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.
July 8th - Wednesday
Oops! It seems that I might have scaled our pasty operation down a little too far. We ran out by the middle of the day and well ahead of the usual busy time. In my defence, the weather was not quite as miserable and we were led to believe by the forecasters but there again, I should have known better.
It was perfectly mild and perfectly dry when I ran the bleddy hound around the block, first thing. We only had a few short periods of mizzle all through the day and as a consequence, our happy visitors appeared in abundance. If anything, there were more people perambulating the promenade than on the beach today; a complete reversal of the last few days.
Our main problem was the big white duvet sitting over the top of us. At the top of the hill, it was as thick as a bag, I was told, and down in The Cove it would come and go in thickness. For none of the day could we see Brisons and Cape but occasionally Gwenver would come into view through the mist and mostly we were struggling to see North Rocks. A gentleman arrived in the mid afternoon to purchase cigarettes. He asked by the way where a good place to take photographs was in The Cove. I suggested that it was not so much place as time and that the best time to take a photograph was probably Friday. He looked perplexed, and I looked quizzical then found myself explaining that the mist was hiding the good views for photographs from him.
It is a shame he was not around a bit later as it brightened up considerably for about an hour, through the mist. He would also have been able to take a picture of the flock of young sparrows which, presumably on a dare, darted into the shop. The dare must have specified that they all touch the end of the shop before flying back to the door and performing a couple of loop the loops and rendezvousing on the railings across the road. It was all perfectly well executed but for one small female who took a left instead of a right at a crucial turn, lost the leader and failed to see the exit.
In a panic, she ducked into the store room - which was some feat for a sparrow - and since she was not keen to come lower than the ceiling, was unable to get back out of the door. I went in armed with a large tiddler net, but she was quick and darted from one end of the store room to the other. Occasionally, she flew into the net but very quickly out again. I got a second net to close over the first but again, she was quicker than I could close the trap.
She must have tired after about twenty minutes of the chase and I managed to trap her between the two nets and transport her outside. Ungratefully, she never even said thank you - bleddy youth of today.
I was able to conduct the chase between customers who were few and far between in the later afternoon. Some youngsters had reminded me that I was supposed to have ordered some fishing lures, as we had none at all left, so I managed to get that done as well. There are other customers who have reminded me of a few things that we have forgotten to order in now that we are flying again: jams and preserves, the Curds and Croust cheeses and local honey, to name but a few. All these things were set aside three months ago and it has been an effort to remember them all.
The Missus tells me that her local honey is very close to production but not so close that we are ready to take orders yet - he said, knowing that we will be inundated with requests. We will have to find out just how many jars we have first, so hold your horses.
All said, we should have everything sorted by September.
July 7th - Tuesday
We have fallen into a bit of a pattern where the mornings are quiet and the afternoons busy. There is no major rush for breakfast goods, which is ideal, and throughout the day we have managed with the need for too much of a queue outside the door. This is more than can be said for Little Bo Café whose queue today extended across the front of the shop. Twice I had to ask if those queuing would mind leaving a gap for our customers to get in and out. The situation only lasted for about an hour and we were not overly busy during that time. It might have been temporary, anyway, as Little Bo's bins were in front of the café, waiting to be emptied.
The quiet in the morning was ideal as our grocery delivery turned up just after we opened. It was hot on the heels of our pasty order and because of this the van parked across the road. I asked the driver if he could park outside the shop, especially as he was on his own and I would have to empty the van by myself. He told me that it was his job to empty the van and he would put all the boxes outside the shop. I suggested that it was not a great plan because, first, I would have to bend down to lift the boxes and second, errant hounds, with the absence of lampposts find any port in a storm. After a period of negotiation, he moved the van across the road.
I spent a good proportion of the rest of the day emptying the store room of our newly acquired goods. We still have large gaps in the provision including some ubiquitous goods such as marmite, cashew nuts, cheese and onion crisps, and the list goes on and on. Since it was the manager who delivered the goods this morning, I asked about the missing items and he told me that it was a cost cutting drive by the company. I suggested that they may not need to cut so many costs if they made some common items available to buy. It was clear I was wasting my time as the manager had no greater clout than we.
The day was sparkling when we started out but progressively clouded over towards the end of the afternoon. By four o'clock our crowds were thinning and the beach was emptying, although that still left a fair few scattered about and in the water getting the most of some easier waves than the last few days. We had been busy enough during our busy time, leading up to and for a few hours after the middle of the day and, anyway, it is far better than a month ago, thank you.
