Sennen Cove: the final frontier. These are the witterings of a West Cornwall shopkeeper. His seemingly interminable mission: to plumb new depths in literary rambling, to seek out the boring and banal, to boldly sink deeper than any Diarist has sunk before.
January 15th - Friday
We were pushed around the block this morning by the tide, but it made a welcome change. The whole day made a change, too, and was one that did not end up at The Farm. It might have done but the mattress that I had agonised over getting was being delivered today, about a month ahead of expectations. We had a delivery window of three hours which spanned most of the afternoon, so it was waiting in day.
Down in the Harbour fishermen were gathering and looking knowingly out to sea. At least I thought that they were looking knowingly until we crossed the Harbour car park and saw three Newlyn netters out in the bay. They had already turned to reposition the other side of Cowloe when a line of Cove punts headed out, in a column worthy of Trafalgar, in their direction. The movements were, I am sure, coincidental but looked every bit like a David and Goliath battle in the bay. I am assuming that there are still fish aplenty out there to be had.
Typically, it was a kinder day for polytunnel building and had we been in a position to do it, it was an ideal day to put the polythene on. That naughty blustery wind has completely disappeared in the night, giving over to a gently southerly that would have kindly wafted the sheet over the frame for us. If we can find a wind that will stretch it and pin it in, we will be very grateful.
Nevertheless, there are things that needed doing at home while we waited. I have not yet keyed in all the data from the groceries count in the shop and had I really put my mind to it, I could have counted the jewellery today, as well. However, my mind was having a day off, so that did not happen. I also did some more digging into showers and found a couple more, but they are less powerful than the existing one, which might be disappointing when compared. It is taking a while to narrow the choice down, so I hope that it does not become more urgent by necessity.
On the bright side, when preparing the old mattress for collection, the Missus found my pinkie ring in the bedding. She was as relieved as me because she had offered to buy the replacement.
Mother joined us later in the afternoon and stayed for tea. The Missus had decided to cook some chicken in the style of a meal from a chain of chicken takeaways that cook in the southern fried style. Quite why she wished to emulate a meal that does not taste of what it purports to be or, indeed, even smells like food, I have no idea. She cooked mine in the oven and I was very grateful it was not served in a bucket.
We had to find a stool for the Missus to let her get into bed; the new mattress, when dressed, is a good six inches higher than the last. It better be as comfortable as I was expecting because I chose it and the old one is now a few hundred miles up country.
January 14th - Thursday
The breeze kicked up during the night and near bowled me over rounding the corner of the Lifeboat station. It was gloomy again and I recalled that this is an annual phenomenon to do with solar days and scientific stuff that I could not be bothered to look up again. It should start getting lighter in the mornings soon but that will only bring us back to where we were a week or so ago. I shall continue to take a torch for a few days more or get the bleddy hound to stay in bed a bit longer.
Having had our plumber tell us that the shower unit we had selected was unreliable, I spent some time this morning looking for another. I found one that looked just the ticket and then read a bunch of reviews that said that it was even worse than the first one. Since I could not find another, we shall go back to the first one and hope for the best.
I also had to jump through another hoop for the software company that provides our backup application. This very handily copies everything I tell it to the Internet, now more frequently called the Cloud. There it is much safer that the big disc unit I have that sits next to the computer, although I do copy things to that as well. The company did an upgrade to its part of the Cloud over Christmas and ever since then the software stalwartly refuses to copy anything up the pipe.
They are pretty good with support, which is helpful, but I suspect that they are in a different time zone as I get my responses first thing in the morning and nothing during the day. They have asked me to perform all manner of diagnostic checks and procedures, none of which have revealed the cause of the problem. Given that it only stopped working after the upgrade at their end and not on my computer, my belief is the problem is at their end, not mine. I have been very patient so far but today they asked me to perform a procedure that I have performed before and it did not work then. It did not work when I tried it again, either. I suggested that there was not much more I could try - since I had uninstalled and reinstalled the application on our computer - and perhaps they should look more closely at their end.
All this effort delayed an exit to go to The Farm to continue building our polytunnel. By the time we left I had to drastically reduce my expectations of what we might achieve. Even then I was exceedingly pleased with what we did achieve after we came away having done all I had expected to do and mostly without issue.
We had set the bar low, which was the only bar we set low as the crop bars needed to be set high. There are three of them that run lengthways and consist of five feet long tubes that slot together. They are suspended from the frame by rings and secured by a screw into the side of each ring. Fiddling with metalwork in a blustery north westerly was cold work, particularly cruel to the fingers. There were 21 rings, which having learnt from one or two, became easy for the remaining ones. That was until the penultimate which would turn freely with no resistance but as soon as the tube was inserted into the ring, the thread jumped and failed to tighten. In a blinding flash, DIYman appeared, inexplicably at the precise moment I was not there, and cleverly decided to drill a hole in one side of the joined tubes so that the screw could pass the jump point but still tighten against the opposite wall of the tube. It was a moment of utter genius that I could only wish I had thought of.
It was at this point that we decided to cut our loses and return another day to finish the last of the metalwork, which was the doorways at either end. Mother, who had come up for a change of scenery, was pleased because during the next hour with the sun dipping down, the temperature drops sharply.
I remembered to collect a saw before we left The Farm. Our Christmas tree which is sitting under one of our benches across the road, is due to be collected by the much maligned council next week. They will collect trees of six feet or under and ours was seven feet high or more. The much maligned council did not specify if they would collect trees seven feet long, so I took the precaution of lopping a couple of feet off the top. Oddly, the two trees we put across the road have turned into three. Our cctv camera picked up a stranger dragging a tree to our benches on Tuesday night. We have become the de facto Christmas tree collection point, it seems.
January 13th - Wednesday
The bleddy hound had me up in the middle of the night, I thought, but when I looked at the clock it was about the same time as every other morning we have been up. I was confounded because it was so dark still and even when we headed out of the door twenty minutes later, it was still pretty gloomy outside. It turned out that the rest of the day was not that bright and laced with mizzle, which was not ideal.
I had committed myself to a trip to The Farm today because the weather forecast for today was half decent until today, when they changed it, presumably having looked out of the window. I was not to be deterred and after waiting about an hour for it to clear up, decided to go anyway and get wet if need be.
Given that we were not there that early, I imagined that we could get the hoops up and the widthway crop bars installed, which would give the frame some stability. If we were lucky and did not encounter many problems, then I surmised that we could probably get the lengthways crop bars installed as well. To this end I pulled all the metalwork, apart from the door frames, out of the barn and into the trailer which is currently situated next to where the polytunnel is.
The crop bars have added complexity to an already quite complicated build. The instructions, which are very good, have one section which is the main, simple tunnel build and the crop bar additions are in two separate sections. The three have to be integrated to work, else fittings that have been threaded onto the hoops will be in the wrong order. I had spotted this early on and had got the sequence clear in my mind, which was all good until I tried to put them into practise. This extended the time a little but by breaking down the process, we eventually managed to get the order right.
We arrived at the point that all the hoops were up and the widthway crop bars loosely installed and stood back to admire our handywork. It was at this point that we noticed one of the bars was bent. We reasoned that perhaps it was flatter at the top because it belonged at the end where a set of double doors would go but then could not find its mate, as they come in pairs, this then did not seem reasonable at all. To make matters worse we could not extract it from the ground pole; it was stuck fast. I called the manufacturer to ask for advice.
Now, I had the choice here to be entirely disingenuous and tell you that they apologised profusely and would courier a new part to us immediately along with a team of fitters to complete the job for us. I felt that would be much, much more satisfactory than telling you that the very pleasant man at the other end of the telephone said, 'you have it upside down'.
Earlier in the day, I had been jolted into life by our shower going suddenly cold while I was under it. It has been making some gurgling noises for a few days, which I chose to ignore, but going cold - before, thankfully going hot again - was probably the writing in big red letters on the wall. I started looking at replacement shower units, which did not take long as there are not that many to choose from that fit the bill. Before pressing the 'buy' button I thought it prudent to check with our friendly and very good plumber pal what was what. He had asked some pertinent questions about cable sizes and power ratings which I had answered as best I could, along with providing photographs. This left enough doubt that he told us that he would come and have a look - in the late afternoon.
