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.
May 29th - Friday
That easterly breeze was still with us during the day but to my mind it was a little less severe, perhaps. There were certainly fewer white caps in the bay, but the sun was just as shiny and, in the shelter, it was very warm once more.
I had to encourage the Missus from her bed early, this morning as I had to take the truck to the garage to have the brakes replaced. The Missus had also reported some acceleration problems with the engine spluttering a bit before take up, which was a little concerning while trying to quickly enter a flow of traffic. It was the first time in two and a half months that I had been out of The Cove. I had quite forgotten what lay beyond the end of the road and I am quite glad that I did not have to get out of the enclosed space of the vehicle where I felt safe - obviously until I got to the garage where I was very brave.
I had barely returned from my exercise when our friendly garage man called to tell me that the truck was ready to be picked up. He told me that he had investigated the acceleration issue and had replaced the ERG, which is precisely what I thought it was when the Missus told me about it, ahem. He also advised that we use really expensive premium diesel instead of the ordinary expensive stuff. Since our local garage does not do anything other than the ordinary, we will struggle to comply. The only option will be to travel to Hayle where they have some, using a big chunk of really expensive premium diesel in the process. I thanked him heartily for the advice.
I despatched the Missus to pick up the truck as she was heading that way anyway on her weekly shopping trip. She too was dubious about travelling an extra 30 miles to fill up with diesel that might make the engine work a little better, although giving it a bit of a proper run would probably help as well.
While she was gone, I took a call from the caring, sharing courier company that gave us trouble with the lobsters the other day. I had been expecting a delivery of body boards yesterday, but they did not arrive. I missed the call twice but answered it on the third attempt to a very pleasant man telling me that they had been unable to get all the boxes onto the transport for today as well. Would we mind if they delivered the balance tomorrow or Monday, he asked? Being as I am a caring, sharing sort of grumpy shopkeeper I told him that we did not mind at all but as there were two types of product, big and small, could they send half of one and half of the other, please? It was at this point he admitted that the van had already left. Clearly, I had misconstrued. He was asking only if I wanted the other half of the delivery on Saturday or Monday and that it was pretty much hard luck that I was only getting half the delivery that should have happened yesterday, anyway. I shall remember to be less caring and sharing next time and just be a grumpy shopkeeper.
For most of the day I was free wheeling, with hardly a customer in sight. Business picked up in the early afternoon and after the fish delivery - yes, we had a big fish order again this week - things became busier still, of course. By this time the Missus had returned and helped field the customers and also print the labels for the fish packages.
It is quite some effort to bag and price the fish, but it is helped considerably by our supplier dropping the delivery already separated into the various people's orders. Once again, the product was of superb quality and filleted and portioned in a no frills way rather than restaurant portions which are quite wasteful. When the customer orders were complete, the Missus escaped again to deliver the shopping she had done and some of the fish orders for those still staying indoors. I had to wait until the shop closed before finishing off the remaining portions which will be sold frozen in the shop. It was just too busy in our last hour of opening to deal with them then.
We still closed at four o'clock but I am mindful that it is getting busier later in the day. The big beach was still quite busy and the car park at that end, full. The kiosk stays open later than we, which would have accounted for most of the late demand and left us only the few customers drifting by to the Harbour car park. Even so, I am mindful that opening later is on the cards but since I have become very used to being so lazy, I am hanging on until the customers are battering down the door at five o'clock to tell me I am wrong.
May 28th - Thursday
Our sunshine continues unabated but today has come with a brisk easterly just to take the edge off a little. Radio Pasty was telling me that some people were just too warm yesterday and the cooling breeze from the east was most welcome. Well, I beg to differ. That brisk easterly, which was far more robust in the Far West and the Isles of Scilly than anywhere else, kept all our customer away, unless they had something better to do elsewhere, like sit around on a sheltered beach. Mind, it did not do our windbreak sales any harm for those that did arrive here.
There were a few brave ones around during the day and we sold enough pasties to want to buy some more tomorrow. The usual suspects, those that had been there all week, were down on the Harbour beach again. This includes a fair number of Lifeboat crew, so it vaguely resembles those summer scenes of fighter pilots sitting around waiting for a scramble. As usual, later in the afternoon people started to poke their heads out and we saw a bit more action.
I had spent the quiet of the morning selecting headphones from the Internet instead of putting out the remnants of our grocery order; it was much more fun. I listen to the television with headphones for two reasons. First, the Missus does not like the programmes I watch and secondly, television people speak much more quietly than they ever used to. The headphones I was using are linked to the AV box by a wire and a few weeks ago the wire broke leading me to hear things only in one ear. It was the wire and not my ear because I checked. The day before yesterday, the replacement wire broke and I gave up on wires and bought a Bluetooth transmitter so that I could use the earphones I use for the gymnasium. This worked fine except the earphones get a bit uncomfortable after a while, hence the need for new headphones. There, I am sure you needed to know that, dear reader.
In the quiet of the early afternoon, I regretted spending so long selecting headphones on the Internet and hurriedly finished the remaining grocery order. Part of the rush was that I had made the important decision to buy in some body boards having made a sale of one on Monday. We will need them at some point, we hope, and if not, they will do for next year. They were due in the afternoon and with the Missus out deep at the cash and carry, I would need somewhere to store them until we could get them up to The Farm.
We had selected to have our grocery order delivered to save the Missus the chore of driving over to Hayle to do it herself. This came to nought when our hopeless supplier failed to deliver any budget range lager. They had waited until the delivery was on its way before sending me an electronic mail telling me that the beer was missing - not exactly helpful.
We finished the day in much the same sedate manner that we started it. We had seen some of our regulars on their walks and even a group of Hell's Angels who, after turning up in a bunch, revving their engines menacingly, asked very nicely if we did coffee to take away. I sent them down to the beach kiosk.
Discounting the easterly breeze, we had seen a deliriously beautiful day, clear water where every weed and sandbank could be seen. The myriad little white caps all over the bay and beyond made it look like the ocean was moving sideways but the swell of the previous week had now gone. In the shelter from the wind it was still very warm and even on the beach, where I took the bleddy hound after we closed, it was quiet enough for a paddle. If there were not some exigencies, like feeding ourselves and paying some bills, I could quite get used to that sort of gentleness.
May 27th - Wednesday
The thin layer of mist surrounded us again this morning. Like yesterday it retreated to the horizon where it stayed for most of the day. Late on yesterday, it came creeping in again and reared up over us like some stalking monster. Today, it did not quite go out so far as the day before and we lost Brisons for a while there, only aware of its presence when it peeked out through a gap in the cloud. It played some silly games during the day, getting thicker and changing shape. At one point there was a dark line of it across Brisons and Priest Cove while arching over the Cape was a layer of white mist. It is a May thing and feeds on the warm moist air and the cool of the ocean so persons of science tell me.
As ever, we were quiet in the morning with all the action from the middle of the day onwards. There was some movement on pasties - still worth having them - but it is sedate and unpredictable. We learnt last year that they are better saved in our cold fridge overnight, but they will have to vacate on Friday for our growing fish orders. I was quite relived to take our first order yesterday and some more today after drawing a blank last week.
I am still struggling through our delivered grocery order from yesterday. It is telling that it was delivered, as it was the first properly large order we have placed for some time. It would have been bigger, but the cursed company still does not have a full stock and 30 percent of what we wanted was missing. Chief among this was a lack of beer; surely, they have not stopped making it. Now that the public houses and hotels closed, I can imagine their draught stock has been thrown out by now. It is also possible that the production process for cans and bottles was not geared up to cope with the ensuing increase in demand, a bit of a double whammy for the brewing companies. I asked the delivery driver what the new delivery process was, and he told me that he could not enter the shop. I was suddenly glad it was 30 percent less than I wanted.
I had almost finished my (very late) breakfast at just after one o'clock when my pager went off heralding a Lifeboat shout. Fortunately, the Missus was upstairs preparing our evening tea and had not yet disappeared off to The Farm. She covered me while I walked across the road - we are no longer supposed to hurry so that we can stay alert. On the shore, we keep our numbers for launch and recovery to a minimum currently but as there were only three of us available on shore, we were pretty minimum anyway. It was as we pushed the big boat out on the slipway that I noticed the Inshore boat was also launching, carried out by one of the Boat crew.
The boat was tasked to a job that we shall not dwell on, roughly in the same place it was for the last shout, out towards Gurnard Head and just beyond. It met up with the Coastguard helicopter and disappeared from our AIS tracking screens as both boats were close into the cliff for a time. This made guessing what time they were on their way back very tricky. We also lost radio contact and the Coastguard were not saying much either to give the game away. With the little information we had we made a couple of guesses and set up on the long slipway for the big boat's return. We were not far off an only had to wait half an hour before we saw it emerge from the fog to the west of Brisons.
It was not a bad day for waiting at the end of the slipway, with the sun beating down and the low tide lapping at the rocks. The water was crystal clear with a fair amount of that spaghetti weed floating around the entrance to the Harbour. We found ourselves picking this off the boat propellers in abundance when she was at the top of the slip later. Darn, there I let the cat out of the bag. You will have guessed by now that we executed a textbook recovery up the long slipway at around half past three o'clock, with an audience of youngsters on the Harbour beach. These same youngsters were shooed out of the way for the arrival of the Inshore boat, this time recovered by one of our own. We are, after all, a very multi-tasking and sun-drenched, every excellent Shore Crew.
By the time I came back from the station the Missus had wound up the shop and gathered all the kit in from outside. She never did get up to The Farm today, but will no doubt exact her revenge another day by spending extra long up there. I cannot blame her; it is a lovely place to be even in the winter. In the height of a beautiful sunny day, it is sublime.
May 26th - Tuesday
The morning unfolded into utter magnificence shrouded in a gossamer mist that held just the right amount of chill and a hint of ozone in the air that combined to make the senses come alive. There was warmth in the sun, too, even at the early hour the bleddy hound and I ran around the block; no jacket required today.
There was some uncertainly as to how busy today would be, although we did not expect anything like the busyness of yesterday. I had ordered in some pasties and we sold a few of those and we had placed calls for an avalanche of ice creams, too. I was really quite surprised when our local ice cream supplier turned up half way through the morning. The Moomaid ice creams are made close to Zennor, so they would struggle to be more local. We will have to wait a day or two for the normal ones to turn up. It seems that only having ice creams, pasties, soft drinks, sweets and beer is all that is required for life.
We were promised some cloud rolling in during the afternoon, especially in the Far West and the Isles of Scilly. If it came, it must have been very thin because it looked to me like it was pretty much blue all the way through to the end of the afternoon and quite warm with it, despite a bit of a northerly draft. While we were not mad busy today, there were quite a few people about enjoying the sunshine, either promenading up the street or wandering across the beach.
One of our regulars and a local man told me today that we should be a little careful with the sunshine over the next week or so. He is a man of science and in discussions with others in his field he has warned that because of sunspot activity, the sun's rays may be more intense that of late. Apparently, we are due a 'solar minimum' about now. Although solar radiation decreases during a minimum, the atmosphere shrinks slightly, so I believe what our friend was saying is that the UV radiation becomes stronger - possibly, but he is the solar physicist, not me. Since I only generally see the sun through the shop window, I think I may be quite safe for now. He seemed in some earnest, so it might be worth a little more sun screen, just in case.
Our ground sea that refuses to be tamed was back in force again in the early evening, along with the high tide. It lent itself to some sport for the youngsters being dashed off the Harbour wall. That is another thing that I only see through the shop window and I can promise that it will stay that way.
The Missus was up The Farm again today, cutting the lawn so to speak. She has a big powerful strimmer for the close in and hard to access parts and now that 'Daisy' is fixed, she has been riding her 1958 tractor up and down the field with its topper attached. She told me that she could not possibly do it before because her 'Dickies' workwear shorts had not arrived. Sorry, dear reader, there are no pictures.
May 25th - Monday
What an absolute diamond of a day today was and a rip gribbler to boot. There was a little bit of airflow from the east, you could not even call it a breeze, which was hardly noticeable, and the sun beat down. It took a little while for The Cove to come alive but when it did, we saw the busiest day that we have seen this year. Not quite expecting what we got, I disappeared off for a blistering exercise session which happily set me up for the rest of the day. By the time I got back things were beginning to tick.