We are told to expect some poor weather over the next few days. We shall have to see if our visitors show their mettle in a little mizzle or whether they all run for the hills. Either way, I suspect some quietness for a short while, so I have time to contemplate the long periods of good weather we had while our visitors were restrained.
July 6th - Monday
There were blue skies and a whole heap of loveliness right from the off today. The only fly in the ointment was a stiff breeze coming in from the northwest. The sea was still pretty stirred up but, thankfully, the Lifeguards did not close off the beach and by the middle of the day, at low water, it was good enough for swimmers, surfers and bodyboarders provided you did not mind a big surfy wave in your face every now and again.
We started off with quite a wave of busyness, with customers mainly collecting breakfast goods. It was a bit more of a dash that I had anticipated and it slowed me down a little putting out the goods that the Missus had brought down from The Farm yesterday evening. As I compiled the list yesterday, I thought it might be a good idea to see if there was sufficient for a cash and carry order. It would be a week before we could do another. I was quite surprised just how much had gone missing from our shelves and we managed to build the largest order we have had this year.
As I made up the list, I also topped up the shelves from the store room, including a whole box of chocolate digestives. These I did not bother to order more of. Today, as I restocked some more of our excellent local produce I noticed, on the shelf below, just a solitary packet of chocolate digestives left. How very naughty.
The sea started to misbehave again towards the later afternoon. In anticipation of the swell getting heavier, the Lifeguards closed the beach. I could hear their loudspeaker from the shop but not quite what they were saying. A customer came and relayed the message that it was due to expected conditions. Later, a man came into the shop asking for fishing bait and asked if fishing off the wall was permitted. I informed him that quite a few people did but not necessarily when the sea was thumping in and chucking large bodies of water over the top. Still not quite grasping the point, he asked whether there were any rocks to fish from. I considered suggesting ones that were a good distance from the sea but settled to be plain and told him that fishing tonight was just not on. I still sold him the bait.
It has been some time since we have had a five minutes to closing rush. Oh, the sheer joy of it.
July 5th - Sunday
Our morning was a bit quiet and I was getting a little concerned that perhaps I had dreamt the whole of yesterday and we had imagined all our visitors from yesterday. Thankfully, after the sun broke though in the middle of the morning, we started to get going again.
It was a pretty day after that point, although there was a sharp breeze from the north west that kept the temperature down. During the night it had been howling across us and I had taken the precaution of tying down our bin lest it went walking in the night. It probably was not necessary.
One of our early visitors came in on four legs. It was a small collie that did a quick look around the shop and headed out to the front of the shop again. I was engaged with some other task at the time and when I went down to the bottom of the shop to see if the dog was still there, it was nowhere to be seen. I thought that it must have slipped out again but when I got to the front of the shop, it was waiting for me after draining the bleddy hound's water bowl. As it had been a minute or two since it arrived and no one had followed it in, I assumed that the owner had lost sight of it. It was a very friendly little girl who let me get hold of the collar to find a mobile telephone number on a disc. The lettering was too small to read so I had to lead the dog behind the counter so that I could get my glasses. Even then, and mainly because the dog would not stand still, I could not read it, so I used the camera on my telephone to take a picture and then enlarged it on the screen.
We have a spare lead behind the counter, so I tied the dog up to our fixing points by the front door and called the owner. She was almost at Land's End and had not noticed the collie-shaped space around her and was most pleased that I had made contact. I looked after the dog for the next twenty minutes while we waited for the owner to come back from Land's End. She told me that they were on their way to Lamorna but the dog ranges a bit and must have lost its bearings. We do find that dogs somehow manage to gravitate to the shop when in distress. It must be the pasties.
Talking of which, we had a good day on the pasties. It did appear that I had near enough got the numbers about right. I may, perhaps, not worry too much about an abundance of sausage rolls as these were hardly touched. While there are a few young children about, the main audience for sausage rolls, they are not in here in numbers, which may account for the sluggish sales.
It became much busier in the afternoon but not on the scale of a busy August. It does, however, mean that the grumpy shopkeeper must employ some crowd management techniques to keep the numbers in the shop under control. It is not a skillset that I have previously acquired and it had me on edge when the number got to uncomfortable levels. We have decided on a maximum of three groups of three people, which should work just fine in the available space. The problem occurs when the group of three get into the shop and immediately split up and are suddenly three groups of one. When two previous groups of three, still in the shop, have also split into three there follows utter mayhem.