The afternoon was getting late after we had fixed our, ahem, bent pole issue, so with all the hoops in place with the relevant fittings, we decided to leave the lengthways crop bars for tomorrow. We headed home to meet the plumber.
I had some errands to run just after the plumber left and I also needed to look for a nut as one was missing from the polytunnel package. Not that long ago I had purchased 50 bolts and 100 nuts to go with them (bolts you can buy in 50s but nuts you can only buy in 100s?). I found the bolts neatly stored away in The Farm tool shed but the nuts were nowhere to be found. I cannot even remember why I purchased them, which might have afforded me a clue as to where they might have gone. Instead, I had to root around in the drawers in the shop and eventually found one spare nut of the right size. Heaven help me if I lose it as I will never live it down.
There was just time before tea to sit down for five minutes and have a cup of tea. It was at that moment that I remembered that I had not turned the cctv camera motion sensor back on at The Farm. We turn it off while we are there to save being bombarded with warning pings to our mobile telephones. As I looked at the image I thought I saw a long shadow from behind the camera, so I panned around to have a look. The one thing that has been setting it off recently is a black cat that regularly crosses in front of the camera. I found the cat by the runner bean frames, perfectly still. It was still perfectly still five minutes later and another five after that.
Getting a little concerned about the motionless cat, I asked the Missus to have a look, which she dutifully did. By this time the camera had switched to night vision, which is a somewhat poorer quality picture. She too spent some time looking at the cat and we even tried calling to it via the camera loudspeaker. Nothing. It was about fifteen minutes later that the Missus said a very rude word and told me that I - I and not she - had been looking at a turned over watering can, the spout doing a passable impression of a cat tail.
Time for the brandy, I think.
January 12th - Tuesday
We were presented with a grey, damp and chill morning to gaze out upon as we threw back our virtual curtails. At least it was not proper raining but there was a bit of a fierce breeze putting up some resistance to our efforts to get down to the Harbour beach as we rounded the corner of the Lifeboat station. It did not feel that cold at the time, but the dampness crept into the bones as the morning went on.
It was definitely not a day to progress our polytunnel build, so I read the instructions instead. Because I am a real bloke, I would not ordinary advocate the reading our instructions, obviously, at least not until the Missus spotted that everything had gone completely awry and mandated it. This task, however, is complicated and has more parts that an Airfix model of the Golden Hind. I watched the online video that makes it all look very easy - the polytunnel, not the Golden Hind but I imagine there is not much difference - but then I considered that we had added some crop bars to our order for additional strength, bearing in mind our 80 plus miles per hour winds. It was a good job that I did as coming up next for us is the roof hoops that will need some additions to the basic guide.
Feeling so smug, I thought that I had best celebrate by going downstairs to complete the hooded sweatshirt count that would keep me occupied for a good hour or so. So good was I feeling about doing that, I continued with running through all the groceries. This will be the first time the groceries have been done thoroughly and before we opened, in just about forever. We usually take an educated guess.
This first thing is always finding out what is going to be out of date by the time we open. It needs to be counted anyway but it also needs to be got rid of. Usually, by the time we get around to this process, the stock is so far out of date it needs to be thrown away. This year it is either newly just beyond its best before date or has not yet got there and we will be able to distribute it to the poor and needy of the village. Given that we do not have any of those it will go to the doing quite alright and the filthy rich who are not proud or anyone else who wishes to venture down to get it. It is predominantly fizzy pop and because we do not want to see anyone at present, we will leave it outside for collection.
I heartily slapped myself on the back at having completely the entire stock taken in a timely fashion and collected all the paperwork to head upstairs. As I was leaving the shop, my eye caught our cunningly crafted and homemade jewellery stand. Begger!
January 11th - Monday
It was very quiet on the Harbour beach this morning with not an active fishing boat in sight. The deterioration in the weather that stopped us continuing our efforts at The Farm has also scotched the fishing effort, too. The main difference, apart from some light rain blowing through from time to time, was that the wind from the west had picked up. This became more noticeable as the day wore on.
The Missus had declared today as a day of rest, so I went downstairs to continue the stock count as I could not think of anything more restful than that. It was probably more that it would be entirely restful when I had finished it and, had I tried to rest having not finished it, that would not have been restful at all, knowing that it was still to be done. It did take a while to rev myself up to go downstairs as my limbs were still reeling somewhat from screwing in those posts yesterday.
I have no idea how long it took to count the various stock items, but it had turned very grey outside by the time I thought it appropriate to stop. You might notice that stopping was not quite the same as finishing as I left the hooded sweatshirts and groceries for another day. The groceries do not have much bearing on preparing for the coming year but from the accountant's point of view, the value of the stock must be recorded.
The one area that is always problematic and most loathsome is the counting of clothes, mainly shorts and swimsuits. For us, we basically need to know type and size, which helps with ordering for next year. Unfortunately, for the accountant, we need to break it down further so that shorts, for example, of different prices are recorded.
We have such a mix of clothing which mostly stems from the fact that we cannot replace individual sizes. If we are lacking in shorts of medium size, we must also buy small, large and extra large, even if we have an abundance of each. Additionally, this will often be a completely different style if it is the following year, which it often is. Some sizes sell so poorly we have them for years. In the store room we have a box of 22 size 1 boys' flip flops. It has been there forever. No wonder I am a grumpy shopkeeper.
I put my head into making tea, this evening. It is not often that I am called to do so as it is generally the Missus who has all the best ideas. Although the Missus hates fish, she very much likes shellfish so I concocted a medley of crab, scallops and prawns that we have in some abundance in the freezer downstairs together with some frozen clotted cream that went out of date on our shelf before we could sell it. Please, dear reader, save your tears because we have long since become accustomed to such scavenging through our discarded stock in order to put a morsel or two on our table. Happily, I was also able to throw a soupçon of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc into the mix, left behind by Mother, to add a small element of flavour to the pitiful dish.
Time to blow out my half of our tallow wick, I think, and head to bed.
January 10th - Sunday
It was not that long ago that the Lifeboat station management cancelled a training launch as they understood the rules did not leave good enough grounds to get a crew together. The powers that be in the RNLI thought differently and gave the go ahead for a short exercise today, mainly to give the boat a run, its first for about five weeks.
The Boat Crew and Shore Crew were carefully selected to ensure that we would still be able to form a crew if we all caught the dreaded lurgi today. We had a pre-launch briefing outside where it was explained that the boat would be put through its paces to ensure all the engineering elements were tested in case they had clogged up or rusted through lack of use. I warned that the very excellent Shore Crew were normally clogged up and rusted over despite use, but of more importance, not to get carried away with boat planning when we were not sure that we could still open the doors.
It took a bit of pushing and shoving, but after we got the very excellent Shore Crew working, we also managed to open the doors. We then had the boat launched away into a flat, calm sea at around nine o'clock this morning. Not only did it have to wind its way through the Lifeboat channel and get through the gaps, but it also had to avoid a plethora of fishing boats of all sizes littering the bay. There was so much mackerel out in the bay that one of the boats had to make two trips to unload half way through the morning. Once again, we were visited by a couple of ring netters from Newlyn to add to the merry bunch.
The Lifeboat was out for just an hour giving us plenty of time to set up the slipway for recovery and still left us plenty of time to wait. The boat returned on a rising tide at around ten o'clock and was brought up the long slip in what was clearly, despite our lack of practise, a textbook recovery. I put it all down to muscle memory, particularly the one between our ears that remembered how to do everything correctly. We even scrubbed down the boat before we put it away, mainly because the high pressure washer is out of commission. We are, after all, a very clean, very excellent Shore Crew.
Having repaired to the flat for a welcome cup of tea and a bit of breakfast it was time to head up to The Farm again. I was very keen to get cracking on the polytunnel build, although if I knew the effort required, I might have thought twice about it. It was a bright enough day and it had started out apparently much warmer than yesterday. However, waiting on the slipway for the boat to return we noticed a definite drop in temperature, so I wrapped up for the job.
The main part of today's work was to get the posts into the ground. We had bought an 'easy build' polytunnel that uses screw in posts rather than ones you have to dig holes and concrete in. This seemed like a great idea until I actually tried to screw one into the ground. It takes quite a bit of effort as well as the right size bar to use as a wrench. I am sure one would have been supplied but it was not in any of the packages that came with the kit. We improvised but it was not the perfect solution and at the end of screwing in eleven poles - the Missus did one - not only was I fit to collapse in a heap, but I has also developed a blister in the crook of my hand and was much divested of layers of clothes.