I had only ordered in the barest minimum number of pasties as we had some left over from the day before which was hardly what you might call a proper pasty day. I had expected much the same of today but when I came back from exercise, the Missus was pinned behind the counter under an onslaught of pasty buyers. I feared that we had grossly underestimated the numbers of pasty wanters arriving today and scoured the freezer for errant lost pasties but only found four. As it transpired, it was quite enough. As manic as it was, the rush only lasted for an hour and we left the day with exactly the right number of pasties. We love it when a plan comes together.
While the plan on pasties came together, I learnt a valuable lesson on not being too focused in just the one direction. All that looking at pasties and I did not notice just how quickly our ice cream stock was disappearing but, to be fair, much of it disappeared this afternoon. We have been very careful about our purchases to date, making sure that we only buy what we have run out of. This has worked well for the slow pace we have been operating under for the last several weeks. Over the last week, things have begun to gather pace and we can no longer react to stock depletion without an overlap, it seems. There are huge holes in our ice cream stock and with the weather set fair for the rest of the week, we will struggle to get new stock in quickly enough - that is, tomorrow.
It is the first day that I have had to consider that we have omitted to form any sort of shopper plan. Up until now there have been so few customers that they all fitted into the shop without bumping into one another. Most have been careful not to come into the shop if people are gathered around the till or by the ice cream freezer or both. Today's influx saw many more people than we have been used to and although most used their common sense and rotated about the shop avoiding others or simply waited outside until previous customers went, we did have one character who was completely oblivious and barged through two groups. That, I do not think could have been avoided because whatever rules there were in place, he would have ignored them.
The main problem appears to be the bottleneck at the counter. If one person is there and another is by the ice cream freezer the entrance to the shop is effectively blocked. One customer that I discussed it with suggested moving the till closer to the door so that customers are further back. This should allow a corridor, although not strictly two metres in width, into the back of the shop where a further two or three parties could easily cower a sensible distance apart until the coast was clear to approach the till again. We shall monitor what happens over the next few days.
To my mind, there were more people on the beach on Wednesday, but I was told that the Harbour beach was uncomfortably packed toward the middle of the afternoon. Many of these would have been from the immediate community and while not ideal, was probably people who live cheek by jowl anyway. There were a number of surfers on the water, some close in and another group out the back. The waves were a decent size meaning that our ground sea still has not completely gone and if anything had increased again. At high water this was plain to see as the waves broke over the Harbour wall and great rolling waves closed in on the southern part of the beach.
Today was a pretty good test of our resilience and readiness to an increase in visitors. It demonstrated quite worryingly just how much we are affected by the lack of competition in The Cove. We were quite exposed and will need to up our game until the other shops open to soak up some of the excess. I had considered whether we should extend our hours today but by four o'clock our end of The Cove had gone very quiet. A few potential customers drifted by over the next couple of hours, but I would have been waiting of dribs and drabs and not the mass exodus I thought possible.
The Missus deserted me. She had promised Mother a distanced barbeque in her back garden. I would have gone but the lack of available facilities might have been a problem. It was a perfect day for it and gave Mother a bit of a boost at a safe distance. I made the bed while the Missus was gone and now I shall go and lie on it.
May 24th - Sunday
We were off to a bit of a grey start but at least the chill wind had stopped blowing through The Cove. It was also a slow start and the full potential of the day was never really realised. I had sort of imagined another day along the lines of Wednesday, with a packed beach and plenty of promenaders. Perhaps they had been scared off by the sheriffs and the comments on social media; perhaps the taste of freedom wears off after a while.
Nevertheless, we were busier than we otherwise have been over the last weeks, although it was never really a pasty day. We have never seen quite so many motorcycles as we have since the relaxing of rules. It seems that anyone with a bike suddenly wants to do a bit of touring all of a sudden and parking opposite the shop is just the place to stop for a breather. There have been some quite pretty looking bikes turn up over the days, bright chrome shining, thumping great big tyres on the back, some noisy, some not so loud. One very chunky motorbike swept by the shop the other day completely silently. It was either coasting by - if you can do that on a motorbike - or it was an electric hybrid, should there be such a beast because when it left it absolutely roared off.
The sunshine broke through in the late morning and by the mid afternoon numbers of visitors increased. There was enough good surf for a couple of dozen surfers to plop in and enjoy themselves and enough beach for those that ventured down there to have plenty of space to themselves. The kiosk was open for the first time this year and by the only fact that they sell coffee I imagined that they would be inundated. Since the end of March, it has been the main item we have been asked for and I have got tired telling people that we have plenty on the shelf if they have hot water about them.
Our end of The Cove busied up in the later hours of our opening as it usually does but it was certainly busier than normal. It was clearly not a day for newspaper reading, of course it was not, having upped the numbers for this weekend on the expectation of an increase in newspaper buyers. It will teach me to try and second guess the peoples' mood on a hot sunny bank holiday weekend, although I would assume that most people that read newspapers would have bought one at home before they left for the day.
The Missus and I spent some of the afternoon out on our benches across the road. It is at least in the sunshine there and it was quiet enough at first. As she pointed out, it was quiet when she first set up over there and then the world and his pet French bulldog descended for a chat as they passed by. Some of the local families were settled down on the Harbour beach and popped up occasionally for drinks, snacks and pasties. Walking back and forth from the benches was a sight more active than standing behind the counter all day.
Once again, we were busiest in our final hour. We would have had some custom in the hour following, too, but whether there was enough to have made it worthwhile I can only guess. It was a pretty enough evening to be out in but many of the visitors had young children about them and would have been returning home for tea. I did not dwell on it for too long as it would have broken my heart to see potential customers turning away from our door. Instead, by special request - more a grouchy demand, really - I put our fine bone china mugs up on the online shop. The photographs are how they look before they arrive on the purchaser's door mat. It will make it easier when gluing them back together again.
May 23rd - Saturday
That chill wind was still blowing through The Cove when I took the bleddy hound around the block. I had omitted to put on a windproof jacket but found that it was more enlivening than uncomfortable. It is clear that the green shoots of building work are popping through the dust of the last several weeks; a lorry was delivering roofing timber and possibly slates at the end of the Harbour car park and the scaffolders were here yesterday. I had intended to call our own builder for an update before the weekend but completely forgot about it.
I was seduced by the bright lights today, which distracted me sufficiently to make me forget to prepare two grocery orders that were due to be collected today. I made amends to some degree but found myself short of three oranges and one carrot. In my defence, the carrot was not my fault, guv. I had ordered two kilograms of carrots from our supplier alongside some other vegetables and fruit. The other items were delivered but underneath them were three individual carrots. If I had ordered three kilograms it might have been more understandable but this mistake I could not fathom.
Anyway, I digress. Where was I? Ah, yes, the bright lights. We have had two failed LED spotlights on the gift aisle for some time that would irritate me each time I noticed them. When I did not notice them, they went out of my mind and so did not buy any replacements. I eventually remembered to put them on the shopping list the Missus took with her yesterday. As a small aside, I am beginning to realise that the LED lights are not the money saving wonder they have been cracked up to be. First, they keep making them brighter and brighter and thus less energy saving and secondly, they do not all last an eternity like they are promised to and thus are less economical.
Anyway, I digress. Where was I? Ah, yes, failed bright lights. The two failed bulbs were replaced in a jiffy with the two new brighter ones, which now make all the others look dim. I could be tempted to replace them, too, but I shall resist. The other area is in the store room over the chest freezer that we use as a worktop. Up until a week ago or so we had a couple of strips of LEDs tenuously joined with little clips that kept falling apart. The LED driver made a loud crackling and an odd burning smell and stopped working. I consigned the whole lot to the bin after it had stopped smoking.
The strips of LEDs were all right, but they did not stick very well to the underside of the shelf above the freezer and cable clips were not ideal to stop it from falling off. Also, we kept knocking the low hanging strips and breaking the connection. A better solution was required and after much searching I found some batten lights that daisy chained together. They took a week to arrive by courier; he must have cycled very slowly. They came late yesterday, and I decided to leave it until today to install them, which is what got me into trouble with our telephone orders.
It took far longer to put them up than I had anticipated. This was mainly down to the linking cables that were purpose built to connect the batten lights together, did not fit the hole at the end of the light. It required the judicious use of a craft knife to pare down the offending male plug after which, with some brute force for good measure, they fitted very well. The lights are not quite as bright as the naked strip but are easily fit for purpose and look a lot better, too.
You may well have gathered by now that we were not all that busy again today and you would be right. I called in pasties and we did sell a few but not many. We did not expect much from today as the wind was still with us and it was quite chill out in the open. We also have competition again with the beach kiosk open for the first time this year. They too will have pasties and will cater for most beach goers and we will pick up the wanderers. We are quite pleased that the kiosk is opening again; we were beginning to feel a bit Robinson Crusoe on our own for so long.
The sea made quite a lot of noise today, but it was clear that the swell was on the downward trend. There were only a couple of sea goers who ventured out in it in the middle of the day when it was less severe, but they did not stay long. The beach car park was also much less crowded and I noticed that the car park patrols have started up again, so parkers beware and pay for you tickets.
It was the Missus in conversation with one of our regular customers who reminded me that it was half term week. Ordinarily we would have been sinking under a wave of happy holiday makers. It is quite astounding how quickly we assimilate change, as the busier week did not even cross my mind. It will be a rude awakening when we have to do a full day again.
May 22nd - Friday
Back to winter this morning. I had to wear a wind proof jacket down to the beach as although it was coming in from the south west, it was hearty enough in The Cove to demand it. In sheltered spots out of the wind it was still shorts and flip flop weather, so I made sure I was not out in the teeth of it and was quite comfortable, thank you. It helped, of course, being at the very peak of fitness after a blistering session of hearty exercise in the mid-morning.
It was hardly noticeable first thing but by mid-morning the ground sea began to increase and we could see white water bounding up Nanjulian Cliff, Aire Point and the Creedle. By the middle of the day it was banging into the bay in large breakers of white water and that was at low tide. All the fishing boats had been pulled up on the slip out of harm's way, but I wonder how much more of the fishing boat at Porthcurno will be off on the falling tide tomorrow.
It appears that the sea was the only thing intent on not being quiet today. We had very little in the way of business and were grateful for a few telephone orders that came due today. It is the day that the Missus travels into town to do the topping up from Tesmorburys of the things that we do not have, and it all comes together beautifully. She also dropped into the builders' merchant to pick up some more wood for her 'greenhouse' project, so I told her she should sack her quantity surveyor who should have ordered enough the first time. I cannot adequately describe the look she gave me.
It was difficult to ignore the bay as the sea put on a proper display of all its abilities during the afternoon. Creedle, just a little left of Aire Point stands about 100 feet high and the spray from exploding waves were getting half way up it. I caught a glimpse of the spray breaking over the footings of Pedn-Men-Du while I stood outside the shop, its white fingers reaching up above the buildings that sit between us. I cannot remember the last stime I saw it quite so stirred up at the end of the Harbour wall and from early on in the tide it was breaking over the top. Later, large waves were running in on the Harbour beach even though the main direction of swell appeared to be across from the west. I would say that's entertainment.
May 21st - Thursday
We were promised some rain overnight but I do not think we had any here. If we did it had all dried up by the time I came down to prepare the shop, which did not take much effort as we only had papers this morning and the usual cleaning routine. There was a bit of a chill in the air, so I donned a sweater to take the bleddy hound down the beach. She must have a memory, or the smell of skanky mackerel was still in the air because she spent an inordinate amount of time sniffing up the slipway.
It was not quite as blue up top as it was yesterday from the start of the day, with a thin layer of high cloud making the sunshine hazy. We must have a very particular bunch of beach goers locally, as there was not a spot on the numbers down the beach today, but we started with around the same number of vans in the car park. Apparently, there was only one van in the car park overnight, so it seems most of our visitors were not necessarily breaking the rules or if they were, they were doing it elsewhere.
I was informed today that there was a dead seal on the beach. I wondered if it was some local vigilante group's effort to stop people gathering on the beach. In the back of my mind I have a vague recollection that I had been told that a few days ago, in which case not even a dead seal on the beach deterred the really desperate lot we had down there yesterday.