We are not keen on dropping the group numbers because families like to shop together, and it would be unreasonable not to allow children to choose their own buckets and spades. It is one big learning process, like remembering that tried on sunglasses must be brought to the counter for cleaning and tried on clothes need to be quarantined for 72 hours. The Missus tells me that no such controls are in place in Tesmorburys where customers try on shoes and clothes and put them back on the rail. I am not sure whether they have determined the risk to be negligible or they are just turning a blind eye to the issue.
For most of the day I had my eyes down on the counter or keeping a watch on our customer numbers and where they were in the shop. It was not until we closed and I retired to the flat that I noticed how stirred up the sea had become. A big low pressure system had glanced across the north of Scotland and this was probably the culprit for our big ground sea. This along with a burgeoning spring tide filled the bay up quite nicely with big rolling waves. Our regular seal put in an appearance to the east of the long slipway and seemed most at home unlike a couple of surfers who thought it a blindingly good idea to head out of the big beach without Lifeguard cover. I kept an eye for a while and found that they were being beaten about in the right general direction, toward the beach.
The mainstream and social media had done its best to frighten everyone to death with tales of scary numbers and ill-behaved visitors. The reality has proven that the numbers are far fewer than warned and our guests are behaving impeccably in the main. It is early days, of course, but I think we can allow ourselves a smile or two and a little confidence.
July 4th - Saturday
I must admit to being a little more than a little anxious before I hit the sack last night. We had put in place as much risk mitigation that we reasonably could without closing completely. Was it enough? Have we done all the right things? Will our visitors play the game? All that and I had not had a beer. This was probably the mistake.
During the night, something must have happened. It is possible that I had a visit from the ghosts of grumpy shopkeepers past, present and future, who soothed my furrowed brow and assured me all would be well as long as I could avoid dissatisfied, attention seeking clerks. There again, the roast tea I had consumed earlier might have laid a bit heavy for an hour or two. Either way, by morning time I had recovered my joie de vie, youthful enthusiasm and joyful vigour and was keen to get started.
We had faced some issues putting out the swimwear yesterday for lack of space. We had shoehorned in what we could, but this had left everything mashed together and was so far from ideal that you would need a fast car to get there. I had made a mental note to replace the display stand with something akin to what I was using for the wetsuits now but that would have to wait until next year. At some point during the night, it had come upon me that we could use the old wetsuit stands, slipped behind the swimsuits, to extend the rails. I followed up on my cunning plan in the morning and after some jiggery pokery to get the stands in place, it worked a treat. We did not get any more swimsuits out, but what we have is not more easily accessible.
There was no expectation that Saturday would be busy but even on a grey and mizzly morning we had more customers in the first couple of hours than we saw all day yesterday. By the early afternoon, business was starting to shift and the vast majority of visitors were probably still on their way. It did not take long to get back into the swing of ensuring a filled pasty warmer and to revel in the jangling musical note of the till trilling away. It was also a tonic seeing the children again. One young lad explained that he had been given ten pounds for his holiday and proudly showed me his bulging wallet - fair nearly brought a tear to my eye, the dear of 'un.
There is no mystery as to why people flock to the Duchy for a visit. There are the distinctly different coastal zones, north and south, the wild, desolate moors and rolling farmland and the quaint old fishing villages. Then there is the rich industrial history of tin mining and clay production, the marvel of early telegraphy and, of course the stunning beaches and surfing sport. With such a wide range of interest visitors can choose from the variety and some things are not of interest to all. It was no surprise, therefore, when I was asked by one family group where the "real" Cornwall was, "you know, the arcades and stuff".
Things quietened down in the afternoon, as they are prone to do on normal drab days in the season. It would be interesting to see how the OS faired on its first day with its very restricted outside space thanks to the building work going on. We spoke to one couple who were keen to try just to say that they had been to an alehouse on the first day of opening. They changed their minds pretty quickly when we told them that they would have to book and lodge their name and address with the company. I think that I would have to be pretty desperate to jump through such hoops, although it might be slightly different if I were dining, perhaps.
At half past four I tried desperately not to think that at that time over the last few months I would have been having a little zizz before preparing for tea. To be honest, I did not find the day onerous in the least and the majority behaved impeccably. Some were a little on edge, having heard tales of locals with pitchforks and flaming torches but I assured them they were most welcome. I tried not to sound too desperate. It was quite lovely to see happy people and the buzz of life returning to The Cove. We had heard tales of nose to tail traffic on the routes in, but we had heard those rumours at Easter and Whitsun and they were completely unfounded. I spoke with one new arrival and he confirmed that he had sailed through, so perhaps a little exaggeration from certain quarters.