The instructions provided a fool-proof method of marking out the spots for the posts to ensure ninety degrees corners. They clearly had not imagined a grumpy shopkeeper doing it and having ensured two corners were square assumed that the opposite two could not possibly be anything else than square, too. They were not. I also wrong assumed that since it was only out by a small margin, it probably would not matter too much. It did, but thankfully I only had to unearth one post and redo it.
The whole thing took us more time than I imagined. I had hoped that we would get the roof hoops up today but when we left, only the posts were in and the base rails in place all of which had been tricky enough and not quite the effortless cruise shown in the company video. It was hugely disappointing as the weather is set to deteriorate over the next few days meaning the next steps of the build will have to wait.
Disappointed though I was, I was also very pleased when the sun dipped below the horizon and poor light stopped play. We were able to head home where I was able to collapse in that heap I had been dreaming of since I finished the posts. I think that I will stay there for a while.
January 9th - Saturday
Today was full of western promise with clearish skies and a brightness out east that was full of potential. On the reverse side of all that it was bleddy Baltic. It might have been as cold as the other morning, the one that did not feel as cold, but there seemed to be less frost about. A neighbour told me, however, that the spring running down Stone Chair Lane at the bottom was frozen and her car windscreen had frosted. Perhaps there was just less moisture in the air today.
When the bleddy hound and I arrived on the sand of the Harbour beach it did seem a little more crunchy under foot than it usually does. I did not envy one bit the fishermen heading out on the hunt for mackerel and pollack again. There were big signs that they were very likely to be on the money today as the bay was full of seabirds. Just off Gwenver was quite the biggest flock of gannets that I have ever seen. There were so many it was difficult to see the cliffs behind them. One of them obviously told a mate who promised to keep it secret, who then told a mate who told a mate. Lose beaks sink shoals, or something a bit more catchy than that.
Down on the big beach a very sizeable flock of herring gulls, mainly, were stood waiting it out. Perhaps they too were taken in by the spectacle on the other side of the bay. It was certainly a very bad idea to start a fight as they were badly outnumbered, although the gannets did look a bit distracted. It was a little later that the terns muscled in, making their pitch on our side of the bay between the Lifeboat slip and the big beach. When they all took to the air, there was pandemonium in the skies and any self-respecting air traffic controller would have headed for the hills, I am sure.
Our main hope of the day was that we could get up to The Farm at a reasonable hour to take the next step on the road to having our polytunnel up and useable. The Missus was still keen to move it in closer to the hedge, which I could understand, but time was not on our side to clear all the rubbish that needed to be got rid of. We managed to move it a few feet closer and had to settle for that.
It was the Missus that charged in with the meaty beaty big and bouncy strimmer that we have for just such occasions. To me the task looked a bit more beyond just a strimmer but she assured me that it would be more that capable and so it proved. It did take quite a bit longer than I anticipated and there was no hope of getting any posts in the ground today. I just had time to run the chain harrow over the site before we had to come away.
While the Missus laboured with her strimmer, I thought that I had better find something to do. Long time on the to do list was to fix the lights in the cabin. You may recall that one half of the lights worked perfectly well but the other pair dimmed as soon as they were switched on. Long ago, I had decided to run a new cable out to the lights just to prove the circuit, but I decided to test the old wires first. They briefly emerge from behind the wall skin at a window just above the batteries. Here I cut the cable and discovered that there was no voltage there, but it was definitely live at the bus bar and the fuse box. It was clear that the cable had a fault and luckily, I was able to draw a replacement length down from the cut to the batteries. Hooking everything back up again it worked perfectly. It had only taken the best part of a year to fix.
There was still some waiting around to be done for the Missus to finish the strimming, so I took the bleddy hound out for a spin. Normally, she would be off the lead but with the strimming going on we are very cautious. I pottered about trying to be useful but failed miserably until I could drive about with the chain harrow and look important. We did bump into a field neighbour while we were there and we were able to discuss some work we could do to improve the lane. It desperately needs scraping so that the hump in the middle can be spread a bit more to the sides. It is the right thing to do as a first step but will render the lane difficult to walk down without wellies on for a while.
Sun setting at The Farm
After all that doing, we decided to award ourselves the evening off. We shall hopefully have the weather to do some more doing tomorrow.
January 8th - Friday
It was not the most encouraging of mornings to be stepping out into. For one, it was raining quite heavily and had been during the night. In a somewhat miraculous turn of fortune, when we headed down the stairs, the rain stopped and did not start again until seconds after we had closed the door behind us coming home.
It was some inky black out to the north and I was expecting a drenching which never came. It was the sort of sky that the gannets love to fly in front of, showing off their bright white plumage at its best. With some brighter light coming out of the east, the foam of the breaking waves over Cowloe also stood out against the deep grey of the waves. It was like looking at the scene in full colour night vision and was almost surreal. If you can remember the video that David Bowie did for 'Ashes to Ashes', you have some idea of what it looked like.
Black skies; white birds
The Missus had told that I should take her up to The Farm when I had finished with the bleddy hound, as she was keen to finish off the stock take. The plan was that I should follow her up after collecting Mother a little later. As the day was not conducive to clearing the ground for the polytunnel, I would help finish off the stock count when I got there and see what else could be done in the conditions.
As I had several jobs to do before collecting Mother I did not get back up to The Farm until the middle of the day. The showers were still piling through. According to the weather forecast these were reserved especially for West Cornwall and nowhere else, which was not much good for any of the tasks we have outstanding at The Farm. When I arrived with Mother, the Missus told me that she had finished the stock count and since that left us nothing else, we all came back home again.
We sat about for the rest of the afternoon, which gave me plenty of time to input the count from the store shed. Also, our bone china mug brochure arrived so I was able to plan our first order for this year. It is one of the suppliers that we cannot put off until the last minute because of the lead time involved; all the mugs are made to order and take at least six weeks. Regardless of what happens in the world or whether we have any customers arriving, we will have bone china mugs in stock.
The rain may have left us alone for the last part of the afternoon and the evening, but it left a damp chill about the place. With skies clearing it could be another cold one during the night and slippy in the morning.
January 7th - Thursday
It seemed much less cold today when the bleddy hound kicked me out of bed. To be entirely fair to her, it was a little later than it was yesterday and at least there was some light outside. We were able to dip down to the beach for a quick run around and met a neighbour on the way back. She agreed that it did not feel quite as cold today, just as a car came past with the last scrapings of frost on the windscreen. I then looked up the hill a bit to see the silver glistening on the rooftops here and there. It was mighty cold this morning and just the absence of a breeze made it feel less so.
I was already determined to move my behind in the direction of The Farm as early as I could this morning. I reckoned that clearing the old caravan would take much longer than a day as it was fairly well broken up into big chunks. I left the Missus behind to look after the bleddy hound and headed up disappointingly late in the morning.
There was still frost on the ground in the field and the bleddy hound's dip pool had iced over. Furthermore, the now full IBC tank was frozen at the top trapping the downpipe into place. Nevertheless, with the sun streaming down, it was pleasantly warm up there and before long, unpleasantly warm as I laboured at my task. Not long into it I was having to strip off layers.
I had no illusion that towing the remains of the caravan chassis was not going to be an easy job. It was hard enough the first time when it was still relatively complete but even then the normal hook up was never going to work. Last time and this I utilised a strop that had been given us, wrapping it around the truck's tow bar and the caravan's hitch arm. The truck was already in four wheel drive but I had to engage the differential lock and low range to get it to drag the stuck chassis away and even then, most of one side was left behind.
Setting about clearing up the loose pieces that fell off as the thing travelled, I noticed that the ground was seriously uneven where the caravan used to be. This would not be in the least useful when setting out the ground for the polytunnel. I took a wider view and reckoned that moving the planned site out about four feet would be helpful. I gave up with the clearing up, reset my markers and telephoned the Missus for approval. By the cleverness of video calling, she was able to see what I suggested and, thankfully, gave it the green light. It meant that I could leave the remains of the caravan carcass and leave the site for strimming and mowing.