It is most frustrating that every day this week I have been asked for pasties. Sadly, it has been only one or two people a day, not enough to make it worthwhile running the pasty warmer for. I would dearly love to be doing pasties on a regular basis if only I could guarantee the throughput. One of our local fishermen had a hankering for one today and I offered to cook him a frozen one. Unfortunately, that takes an hour and his need was more urgent than that.
Talking of urgent and the fact that each day is very much the same as the previous at the moment, we had another Lifeboat shout in the afternoon. This time it was a couple of hours before we closed but thankfully the Missus was on call to look after the shop while I launched the boat. The call was to some wreckage located around Pendeen - but in the sea, to be specific - that had been spotted from land and called into the Coastguard who were on site already - on the land bit of Pendeen, to be specific.
It turned out to be a big bit of the boat that was beached at Porthcurno and had broken up in the spring tides that had followed. The currents had taken it north by quite a way. The lump was too big for the Lifeboat to bring back, so the position was logged and a warning issued to shipping.
The boat was not gone for too long and we held fast on shore listening to the progress and waiting on the signs of it coming back. There is a point in the tide where the boat can be recovered on either slipway and the timing is quite fine before losing the one for the other. I made the decision to use the long slipway, but it was marginal. As it happened, the swell increased after we had set up and it was beginning to look like perhaps we should have gone onto the short slip, which would have meant turfing some children out of the water on that side.
We persevered on the long slip and made sure that the cable was short to ensure a quick pick up, which, with a bit of surf running, is quite important. We pulled the boat up on the long slip in what was definitely a textbook recovery, one that will be held up to students as the epitome of textbook recoveries for years to come, I would say. We are, after all, the very model of a modern very excellent Shore Crew.
The whole thing was done with just enough time to return to the shop for closing time. Closing time is the hour that we have selected for people to turn up at, or just a few seconds after, to do the shopping that perhaps they could have done earlier in the day, like when we are open. Some people understand this so completely that they regularly turn up after we have closed. We smile and take the money.
May 20th - Wednesday
Ah, the halcyon days of summer are here. Well, almost, if you would like to discount the east wind that came back just to spoil it for us. Having said that it was not too bad when we ventured back down to the Harbour beach for our morning exercise, bleddy hound and me. A neighbour returning not long after from the big beach told me it was warm down there, too.
We met up - at a distance - with one of the fisherman preparing his punt for a trip out on the lobsters. The bleddy hound seemed distracted and I worked out that she was catching the heady aroma of skanky mackerel from the box he had, thankfully, on board and out of reach. It did not stop the bleddy hound from circling the boat hopefully with her nose in the air and active. I am guessing that it is the bleddy hound equivalent of the alluring smell of baking pasties at tea time when the last meal you had was breakfast.
It must have been very similar for the gulls, I imagine. I watched one of the fishing fleet coming back around the back of Cowloe, gutting pollack as his went. There must have been every gull from twenty miles around following. I am not sure that I have seen quite so many crowding one of the punts before. He was a bit too far out for a decent picture so you will just have to take my word when I say that it was quite a spectacular sight.
The crowds were not restricted to the sea, either. Right from the outset of the day there were a number of surfer type vans in the beach car park. I guessed they were waiting on the tide, which they were, and by the middle of the morning there were at least fifteen out riding the waves. The surf must have been quite reasonable as the numbers increased from there as the day worn on. Just after the middle of the day the beach was thronging with people and was no less busy that it would have been at this time of the year normally. The car park was pretty much full by that time.
Busyness on the beach does not necessarily translate as busy in the shop and it certainly did not today. We saw an increase on yesterday's trade with the few that managed to drag themselves away from their beach play. I would hazard that most people brought their own provisions for their day out, especially if they were not sure if anywhere was open. This might indicate that the majority of visitors were from further afield, perhaps, although someone working behind the scenes at that end said that manly were from the near community.
I contemplated staying open a little later to catch those coming off the beach. Then I reasoned that nearly all had parked in the beach car park and it was highly unlikely that they would come out of their way to wander down our end. It occurred to me that given our busyness profile we should be opening at midday and closing at six. I stopped contemplating when I found that I had something sensible to do instead.
One of those things was going across the road to launch the Lifeboat - again. We had closed the shop and I had walked the bleddy hound and had just made myself a cup of tea when I received a cancelled launch message on my pager. I thought that I had missed the shout message and especially when I saw the Coxswain arrived as I looked out of the window. I dropped down to see what was going on only to discover that the shout was back on again.
Sufficient crew had gathered to find out what was going on, so it was a mere formality to get them in appropriate dress and put them on the boat. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of Shore Crew who numbered just one. Happily, some additional members of the Boat Crew, surplus to requirement on the boat, lent a helping hand and the boat was launched to a vessel taking on water off the Runnel Stone, just south of Porthcurno.
I had assumed there would be a tow, so I settled in back home for the long haul, especially as I had left the bleddy hound home alone. The bleddy hound does not do home alone and was quite upset at even the short sample when I returned. As it transpired, the casualty vessel managed to get itself to Porthcurno and beached. The Lifeboat checked that all was well and that nothing further could be done and returned back to station.
We were watching on the tracking system on the computer and knew that it was on the way back. The Coxswain helpfully called the station to let us know, which was good of him, and we set up for a short slipway recovery with just enough of us to make the process comfortable. Under a bright and sunny sky, we brought the boat up the short slip in what was clearly a textbook recovery and put her away until the next time. We are, after all, a very neat and tidy, very excellent Shore Crew.
It could well have been the second shout of the day. Earlier I had spotted a couple with an inflatable kayak heading out in the surf. This was not the brightest of plans in a stiff easterly and no lifejackets I could see. Clearly the not taking risks message is not quite getting through to some.
With the Missus at The Farm, the bleddy hound had to suffer bing in the Lifeboat station for the recovery. We were late back for her tea, exemplified by her desperation to get out of the station door during the debriefing. We were also late for mine but at least there was no hint of skanky mackerel about it but I doubt that the bleddy hound would agree with that sentiment.
May 19th - Tuesday
The weather is definitely joining in to make me think each day is repeating itself. Fortunately, we have different newspapers and magazines turning up each day, which helps to draw some division between the days. You may gather, therefore, that we were light grey again today but unlike yesterday there was no saving grace in the afternoon with a breakthrough of the sun. Kevin, the weatherman, quite plainly stated on the radio this morning that only the nice people of Cornwall were allowed sunshine and we wicked souls in the Far West and the Isle of Scilly need not apply.
We took it on the chin, like the stalwart chaps that we are and, in the absence of any customers, I flew through the remaining items of our order that arrived yesterday. We did have some business during the day, mainly from regular customers but we only saw the one obvious surfer despite the fact that there were at least twenty in the pond at one point in the afternoon. The car park cleared out shortly after the surf went flat near high water.
The same group of pier jumpers appeared in the afternoon. I know that school is out at the moment but I thought that they were at least supposed to be pretending it was not. Perhaps they had started early in the morning so that they would have more free time in the afternoon - yes, that was it I am sure. I will have to have a word with the parents as not one of them appeared to have any pocket money to spend in the shop. Maybe I could fleece them for a fiver a week on the pretext of protection; as long as they pay up their whereabouts will remain uncertain.
We did get some sunshine late on in the day. It was probably why the Missus was late back from The Farm after spending the afternoon up there finishing off her first window. She did a good job with it and it actually looks like a window - it opens and everything. She has another one to do, then a doorway and hopefully the greenhouse will be in operation.
While I waited, I inserted another goody onto the online shop. I have finished with the photographs of our fine bone china mugs and will be placing these online very soon. I am cautious about this element of the enterprise as they will be tricky to send. I have visions of them going out as mugs and arriving as jigsaw puzzles. We will give it a whirl and see what happens.
May 18th - Monday
Before we start - Happy Birthday Aged Parent. There, saved me the price of a stamp.
The Meteorological Office had forecast some dark greyness today using a symbol that it sometimes uses for mizzle, so this is rather what I expected. As it transpired, we did not even get dark greyness without the mizzle and had an overcast day that was actually quite bright. It waited until the afternoon before it warmed up a bit and before that a jumper or jacket was required, which is what I used for a trip to the Harbour with the bleddy hound first thing. It was certainly not unpleasant.
The way the tides are at present calls our hard working fisherfolk to business very early doors. Judging from where the tractor treads finished on the beach, they were a good few hours ahead of us. We met them as they were returning from a tour of their lobster pots but we were off the beach just before they pulled up; tractors and daft bleddy hounds do not mix too well.
We were some grateful for the busyness of the weekend because it offsets days like today; it was very sedate. Due to the expected weather I had decided to wait and see what happened instead of ordering in a mountain of pasties, which turned out to be the correct course of action. Whether it was the forecast that put people off or just that our visitors have other things to do during the week, the fact was that they did not appear. Of those that did, three enquired about pasties, so probably I would have sold half a dozen. One lady was aghast and incredulous that no one was selling hot pasties not even the pasty shops. It crossed my mind to try and explain but in the end I just agreed with her that I could not think of a single reason why pasty shops should have stopped selling pasties at the moment.
On the basis that things were starting to move a little and there was an expectation that people may be coming to the beach for more than a simple amble across it, we ordered in some of the stock that we cancelled so many weeks ago. The spades were looking a little thin and I reasoned that things like fling rings and boomerangs might be the ideal social distancing games - sorry, exercises - that could be played out on the sand. They might have been more useful a few weeks ago but we also called in the activity and special drawing books that we had selected as 'wet day' items to take away from the shop. These arrived in a large truck all at once today, so I started to unpack and price in the quiet of the afternoon. I am rather hoping that it will not be next year's stock I am putting out.
The afternoon blossomed into something quite beautiful with proper warmth, blue skies and sunshine. Quite when that happened I have no idea but I just turned around and it was there. I was in two minds whether to take the bleddy hound around the block when I finished or leave it a while, nearer tea time. She made up my mind for me when I went upstairs, so we headed out into the sunshine. It was glorious.
There was a little beach left on the recently falling tide, but I dragged her away and around the block, not least because there were already two dogs and two families down there already. We sauntered past a campervan in the car park with a couple of people nearby on deck chairs. It is a very fine car park, but I cannot imagine for the life of me why I would want to sit in one and take in the sunshine.
A little while earlier we had seen some young boys wall jumping, possibly the first of the season, and later a lone angler at the end of the Harbour Wall, trying his luck. While the world flutters in panic all about, these are comforting signs even if they are not quite real. Much like the lady swimming with her two dogs or the men in the car park, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was all a big mistake.
The thrift on the wall at the end of the car park is in full bloom and the many clumps leave precious little room for anything else. They are quite untouched from the ravages of anything up there on their lofty perch but really make a magnificent feature of the ancient wall. Further up and along, Betty's garden is trying desperately to hold onto some semblance of formality. Something very bright and purple has bloomed since I came past last time, but I have no idea what it is. Roughly the same colour flower as the hottentot fig but deeper and brighter and sits in a green clump on the ground. Short of climbing the fence, I cannot get close enough to see properly. They are very pretty, even from afar.
We are not alone
Betty's Garden and old Coastguard Office
It was a very pleasant totter around the block and we are not far off shorts and flip flops days, I reckon.
May 17th - Sunday
People cannot need a lie in, surely? Once gain we were deathly quiet for the first half of the day with barely a soul about save a couple of our usual local shoppers. Perhaps we should open after midday then I can have a lie in, too.
I did the right thing and left cooking the frozen pasties until close to the middle of the day. I was very glad that I had eaten breakfast already because over the course of an hour the smell of baking pasties filled the air and intensified the closer they got to being ready. One customer told me that she could smell them half way down the street so I am not surprised that they were gone in a flash. I probably could have done with double the numbers that I had ordered, at least, but it was entirely guess work. There is no point in thinking that it would be a lesson learnt for next time because next time is likely to be entirely different.
It was not the day of full on sunshine that we had yesterday, which might have accounted for fewer people out and about today. Nevertheless, it was not a bad day with large bits of blue up there and just a bit more cloud than we would have liked. There was a little breeze coming from somewhere out west, which you hardly would have noticed until I mentioned it. With the tides all wrong for beach goers, we saw more walkers and motorcyclists than anyone else today.