As part of the new routine I have been sanitising my hands after each customer. It was close to the last customer of the day when I realised what it might look like, rubbing my hands together after closing the till. I cannot imagine what people might think. I am usually far more discrete when I am rubbing my hands together after closing the till.
July 3rd - Friday
It turned out nice again, at least for a few hours in the morning. After that it all went down hill with cloud rolling in and by the time we closed at four o'clock, it had started to rain.
I had asked the Missus if she would be ever so kind as to help me with the clothes order that arrived yesterday. This is a time consuming process of not only unpacking but very often finding hangers for things that came without. Then there is the identifying the item on the stock list and assigning the tempting, excellent value price we had calculated for each. It took most of the day with the Missus doing this exclusively. Had I been on my own I would have had to deal with customers as well and the process would have taken several days.
While this went on, I added to our signage with strategically placed notices asking customers to try and avoid unnecessary touching of products and surfaces. I cannot help feeling that this may be a lost cause after again continuing my hopeless task of educating people that hand sanitising on entering the shop is a good idea. I am a little bemused as to why this comes as a big surprise to people as I had thought that it was beginning to be common practice in most shops and publicly accessible places. I can just about cope with absent mindedness or poor skills of observation but the last customer of day was an alarming turn for the worse. He point blank refused to use the sanitiser when politely asked, on the basis that he had washed before he left wherever he was staying. This was completely unexpected and has left me nonplussed and I truly hope that it was a one off, else the next three months are going to be harder than I imagined.
The good folk at the Little Bo Café have been working their socks off for the last few days getting ready to open tomorrow. They will be offering a takeaway only service and not having any seating inside along with everything being served with disposable packaging. The seating area is small anyway and once distancing has been taken into account, there will be even fewer seats. They will, therefore, rely on good weather so that the extended seating area outside can be used. They have spaced the outside tables appropriately after I gave them a metre long stick that I had in the store room. They were most welcome to it as I did not use it as a rule. They will also not be handling cash, which is a sensible precaution since the same hands taking the money will also be preparing the food. We wish them well.
By the end of the day we think we had covered all the bases with everything we can reasonably do in respect of the dreaded lurgi - with the exception of people who do not want to play the game. I was rather glad we closed at four o'clock because the weather was closing in quickly. We are hoping for better in the weeks to come, mainly because our visitors probably deserve it and secondly because it will keep everyone outside where they are safer.
July 2nd - Thursday
We were warned of heavy showers this morning, clearing to better weather in the afternoon. Here in The Cove, however, we went straight to having the good weather, although there was a spit or spot of rain at one point but nothing to write home about. Oh, I just have.
It was pleasant enough for a run out on the Harbour beach with the bleddy hound and perfectly mild, too. We did not tarry too long down there despite the bleddy hound's bff being down there ahead of us. Their excitement only lasts a few moments before they wander off and do their own thing. It suited me as I was keen to get on with unwrapping our parcels in the shop before the next lot arrived.
The next lot arrived well ahead of me finishing the unwrapping of the first and so we have another pile of cardboard boxes clogging up the store room. They sat for most of the day in the shop and thus gave me a pile of shifting and carrying to do just before we closed.
I discovered quite some while ago that one thing that seems to take much of the time is pricing individual items, especially when they are small or difficult to stick price labels on. On the basis that I am essentially bone idle, I decided that I would not price anything, unless it presented itself as easy to price. Consequently, I have developed the ability to remember most of our inventory and, no, I do not make the price up at the till - well, not always. The disadvantage of this approach is that it has rather scuppered the option of hiring in casual staff, even if we wanted to.
By the end of the day I had still not started on the latest delivery nor had I fully got started on the stationery order. Still, it was not going anywhere. Naturally, with a good bit of sunshine developing, a few people had it in mind to have a few pasties. Naturally, because it had been slow all week and hardly pasty weather, I had ordered in just a few less than a few pasties, so since it was still early when I was starting to run out, I broke into the frozen stock and cooked some of them. Naturally, because the small gods of shopkeepers are fickle and devious, they did not send any more pasty buying public. They were rolling around in their marbled aisles, thinking it hilarious, I am sure.
Towards the tail end of our opening day, the new, taller ends of the replacement wetsuit stand arrived. I thought it best not to attempt to install these while the shop was open lest I had to leave them balanced and unfinished when a customer came in, so I waited the half hour until I shut the shop. There is no particular cleverness to the frame and most of it comes already bolted together. All I had to do was select the height of the hanging bars and where the lower ones would go and not get in the way. These just slot into place with a heavy hand - luckily, I had one about my person.