I knew that I was expected back as the Missus had to take Mother to an appointment but before I left, I checked the battery I had swapped yesterday. When I arrived, the solar panels had gone into bulk charge, which was a good sign. Disconnecting the recently connected battery I was able to see that it was indeed charging and had nearly reached the same level as the other one. What a relief, as these batteries are not cheap.
We missed a telephone call on Mother's home telephone while she was with us for Christmas. It was the good medical people asking if she would like the all new, bright and shiny dreaded lurgi injection that so many people had laboured long and hard to make available. She was disappointed that she had missed the call and distraught when she found out that the first batch had all been used up when eventually we called back. On Tuesday we had another call to say that she was back on the list and would Mother like to come in and be vaccinated.
We had already imparted the good news to her when the surgery called back again. I took the call and warned them that it was now too late to take back the offer unless they wanted a vigilante Mother beating down their door. Fortunately, it was just to change the time of the appointment.
Mother was duly taken in during the afternoon and vaccinated against having the dreaded lurgi, which she was delighted about. It also means, of course, that we will now be able to track her every movement through our 5G mobile telephones, not to mention what she is thinking. I do not think that the module that allows us to change what she is thinking is available yet, but we are patient.
Towards the end of the afternoon the clouds started to roll in, which was a shame. When I took the bleddy hound out a few hours earlier, it was still sunny and bright and not a cloud to be seen. The air was crystal clear sitting on top of a bay that was as flat as a dish and all so still. It was enough to encourage a few of our fishing fleet to head out chasing the mackerel and pollack that would inevitably be around after the shoals that were here yesterday. Word of these must have gone abroad as we had a sardine boat in from St Ives in the latter part of the afternoon, but it looked like it had very much missed the, erm, fish.
How wrong could I be? The boat paused as it headed out of the bay to look at some gannets giving the game away by diving in a spot just to the north of it. It circled about laying its seine net. It was quite a sizeable circle and it would have been interesting to watch the end game, but light was fading fast. Judging from the number of gulls that could just be seen through the gloom near the final haul, it was quite some catch.
It was also a bit of a day to be out for a stroll, and with the weather so crisp and clean it was no surprise. We avoided most of the people perambulating and perhaps it was fortunate that the bleddy hound and I returned home when we did. She and I were both sitting by the window, distracted occasionally by the passers-by but one group in particular set her off. It seems that two llamas had concerned her as they were led by on exercise. Possibly, they had come from the Land's End farm as they returned in that direction having passed us on the way towards the big beach. I told the bleddy hound that they could do her no harm from that distance and she should not be allamaed.
Alright, I'm off.
January 6th - Wednesday
It was a remarkably similar morning to the one yesterday with our western sky taking on the colours of the sunset. Today we were treated to a ruddy glow instead of the orange. What we did not have yesterday was a huge shoal of fish, possibly sardines, in the bay which attracted more gannets than you could shake a soggy chip at. The dark shadow of the shoals was clearly visible in the water stretching from North Rocks out to Aire Point and about half the width of the bay. The gannets created a rotating vortex across that area with birds dropping out of the skies to feed on the rich pickings.
Out toward Brisons by about half a mile, a large flock of probably herring gulls sat resting on the rippling waves as even more gannets dived around them. They seemed quite oblivious to the activity. Inshore, the gulls tried a bit of circling, too, but they completely failed to do any diving or acquiring food. They have much to learn, or perhaps they have learnt it is easier when everyone else to do the diving and dipping and then pick up the pieces after they have gone.
I had high hopes of getting up to The Farm today to clear the barn so that we could get into the store shed to do some more stock taking. We did get there but it was the middle of the afternoon by that time and we just shoved aside a few things so that we could force our way into the shed. It had been some while since either of us had been in there and the battery that serves the lights was dead as the bricks it was sitting on. This is not good for a battery and I did hope that not too much damage had occurred. I swapped it out for one of the permanently charged ones in the cabin. I had expected the solar control panel to switch into bulk charging mode, but it flatly refused. It did start drawing more power, so I hoped that was the indicator that it was charging the flat battery. I will check it with a meter tomorrow to make sure.
As the Missus got on with doing the stock take in the store shed, I started mapping out the area for the polytunnel. It has been the best weather we have had for such a task, although it could be a little less breezy, but at least the frame could be put up. I started by pegging out with windbreak poles - we have the poles but no windbreaks - so that the Missus could see it set out. She came and had a look, but I could tell she was not wholly satisfied. We talked it over and she decided that it would be far better over by the cabin where it would have better access to water from the IBC and power, if it were needed, from the cabin. I agreed with the last two but pointed out that the area she had nominated was covered in clumps of grass, brambles, deep weed cover and had the wrecked remnants of our long dead caravan right in the middle of it. Yes, that was exactly where it had to be.
I was immediately dubious that this would set us back a week. She assured me that clearing the area would be a piece of cake and not take long at all and I could start tomorrow. (She did not actually say that last bit - I was just being naughty.) We had already had a week of dry weather that would not last forever. As if to prove my point, it started raining. This was odd because the Meteorological Office website did not mention rain at all. Sorry, I just looked again, and it has been changed. I could do forecasting like that and be rather good at it.
As it was, we had started losing the light not helped by the dirty grey clouds above us. To add insult to injury, the Missus had barely got through a quarter of the stock count. I would offer to do the count while the Missus used the tractor to clear the polytunnel area, but she would not thank me to interfere with her system in the stock shed. We shall have to hope for an extension of the good weather.
It was dark and damp by the time we got back. I was not so dark, but I was damp having failed to take a rain jacket with me to The Farm. This added a damp dimension to the atmosphere in the flat, which along with the chill was not very helpful.
We ate out of our freezer again which seems to have just as much stuff in it as when we closed back in November. This is good as it means that we do not have to go to the supermarket or at least only for a few items. With things a bit more tricky in this neck of the woods this time around we are being extra careful about where we put ourselves as Mother is in our midst.
I have check three forecasts for tomorrow and it looks like a good day for working outside - with long Johns and a thick vest under several layers of clothing. I shall take a rain coat.
January 5th - Tuesday
It was a very surreal looking morning as I gauged what clothing I should wear when taking the bleddy hound around the block. In the east things were looking quite rosy with bright and clearing skies. Out to the west, the sky was dark and heavy, sucking the light out of the world like some encroaching menace. I checked for rain and it is likely that they were the rain clouds that the rain radar highlighted but they were not heading our way, so I wrapped up for warmth alone and headed out.
We bumped into the bleddy hound's best pal who was already down on the Harbour beach. I would ordinarily not have headed in that direction but now there was no choice. I tarried a while and related our drama from last night, but I am not sure the bleddy hound's best pal was that interested. We parted company shortly afterwards as the bleddy hound still needed a proper walk yet.
My it was chilly and that north east breeze was still dragging the temperature down and making it seem colder than it was. All the while the skies were brightening and the clouds out to the west far less scary. When I sat down with my tea, after giving the bleddy hound her breakfast, the skies had changed completely. There was clear and blue sky to the far east. In the west all the cloud took on the aspect of the sunrise and mirrored the bright colours that would normally surround it. If you were disorientated, you may well have surmised that direction lay in the east or the sun had just got it wrong today.
I had initially planned to get the Missus up to The Farm today to clear out the barn but reconsidered given that the twelfth night was almost upon us and the Christmas tree on the railings opposite had suffered enough. Instead, I suggested that we dismantle the decorations both across the road and in the flat so that tomorrow we could take them all up to The Farm with us where they will be stored until next year. She agreed. It also gave me the opportunity to do some more of the shop's inventory.
Since we had a couple of purchases from the webshop - it is on the same collection of pages wherein the Diary lies, dear reader - I needed to take then to the post office before I commenced my part of today's schedule. Since I was out and about, I also collected Mother who comes for tea today. The streets were noticeably quieter, although the post office at the top of the hill was buzzing, so much so I went to St Buryan instead where it was indeed a vertitable ghost town.
The Missus was half way through the dissembling of the tree decorations when we arrived back. Mother said that she thought she would have finished by now, which encouraged her greatly. I helped at the very end to hold the tree up while the last guy rope was removed. We tucked it under one of our benches to stop it blowing away but we hope that the much maligned council will take it away next week. If Santy had brought the Missus her industrial tree shredder that she wanted for Christmas, it would have gone to The Farm instead.