The Missus ran off to The Farm as soon as she could but took the bleddy hound around Mother's. There has been a bit of an upset with the pressure washer, as it did not appear to work connected to the water butts. I had done quite a bit of research to get a pressure washer that would do just that, so it was a major disappointment that it did not. The user manual does not help at all but the blurb elsewhere on the Internet tells us that the model we purchased should, indeed, run off the butts. Part of the advice was to have the pressure washer stationed as close as possible to the water source and the Missus tells me she had a 10 metre hose connected. We shall buy a much shorter length and see if that was the problem.
Towards our closing time we had the sort of business that I wish that we had all day. People were rolling up out of the blue to buy ice creams, mainly, tripping over themselves to stay out of each other's way, although some manage better than others. We have also found that our customers have been keen to tell us where they came from, just in case we were suspicious that they had come from naughty places. It is not a question that I have been too bothered to ask; most people are sensible but there will always be a few eejits and we are careful.
The evening seemed to turn into the best part of the day and there were still quite a few people around to enjoy it. We had seen several patrol cars around during the day and the Coastguard came around in the early evening. I am not entirely certain what they are now looking for, although they can spot vehicles coming from further than a day trip away, I would guess. Perhaps they had come down just to look at the rather picturesque sunset we had, now quite late on. It looked like it was well worth the trip.
May 16th - Saturday
Well, that is a bit more like it. I was quite tentative about announcing good weather after being wrong footed yesterday but today blossomed without too much of a hint of breeze from anywhere. There was still some chill in the air, but it was definitely short sleeved shirt weather, so I definitely wore a short sleeved shirt.
I had expected an upturn in the number of people visiting The Cove and for a while in the morning I was a little concerned that I had it wrong; it was about as quiet as it had been all week. It took into the later morning and the early afternoon for people to be roused enough to venture out and about.
Early in the morning a group of kayakers were seen leaving the Harbour. I did not see them after that, so I assumed that they had slipped back unnoticed. The surfers were the second on the scene, but these were optimists given the fact that there was next to no swell. Slowly, I watched the car park by the big beach fill up and slowly the people started to venture to our end of The Cove, walkers, promenaders and beach goers. Towards the end of the day, the Harbour beach was quite busy with frolicking children and watchful parents, just like a sunny day should be.
There was one other activity taking place today, that I almost forgot about. A small child came to the shop near the middle of the day for a net. He asked what the stoutest and most resilient net was that we had, so to determine what to recommend I asked his purpose, assuming the catching of some monster fish. He told me that he was catching snakes, to which I raised an eyebrow, and he told me that he already had three, causing me to raise the other eyebrow. I was minded to ask how he had managed to snare the snakes since he was only just coming to us for a net but I decided that it was probably best that I did not know. I did ask if he knew what an adder looked like to which he nodded sagely. I demurred to enquire if the reason how he knew was that the three snakes he already had were, in fact, adders, for much the same reason as before. I suggested a very long handled net might be best and, after he had departed, rifled through my Boys' Own Book of Snake Bite Remedies, just in case.
I had been somewhat cautious with the pasty ordering, unsure how that was going to pan out today. We were either going to run out in a hurry or be throwing them away at the end of the weekend. We almost ran out today but are most likely to tomorrow. Fortunately, we do have the frozen pasties and I will fall back on these and guess how many I might bake, although once they are cooked, they will have to be sold.
In the middle of the afternoon I was alerted by a strange, insistent sound going off in my ear 'ole. It took a moment to remember that is what my Lifeboat pager sounded like all that time ago when we last launched the boat. Not only were we required to launch the big boat, but we were also tasked to send out the Inshore boat, too. It was a bit slower than our normal launches as we had to brush the inch thick layer of dust off everything. The Boat Crew have been issued with a set of guidelines and instructions on staying safe from each other while afloat in a confined space. We on the shore, however, being completely dispensable, are left to our own devices. On this occasion it did not matter much as there were so few of us we would have struggled to get within two metres of each other in any case.
The boats launched to carry out a shore line search from Cape Cornwall to Gurnards Head, which they did. They were looking for a vulnerable person who had gone missing in the area. I never did find out the outcome of the search that involved the Coastguard team and the helicopter but we were sent packing after about an hour or so crawling up the coast with eyes peeled.
The boats returned to The Cove at around half past three and being as it was nearly closing time, I closed the shop to attend. I do hope that we did not inconvenience too many people, but it was quiet at the time. The Inshore boat came in first while the big boat deployed the Y boat to give it a run while the opportunity was there. This gave us enough time to put the little boat away and be fully staffed for receiving the big boat up the long slip on a falling tide with a reasonably gentle swell at the slipway tow. Together, we effected a textbook recovery despite having not practised for some time. We are, after all, a very rusty, very excellent Shore Crew but given that it is Saturday we could be a very well-oiled, very excellent Shore Crew before nightfall.
May 15th - Friday
It was the most glorious morning to behold when the bleddy hound and I slipped down to the Harbour beach first thing. The skies were blue, the sun beating down albeit from a bit of an angle and hardly a breath of wind from any direction. We spent a little time with one of the fishermen putting society to rights, all as if nothing much at all was going on in the rest of the world.
Our perfect idyll did not last very long; we were half way up the slip when a rogue gust of cold easterly belted us from around the corner of the Lifeboat station. This was just the onset of another continuous and chilly wind from the north east that I thought we had seen the back of.
The weather very likely subdued trade for the day, although we did see a few visitors here for a walk and a run down to the beach who shopped with us. In the mid morning there were several surfers trying their luck but the surf was not up to very much today with very little swell about. There were maybe a dozen cars in the beach car park and people dotted about the sand but none had settled for long and I cannot blame them.
The Missus combined her run into town for her timber with the weekly Tesmorburys shop for the good folk hereabouts. The list was not terribly long as we can source most requests from the shop these days, having learnt to order in the most popular items. Even carrots, our big in-joke, are selling well - usually people ask for carrots only when we do not have them. We then get them in and discover no one wants them and we throw them away when they go bad. The Missus was off almost as soon as she returned to do the local deliveries and take her wood up to The Farm.
In the meanwhile I twiddled some thumbs, gazed out of the window and made a cup of tea or two. I also scoured the Internet to make sure that the chest sizes I had measured on our children's t-shirts were roughly in line with what child chest sizes are generally thought to be - just in case I measured the wrong bit. These are now displayed on our online shop to provide guidance to potential purchasers of children's Sennen Cove logo t-shirts which are available for sale at this very moment.
All during this interlude I was hardly disturbed at all by customers wanting even the smallest of purchases from our extensive stock of things. This changed quite suddenly on the arrival of our fish order for the week. I had barely slipped the first fish portion into a vacuum bag when the vanguard of a veritable wagon train of customers arrived at the counter. Happily, not far off that very minute, the Missus returned from her deliveries to fend off the queue of desperados at the door.
Together, we rounded off business and the packing and pricing of fish just before it was time to start wrapping up the shop for the day. The processing the fish orders is becoming a little more ordered and we are getting used to the way our new supplier works and they us. I had cause to call the boss man to clear up a query and he told me that if we want to change anything or have any specific requirements, to just ask. I do hope that we can continue this process when things eventually go back to normal, though deliveries on a Saturday for visitors is not ideal. At present, it works just fine.
Just fine is exactly what the evening in The Cove looked like with the softening light and the easing of the nor' east wind. There was still not much in the way of swell and any hopeful surfer had long gone. I can only assume that by early evening temperatures had become tropical as there were a number of ladies in the water in bathing suits. It is hardy maids grown down here.
May 14th - Thursday
It is bad enough that each day seems to be stuck in a rut without the weather piling in well. So, once again we had big blue skies, lots of sunshine and a rasping east wind that forced me to close the first electric sliding door in The Cove.
What was not the same as yesterday was that we did not have small numbers of people rushing down to try out their new found freedom. It is highly likely that lots of people tried it out yesterday, discovered that it was not all it was cracked up to be and did not bother again. It is hardly surprising; you cannot get a hot pasty or a cup of coffee for love nor money at the moment. Part of the problem is that the relaxation of lockdown caught us rather by surprise and not many businesses, that have been shut for weeks, can react that quickly. It will also be the case that no one knows whether being open would be worthwhile given the attendant restrictions and rules and staff to drag out of furlough only to go straight back in if it does not work out. I still intend to be brave and try out pasty selling on Saturday.
I wish I were braver about standing by the door with the wind blowing in. I was left with the bleddy hound for a while in the afternoon while the Missus went shopping, which required me to open the first electric sliding door in The Cove. Fortunately, the wind appeared to drop out for a while in the early afternoon and, besides, I was working through yesterday's delivery and away from the door, anyway. The Missus collected the bleddy hound when she came back and took her up The Farm. Somehow, I completely forgot about closing the first electric sliding door in The Cove again and stood there in the now increasing wind. I must really enjoy annoying myself, is all I can think.
I really thought that we had dispensed with the hardly any customers at all during the day, days but clearly not. It was hugely disappointing, but it seems we are destined to have one of these days a week just to keep my feet on the ground and not get too carried away. It is entirely possible that all our potential customers were frightened out of The Cove by the sight of a person in a Mr Blobby suit strutting down the road. It was a vision of bemusement for one Cove family who were probably not alive, or at least aware, twenty-five years ago when the character was at its most irritating peak. It was, of course, impossible to determine who it was wrapped up in the suit, which is probably just as well. Whoever it was that finally snapped after weeks of incarceration, I hope they found the relief they sought. I am sure it would have made it all worthwhile.
The Missus has been after some timber to complete the door and window in the greenhouse. Our usual building supplies supplier is still closed but we have an account at another. The Missus, for reasons best known to herself, called in to another where we do not have an account but was told that she needed an account to be served and therefore asked me to call the other supplier where we do have an account, which I did. I do hope that you are following, dear reader.
When I called the building supplier where we have an account, they told me that they had closed the account because of an electronic mail that was on file that said that the sender was no longer paying its suppliers. This was a sensible move by our building supplier and would have been even more sensible had the electronic mail been connected with the account of the person that sent it rather than ours. There was much apologising and calling accounts departments and waiting - on our part - while the matter was resolved.
I received a call back a couple of hours later to say that the account had been reopened but now all the collections slots for tomorrow were full. However, the very pleasant man on the end of the telephone recognised that the delay was down to them and very kindly arranged to fit us in tomorrow. The Missus will therefore travel into town, armed with a saw, to collect the lengths of timber she asked for. It will be really helpful when our normal supplier is open again because they would have delivered without any of this rigmarole.
There was a bit of a joint effort in the kitchen in the evening. A neighbour had requested mozzarella cheese, which we do not ordinarily stock but as the Missus was going into town anyway, agreed to pick some up and deliver it. The mere mention of it put me in mind of homemade mozzarella burgers, so the Missus bought some for me, too. She made the tea for the evening and I prepared the burgers for tomorrow. Even after all these years we can still work within ten feet of each other and with sharp knives. Now, there is romantic for you.
May 13th - Wednesday
The east breeze is back again, a little more fierce than it was yesterday and keeping the underlying temperature in its place. It was not so bad on the Harbour beach, which we can get to now that high water is later in the morning. It was a little more sheltered down there and the sun on our backs - and on our fronts when we turned around - was allowed to give some warmth. This was pretty much the shape of the day to come, too.
With that in mind perhaps I should have spent a bit of time analysing the likely effect of half a million people being told that they can go out all day and enjoy the Cornish sunshine. Well, it probably was slightly less than that, but it was pretty much letting go of an elastic band that had been wound up for weeks. Alright, I exaggerate somewhat, but we saw an upturn in visitors to The Cove mostly arriving on motorbikes and bicycles and some sloping through on foot. Some I recognised as sporadic visitors from the past but given the timing of arrival few were from too far east of Camborne.
It was after the third request for a hot pasty that I realised that I had probably missed a trick. Thankfully, such unreasonable demands tailed off not long after they started but even so, it made me realise what they meant by stay alert - watch out for people wanting pasties. I suspect that the proper rush will be at the weekend, especially as the weather forecast is favourable and I will consider a toe in the pasty pond for then. I could always cook the pile that I have in the freezer as I cannot see me shifting too many of them now.