This time I did not bother unloading the old stands and just heaved them to one side. My, they were much heavier than I remembered, or I was just a bit nervous about dropping one on my flip flop clad foot and lifted awkwardly. The new stand was installed in a jiffy and the suits are now proudly displayed. I had worried that the frame, being quite narrow, would be unstable and at risk of toppling over sideways under the weight but it was perfectly secure when it was complete. I will have to reverse the order of the wetsuits as they are facing the wrong way and narrow the initial corner too much, but that is just fine tuning. I was very pleased with the effort and even more pleased that the Missus was pleased, too, when she inspected it.
I was going to call it a day after that and retire upstairs, which I did, and had a cup of tea. Unfortunately, it irked me that I knew the drinks fridge needed topping up and with everything else to do tomorrow, I might be pressed. The more I sat, the more I was irked until at last I decided that I had best go back down and unirk myself by getting the over-stock of drinks from the store room.
This, dear reader, is the lot of a diligent grumpy shopkeeper who finds himself running out of time, heading towards what is very likely to be a mass influx and busyness in The Cove. There is just the task of dealing with the summer clothing delivery that arrived today and we should be as prepared as we could ever be. In normal times we would have ramped up slowly to the peak of the season. I strongly suspect that we will be going from early March opening to mid-August full tilt overnight, which will be one giant leap for grumpy shopkeepers. Do bear with. Many thanks.
July 1st - Wednesday
If yesterday's journal had you in thrall and gripping your seat with anticipation, you had better sit yourself down, dear reader, buckle in and hold onto your hat. Today, the excitement level reached fever pitch.
Today is the day that every order that I had placed, was going to place or had even considered placing at some point, all came together in a convey of little trucks. There was no fanfare or build up of tension, the first delivery arrived just after we had opened at half past eight o'clock this morning.
It was turning into a fine day, too. The bleddy hound escaped early while I was sorting the morning milk when her bff, which I think means 'big furry friend' came by. They had not seen each other for a while so I let the bleddy hound out for a meet. This then interrupted my milk sorting and led me to take her to the Harbour beach directly after.
I had agreed with the Missus that she would come down early today and that I would take a shortened exercise period so that she might get away early to our cash and carry. I had asked her to go for just a few items that I thought we may need for the weekend, the most important of which was cans of cider that we had nearly run out of. It is unlikely that we will have sufficient requirements even after a busy weekend to call in an order, which means we will have to go another week and have a big order the following week. As it happened, the Missus called me from the cash and carry to tell me that they no longer had any of the cider cans that we normally have and, in fact, had just one other brand to choose from. This cash and carry, owned by one of the Tesmorburys mob, is going from bad to worse.
In the meanwhile, I set to unpacking the various boxes from the first delivery. The Missus had packed up some of the larger items before she went so that she could drop them at our store at The Farm on the way back. For me it was slow progress. By far the largest box was the one with ladies' flip flops in and I was keen to empty it so that the box could be spirited away by our waste collection service that had not yet come by for this week. I just about make it, having emptied the last few pairs onto the floor when he turned up near the end of the task. I did not quite manage to get the large refuse sack filled with the cellophane and packing from the box, however.
It is always a revelation opening the packages - a bit like Christmas - as it is usually a while between the original order at the trade show and the arrival. This was more pronounced this year as all this opening would normally have happened before Easter. There are some cracking toys and gifts among the boxes, including some dinosaur and shark fossils that the owner must chip out of a clay egg causing powdered clay to be distributed across carpets and tablecloths. Most notable among the soft toys is Hairy Harry, a very tactile centipede with little rubber fronds in a display case - the case is for us, not the customer, which must be a disappointment.
It was during the long process of unpacking, pricing and putting out on the shelf that three other orders piled in on top. All of these were considerably smaller than the first but with little room inside or in the store room, the new boxes sat outside on the newspaper box.
I had barely looked outside since the morning, but a customer alerted me to just how good the weather had become during the day. Blue skies had slowly emerged and it was looking bright and cheerful across the bay. There did not appear to be any howling winds and I had noticed from this morning that it was perfectly mild out. This was nothing like the forecast that I had heard the previous day or in the morning. Perhaps with a bit of accuracy on both those occasions we might have seen a better turn out today. As it was, we were quiet again, all the way to the last half hour when the ice cream brigade all came along in a bunch.
In the back of my mind there was the idea that I should continue past the four o'clock closing time to complete the task. This notion was buried as quickly as it appeared as I have just three days of lazy opening hours left this year (we hope) and I intend to take full advantage of them, even if our Hairy Harrys must wait another day to be revealed.