I remained downstairs but thankfully out of the draught in the shop. Here I took another step in the direction of finishing the stock count. A few days ago, I thought that I was just a morning away from completing it but it is a deceptively bigger job than it first appears and I am sure things multiply while I am doing it.
When I got back upstairs again several hours later, the Missus was still unravelling the tree lights. We are not sure that they will be used next year as the solar facility was inadequate in the available light of The Cove. We have spotted some that permit the battery packs to be removed so that they can be charged remotely, which would suit better here. Since the Missus intends to extend the display next year, both sets I am sure will be useful.
It was exceedingly pleasant to spend the evening in the light and relative warmth of an electrically fed property. It was even more pleasant to get into a warm bed. Ah, it is always the simple pleasures.
January 4th - Monday
It was a dark day for us, without light and without warmth and we wondered if we would ever see the end of it. Happily, the men from the electricity company fixed it before we went to bed. This time our power outage was much more inconvenient and more serious, too.
The day had started well enough, although it was cold, darned cold; colder than a fridge full of cold things. It was definitely not, though, as cold as the forecast would have had us believe but with a strong breeze from the north east, it was doing a pretty good job of feeling like it was. When we crossed the car park first thing, the bleddy hound and I, that breeze was right up the leg of my shorts.
I cannot lie that I was particularly looking forward to heading to the gymnasium, but I was not going to be defeated by a bit of weather. I dispensed with a fast cycle ride and headed onto the usual routine. I decided that it would be prudent to keep my jumper on today and to see how that went. It went very well, although it had to come off at the end of my row when I had warmed up a little. It was off for about five minutes before I got cold again.
Naturally, I felt much better afterwards and the warmth stayed with me for some hours. It lasted long enough to get me up the hill to the post office and then onto The Farm to look for my missing pinkie ring. I remembered that I had to fiddle about under the roof sheets to put the foam in place and wondered if that may have been then that it fell off. I had a good look everywhere but feared that if it had been left out in the open, no self-respecting magpie would have been able to leave it alone. I cannot help feeling that it was probably not that long between losing it and noticing as it would have felt wrong, which would mean that it is at home, but it has thus far failed to materialise.
I only just got back in time to get ready for an appointment with the optician. I had selected a new one because I was unhappy at being browbeaten into some very expensive and inappropriate glasses at the previous one. I was very impressed with the new people, but it was still expensive, just not as expensive as the last lot. I can hardly wait as my current spectacles have black lines down them which are very irritating. I still have to wait for a couple of weeks for the new ones to be ready.
It was still light when the power went off and just after I had finished making a cup of tea and the Missus had just finished in the shower, so it could have been worse. The outage was quite spectacular, too, with flashing lights and electrical crackle before a big pop and mainly darkness. Quite oddly, the kitchen lights continued to dimly flash and even more strangely, a heater in the spare bedroom was still working.
Once again, the power people were most responsive. It was just a shame that it had not happened earlier in the day when it would have been less inconvenient. The fault perplexed the first team until they discovered that the box on the back wall had been burnt out. This they informed me they would have to pass to the aerial team, as it required the use of a ladder.
It did not take long for the aerial team to arrive and set to work. They suggested as an expediency that they would string a temporary cable from a nearby pole. I was informed that the real problem was underground but as they were the aerial team, trained in working on ladders, they could not touch it. The underground team, who had a digger, were on their way.
We had high hopes for some temporary power from the aerial cable, but these were scotched when flames started sprouting from the ground. (That made me smile: the word processor kept wanting to change 'scotched' to 'scorched'. It has a point.) They told me this was a good thing because they now knew where the fault was but that they would now have to wait for the underground team.
This team must have been further away as they did not arrive until gone nine o'clock. The digger, however, stayed resolutely on the trailer that came with them. There was no apparent noise of activity, although we were in the front of the building and they at the back, and a short while later another van arrived. We postulated that the digger was too big for the job and that they had to wait for the underground team (spade division) to arrive.
I should not be so unkind. There did not seem to be any unnecessary delays and the boys kept us up to speed on progress, well until the underground team arrived. They all seemed very busy, so I did not like to press them for information. We could not retire anyway because the power distribution unit is in the bedroom and they would need access to it some point. Additionally, I was not getting into bed until at least half an hour after my electric blanket had gone on.
We were not entirely impatient, but it would have been nicer if the temperature inside was not fast closing in on the temperature outside and the batteries of our mobile devices, including torches, were draining at an alarming rate. After they went out it would mean talking to each other. We were, however, able to make tea and the Missus cobbled together a meal on the gas ring we have for such emergencies and for cooking Chinese meals in a wok. We did not have a Chinese meal to hand so we had fried sandwiches, which would otherwise have been toasted.
The aerial boys finally finished off the ladder height work and handed over to the original team who had turned up first some hours earlier and had been there throughout. It was just gone eleven o'clock. I forgot to ask if we have two phases back again but since they need to come back to change our ancient Bakelite fuses, it will wait until then.
There, I bet you were not expecting such excitement this morning, dear reader. It all happens down here.
January 3rd - Sunday
It was a grey, damp and chill walk around the block with the bleddy hound this morning. The Cove was an empty and desolate place and not even our lady swimmers could be bothered to get out of bed for it. Throughout the day we had sporadic showers passing through from the north east, but they left the afternoon largely dry. We were treated to a collection of rainbows appearing randomly across the day for most of that period.
Just before the rain cleared out for the rest of the day, the grey sky to the north provided a perfect backdrop for a myriad of gannets flooding the sky. They filled the gap between Brisons and Cape and their brilliant white stood out starkly against the grey. They did not appear to be feeding, just wheeling around and within half an hour were gone. I think that they must have only been there for artistic reasons.
It took me until the afternoon to gather enough momentum to get my lazy bottom down to the shop to recommence the stock take. At this rate it will take me until we are open to complete and I really should make more effort. I will probably tell myself that again tomorrow. Still, I did get down there and I did make a further dent. Another morning's work and I think we will be mainly finished if my appendages have not all dropped off in the cold down there before then.
One thing that has dropped off somewhere and at sometime is my pinkie ring. I only noticed today when I was in the midst of counting things, my fingers in particular, and noticed that it was no longer there. The ring, that is, my finger was still in place at that time. I had just put out the kitchen rubbish, so the Missus very kindly went through that while I looked in other obvious and less obvious places. It was not to be found. It may have come adrift at The Farm when my fingers were very cold and I was doing some dextrous, manual labouring. I will look there tomorrow if I am in that direction. I know that it is only an object and there are more important things, but I have had the ring man and boy and have only had to replace the stone once and the ring itself a couple of times - I jest, of course. I had been lucky with it once before when I lost the stone. I found it at the bottom of a swimming pool in Bangkok, which was miraculous since I was in Finchley at the time.
Enough of this nonsense and frivolity, it was time to be concerned about the weather, well, the temperature specifically. It was quite by chance that I looked at the Meteorological Office website that told me that the temperature would dip a couple of degrees below freezing tonight. It was highly unlikely that that would happen in The Cove but it was enough to suggest that I turn off the water to the outside tap. The operation requires a long handled screwdriver because the stop cock is tucked away beside the dishwasher. We had nothing suitable in the house, so I had to retrieve my tool bag and ferret through that. Even there, only one screwdriver came anywhere close to being long enough and then it was a struggle. Just for interest's sake, after I had completed the task, I had a look at three other weather websites to cross reference the data I had seen on the first. Not one had the temperature dropping below two degrees and one even suggested no lower than four degrees. I will never know for certain what the temperature dropped to but it was probably a sensible precaution.
I will look out my Wee Willie Winkie hat tonight for bed, just in case, I think.
January 2nd - Saturday
I had mapped out my expectations of today instead of letting it generally take its own course, which was a very silly thing to do. Naturally, it did not work out as I had planned at all.
Apart from a few showers here and there, it was a reasonable day. There were also far fewer people about than in the last couple of days suggesting that our holiday makers have gone home. The beach looked a much larger place when I looked out at around low water in the early afternoon with hardly a soul on it. The Harbour sand, too, had less writing in the sand than of late and had returned to dog pawprints and human boot prints.
There were not many of those when the bleddy hound and I went down this morning. She was even more hesitant than she had been the previous days when there were actually seals down there. Perhaps it was the two lady swimmers who put her off or even the distinct lack of sand now that the sea was even closer in than yesterday; we went around the block, instead. This left me out in the open when a short but reasonably intense shower blew through. It was very cold on the legs when my trousers stuck to them as we went around.