Despite the surge, alright, slight lean in one direction, the people who did arrive were, save one, perfectly polite and well behaved. It was a gentle introduction to having a bit more business and it is very welcome. I am sure that it is not the prelude to an invasion from upcountry as, in the main, people are not complete eejits - just a few are. We have been running to date very close to break even and having a bit of a buffer on the good side of that is no bad thing.
So good was it that the Missus ran off to Hayle to spend lots of money in our cash and carry store. Despite all their protestations we have not seen any improvement in stock availability and very possibly less than of late. Once again, I placed the order online so that the staff there could pick what little they had. It saves the Missus time and, in my view, it is the very least that they can do for us. It was quite a big order, or at least some of the items were bulky and it proved how inadequate the new truck is for such things. Given the value of the order we could have had it delivered this week, but I did not know that until I had placed the order and by that time it was too late for their delivery schedule.
It was quite a bit to unload but it kept me warm while I was doing it. As the day wore on the naughty easterly picked up and the temperature came down. I had not realised, standing behind the counter, just how cold I was getting as the wind was not piling, full on, through the doorway. It kept the customers away, too, and although we had seen new people about during the day, they slowly faded away during the afternoon.
I shall probably have pasty dreams tonight. It seems a long time since we had them in the warmer and it has never felt right not having them. It will help with the bakery orders if we can start selling them again, too. I am not entirely sure that I should be getting so excited over a pasty, but these are odd times and we will leave it at that.
May 12th - Tuesday
It looked some 'ansum out the window first thing this morning and I thought that I had gone deaf - more deaf - as I could not hear the howling of the north east wind. It was exceedingly pleasant to discover that the reason why I could not hear it was that it had moderated to a gentle breeze during the night. With clear blue skies it was a veritable pleasure taking the bleddy hound around the block first thing. It would have done nicely for a proper cracking day, but some heavy cloud moved into the east to block out the sunshine half way through the morning, which rather spoilt the effect.
The fishing fleet were out once again variously potting and hand lining for pollack, I guessed. One of my early customers told me she fancied some fish for tea and pointed out a punt heading into the bay, pondering if he might have some pollack she might get.
Customer.: "Is that Jerry (not his real name) coming in." Grumpy Shopkeeper.: [reached for handy binoculars, takes a geek] "Yes, customer, that is definitely Jerry not es real name." Customer.: "Do ee 'ave any pollack?" Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "Ent no gulls about; hard to say." Customer.: "Woss ee going that way for?" Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "Ee's going through the gaps and coming in across Polen Da so ee don't hit no rocks." Customer.: "Ee's slowing down. Wass ee doing now?" Grumpy Shopkeeper.: [brings binos back to bear] "Ee's taking off es jacket. Now ee's taking off es lifejacket and stowin' en away in a box." Customer.: "Ee's stopped out there. He ent going to be swimming back, cus ee cain't swim. Woss ee doing now?" Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "Ee's taking off es trousers." Customer.: "What!?" Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "Knaw, es over trousers." Customer.: "Phew. Now what ee doing?" Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "Now ee's fiddlin' with - oh, ee's, erm, ah ... I hope ee's not into the wind." Customer.: "Oh. I think I'll give the pollack a miss, today."
Those people at the Telegraph newspaper must be a bit quiet at the moment because they have had time to mess about with the voucher process. Customers can purchase vouchers for the newspapers in advance and therefore save a considerable amount on each daily paper. To encourage us newsagents to play along as well we are permitted an extra penny for each newspaper we sell. Clearly, with such an irresistible incentive we jump at the chance to collect them.
In truth, it is such a fag to process the vouchers that it is hardly worth the effort and made worse by the Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company's complicated reported and returning procedure. Because of this I usually leave the job until I cannot squeeze any more into the hole under the till and then do them all at once. We are frequently reminded that they should be done weekly, but, frankly, blow that for a game of quoits. However, the nice people at the Telegraph newspaper have upped the ante and issued a dictate that roughly says if they do not get the vouchers back in three months, they will cancel them. To add a further edge, the instruction was issued on Saturday with a start date being yesterday, Monday, three days when it is impossible to send vouchers back. Fortunately, I only had the one voucher from March but, thank you so much newspaper people.
I really will have to let the Missus take the reins a bit more as I had nothing like the trade she must have had yesterday. I spent a bit of the morning sorting out a couple of grocery deliveries, so it is likely I spent more than the Missus took. I did take in some fish orders which have now reached an adequate level to present to the supplier. I expect to have a few more, too, before closing orders tomorrow late afternoon. I am very pleased that this seems to be a sustainable service and after my tea last night I can see why.
It was quiet enough in the mid afternoon to go and hang over the railings with my cup of tea. The cloud from earlier rather accurately followed the sun around but there were enough gaps to cast sunshine on one bit of the bay or another. The sea was countless shades of blue and the beach, countless shades of, erm, beige and the colours and patches varied as the gaps in the cloud moved about. The north east wind had rather strangely moved to somewhere in the west for a short while before heading back again. It must have been a local variation because I could not find a cause on any weather website I looked at. It made a welcome change as that east wind feels like it has been with us for weeks.
It was short lived, as the easterly came back a couple of hours later. It was not ever so severe, and the evening looked pleasant enough. I did not venture out to discover just how pleasant it was; I just took my word for it.
May 11th - Monday
It looked some 'ansum out the window first thing this morning and if I were deaf - more deaf - then the illusion might have persisted, especially if I did not venture outside. As it was, the incessant howling that kicked off last night rather gave the game away. Had it been heading in from just about anywhere else other that the north east, it might just have been another stiff breeze, but it was banging in from the north east and all the way from somewhere very, very cold. I wrapped up to a degree that I thought suitable for taking the bleddy hound around and discovered on the back nine that I could happily have found another two layers to wear.
It was a day for switching on the first electric sliding door in The Cove and hiding behind it. This was reasonably successful mainly because there were not too many people out braving the elements to come shopping. It threw me into a bit of a spin as I was not too sure whether I preferred being sheltered and relatively warm and poor or having a bit of business and being slapped about by the wind every time to door opened.
Not everyone was afeared of the weather: the gannets, close in at high water this morning, were having a rare old time. I stopped and watched them for a bit and they really are very accomplished and dynamic aeronauts. On the climb after taking off following another dive one must have spotted a tasty morsel out of the corner of its eye and in a flash, banked and thumped arrow-like back into the sea. It was not just that one, either, they were all at it, twisting and diving and skimming the wave tops. Quite mesmerising.
The Missus vanished off to The Farm when I returned from my blistering exercise session. She refused to take the bleddy hound who hates it up there anyway and just gets under your feet while you are trying to work. She was not all that happy with me, either, - the bleddy hound, that is, the Missus is not always unhappy with me - as I had to move her bed to the end of the counter. If she had sat by the first electric sliding door in The Cove it would have been open more than it was closed. She insisted on sitting outside on a couple of occasions just to make the point that she was too hot where she was and could not see what was going on.
Once again, I was quite grateful when closing time came along and, once again, I was surprised that we had done rather better than the quietness in the afternoon suggested. I can only imagine that the Missus had a bit of a bumper session while I was off straining my sinews, if so, perhaps I should go more often. The bleddy hound was not interested in going very far after I let her down from her perch when we closed. I was able to retire to my comfy chair for a small zizz before starting on my tea.
With the Missus promising to be late and offering to look after her own tea, I settled on having a bit of fish, which is why the Missus offered to look after her own tea in the first place; the Missus hates fish. After hearing from our several fish customers how good the product was, I felt it only right and proper to try some out for myself. I poached it in a cream and tomato sauce and I can verify that it was, indeed, bleddy 'ansum.
May 10th - Sunday
Well, that told me. Apparently, whimbrels are an everyday occurrence in this neck of the woods at this time of year and again in September when they are heading off to warmer climes. This mating lark must be seen as a bit of a fag for them because they have to leave nice hot places like Africa and South Asia for the remarkably cooler areas of north Scotland and beyond. They must be ever so relieved when it is all over and they can get back to sun soaked beaches and pina coladas.
After a buoyant couple of days we slipped back to deathly quietness again today, particularly in the afternoon. The weather was not quite as bad as it had been painted by the forecasters, although it did deteriorate throughout the day. I had started off with my mid-lay on first thing and promptly changed it for a short-sleeved shirt when I opened the shop. By mid-afternoon I changed back again as the east wind, that has never really gone away for a week of more, came back with a bit of a vengeance. We stayed bright through to the end of the day while the rest of the country, which hitherto had better weather than we, had a rain band sweep across it.
I received an electronic mail from a regular customer earlier in the day but did not get to read it until later. He invited me to 'stay alert', which reminded me that customers had been saying it to me all day. I have ceased to read the newspapers, except for the Western Morning News occasionally (did I tell you I once had a review ) or look at the television news since this whole malarkey commenced. I will listen to Radio Pasty but not on a Sunday, so I was blissfully unaware that a new catchphrase had entered the post-apocalyptic lexicon. I must have looked a bit daft, smiling politely and assuring customers in earnest that I would, indeed, remain vigilant.
As poised and keen as I was, there was little need for it through the rest of the afternoon. We saw a few customers and even sold a couple of our bone china mugs but all the action had been in the morning. The Missus had decided against a Farm visit having expended all her energies up there during the week and enjoyed a day of rest. She ran the bleddy hound down to the beach in the afternoon and we met up again just shortly before I closed the shop, which was something of a relief after the quietness of the previous few hours.
We had some tea then gathered around the radio set with our mugs of Ovaltine and tuned into the Home Service. Almost time for bed, I feel.
May 9th - Saturday
It was just about as busy as it gets for our morning session in the shop today. That was very heartening for a grumpy, almost unemployed, shopkeeper. At one point we had a queue of people waiting, although that was largely due to congestion at the door rather than under-capacity at the counter, but it sounded good when I said it in my head.
The day started well, too. It was already warm in the flat before I headed out to start newspapering and milking and running bleddy hounds around the block. I probably could have done without my mid-layer but I certainly had to downgrade to a shirt when I went down to open the shop for the day. My chief problem with that was that I had chosen a red t-shirt to wear and needed a shirt that would not be too upset sitting next to it. It would be a terrible thing to ruin a hard-earned reputation for sartorial elegance, so it was lucky I did not have one.
Before you start thinking a little too much about that, I must tell you that a neighbour discovered an injured bird on her walk through the Valley, I believe. She took a photograph of it and sent it to me wondering if I had some idea of its make and model. My first impression was that it was a curlew and, on further discovery, I was not completely wrong as it is from the curlew family, which is broad it seems. Having been somewhat inconclusive she sent it to a birder friend who told her it was a Eurasian Whimbrel, which is so closely similar to the Eurasian Curlew that there is a web page dedicated to how to tell one from the other. It summers, and breeds, in Scotland and northmost parts of Europe so it is likely that this one was migrating north and ran out of steam here. It is possible that it was injured but, sadly, none of the bird rescue centres are interested at present.
The unwell whimbrel
A somewhat luckier herring gull
Several families felt that it was a beach day and there were a few with small children and dogs paddling and playing in the shallows. There were enough to have maybe twenty or so vehicles in the beach car park but the beach itself was sparsely populated. The consensus, between the few local customers who discussed it, was that it was doing no harm. The problem, of course, is that it is an assumed privilege and one not available to all and therefore could cause some feeling of injustice. It is all we can do to observe but this peace seems very fragile.
The day ended much as it had continued for most of it, in glorious loveliness. Up above were wispy mares' tales heralding a bit of a change on the way, but we will always have Paris, so to speak.
May 8th - Friday
I had been hearing all week about a heatwave that was heading our way. I did not realise that yesterday was it. When I woke this morning there was rain hammering on the skylight and the skies were leaden.
It eased a little for me to put out the shop display and to run the bleddy hound around the block. The tide is not with us for a trip down to the beach, with water swirling about at the bottom of the slipway. It used to be a bit of a gambol out across the car park and up the slope to Coastguard Row, but it is more of a gentle amble these days. Also, there are innumerable blades of grass and rough bits of ground to sniff at, which slows up progress quite successfully.