June 30th - Tuesday
Normally, we have arrived at this point in the year much sooner. With not much going on around us time has moved much more slowly this year. Today it moved more slowly than even that, and I did wonder at one point whether time was elapsing at all. It would have been an excellent day for all my orders to arrive as I would have finished clearing them all in a day - especially a long one. It never works out that way, though, does it?
I got a bit wet putting the shop display out this morning as it was teeming down. It stopped for me to take the bleddy hound out then promptly started again when I got her to the bottom of the steps, although not quite so heavily as previously. In fact, it was not unpleasant standing about in the warm rain as I watched the bleddy hound traverse the Harbour beach.
By the time I opened the shop, the rain had largely stopped and moved up east, just as Kevin the weatherman said that it would. It left behind, up at the top of the cliff, some low cloud that had enough damp in it to soak the folk there through without it actually raining at all. I discovered this when an uphill neighbour stopped by for a distanced chat - he was wet and told me how he became so. Later in the day, the cloud descended further and filled The Cove. If it was quiet before with the cloud just at the top of the cliffs, our business life turned deathly.
Since our deliveries had not arrived, I decided to call in some more deliveries just to make life a misery for me later in the week. With my diligent posting of the collection of invoices we had accumulated, I remembered that I had used the last lever arch file for the last quarter. This is still floating about somewhere in the courier network, although I am assured someone is actually looking for it now.
I had completely forgotten to measure the spine depth of the last file so that I had a reference point of what to order this time. I knew that it was a deeper than a normal file and since I had pretty much filled it I thought it best to order some more even deeper than that, as the next quarter would have more invoices. This proved to be an issue.
Before I had that issue, I had another. I had made the decision to purchase the files from a particular wholesaler that we normally use for such things but when I logged in to its website this morning, I completely forgot why I had done so. Because it requires a minimum order the Missus and I wracked our brains to add to the basic order to fatten it up a bit. We could both remember the extra items but neither of us could remember what the primary reason was. It took me until I had finished with the minor items before my brain clicked into gear and I recalled the files.
This was the first issue I mentioned. The supplier had a very wide range of files, quite a number of which would have suited perfectly. The only problem was that they were all out of stock. It took me a further hour to track down another wholesaler - and one that I do not like using because I get deluged with advertising for months afterwards. Everywhere else was only selling the thinner files. Still, 'tis done now.
I know what you are thinking, dear reader: why do some people in life get all the exciting things happen to them? I fear it is just luck of the draw. Do not fret, dear reader, I am sure something tedious will happen to me soon.
The tedium may have to wait a while because I have just received a raft of electronic mails telling me that all sorts of parcels and deliveries are on their way to us. I will be sure to share every box opening and parcel unwrapping with you so that you too may share in the utter excitement that we have to endure, day after day.
June 29th - Monday
It did not start off too bright today but by the end of it we were back to blue skies, sunshine, a bit of a brisk westerly and hardly any customers. Given that we were so short of people to serve I have no idea what occupied me all the day long but I do know I had precious little time to do anything.
I was on the telephone quite a bit. The ends of the new wetsuit stand had not appeared and since the wrong ones went back last week sometime, I was a little concerned. I also called in another couple of orders including the summer swimwear that we had put off from earlier in the year and some local foodstuffs that we are nearly at the end of. It is rather difficult when a supplier does not answer the telephone as we do not know if they have not yet reopened or are furloughed and therefore not working. I left a message but have no idea whether I will get a reply.
Being that we are an official tourist information contact point, we still field a few calls every now and then. We had a call this morning from a lady who was worried about the closure of beaches. She had booked an apartment without a garden and if the beach was closed, she may as well have stayed at home, she told me. She understood I could not provide any guarantees, but I told her that the Visit Cornwall boss had said that there are 300 beaches in Cornwall, so overcrowding was unlikely. However, I added, the decision will rest with the much maligned council, which certainly would not give me any peace of mind. I did not tell her that bit. I also refrained to say that the weather was probably more likely to keep her off the beach but we could not do much about that, either.
We have questions asked of us in the shop as well:
Customer 1.: "What pasties you do?" Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "We have two sorts, the traditional Cornish steak pasty, and a cheese pasty." Customer 1.: "Have you got any chicken pasties?" Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "!"
Move forward one day.
Customer 2: "What pasties you do?" Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "We have two sorts, the traditional Cornish steak pasty, and a cheese pasty." Customer 2.: "Have you got any vegetable pasties?" Grumpy Shopkeeper.: "!"