Cold was once again the order of the day. I sensed that it was, perhaps, not quite as cold as yesterday and we did have electricity to play with all day. Nevertheless, I did not tarry and went downstairs after I had finished my breakfast to continue the postcard count. This is taking far longer than I anticipated as I have found some gaps in the inventory record that had to be resolved. Also, the transition between two suppliers continues for the second year where we have stock from both. Also I have held back on making some of the new cards permanent to see how well they sold.
I had planned to spend two hours down in the shop at the end of which I had expected to have finished with postcards. At the end of one and a half hours, I had only finished the one supplier and was cold to the bone. I retired upstairs for a warm and a brew and to instigate part two of the planned day, which was to go up to The Farm to clear up the barn. This is mainly required so that we can get into the stock shed but it is also necessary because the barn has become a tip and needs sorting out.
Having arrived upstairs, the Missus suggested that we wait until Monday and then blitz it. As she was proffering steaming hot tea at the time and my fingers had not stopped being blue yet, I thought that a splendid idea, despite knowing deep down that it was not and that on Monday something else would happen to divert us.
With my plans now revised I intended to return to the shop and yet it was cold down there and warm upstairs. I stayed much longer than I should have but when I did go down I made sure I was dressed appropriately with additional layers. My renewed effort was much easier after that, but it was nearly tea time when I returned but at least I had finished the postcards.
I had timed my end game perfectly; it was lashing down when I stepped outside the shop. That will teach me to be such a wimp.
January 1st - Friday (2021)
Naturally, our flaky electricity supply chose today, the coldest that we have had so far, to give up on us. I have to hand it to the supply company, however, as they responded very quickly as they always seem to do. The power outage was ours alone and was fairly severe - we lost both of the two phases feeding the shop and the flat. The engineers told us that it was the ancient equipment that we have in our cupboard that was at fault and they have booked us in for some upgrades.
It was bitterly cold even with electricity when I pulled myself out of bed after the bleddy hound this morning. There were no seals on the beach today, but the retreating tide had only just retreated enough to allow us some space down there. I suspect that tomorrow that we will be consigned to walk around the block again.
It was a supreme mental effort to convince myself that it would be a good idea to head to the hut with a tin roof to undertake some exercise. It did not seem like that great an idea when I arrived because, as I have mentioned before, it is colder inside than out on days like these. An immediate jump on the exercise bicycle and a rapid go at static propulsion was requisite before I attempted to strip down to both shorts and t-shirt. Even that did not help very much, and I was at the end of 5,000 metres of rowing before I felt even a moderate warmth creeping in.
I had just started to get comfortably warm in the living room when the electricity went off. The Missus had to evacuate the bedroom because it was too frosty in there for her and we both gathered around the bar on the electric heater. It did not take long for the heat to ebb away and leave us shivering in our boots - or would have done had we been wearing them. Fortunately, my breakfast had acquired sufficient heat in the oven to be eaten, else I would have been sorely tested by the incident.
We have so many interruptions to our power supply here that we know the order of things before we go reporting such incidents to the power company. The first, after checking that it was not just the circuit breaker having tripped, was to consult with the neighbours to see if they had power or no. They had, which was a bad sign as it meant that we alone had the fault, and it would take longer to fix. From previous experience, wider power failures are commonly fixed remotely and more swiftly. I tarried a while with the neighbours because they are an affable pair and helpful. As a parting gesture, after telling them that it would soon get very cold in the flat, one offered that he had some spare portable electric heaters if we needed them. I thanked him warmly, which I told him was the only heat that might be derived from his borrowing his portable heaters. At least it gave us both a hearty laugh.
While we waited for the power people to arrive it left little to do but stare out of the window. It was the first perfectly pleasant day for some while and not a hint of rain all day. Mother said that the Christmas tree lights looked especially bright when it became dark. I told her it was because the windows had been scrubbed clean by the sleet thrown against them the previous night. The clarity afforded us a clear view of the beach and the army of beach strollers that were out there. It was also the first time that surfers had been in the water for a while and there was a fair few of them as well. Little Bo Café next door was busy again today. Yesterday the place was heaving, although they are only able to offer takeaways now. There were small groups at the tables opposite us for much of the day both yesterday and today.
I am supposing that the hordes here are the remnants of visitors who had booked for Christmas and are yet to go home. This is supported by the numbers of lighted homes across The Cove in the evening and the volume of traffic during the day.
The power was out for just a little more than an hour, which was not too bad especially as the Missus was able to make a cup of tea on the portable gas ring that we have stored away.
As it was intended that Mother come to visit as is usual on a Friday, I decided against a visit to The Farm and concentrate instead on the stock take. Well, that was the plan until the electricity went out which left me an hour to count as many postcards as I could. I did make a very small dent in the work and will continue for a bit tomorrow. It was a token but was better than doing nothing at all for the entire day.
A song had been going around my head for the last few days, brought on by the derision expressed about our previous year. Mr Townsend wrote it quite a while ago for the rock opera, Tommy, and refers to a year in the previous century. It is quite fitting now.
"I've got a feeling twenty-one Is going to be a good year Especially if you and me See it in together.
So you think twenty-one Is going to be a good year It could be good for me and her But you and her, no never.
I had no reason To be over optimistic But somehow when you smiled I can brave bad weather"
December 31st - Thursday
Today was a day for doing things and, by Jove, nothing was going to stand in my way. The bleddy hound had a good crack at making me so tired I did not want to do anything but even getting up again at half past four o'clock - an improvement, I suppose - was not going to stop me. I am beginning to know her game. It was clear she did not want to go out, so I just left her to it and went back to bed. No more than half an hour later she came back, too.
The Harbour beach was once again sealed off. I managed to avert any problem by spotting mother in the Harbour and had an inkling the game was afoot. Sure enough, there was a juvenile at the bottom of the slipway, which I left to its own devices. I encouraged the bleddy hound to follow me around to the car park. She was hesitant but came along rather than being left behind.
What passes for sunrise here, about half an hour after everyone elses. We like ours in the north rather than the east, too.
I took care of a spot of this and that at the computer for a while and despatched some breakfast, but it was time to get doing something. At this time of year, the thing to get going with is our annual stock take. There is usually some urgency because it is important to complete it before the big trade show of the year, which happens in early January. This year it will be May and we will not be able to attend. However, I saw no reason not to complete the stock count in good time, especially as we need to plan what to buy and when to buy it as early as possible.
Limiting myself to an hour, I managed to complete the two main beachware suppliers. This involves counting all the buckets, spades, beach bits and quite a range of toys resident in the shop and the store room. I will admit that it did not take very long at all because there was very little left. There are some more onerous counts to come such as the wetsuits and the hooded sweatshirts and I shall do those when I am really feeling keen.
There was a reason why I had limited myself to just the hour doing the stock counting and that was because I had planned to head up to The Farm. There are a number of things that need to be done to finish off the outside of the 'greenhouse' and I wanted to put some of them away. I primed the Missus who told me that she was going to visit Mother, so I agreed to drop her off and go on from there.
It was our first day in a while with a big unrainy gap in the middle of it, but it was cold. There was a bit of a breeze from the north west, which was not enough to cause problems for the jobs I had to do. I had set myself a couple of manageable tasks, the first to cap either end of the 'greenhouse' wall where we had used a roofing sheet. I experimented with several bits of timber and eventually decided that the gash bits of shiplap would be ideal - and they were. I did have to apply a bit of angle grinding to pare back the overlap and tidy that up before attaching the slats, but it went remarkably smoothly.
The bit I was most concerned about was inserting the foam strips into the rear of the roof to fill up the gaps where the roofing sheet ridges are. Undoing the fixings and inserting the foam strips was the least of it. Standing on the third rung of a ladder was everything. Drinking heavily might have solved the problem but then I had to drive back, so that was out. Growing appendages to undertake such an enterprise, that some might unkindly suggest I am missing, was the only other alternative available to me. Oddly, having done so, I was up and down the ladder like a proper person who goes up and down ladders a lot and felt reasonably comfortable about it.