The slow march allows me time to have a good look about to see things that have changed since the last time we passed this way. In truth, very little changes other than the flora from season to season though this in itself is a wonder. Betty's old garden has reverted largely to the wild with Spanish bluebells and tri-cornered garlic the main flowers in bloom. It is early yet for the chrysanthemums which still look heathy enough and there are two iris in bloom but the rose bushes along the fence all now appear to be suckers. The hottentot fig has largely taken over the opposite wall that backs onto the car park, which is starting to add some colour, too. Gosh, that almost sounded like I knew what I was talking about.
Daisies along the sea wall rock. Rock Daisies (Erigeron glaucus - I wait to be corrected)
I took some time out this morning for some exercise. My Friday sessions have been curtailed of late because of the need to trip out to the cash and carry at Hayle but today, there was no such run. The Missus covered until I got back then went off on her usual Friday Tesmorburys visit for the locked up of The Cove and its environs.
She had seen a few customers during the morning collecting their fish orders and I had taken some telephone orders for later in the day. Other than that, we were very quiet again, especially in the afternoon when the highlight was having a replacement litter bin delivered across the road. The old bin had definitely been through the wars, mainly weather wars. It has been upturned in gales, shunted half way down the road, bounced off railing and benches and had only three wheels left intact. The lockdown lid that did not lock down any longer, regularly flew open, smashing against the railings behind and flapping in the gale force winds that eventually rent a big gash across it, almost cleaving in in two.
The replacement is metal. We look forward to the next storm where instead of getting battered and broken it will destroy everything in its path as it hurtles down the street.
The afternoon scuttled past and before I knew it closing time was nearly upon us. The Missus came back from the shops at around the same time but managed a quick turnaround to go on her delivery rounds. She did manage to run the bleddy hound down to the beach for a game of ball before she went, which must have been welcome for a bleddy hound that had been sitting in the shop window for most of the day.
The afternoon weather did a complete turnabout from the morning and the skies were brightening and it was getting quite warm - or it was outside the shop. Bits of sunshine broke through later on and the evening started to look quite pretty. Well, better late than never, I suppose.
Happy 75th anniversary of VE Day, everyone, although when you read this is will be gone. Much of what I write here is only possible because of the sacrifices made back then. Thank you.
May 7th - Thursday
It may be said that I have often been quick to chide the much maligned council for its (many) failings so I will be even quicker to heap praise upon it when something has gone well. I heard this morning that it was mentioned in despatches as being the most prolific and fastest council in the land to issue grants to struggling business in the Duchy. This has not pleased all, however, as one much maligned council councillor is having a paddy that the money has not always gone to deserving causes. He suspects that naughty second home owners that rent their properties out for a few weeks only to avoid paying council tax are claiming the grant. He may be right, but I think it might be difficult and costly to prove.
So, without any further to do let us get into the meat and two vegetables of the day and what a rip gribbleresque one it was, too. I am not entirely sure that even the day knew what it was getting into when it first started because it was a little cool and grey and there was wet on the streets from recent rain. We were told that it was still dropping down in East Cornwall, where it had moved to after us. Here, however, it just got better and better until it was nigh on perfect but still with a steady easterly breeze holding down the temperature.
We are moving into spring tides and, I am told, the last of the year's supermoons, although I forget what this one is called, mainly because I could not give a stuff. What I did care about was the acres of sand made available at low water and the capstan of the SS Beaumaris standing proud of the rippling water. There was a small amount of surf, employed by half a dozen surfers in the early afternoon for a gentle roll into the beach.
Once again, you could walk to Gwenver across the sand until you got nearly there and had to wade across the gully that still persists the other side of North Rocks. There was not so much weed to step through, either, only a patch at the end of the mid-beach sandbar and some more thinly scattered about elsewhere. Much sand has been transported back onto the beach most notably over at North Rocks and back toward the Valley but also under the Lifeguard huts and below the beach car park. Here there is more sand than I have seen for some years making the narrow steps in the middle useful for the first time in a decade.
Our fish order arrived in the afternoon, courtesy of it being a bank holiday tomorrow and making my plea for a Saturday collection look a little daft. I will have to call around the order placers to tell them they can collect tomorrow instead. Although it was not as big as last week's order it kept me busy in the afternoon bagging and pricing until close on close of play. I have contacted one customer to tell them it is early and will call the others tomorrow.
The quality of the fish is quite plain although the cuts are simple fillets and portions, not trimmed for restaurant use, which is very refreshing. The supplier has his own trawler and I can only assume that the majority of the fish comes from that. We were missing some plaice and sea bass, both ordered, but if supply is from one boat it will be limited. It would be good to think that we can continue with this supplier when we arrive on an even keel again because I am very happy to present what we are getting to our customers.
The day just kept blossoming. It seems that other people thought so too because they were out in relative abundance. The big beach car park was very busy come mid afternoon and at one point there were twenty or so surfers in the water, quite why will forever be a mystery and the pitiful available surf had gone by the time they got there.
Afternoon business was dotted by quick visits for snacks and ice creams. I recognised many as locals which the weather had drawn out into the open. Even after we closed there were a few people about slipping into wetsuits for a dip and a dive off the Harbour wall.
The Missus had been up The Farm from the middle of the day and was clearly having trouble pulling herself away. The 'greenhouse' door is coming along and survived being made into matchwood by behaving itself. It is now in its hole and the polythene covering is going on. If the Missus is as good at growing vegetables as she is making greenhouses, we should be knee deep in them by the end of the season. If not, we shall just have a very nice greenhouse to admire.
May 6th - Wednesday
It was a better day today - marginally. I was lucky to miss the heavy mizzle in the morning which arrived shortly after I had arranged the outside shop display and taken the bleddy hound down to the beach. That insistent and chill east wind was still hanging in there and making a nuisance of itself; it was jumper day again but at least I did not have to turn on the first electric sliding door in The Cove, well, not because of that, anyway.
The dropping tide left the big beach in a bit of a mess today. There was some weed on it yesterday in patches but today it was littered from one end to the other with a thin layer, thicker in places. Ordinarily I would have said oar weed without hesitation but down on the Harbour beach for the last couple of days we have a new arrival. It looks like green spaghetti, which is the phrase I looked up on the Internet and discovered that its common name, or one of them, is sea spaghetti. I cannot imagine how it picked up that handle. Officially, it is himanthalia elongata, or thongweed and I am told it is brown. Looks bleddy green to me, my 'ansum.
The day brightened a little in the middle but it did not tempt out many people. There were a couple of surfers out in the water but with no surf they amused themselves with paddling between beaches. All the people I saw today were easily outnumbered by the gannets which had returned to reclaim the sea. All the fish out there were theirs; the fishermen had decided to let them have it for a couple of days.
Despite that, business was better with a few customers coming and going, particularly later in the day, after it had brightened up. I think that this was mainly because I had set up a background cloth on the counter to take some pictures of our new bone china mugs for the website. The wind kept blowing the cloth about so I closed the first electric sliding door in The Cove to give me some peace. This was when the customers started turning up.
Earlier I had cleared one of the shelves in the store room. This involved heaving anything that did not look like I could sell or give away into the bin before the bin man turned up today. I also salvaged the usable parts from the recent new scales that did not work. I asked what I should do with them and was told to throw them away. I considered for a moment getting them fixed and selling them but reasoned that in order to fix them I would have to send them back to the company that supplied the warranty replacement. Instead, I stripped out the battery, the weighing platform and the charging adapter and vacuum packed them for storage. Obviously, in the years hence when I might need them, I will have completely forgotten that I have them and buy a replacement set of weighing scales - whereupon I will instantly come across the vacuum package on a back shelf and thump myself over the head with it.
I shall leave you today with the words of a Nobel Prize winner, Mr Zimmerman, which seem most appropriate for us all in the UK, at least.
I see my light come shining From the west unto the east Any day now, any day now I shall be released
May 5th - Tuesday
The rain during the night woke me a couple of times. The first was because it was falling on me in bed as the fierce easterly was squirting it through the skylight. I have no idea what time it stopped being very rainy, but we got away with it when we visited the beach in the morning.
It looked like the weather was improving until it was not anymore. We spent the morning under the threat or more rain and a chill easterly that encouraged me to switch on the first electric sliding door in The Cove. It did not deter any customers or suggest to anyone that we were closed because there was no one about to see it. Does the first electric siding door in The Cove make a swishing sound when it opens when there is no one there to hear it, I hear you ask, dear reader. Well, I do not know, either, because it did not open, not once.
I had wondered before whether poor weather would affect trade when there was next to none and - mainly - only local traffic. It was difficult to imagine a clearer answer than the one that arrived today, which was written in six feet high letters and illuminated with huge neon lights that told me it beggered things up completely. This was not the deathliness of a cold, grey mid January, this was a whole new level of quiet defining emptiness. No even the tumbleweed could be bothered to turn up.
It gave me the opportunity to dig into the book I have been struggling to finish and I almost made it but for a couple of chapters. That was nearly half the book finished almost without interruption. It was not until I went back out into the store room that I reminded myself that it could have done with a good turn out and today was just the day to do it. I probably knew that, anyway, but even enthusiasm had deserted me.
Very kindly, the rain that had desisted for much of the afternoon returned, just in time for me bringing in the outside display and putting out the newspapers that I had wasted my time putting on the shelf this morning.
The Missus had spent the whole day in, too, but had managed the housework and a spot of tea. While our potatoes baked, I finished the last two chapters of my book and I was mindful not to start another. Perhaps I shall start the store room tomorrow so I shall lay awake tonight trying to think of excuses why I should not.
May 4th - Monday
Someone must have put the plug back in overnight because we were all well and normal again, this morning. Our usual customers turned up, buying the usual things and our deliveries came and the goods were salted away in fridges and on shelves.
We had been perfectly temperate over night but as I stood behind the counter during the morning, I slowly became colder and colder. Even taking the bleddy hound down to the beach, I was not uncomfortable, so I concluded that the temperature was dropping away as the day progressed. It was aided and abetted by a stiff easterly breeze that was seeping in through the door. It was definitely not cause to turn to automatic the first electric sliding door in The Cove, so I put a jumper on instead.
True to their word, the company that supplied us with a dickie set of weighing scales last week had a new set delivered today. We also had quite a big fruit and vegetable order so I tested the scales out and they appeared to work just fine. Either that or all our vegetables are priced incorrectly.
It did not stop a reasonable trail of customers from coming to shop with us. Most of these we know or have got to know in recent times, although we still see unfamiliar faces from day to day and wonder perhaps where they might hail from. It is not unusual or suspicious, in the main, as we have seen people from St Just and the surrounding area wishing to shop somewhere quieter and we are grateful for the trade. We have to wonder, however, when unfamiliar people turn up purchasing souvenirs, but it might also be reasonable to assume that are from just around the corner buying a birthday present for Aunt Mable. Aunt Mable just loves her piskie pendants and Sennen Cove fridge magnets.
The Missus ran off to The Farm in the early afternoon and missed all the excitement. She took the bleddy hound with her, presumably just to punish her, although she does need to be dragged out for some sort of exercise every now and again else she would sit in her bed all day every day. Apparently work on the old stables section is coming along well and it was the doors being built last I looked.
It was the doors, apparently that drove the Missus home again early - or partly, at least. They were misbehaving and not fitting in smoothly, so the Missus gave up before she took a wrecking bar to them. It was also cold up there, which I did not need to imagine because the strength of wind had increased and the temperature in The Cove had dropped away too; it is much more exposed up at The Farm - especially when you have no doors to hide behind.
She arrived home shortly before I closed the shop for the day with a very pleased looking bleddy hound. She was not as pleased as I when I found that another distant customer had discovered our alluring online shop, which is growing all the time - well, when I get around to it - and had placed an order. I have commenced enquiries about tax havens and offshore accounts and wondered if Brisons could be made habitable. I would not like to move too far because of getting back for Lifeboat training and quiz night at the OS.
May 3rd - Sunday
Oh! I think that someone must have pulled today's plug out of the socket as it all just stopped working.