It is good to get queries like that when it is quiet. I view them as training sessions for when we are inundated and questions like that will become common place. It is important to maintain a sunny disposition and remain polite, keeping my rapier wit and repartee in its box for a more suitable occasion.
The Missus retired to The Farm in the afternoon, braving the expected rain. This did not appear until well into the night but the skies by late afternoon were beginning to look suspicious. They alternated between gloomy and bright but the gloomy was definitely winning. We will happily take it this week but it had better pull its socks up next.
June 28th - Sunday
It was a deceptively blue sky sort of day, one that you might have imagined to be rather hot and pleasant. Sadly, it looked very good but, in the flesh, it was a bit of a disappointment with a chill wind blowing in from somewhere. Yesterday, the beach was nearly deserted and it was not that much better today. It was the same with the sea, there not being too much in the way of usable surf and a bit too boisterous for swimming in.
The morning was particularly slow in The Cove to the extent that I took care of a big pile of invoices that I had let build up. Naturally enough this generated a flow of customers but not quite enough to prevent me from finishing the task. I also amused myself by counting the number of people who used our hand sanitising station without being asked. It was not a high number.
Earlier, I had wheeled the chair out to the front again, like we set up yesterday. I had replaced our 'wine box' of sanitising liquid with a spray bottle I had recently emptied of its original contents which proved a much more efficient dispenser. Unfortunately, the brisk wind knocked the bottle off the chair and cause it to empty half the contents on the pavement. I moved it inside to a position where customers had to brush past it to get into the rest of the shop and so they did - brush past it without paying it the slightest attention.
We cannot really blame customers for not knowing what to do. It would really have helped if there was a basic and standard set of instructions for entering publicly accessible buildings, like hand sanitise and not touching, for example. While some buildings, because of their shape, size or purpose might have additional requirements at least people would be 'conditioned' to the base rules and not have to learn for each place they go into.
I did not have much luck with our pasties, either. I ran out shortly after I started, with quite a rush all at roughly the same time. It was early enough, so I cooked some of our frozen stock. These take an hour but would be finished well ahead of our usual busy time. They were, but our busy time never happened. We had a rally of bikers turn up shortly before the pasties were ready and they would have had the lot. After they were gone The Cove emptied out and the rest of the afternoon was desperately quiet. Hardly a pasty was shifted.
The wind increased into the night and it became much cooler than we have been used to and most uncomfortable for the time of year. This must have been why the bleddy hound insisted I take her out for a run after tea. I am sure that she was sent to us just to plague me for prior wrongdoing. Boy, I must have been naughty.
June 27th - Saturday
It is a good job that Magellan did not have to rely on satellites and global positioning systems; he would have been in dire straits. Our yacht last night suffered from complete systems failure and was left in the traffic separation system with no lights, which was dire straits enough. When I looked on the AIS tracking page there were two very large ships bearing down on its position. It was possible to see them change course when they were advised of the yacht's whereabouts. This was clearly changing a bit because the Lifeboat had to rely on a fired flare to find it.
There ensued a lengthy tow back to Newlyn, which took several hours thanks to a lively swell and a strong southerly breeze. This hampered the Lifeboat's return along the south coast, keeping its speed down below fifteen knots. In the meanwhile, we onshore took shelter in our beds, followed by an early start having roughly estimated the return time.
A minimal team gathered to set up on the long slipway with increasing swell on a pushing tide. By the time the boat came back it was quite lively down the bottom of the slip and me still with a hole in my wellie. It was also breezy down there and I found myself swaying a bit as there was nothing standing still around me as a reference point - and absolutely nothing to do with beer, honest guv. Despite all that we brought the boat up the long slipway in what was clearly a textbook recovery. We are, after all, a very well oiled, very excellent Shore Crew.
It was a bit of a rush after that to return home to run the bleddy hound down to the Harbour beach, feed her and get the shop ready for opening. I just about finished with the newspapers come the appointed hour, but I could have opened an hour later and no one would have noticed.
It was a bit of an odd day. The sun broke through the chill gloom in the middle of the morning but the warmth of last week is long gone and the new temperature level was held down by the breeze. By the afternoon, half the sky was blue, dotted about by big white fluffy clouds and a little life blossomed in The Cove.
There was enough going on in the morning to keep me from my breakfast until early in the afternoon. Once dispensed with I set about refreshing our signage that I had spent some of last week printing and laminating. Some of the signs had been posted up and all were dutifully ignored if they were noticed at all, so I had reworked them with larger print and multiple sheets. I reasoned that with just a week to go before the flood gates open, it would be worth testing our chosen systems including implementing the hand sanitising station by the door.