It was most satisfying having completed all the jobs that I had planned to complete today. It was even more pleasing to finish The Farm work off before the big inky black cloud, that was approaching from the north and blocking out the remaining light, started dropping rain on me. In fact, we were just leaving Mothers when it started to come down but very quickly, the rain turned solid and clattered onto the windscreen and roof of the truck. I also had not appreciated that the clever truck we have bleeps at you when the temperature ducks below three degrees. Given that it had been around six degrees all day, this was a most sudden drop and rather took me by surprise - on top of the surprise of discovering that the truck bleeps at us when it happens.
Talking of surprises, and just being reminded by the journey back from St Buryan, it was on this same journey that I noticed an unfamiliar howling coming from the truck. I asked the Missus if she had opened one of the windows, which she had not. On thinking what this new, irritating sound might be, it came to me that it was almost certainly the new roof bars. On the grounds that it is far too difficult to keep taking them off and putting them on as required, quite apart from having to find somewhere convenient to store them, it is a noise that we shall have to get used to - along with the couple of miles per gallon lost to the additional wind resistance.
Given that I had been a proper work person today, we had a proper work person's tea of pasties. Then all of a sudden, we came to the end of the year. Well, not quite the end as I did not bother to wait until the last minute before heading for my bed. We were probably not alone as several fireworks displays went off at a round the same time. Mind, by the time you read this, dear reader, it will be appropriate to wish to a Happy New Year.
December 30th - Wednesday
The bleddy hound seems to have developed a habit for getting up in the middle of the night. She is much recovered now and was from yesterday morning, presumably knowing what we had in store for her she made a last ditch effort to avert the visit to the veterinary doctor, which she detests. Perhaps then, it was revenge that had her get me up at four o'clock in the morning. She did not appear much in the need for a walk outside, but I took her anyway. It was cold but dry outside, which was fortunate for both of us, and the moon, sitting high in the sky, provided the illumination required.
The middle of the night venture out did not in the least stall her usual morning run out and we were up at the normal time, which is a good bit later than normal time when the shop is open, thankfully. We headed for the Harbour beach as there is nothing quite like sticking to a routine. What was out of routine, although slightly more regular than we would hope, was that sniffing of the air in a cautious sort of way that meant there be seals.
I had a good look around from atop the slipway and there was nothing obvious at first glance. By the time we got to the beach there were clear markings of one seal slipping back into the sea much earlier when the tide was higher. I breathed a sigh of relief but that was short-lived as just beyond the first set of markings was another going in the opposite direction. I looked up the slipway but could see no other seal about.. There was then a third set of markings heading around the other side of the western slip, so I carefully followed them. Again, I could see nothing, but the markings zigzagged here and there but being focused on this alone I completely missed the other trail coming back again. Suddenly I was reasonably closely face to face with a juvenile seal looking a bit glum. I backed off very quickly.
The bleddy hound had stood her ground as I explored, which was just as well. It was difficult to tell which way the wind was blowing but the scent of the seal cannot have fully reached her, but she was alert. I thought it best to take her up the slipway in the direction of the wharf and continue our walk, so I headed in that direction while she stood still and looked dubious. She was right to do so because although she had not seen it, there was a very small seal parked at the top of the slip right under the Round House.
When we returned home, I called in the Cornwall Wildlife Trust collection service to let them know the situation. While I was talking with them, I noticed an adult seal at the mouth of the Harbour. I had heard one of the seals call out as we came home and assumed this was the reason why. Later, I met up with a neighbour coming off the beach and she told me that the smaller seal had made its own way back down to the beach and was now not far off the water. She said that it had looked like it took some effort to do so. The larger seal was still up by the western slip so clearly not family - or maybe a seal teenager and grumpy.
I put such things behind me and headed for the gymnasium in the pouring rain. It became heavy at times after that and was certainly heavier when I returned home an hour later. As usual it was darned cold in the hut with a tin roof, requiring a very strenuous session just to shake off the chill. I must have looked like the Ready Brek child coming back again.
The rain continued throughout the day - again. At least this time it was coming down vertically with hardly any breeze to disturb it. I should qualify 'hardly any breeze'. Here, this means wind less than forty miles per hour. I had to guess for a break in the weather to head up to The Farm. I had noticed that the cctv camera did not appear to be charging, although the battery was holding out remarkably well - probably because there was not much up there moving and setting it off. I took the bleddy hound with me on the basis that I should not suffer alone, and I owed her one for getting me up at four o'clock in the morning.
As expected, it was pretty grey and grim up there. I have been having to turn on our four wheel drive to get us comfortably down the lane as it had become exceedingly muddy and slippery. I turned out the bleddy hound to wander about by herself while I ran up the ladder to address the camera problem. It took a moment or two to work out that the cable connection was a little fragile and that simply refitting it did not solve the problem. Some jiggling of the cable eventually did the trick which was not exactly comforting as a solution and it would probably go wrong again in the next high wind. The effect was immediate, and the camera started charging straight away.
Once again we settled into a laziness for what remained of the afternoon. The weather is not conducive to leaping about and being industrious and even going downstairs requires supreme effort. We shall have to pull out our collective fingers else time will run away with us before we know it. Just some dry weather would be nice.
December 29th - Tuesday
The remnants - or possibly the continuation - of yesterday's storm left The Cove a photographer's delight. Sorry, not this photographer who forgot his camera for the first and could not quite get the angle for the second.
It was down on the scoured sand of the Harbour beach that lent itself to cinematic delight. The sand was smooth and hard, levelled by insistent waves, and flat across the decline from slipway to tide line. It was as if someone had painstakingly taken a plasterer's trowel to every inch of it and done an exceedingly good job of it at that. There was hardly any beach litter at all, the natural or man-made sorts. There was a little strand of weed here and there and a scattering of pebbles, otherwise it was just smooth sand.
Our seemingly continuous and unrelenting wind travelled more northwards today, accentuating the downward spiral in temperature and forcing its way through the tenuous character of our front wall. Today the wind brought with it frequent wintry showers that clattered against the windows but at least freed them of their layer of salt that had built up. It provided a clear view out to the north west and the grey speckled sea with the foam blown into broken lines out to the horizon so favoured by photographers with a decent camera and view of it.
A windward view
Having played nurse to a poorly bleddy hound over the last five days we thought it high time we took her to the veterinary doctor in Penzance. It was also the first day we could do so without making an emergency of it. The Missus also had an appointment in town so, luckily, we were able to combine the two, which meant me coming too to look after the bleddy hound while she was at her appointment. At the very least it was something to do and got us out of the house. It surprised me to see quite so many people abroad and when we ended up in the car park of an out of town store, there was little choice of parking.
There were still quite a few people milling about in The Cove when we returned towards the later afternoon. The sea state was not quite so exciting as it was the previous day, but people who are not shopping need something to look at. I avoided them as I took a somewhat recovered bleddy hound around for a short walk before we went back to the flat again. In fairness, she seemed much better in the morning and did not need much encouragement to eat her breakfast for the first time since Christmas Eve. We were also hopeful that she would get through the night without needing assistance.
When I took her out in the early evening, a full moon was peeking through the broken, black clouds to the east making a spectacle of itself. Later, when it was shing through the skylight, I fervently hoped that it would not confuse the bleddy hound into thinking that it was morning already. It was very bright. I read that it is called the Cold Moon and they were definitely right about that; it was bleddy Baltic.
December 28th - Monday
The bleddy hound had me up at sparrow's with an urgent requirement. I would not have minded too much but it was blowing in at around 65 miles per hour at that time, augmented by the poor aerodynamics of the Lifeboat station, and rain was coming in sideways. I had enough time to put on a jacket, but my gymnasium shorts were the nearest thing at hand for my lower half. At that time of the morning, though, I doubt that anyone would have even seen my Christmas undershorts, but it was more the 60 miles per hour draft whistling up the leg than fear of being admonished by the fashion police that concerned me.
It took a steely will to drag myself out in the direction of the gymnasium later on. At least it was light, but the rain was still piling in horizontally on that fearsome sounding wind. I discovered that it actually looked and sounded far worse than it actually was - alright, the wind was still windy - as there were significant gaps between the showers and the colder temperatures that I heard about on the forecast last night had not yet materialised. I soon settled into my exercise regime and the Christmas pounds started dropping off, certainly in my head they did, which made it all worthwhile.