I could at least see the sky when I came down first thing and when I took the bleddy hound down the beach, we could see the other side of the bay, too. It was not long after I came down to open the shop that the cloud descended on us and blanked everything out. I think that it was possible that people just could not find us as we were shrouded for the rest of the day.
When it became apparent that nothing much was happening, I set to running the fan cables back to the fan and the power point. Since it was still all one cable, I carefully marked the end that was to attach to the power so that I could identify it when it emerged from the trunking. I was quite surprised that there was so much in there, but I remembered that I had run the communications cables for the cameras when I realised that the wireless could not cope with four cameras' worth of data. Fortunately, there was enough room for another couple of power cables even though I had to make a bit of a bodge in cutting into the trunking to get them in and out.
I had stopped at that point with the plan to move the freezer out of the way after we closed to finish the job off. By the middle of the day I considered that I could have done the job several times over and no one would have known, let alone been inconvenienced by blocking off one aisle. I also considered that if I did it then, the world and her removal man would walk through the door and if I did not, no one would come and I would wish later that I had done it.
On the basis that it would be rather pleasant if the world and any number of the entourage walked into the shop, I fetched my sack trolley and pulled the freezer out so I could do the wiring. It took half an hour. In that time, it was not exactly a big crowd, but the only two customers that I had for the rest of the day, bar a few, came in while I was doing the work. Nevertheless, we now have a fully functioning and variable speed fan operating again in the shop.
I had hoped that it would resolve the issue I have with the last freezer in the row having condensation all over the outside of the door. The freezer next to it is perfectly fine and not even the experts at the freezer supplier could work that one out. It did clear once, during an easterly breeze, so I assumed that it was a ventilation problem. I ran the fan for the rest of the day on low but the condensation did not clear. I did not dare run it overnight on the first day of installation, so I will try again tomorrow with the fan running a bit faster.
It was not so much the condensation inside but the stuff outside that caused all the problems today. We were certainly very quiet. Typically, the mist cleared about an hour after we closed the shop for the day to leave us with a very pretty and serene evening. It was mild, too, and one of those evening where you could quite happily have sat on a rock and dipped your toes in the water as you watched the natural world go by. Since that is against the rules, I sat on something hard with my feet in a bowl of water and watched Countryfile. It was not quite the same.
May 2nd - Saturday
A jacket seemed superfluous this morning when I ran the bleddy hound down to the Harbour, but I wore one anyway and was glad that I did. It was quite deceptive because I was quite comfortable putting out the shop display without one. It appeared to set the tone for the rest of the day being unable to determine whether to wear a jumper or not. It was odd that it should be so because there was very little breeze and the skies had big blue bits with fair amount of sunshine peeking through.
Without quite so much pressure on, I reviewed our fish order and the prices I had calculated. I did discover something of an anomaly with the lemon sole, in the customers' favour, which I will correct once I have stopped kicking myself. Otherwise and on the whole, I had done a pretty fair job. We have had some positive feedback from customers, which I was grateful for as I was worried about how this venture might turn out. It seems we will be doing it all again next week.
Saturday groundhog day is a little different from the weekday groundhog days in that we have a couple of regular larger orders to make up. That, along with a general upturn in trade, sees off the morning and some of the early afternoon. After the rush, the afternoon takes a dip and we roll in toward evening on a wave of disinterest and lack of enthusiasm. The delivery that we had yesterday could wait until tomorrow when I shall, with renewed vigour, go about unpacking it and placing it on shelves or maybe it will wait until Monday.
I spent a little of yesterday wiring up the controller for the new fan. I even managed to attach it to the slat wall near the fan, the only place I could find to put it where I could still reach it. I now have to run the cables back to the power point and fan but need a short length of conduit and some cable clips both of which are up at The Farm. I asked the Missus to bring them back today, but work will have to wait until at least tomorrow as she would be back too late to do the work today.
It was a calm and pleasant end to the day - a good day of trading for once. The Missus had left the bleddy hound behind because she is not too enamoured by The Farm. She would prefer to sit on her bed in the shop doing begger all for the entire day than spend a moment up there among the grass. It is not the beach, there is no sand and you cannot dig holes as the ground is too hard and rabbits run too fast now. Since she had been shop minding all day, I took her around the block to stretch her legs. There was enough beach to go on, but she would not get into a stride down there and I am cruel and heartless.
There were a couple of cars parked in the car park. The police had only just paid one of their regular visits, so I assume the car owners were in the clear. The sheriffs are boxing clever these days. Not only are they checking the car owner's address but also where it was spotted last and when by automatic cameras. If you have travelled here from afar, you naughty things, they will know. Big Brother is alive and well and living in a computer somewhere.
I expect they would be a bit more baffled by horses. There were some on the beach in the early evening, four of them, which I hope was not ominous. They were circling about while they waited for one rider to remount and did not look too threatening. There was a couple with a dog not far off, which did not look bothered by the horses and it was a picture of early summer idyll and as if nothing much was wrong in the world. I am sure you could draw some comfort from that - if you needed to.
May 1st - Friday
The skies were bright enough first thing but that breeze and the chill than comes with it was still in evidence. Conditions, including currents and a decent ground sea, conspired to bring an abundance of oar weed into the Harbour beach. We have not seen quite as much as that for some time and the Harbour tractor had to be employed to dig a channel for the solitary fishing boat to launch. It was just a quick trip out to the store pots by the look of it as it was still pretty rough out beyond the bay.
The Missus went off in the middle of the morning on her fruitless visit to the big cash and carry at Hayle. I packed her off with the list of additional goodies that were not on the online catalogue in case they had come in since my order. Given that I had only had notification yesterday that the 'delivery' was ready I was not very hopeful and, unsurprisingly, my expectations were met.
She went on an extra trip into Camborne, which I thought was brave, to fetch some materials for her building. None of our usual resources are open, so she had no choice, other than to stop work and that was not going to happen. This extended the time somewhat, which was unfortunate, as I was hoping that she could drop into our fish supplier to chivvy along our delivery. As it was, by the time she got there the order had been packaged up and put on the van for delivery.
I had prepared as much as I could but with not even any price information the most I could do was set up the scales and the vacuum packing machine. I am definitely going to move collection day to Saturday just to relieve the pressure. The order arrived at around half past two and very helpfully they had split the delivery into the orders I had taken. The fish was of exceptional quality and again filleted and cut into no frills portions. Given that we had requests for different portion sizes, they did exceptionally well.
They certainly did better than I did on trying to package and price each order. The vacuum packing was the easy part. The flat fish are the hardest to price because the weight given refers to the whole fish weight, which is roughly, but not quite twice the fillet weight. It is very easy to overcharge by just doubling the price per kilogram and an adjustment needs to be made downwards. This is easier with small orders because you just add up the total weight and the total price to see the margin. On orders of this size that is not possible - or at least not possible quickly.
Naturally, while I had been quiet all day until the arrival of the fish order, all my customers for the day decided to come while I was trying to process it. Fishy gloves need to be removed to work the till and I lost count of the number of times I took them off and put them back on again.
The Missus arrived home next and suddenly we had orders to get ready for delivery. Luckily, the Missus gave me a hand to put together the fish orders as the first customer had arrived and was waiting outside. It took a while to pull everything together and then we had to concentrate on the deliveries. It was nearing six o'clock when the Missus got away to start delivering.
Looking back, I think it all went very well. I had one customer call back and tell me that the fish looked very good and to remind me that I had forgotten to include some wine she had ordered - whoops. I was relieved that it was not to tell me I had completely mucked up the order or the prices were way too high.
Of course, we ate quite late and in the meantime, while dinner cooked itself, I sat in the window and wondered at the beautiful evening that had arrived without me noticing. The breeze had diminished through the day and the skies had brightened with the clouds being white and fluffy and the blue sky being very blue. There were quite a few gannets in the bay, and I seem to remember them diving earlier on. They were joined by some herring gulls, who would rather wait until dinner presents itself rather than doing any actual work for it. I have to say, that sound rather good to me.
April 30th - Thursday
It appears that winter has returned to The Cove. Heavy rain was still falling when I went down to ready the shop and, like yesterday, it was just clearing when I ran the bleddy hound down the slipway to the Harbour beach. Unlike yesterday, there was a fierce blow whistling around the corner of the boathouse and it was chilly, too. I had anticipated this and had to resort to my heavy rain jacket for the first time in a while.
I had wondered yesterday what effect this poor weather would have on business. Ordinarily, we would see a dramatic dip because our visitors would eschew the beach and dash off somewhere else. I thought that it might be different with wholly local trade. It was not. We had the poorest trade on record, I think. It was a shame because I had hoped our fishy Friday would provide a bonus rather than just bring us back on average.
Adding to my woes, I tried out our new weighing scales after the fruit and vegetable delivery this morning. The manual - yes, I read the manual - suggested leaving the scales to 'stabilise' for fifteen minutes, which is a bit of a pain since we only set them up when we need them, so I obviously ignored that bit. Therefore, I thought that it was this omission that made it not zeroise when I pressed the appropriate button.
Having pressed the button often enough, it did eventually comply, but it did not seem that this was the correct operation. I was even more suspicious when I placed our banana delivery on the scales and discovered that sixteen of them weighed just 850 grams. I gave the new scales the benefit of the doubt, after all, they could be diet bananas, and reached for a 500 gram bag of sugar to weigh. This registered 100 grams and then 340 grams on two consecutive tests and something similar for the same weight of flour. This was understandably light because it was self raising flour - alright, alright.
The supplier was very responsive and simply asked for the serial number so he could report the fault. Another weighing machine is winging its way to us from the original manufacturer under warranty we are told. I just hope the old scales hold out until the end of tomorrow as I have an awful lot of fish to weigh and price.
When it arrives, it is unlikely to smell anything like the package we took in today. Some of you may have caught up with the story from FacePage but if not, a quick resume. The Missus wanted to send a couple of lobsters to her niece and great-nephew who are holed up together in Farnborough, which is somewhere east of Camborne. She chose a courier firm and filled out the online form to explain that it was fish and needed to be delivered the next day. The contract was accepted, and the firm called the next day to collect the package. We had carefully packed the live lobsters in an insulated box with ice bags and seaweed. It should have gone very smoothly and would have done had the driver from here not missed the transport up country. The whole thing was delayed by too long and the Missus called to complain. The courier company told her that it did not transport live fish - see its terms and conditions - and despite her filling out the online form with the contents, it accepted no responsibility for the package.
Today, nearly a week after despatch, we got the box back. I knew it was coming because I could smell it leaving Penzance. To say it was stinking does a disservice to stinking things; this was honking. The Missus drew the short straw to open and clear out the box and she left the empty container by our bin. Here is continued to niff so I took bleach and the hose to it. It still niffs, which I will try and ignore. Perhaps we will not do that again and neither will we used that specific courier, which I will not mention by name but it is the one that has a three letter acronym which begins and ends with the same letter.
Notwithstanding ponging boxes, we had a better day today; it would have been difficult to have a worse one than yesterday. It might have been due to the sunshine that appeared in the afternoon and it really did look like a proper smasher. It was difficult, however, to get away from the fact that the wind persisted all day from the west and brought down the temperature quite considerably.
Good job I had defrosted a curry to warm me up in the evening.
April 29th - Wednesday
Well, that was not the April 29th I was expecting to see. I am not quite sure what I was expecting April 29th to be, but it certainly was not that.
It was raining when I first got up and putting out the outside display required a rain jacket and flip flops. It was heavy at times, but I was lucky enough to see a clearing from the west by the time I was ready to take the bleddy hound out. We still got wet but not quite as wet as we would have done had we gone earlier. As the blue skies moved across us, I had the expectation that we would have some pleasantness, as we did yesterday when the rain cleared, but we were not so fortunate today.
Just as the rain stopped a rather robust breeze started up from somewhere out to the west. Later in the morning the wind eased but returned with a vengeance and some heavy rain in the later part of the afternoon. It was less than an hour after the wind started up that the sea state went from smooth and calm to choppy and flecked with white horses. It stayed that way for a while before calming down again for the remainder of the morning.
