and everything. It will drive away the initial signs of scurvy that were creeping in from the diet of ready meals and snacks we have been surviving on and my rickets will be a thing of the past - at least until next year. It felt a bit like bunking off school, not that I ever did, you understand; the fence was too high, and it had barbed wire along the top.
August 30th - Sunday
I opened the door to another winter's day, it seemed. The hard draught had gone but there was still a breeze from the wrong direction, and it was still wearing a jacket weather. The look of it, too, was not encouraging although it had its own arty charm. The light from the early morning sun picked out the white of the wave tops and the bright white sea birds scattered across the bay and made them stark points of light against the dark grey of the sea.
If I was not encouraged, neither were our guests. A gathering brewed at the Little Bo Café at opening time but the mood was dower and lacked the enthusiasm we get on warm sunny days. We and the big beach were grimly quiet for the bulk of the morning.
It took until the middle of the day for a bit of brightness and a sliver of blue sky to breath some life into the old dog. Even the hardy kayak 'club' who turn up here reasonably regularly during the season, waited a while before venturing out. There were gathered in the Harbour car park from early doors looking out to sea and assessing. Perhaps they were fishermen once.
The beach took about the same time to start colouring up with windbreaks and beach tents, for those lucky enough to have them. With the sunshine beginning to filter through, The Cove began to wake up. By half past two, late by anyone's reckoning, we were running how we might have expected for a bank holiday weekend. Its is difficult to tell whether we have a lily livered lot here this week, afraid of a bit of weather, or they just do not like getting up in the morning. I suspect we will find out tomorrow.
The in-laws had been around for a spot of tea with the Missus and when she came down, I went up for a break. By the time I came back down at half past four o'clock, the party was mainly over and I was left picking up the left overs. It was a pretty enough evening that kept a few promenaders wandering about but it was a particularly strange day that we had not seen for more than six weeks.
The quiet in the morning was dangerously enough time for me to find something to spend some money on. We have a wireless printer in the store room, which is a highly convenient place to have a printer and would be even more useful if the bleddy thing actually worked properly. I have always purchased our printers from a company that is synonymous with a brand of brown sauce because they were always ultra-reliable and long lasting. This particular model went against type and was a complete pig. Being far too clever for itself it would turn off if not used for a while and would need kicking back into life again when you wanted to print something, which was nearly always when you were in a hurry and did not want to be faffing about switching on and off a printer and waiting for it to boot. The software on the computer to control it never really installed properly and the number of times you would send a page to it to print only for it to disappear into the ether, were legion.
It had been telling me for months that it was running out of toner, despite producing perfectly legible print. Most lately it has stopped printing anything at all and I suspect it is because it thinks it is out of toner and, smart though it be, is not courteous enough to tell me. I refuse to spend money on a new toner cartridge and would rather hale the printer off the Harbour wall. In consequence, and to salve my frustration, I purchased another printer from an alternative manufacturer. I will keep you informed.
In the later evening business picked up again, as it sometimes will. The Missus had a busy time when she was working and combined, we end ed up with a pretty reasonable day. It is the last of the late nights and I cannot say I am sorry to see the back of them as it has been a particularly difficult season. Within a week they will be a distance memory and I will be regretting the downturn in trade. Some things do not change.
August 29th - Saturday
That naughty northerly draught was still with us in the morning and through much of the day but at least it was mainly sunny and dry, if a little cool. Even cool does not seem to worry our intrepid guests and its does not do our hooded sweatshirt sales any harm, either.
We had a bit of a flurry of activity in the morning, with leaving visitors at a guess, but it all went a little flat during the middle part of the day. It is the more traditional change over day that we usually expect and perhaps heralds the beginning of the end of the main holiday season. We are very much in the dark about what happens after this weekend as this year has been anything but traditional. It is likely we shall see a downturn in traffic but by just how much, we do not know. It will be a big surprise.
It was not a big surprise that the north wind dragged the temperature down through the day. It was definitely not a beach day and our visitors, in the main, roamed the streets but it was still not what we might call a busy day. Probably because I was not in full flight very often, I had to run and get a jacket by the end of the afternoon. I can say with some certainty that this was not our finest day.
With all that has been going on, I have not once mentioned the antics of the Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company. Things have been running reasonably smoothly, as they do when there is little in the way of change. It has been an odd year for newspapers and magazines, as you might expect. At first, we dispensed with all but the essential magazines - those that we knew some people wanted. When it became busier, we restarted magazines again but they were delisted if we did not sell enough over the three weeks that the Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company demand. When they were gone I did not bother to wake them up again and we have survived the entire busy period with hardly any at all. Oddly, this has prompted little in the way of complaint and makes me wonder should we bother at all.