When I came back, Mother was making ready to leave and go back home. I have no idea if the two were related. She enjoys the company here, or puts on a good show of doing so, but probably like most of us, we do like being home. We sent her of with as much leftover Christmas food as we could, and she will probably subsist for a week or so on it. I did offer to go ahead and turn on the heating so that the place was warm when she arrived, but she was in too much of a hurry for that.
While the Missus was off taking Mother home, the bleddy hound wanted another trip out. I was able to wrap up more sensibly this time and we headed for the Harbour beach. I am going to have to consult with one of Mr Atlas's books because we both had sand thrown in our faces when we rounded the corner to the Lifeboat station. It was streaming off the beach and all the way up the slipway to get at us. Going down the slipway forwards is hard enough in a blustery wind; backwards was the only way today.
Still bright but stirred up
We did not stay out long, and the Missus came back home shortly after we did. It was another day for closing out the world outside or would have been had the Highly Professional Craftsperson not stopped by for a chat. We had missed each other a couple of days over the weekend so we repaired to the shop where we could open the door and take it in turns to shelter. There was not a great deal of shelter to be had and the rain had already been squirting under the door and soaking the floor. The weather worsened while we spoke and he took the chance to move on between increasingly frequent showers.
Thumping in on the beach
We watched the deteriorating conditions from the flat window for the rest of the day. The sea state was going from pretty upset to viciously angry in just a few hours. I had noticed even at low water early in the morning that the Seven Stones weather station was recording fifteen feet high waves. By the middle of the afternoon, we were seeing that sort of height in the bay.
The water had been streaked with white, wind blown trails and now, with a deep swell and heavy ground sea, the bay was turning increasingly white with foam. Looking out to Brisons, it was regularly shrugging off the spray from overtopping waves that moved around the rocks in swirling wreaths. At high water, waves were pushing deep up the Valley and onto the dunes at the top of the big beach. More vulnerable ports along the north coast would have been lucky that this was not a big tide.
I am beginning to wonder whether our outside Christmas tree has been bestowed with special powers. It has withstood some of the worst conditions that this neck of the woods can throw at it and I am concerned now that of it topples it will herald the end of empires, much like the ravens leaving the Tower of London. The other theory, of course, is that the poor weather only started after it was installed and it is demonic. Gosh, I only just thought of that. Where did I put my axe?
December 27th - Sunday
Things had clamed down a little by the morning time. The bleddy hound, who had kept us up for substantial parts of the night, was not that keen to head out at her usual time. I left her until she was ready, but she was showing signs of improvement.
When we eventually made it to the beach the wind was still quite punchy. Even down in the shelter of the Harbour I was finding it difficult to keep upright and this was a considerably reduced windspeed from last night. The Christmas tree was still upright, listing a little to starboard this time, and most things were in their right place in the places in The Cove that I could see. I was due to meet with the Highly Professional Craftsperson today for a brief outside beer or two, but he called in telling me he had been diverted to repair some storm damage up at the top.
The sea state was not immediately apparent during the low water of the morning but by the middle of the day it was bouncing. There was some bright sunshine between the showers and this brought a hoard of visitors to The Cove to have a geek at it all.
I had not quite appreciated just how many visitors had descended upon us until I took the bleddy hound out in the early afternoon. The place was heaving. There was no heading down to the beach due to the boiling mass of sea in there, so we headed for the car park to go around the block. We did not get that far as we tried desperately to avoid the traffic coming in both directions. There was absolute mayhem at the corner by the Round House with cars trying to make enough space to clear the logjam. I pulled the bleddy hound in tight to the corner by Tinker Tailor, but she was rather desperate to get on a bit. I managed to get her past between two cars but she has no concept of road sense and kept trying to walk out into the path of them. Into all this, pedestrians tried to file past the stuck cars in both directions, which was all rather too much, and we made our excuses and ducked off to the side to try and avoid everyone.
We consigned the outside world to the other side of the door for the remainder of the day. The weather outside worsened and, as the crowds thinned, those remaining were scattered by sudden squalls passing through. We had the notion that the wind was shifting a bit and by evening it was beginning to make a bit more of a fuss again.
We voted for a smaller meal at tea time, which was the right thing to do. It did not seem that we had overeaten over the festive period, but I guess that we must have. It was fortunate that we had not gone shopping too far in advance and were able to buy for the numbers we had. That still amounted to a freezer full of spare meat and very little in the way of waste. We are lucky to have a fair few freezers available to us and I am lucky to have a gymnasium just down the road. I can barely wait.
December 25th & 26th - Friday & Saturday
It was not the best night before Christmas we have ever had. The bleddy hound had me up at three o'clock in the morning, feeling unwell and I was stalking the dead quiet street shortly after. On the bright side of that, looking up the sky was a sparkling delight of glistening stars - just like you would imagine a Christmas night to be. With no sign of Santy we headed back and I manged to get the bleddy hound to snooze for a bit.
She was up again a few hours later. Being a sharing sort of person, I thought it only fair to rouse the owner of the sick bleddy hound to do her bit, so I gave her a poke. The Missus, as you can imagine was delighted to leap from her bed. She was not as lucky as I and by this time it was pelting down outside. I found out later that she cheated and simply opened the window to let her out on the roof.
Despite having rudely awoken the Missus, she clearly harboured no resentment and let me sleep in, which I am most unused to. It did not feel right for very long, so I got up in time to see quite a few people gathering for a morning swim.
I had heard that there was no official Christmas swim this year but quite a few people were clearly undeterred and came anyway. By the time the usual swim would go ahead there were probably less than half the normal numbers, which even then meant quite a lot. There was no en masse run to the water and people got wet in smaller groups. Some even avoided the crowd altogether and formed a small splinter group to splash into the Harbour, instead.
I decided that it might be a jolly wheeze to open the shop door and have a few bottles of this and that available and to see who dropped by. I thought that I would avoid any remaining swim crowds by not starting until around midday. Little did I know that I avoided any crowds and, in fact, any people at all after that time.
Not to be too quickly disheartened, I waited about and for entertainment turned on the steam wireless and Radio Pasty playing a bit of Christmas song singing. I had decided that it would be impolite to commence any imbibing before the first guest made an appearance. I made it through Christmas Wrapping, Frosty the Snowman and I Saw Mama Kissing Santy but by the time A Spaceman Came Travelling I had seriously started to weaken. Then came Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer and I reached for the nearest bottle.
The bleddy hound was still not out of the woods in the morning but at least she waited until a more reasonable hour before getting me out of bed. Even then, it was still dark when we set out and wet on the ground and there was a stiff breeze coming in from the west. Fortunately, she did not want to stay out too long.
I just managed to get a cup of tea down before she went on about going out again. I was less than delighted as the weather was deteriorating but needs must. It was a big wandering session with the bleddy hound not having a clue what she wanted and we found ourselves on an aimless trek down to the beach, back up again, across the RNLI car park, down Coastguard Row before heading back across the Harbour car park. She became more hesitant the closer we got to home and then point blank refused to go any further. She really did not want to go home and preferred to stand outside, unmoving. In the end I had to pick her up and carry her in, although it had crossed my mind to leave her there.
It was quite the laziest day we have had since the last really lazy day. There seem to have been quite a few of them recently, largely enforced by poor weather when most of the work we need to do being outside. In the end I set to with updating our inventory system with the new stock we identified from our visit to the supplier in the middle of December. It was not the most Christmassy of activities, I will admit. Perhaps I should have tried to make some sort of parlour game out of it.
The highlight of our day - which could quite easily have been watching the Christmas tree lights illuminate - was spotting a whale breaching out by Cape Cornwall. The Missus got all animated about seeing a bit splash out that way in line with Carn Gloose so I reached for the new, powerful binoculars. I was just in time to see it cruise into the air leaving just the tail section in the water before crashing down again. It was huge. A hump back whale, although I am sure we are supposed to be calling it a whale with spinal curvature these days, had been spotted yesterday over at the Isles of Scilly so I presume this was the same one - it did not have a label on it. It was quite a remarkable sighting, especially for us who rarely see anything happening in the bay. It disappeared not to be seen again the moment the Missus got out her Bramley mobile telephone to see if she could capture it on video.
Well, that made my day but it was not I who had the last word. The breeze had been building all day. By the time we went to bed it was howling in across us in 80 miles per hour gusts, laced with heavy rain and making a fearful row. Storm Bella definitely had a ring to it and would probably take its toll later.