Fish ordering went into overdrive today and we ended the day with twice the number of orders that we had yesterday. I am beginning to think that I should have told everyone that pick up would be Saturday as I think I will be up against it sorting, packing and pricing in time. I thought that it would be sensible to send what I had to the supplier to give them some advance notice. I did not hear back so I hope they are on top of it.
As well as heavy showers - fortunately after we closed - the wind increased and scat over our wheelie bin. The sea that had been good, then bad, then good again went completely wild by the evening. There was a proper ground sea building and white water was lumping up the cliff opposite. The wind, still in the west somewhere was howling about us and the Missus reported that it was quite uncomfortable and chilly up at The Farm. It will be a good test of her recently finished transparent tarpaulin roof on the stables. It has been done well by the look of it but the wind about here is fickle.
The wind persisted into the night and I went to sleep with a moaning in my ear 'ole. It was probably the wind.
April 28th - Tuesday
It was definitely a day of two halves. In the morning we had the rain, and in the afternoon, some bright sunshine and blue skies but throughout it all a persistent, if light, north westerly breeze keeping the temperature in check. Having said that, it was quite pleasant when I went and hang over the railing opposite in the middle of the afternoon.
I find it quite therapeutic, not that I particularly need therapy - you may disagree, of course, dear reader - to have a gaze out upon the foreshore and out across the bay during my little breaks from the cut and thrust of industry captainship. Down amongst the rocks there were a dozen or more rockpools just waiting to be explored. It seemed such a waste of tides going in and out to have rockpools that small children and their nets would never explore. Half way across the bay were a dozen or so small white dots, gulls having a rest and a bob about in the rippling sea and closer in, one of the seals that I saw last night. I must presume it is the same one unless they take it in turns to patrol the same area just to fool me.
True to her word, our Cornish Magpie turned up this morning with the excess items I was after. This allowed me to despatch the order without so much as missing a beat. We do love it when a plan comes together. I just need now to keep up my own momentum to ensure that items in the online shop are kept refreshed and up to date but I can see that slipping away quite quickly should we get busy in the real shop.
It was not all one way with products as we received our shiny new set of scales today, albeit after I had finished all the weighing for the day. They are clearly designed to be used by men as they arrived without an instruction manual. Happily, there is one online should I ever need it. I did take a quick look as I needed to determine how long the battery needed to plugged in for its initial charge. The machine is some clever and even has a light so that I can weigh things in the dark. I will now have to find somewhere to keep the old one until we can dispose of it.
Our fish ordering venture has been highly successful for our first attempt. We have a full order book already but are happy to take on more. My only concern is that we have told people it is collection on Friday, but I will need to vacuum pack it and price it before collection. Depending on when it turns up, I will have my work cut out in turning it around quickly. We shall see how this goes but I suspect if the orders are this big every week, we may have to look at Saturday collection to give me some breathing space.
It seems that I have become a Farm widower of late and was left to get my own tea, It is a good job I am responsible enough to have a key to the front door but I am not sure that running down for a ha'peth of chips is going to keep the rickets away. I wonder if there is a husband line I can call.
April 27th - Monday
Our greyness continues and so do does the utter stillness of the bay with not even a shore break to tempt in the surfers today. If that were not bad enough, it rained a bit in the later afternoon but kindly waited until we were closed.
We were blessed with some action in the shop through the day, which was encouraging, and we even had a new customer from the furthest reaches of the wilderness, St Just. It was a lady of advanced years who told me that she had heard we were a quieter prospect than the Co-Operative shop in her home town and she also had a big dog that needed exercise. I told her that we were more than happy to have her come over and would look forward to seeing her again and another customer offered to walk her dog for her. Goodness, are we not all just rallying around the flagpole these days?
It is true, at present, that even at our busiest we have fewer than three people in the shop at any one time and one of those is me. It does give some comfort to people who are perhaps a little more nervous than others, for reasons of their age and health. We have been delivering to people who have locked up completely and are happy to extend that should the need arise. Some, however, have their own and very good reasons why they need to come out in person and for that we are probably a reasonably good prospect.
I cannot imagine why we managed to have not one but two online shop orders today. I do hope it was not something I said. We manage to get one out of the door but the other will have to wait, mainly because I thought that I had some chopping boards on the shelf but did not. I had to fight a fierce rear-guard action to get the supplier to send some more in a bit of a hurry. Fortunately, they are local and will deliver tomorrow getting me off the hook, bless them.
It was not the only thing in a hurry. The Missus was very keen to get back up to The Farm to continue her work on the greenhouse. That was delayed first by my regular exercise routine which took the best part of an hour and a half, although the Missus did turn up downstairs earlier than normal to get ahead of the posse. We had some supermarket orders that she needed to run into town for after I came back and after that she was almost free to go. I did point out that the bleddy hound would need some exercise before she went, which introduced an air of frustration and when I suggested that she would in fact need more than just a quick visit across the road, I took cover.
The Missus was off in a cloud of dust once the bleddy hound had been properly exercised but returned ten minutes later after discovering that she had left her mobile telephone and the keys to the tool shed behind. She was spitting feathers, I noted from my hidden spot of satefy. I was rather glad that I was not up there with her when she discovered that she had left all the batteries to the power tools behind.
Just when I thought that we had seen all our business for the day, we had a small resurgence prompting me to consider another trip to the cash and carry. Had we been able to get all we wanted in one trip we could have survived a fortnight without another visit but as it is, we are having to go weekly, which of course, increases our fuel costs. I decided that I would try and place the order online, which usually prompts a delivery, but also send a note telling them we would collect on Friday. This would give them a week to compile our order.
I am sure that it will not work like that and my online order will simply throw them into disarray and upset the system. It was not that successfully anyway, as less than 50 percent of my list was available in the online catalogue.
While I was waiting for my tea to cook, I took a look out over the serene bay. There were three seals mucking about close in. One decided to run off in a huff in the direction of the Harbour wall and the other two seemed to be having a ball and making a big splash. This is unusual because they hardly make a ripple normally. I have no idea what they might have been up to on this spring evening.
April 26th - Sunday
I put a jacket on for the run around the block this morning and was grateful for it. I cannot say it was any more chill today but the grey lack of brightness added to the effect and made it look less inviting and fresh. We had the rush of the sea, the putting of a boat motor and a few gull squawks to help us on our way around but, again, not another human sole in sight.
It was a bit like that in the shop at times today, although I suspect that it might have been a little busier than last week. We had a few passing through on exercise walks and some local shoppers on a weekly essentials run all mainly in the morning. Come the afternoon, I was left to my own devices but, sadly, I had run out of devices a long time ago, which left me a little listless.
Instead, I admired our fan installation a few times and wondered at the advisability of doing the electrical work myself. The wiring diagram for the control unit is a little confusing so I fired off an electronic mail to the manufacturers to ask what I should be doing with poles U1 and U2 and just what a bulb symbol was doing connected to a live spur and the neutral pole. My assumption is that the fan attaches to U1 and U2 and that the 'bulb' circuit is superfluous and a confirmation from the makers will give me much more confidence. I shall see what they say but in the meanwhile I ordered some electrical cable just in case.
For the first time in a few days there were very few surfers about. It was much to do with the sea being as flat as a dish apart from a very small shore break, which provided some entertainment for the two out there today. It was, however, a day for the fishermen. They were all out again today this time chasing shoals of mackerel - quite successfully from what I heard. It was not until the middle of the afternoon that I saw the last of them come in. Once, no self-respecting fisherman would be seen out on a Sunday, but times change, especially when there are good catches to be had.
I had decided to wait until our fish order arrived on Friday before advertising that we had fish and would seek to make the orders a regular thing. I asked the Missus to put a note up on FacePage explaining that we would take orders and have them delivered on Friday next. If we had enough each week, we would make this a regular feature. It seems to have generated some interest and we have taken two orders with the promise of more from several customers through the day. I will be very pleased if this works out as first, I put a bit of effort into trying to organise a supply and secondly, I like a bit of fish every now and them myself. The Missus, of course, does not care; the Missus hates fish.
She came home early from The Farm having made startling progress on preparing her make-shift greenhouse. She had a hankering for a roast dinner, so did one, although it looked like two on the same plate. I am going to have to step up the exercise regime to counter this. I do not think exercising my fingers on the keyboard quite counts but we do now have several new alluring goodies in the online shop window. Just thought I would mention it, dear reader, as you I would not wish you to be disappointed when all you see all your friends with one and wonder where they got them.
April 25th - Saturday
Someone could have stolen the bay during the night and I would not have noticed this morning. Just outside the door and I was faced with a wall of mist. It came with a bit of a chill, too, but no more than a few minutes later the mist had gone leaving just the chill.
I thought that I had made a mistake by not wearing a jacket when I took the bleddy hound around the block. It was chilly, certainly, but it was not really cold and with a light breeze, it was more refreshing than anything else. Other than the boys heading for the store pots, The Cove was in utter peace and our walk around the block was quite solitary. It was very pleasant.
We have a regular couple of orders being collected on a Saturday morning but other than that the day is quite quiet. It will take a while for the message that we have fish to circulate but I am hoping that it might generate a little more footfall. I vacuum packed the last of the fish order, the scallops, to complete the first offering.
Even without a wealth of tasks to do, the day seemed to slip away from me again. I was quite surprised when we had passed into the early afternoon without so much as a nod to midday. Perhaps it is because there are no orders to place and what will be will be on a Saturday. I took the time to photograph some of our smaller trinkets so that they could be added to the website. It is something that I have been meaning to do for some years and finally I have the time to do it. The problem will occur when we get busy again and I let the stock control on the website become stock uncontrolled and end up taking orders for things we have run out of. One day I might actually get it right.
I had made the decision early on in the day that I would actually take the bull by the horns when we closed and install the new fan. While, when I say install, I really mean to fit into place. We will have to wait until an electrician can get to us to complete the installation. It would mean taking out the old fan but that had ceased to function anyway and was the third such model to last just a year. The highly respected extractor fan manufacturer had given up on us last year claiming that it was the coastal environment causing the problem. While I think that was just an excuse not to uphold their warranty obligations for a second replacement, I had the impression that I would be banging by head against a brick wall to try and take them on.
The main thing stopping me from doing this sooner was laziness. However, had I started earlier I would simply have discovered that the bolts I purchased were the wrong size sooner and would have had to stop and order the correct size. These arrived yesterday, so I no longer have a valid excuse unless laziness is perfect valid, which you might argue the case for.
Anyway, mentioning the arrival of the screws permits me to segue into a minor rant about purchasing items from Amazin', the megalithic supply corporation. I have ordered some replacement probe cables for my voltage meter through Amazin' as I could find them nowhere else, unfortunately. I ordered them about a week ago and they still have not arrived. The screws I ordered from an independent retailer through its own website and they arrived two days later. Amazin' deliberately delays despatch if you have not coughed up for its premium postage service, a ploy that I find disturbing that people just seem to accept. Wherever possible, I buy from elsewhere, even if it is more expensive, which it often is not.
There, feeling much better and armed with the correct size bolts I set about replacing the fan. The Missus, with her newly found manufacturing skills had fashioned a strengthening template for the fan to sit on which also reduced the size of the existing exit hole. I had purchased a gravity closing grille for the outside but hoped that we could use the existing one, which was bigger and would cover the bolts.
You may have noticed the subtle introduction of the 'we' in that last sentence. The job, because there is an outside and an inside to the fan parts, required a partner to assist on one side of the window or the other. I enlisted the Missus, mainly as there was no one else about at the time.
The old one came apart quite easily as it was designed to be replaced quickly. There should have been a clue in that to its longevity, perhaps. I removed the inner frame but left the outer one in place to re-secure the existing grille when we were done. I clamped it in place to drill the bolt holes then called in the Missus. Perhaps it was her influence, as I am not accustomed to jobs going smoothly, but the only issue we had was the alignment of the bolt holes in all the elements, which required a little brute force and ignorance to fit into place. It is a good job that both of us were there, then, and that is all I am saying.
I noted that during this process there were a few swarthy fishing types patrolling the railings opposite and looking out to sea. You may rest assured, dear reader, that they were not looking for basking sharks but something much smaller. It is late in their season but there are signs of grey mullet in the bay. If they come into the right place you might get to witness a masterclass in deployment and use of a seine net while socially distancing.