The noticing asking hands to keep off surfaces and products I reckoned would be best placed on the floor like the shoe sizing signs but as the Missus had not even seen those ones yet, I decided to wait until I had her views on it. This just left the hand sanitising station, which I put on the counter with a suitable sign underneath it. The first two or three customers walked right by it, so I placed another sign on the door jamb at head height. Some more customers ignored it. I explained this to the Missus when she turned up and she suggested putting it on a tall chair in the middle of the doorway so that people would have to walk around it to get in. They did exactly that and still ignored it.
I was going to try the hand sanitiser myself, but a local customer beat me to it and explained that it was a liquid rather than a gel and that it had rather exploded from the tap. A continuation of this would lead to the three litres of liquid running out very quickly and I think we will have to decant it into a better container, with a pump possibly. In terms of the signage, it is clear that the great British public will do exactly as they please and no amount of instruction or pleading will make any difference.
We were deceptively busy, and trade picked up into the afternoon. It was abundantly clear that these people were in the vanguard of our expected influx next weekend. It is jumping the gun somewhat to be turning up in numbers this week but at least it has given us a chance to test our systems and to see what we might be up against - complete anarchy, by the look of it. I think part of the problem is that each store is using a different set of rules, understandable since each store is different, but some standardisation would have been useful.
Most of our minor rush had evaporated into thin air when I took the bleddy hound down to the Harbour beach in the late afternoon. It was deserted. The breeze was making it uncomfortable to hang around, although it was perfectly pleasant as long as we kept moving. The bleddy hound was not keen to be out too long, either, and I was quite grateful as it allowed me a short zizz before tea.
The Missus had pushed the boat out and prepared a curry. She must read my mind sometimes as I just fancied a curry tonight. I ate alone; the Missus hates curry and had salad instead. How selfless.
June 26th - Friday
The bleddy hound determined that there was sufficient clear sand on the beach for her to wander on and promptly dragged me down to the Harbour first thing. She was waiting at the top of the steps to the flat for me, which is unusual, so she was definitely keen. I had no time to decide whether a jacket was required or not and was taken out in just a t-shirt. Despite the temperature having crash about five degrees overnight, it was not uncomfortably chilly.
In fact, it was perfectly bright and temperate during the day with the threat of mizzle coming in later in the day. This gave us near ideal conditions under normal circumstances, but we are far from those at the moment and it was quiet for most of the day. Having said that, we had almost exactly the correct number of pasty purchases to match what was delivered; a testament to my perfect ordering skills - for once, which kind of makes it more luck than judgement.
It was reasonably quiet all day until the fish order arrived. This has been the pattern since I first restarted our fish orders and I am beginning to sense a conspiracy; it cannot be random that every time a fish order comes in that we get busy. It means that I have to change gloves to serve a customer then get a fresh pair to carry on with the fish. The availability of those blue 'nitrile' gloves is on the wane and I could only get a size too big last time I ordered some, which I suppose is better than a size too small. The order took a little longer than planned to process, too, because I messed up the order for lemon sole and got whole rather than filleted. I had to resurrect my rusty filleting skills bit also try out my newly sharpened knives. The result was none too shoddy, even if I must say so myself, with not a gram of meat left on the bone.
After we closed we had another attempt at completing the steel sheets for the roof of the cabin at The Farm. Highly Professional Craftsperson had an errand to run before hand, so we were late starting and the rain was early coming. They were not ideal conditions for doing the job as I found it very difficult to direct operations from inside the shelter of the cabin and guess at the progress of our man's work by the sounds he was making. It was even less ideal for the fishy barbeque that the Missus had planned and I can only imagine that this was the origin of the term wet fish.
The rain came in much heavier than we expected. The Highly Professional Craftsperson soldiered on regardless, bless him, and I played fetch and carry, handing up the sheets to him on the roof. Here is a helpful hint for you, dear reader: if you are committed to working in the rain, do try and refrain from wearing flannel shorts. These will suck up the rain beating against them and collect the run-off from the waterproof jacket you are wearing. The shorts will eventually reach saturation and become so heavy that gravity will decide that they are better around your ankles and resistance against their downward travel is futile.
Eventually, all the sheets were secured in place and, anticipating our completion time correctly, the Missus delivered a spot on fishy barbeque to the cabin consisting of hake, and kebabs of monkfish and peppers. She also skewered some big prawns marinated in something tasty, mainly for herself as she will eat prawns; the Missus hates fish.
We retired for a fitful sleep only to be awoken before midnight - or possibly just after - by my Lifeboat pager going off.