Initially, we had to make some special arrangements over the delivery charge else we would have had to stop newspapers altogether - the delivery charge being more that the newspaper sales by some margin. The company has yet to reverse the agreement but has sent a letter telling us that the normal charges will be increased from the end of August. This is no small beer and given that the company must be charging the same to the other newsagents west of Penzance on the same round - I count at least seven - they are fair raking it in. The charge is calculated on average sales over a period. Unfortunately, the period on which they calculate is over our busy period and hence slewed to their advantage. Outside prime season we are making a significant loss on sales, which is frankly, unsustainable. It is not a decision that we take lightly because having newspapers attracts footfall and leads to other purchases, but it is very likely that we shall not stock newspapers outside the main season from next year.
We did not do too well on newspapers today, either, and two bundles went back which is the first for many weeks. The last two hours of opening were pretty dire and even the five to closing rush was a bit of a damp squib. If this is the beginning of the end, I am glad we only have one more late night opening to do, although there is always plenty of time for something to happen that will make us regret it.
I took five minutes at the end of the day to watch the setting sun descending through some angry clouds out on the western horizon. It spilled through the gaps like searchlights seeking some hidden fugitive. I do not think it found one and I was keeping to the shadows, just in case.
August 28th - Friday
We had spits and spots of rain when we were down on the Harbour beach this morning but nothing worse than that. There was a fair amount of weed down there still left from a day or two ago when there was a lot more. It has moved up the beach and niffs a little bit but nothing too offensive. It was clear from the way that the sand had been gouged out where it meets the slipway that there had been a lot of rain overnight.
There was a bit of rain during the day on and off. The showers were relatively heavy but nothing as bad as those that we had yesterday in the morning. Perhaps that is why we were not as busy today, during the morning at least - our obtuse visitors like a proper deluge and not this light, pretend stuff. It was more likely to be that it was a change over day and that our good fortune yesterday was mostly to do with the buying of going home presents.
The upshot of a bit of relative quietness was that I did manage to get away to the hut with a tin roof for a spot of exercise. It was not what you might call a blistering session as I have been cutting down the time during August month as we have been too busy in the shop. I think it will be a hard slog to get back to the sessions that I was doing before; it is far too easy to be lazy.
While I was gone, the Missus and temporary helper cleared the remaining stock that they brought down yesterday. Some of it is for the autumn - our autumn collection, maybe - but it all went out nevertheless. It pointed to a need to have a person we can count on to help out, just for August; a tall order, I think.
Just for interest, the wind went around to the north west today and tracked all the way through to north and ending up in the north east. The skies were steely grey on and off between bouts of brightness, although we did not suffer many showers, they were a constant threat. As we have discovered throughout the summer, the rain makes very little difference anyway and it certainly did not today. I was expecting the wind speed to increase but I think I must have misheard the forecast on Radio Pasty in the morning.
A belt of rain pushed in during the last hour of opening and pushed everyone off. They might be willing to put up with it during the day but, in the evening, it was no dice. It gave us plenty of time to look out of the door and watch it wash down the street.
I had slipped upstairs for a bit of tea before the rain came in. It was heavy and vicious and came through in squalls. I paused before coming back down the stairs else I would have been soaked before I got to the bottom of them. I heard downstairs the swoosh of the first electric sliding door in The Cove and knew that it had been blowing in the front of the shop. When I eventually opened the door, it was nearly taken out of my hand. I felt much relieved - I had not misheard the gale warning in the morning and my remaining marbles seem to be in good order.
August 27th - Thursday
It was a bit damp this morning, the first big rain that we have had in quite a while. It very kindly held back while I put out the shop display but came in with what I thought was its best shot when I took the bleddy hound down to the beach. We were a bit wet and bedraggled when we got back but I, at least, dried quite quickly as I do not have fur - or none to speak of.
We had been open an hour when the rain stepped up its game. It was so heavy and persistent that it overwhelmed our drains behind the shop and we were flooded for the first time in quite a while. It is one of the benefits of living in an ancient building and, if left, would roll to the other side of the floor and disappear under the other wall - eventually. As you might expect, it dampened the shopping aspirations of a good number of our customers but somehow it still took me two hours to finish my frugal breakfast.
The rain was gone by the middle of the day and was followed immediately by some short-lived blue skies. It did not rain again, or that I noticed, for the rest of the day despite some warnings of showers following the main bulk. From this point on it was business as normal and the crowds returned, not quite in the same abundance as yesterday, but an abundance nevertheless.
I have a vague recollection of the Missus appearing at some point and, after a couple of shopping deliveries - yes, we still do a few - she emptied the truck that she had filled up at The Farm yesterday with a whole host of anything we had left. This took the rest of the day to disperse around the shop after which an early fish delivery had to be processed. I have no idea how the time passed so quickly but we found ourselves at the end of the day before we knew it.
For some reason the world and his pet chinchilla turned up for National Shopping moment at half past seven in the evening. The other eleven hours that we are open for were clearly not the right ones, it had to be half past seven for everyone. It spurred me to write the last four paragraphs in less than ten minutes after we closed the shop. It must be something of a record, surely.
That is not the only record. It is a year full of big surprises and new records. Today's was the busiest rainy day we have ever had, with an entire, better than average, sunny day's business coming in just half a day. Maybe we will just open half days from now on.