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.
June 15th - Saturday
It was much better weather today than Alcock and Brown had for their landing one hundred years ago today in a bog in Ireland. Well, I will bang in about it since no one else seems that bothered. They had encountered storms, fog and icing up on their trip, so bad weather in June is definitely not a new thing and we have just been through probably the worse weather week since we have been open.
Today, however, we had sunshine for most of the day. It looked to be clouding over from the east in the mid-morning but it did not amount to very much and soon cleared again. There was a bit of a south westerly breeze blowing in, which kept the possibility of some proper heat but a hopeless desire. Nevertheless, the sun brought out the crowds, which was just the ticket for a day that everyone could enjoy, even grumpy shopkeepers.
I am sure that the beach would have had far more people on it if there were a bit more of it; the tides this week are not playing ball. Instead, it seems that people decided to gather on the seats outside Little Bo Café and down at the Beach, which was open. I am supposing that it was that sort of afternoon and very lazy and convivial it looked, too.
It is highly possible that the Missus was anything but lazy during the day. She had gone up relatively early to start work on painting her beehive. I have to confess that I did not realise that there was so much work in it. Each of the individual frames inside the hive have to be constructed and there are loads of them. They all come pre-formed but need to be nailed together with particular size nails, which the Missus ran out of yesterday, and capped with bees' wax, which is on the schedule for tomorrow.
One thing that we had not reckoned with was the long arm of the church. We met with our lady vicar on Thursday who told us that by ancient rite all beehives in the parish are subject to a tithe as the altar needs to maintain its bees' wax candles. For a vicar, she can be quite wicked. To the Missus that sounds very much like a challenge and I think our vicar may well find herself surprised after wax production reaches optimum capacity.
Towards the end of the afternoon we started to see familiar faces in this week's influx. We have our friends from the north and sometimes bleddy hound walkers, and some more who are named after a town in the north but are not actually from there. Yes, it was lovely meeting Mr and Mrs Berwick-on-Tweed. There are family gatherings, which quite commonly take place down here, and it all adds to the jollity of this part of the season. Let us hope we have some jolly weather to go along with it.
June 14th - Friday
I have two names for you this morning, from a tatty journal that rarely cites names: Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten-Brown. The names are no doubt familiar as will be their claim to fame, crossing the Atlantic on the first non-stop flight. I do realise that the 100th anniversary has fallen on the same day as a far more tragic anniversary, but after a quick scan of the newspapers, there was nothing, not the briefest mention. They won the Daily Mail prize but not even the Daily Mail could find a square inch to celebrate Alcock and Brown's achievement. Perhaps all that petrol headed, male dominated bravado is a bit too politically incorrect for today. Good to see that we managed a 5p stamp on the occasion of the 50th anniversary, though. The boys will have to make do with that, I suppose.
I had very little time to dwell on the event. I had been tipped off a few weeks ago that if we did not take possession of our order of bodyboards, it was likely that we would lose them to other retailers who were a bit quicker off the block. Since we can negotiate payment terms with this particular company, it made sense to take in our complete order all at once. This seemed logical until the boxes started arriving today. There were so many that the transport company had to lay on two vans. What chance, then, did we have fitting it all into our restricted space truck.
The first delivery arrived shortly after I came back from the gymnasium. It was the smaller of the two deliveries and lulled us into a false sense of satisfaction that we might have half finished the job. The Missus managed to get most of it into the truck and took it up to The Farm. She returned with Mother in tow and instructions that I should go up next with some more boxes, Mother and the bleddy hound and to measure the new cabin for insulation and OSB for the walls. I am only here to serve, you understand, so off I went.
When I returned, the Missus made haste to take herself up to The Farm. Unfortunately, she did not make enough haste and the second delivery turned up just as she was about to drive off. She was stuck with helping unload a further 34 boxes of, mainly, bodyboards. This required a further three trips to The Farm to clear, although the third trip will wait until tomorrow.
The reason for the haste that the Missus was in was that she wanted to prepare her beehive. She has a finite date for the arrival of her first bees and needs to be prepared. This means painting the bee house in various colours because the bees can see colour, I am told, and it will help them to recognise their hive out of the hundreds of others in the near vicinity. No, there are no other bee hives in the near vicinity, but I did not want to interrupt when I was being told why the bee house needs to be painted different colours - I thought that they were all white. What do I know? The Missus was most put out that she had to delay her painting and transport bodyboards, instead, which was another good reason for not interrupting.
I had hoped to be able to order the insulation and the OSB, but I did not even get the chance to look at my measurements. The weather had improved in the afternoon, in fact it was not all that bad in the morning apart from one visit of a spot of mizzle. This brought a big crowd of visitors out to have a mooch about and so some shopping. There was a constant stream of customers for most of the afternoon, which did not really tail off until late in the afternoon.
I had a call quite late in the day from a visitor who had come camping but had forgotten to pack his sleeping bag and a towel. He wondered if we had replacements, which we do not but I suggested that we had a big towel that he might wrap around himself to provide some comfort from the night chill. He said he would come and have a geek. I had another call from him a little later asking if I could keep the shop open until he reached us, as he was on foot and tardy. I agreed, as he was not going to be that late in coming.
He arrived ten minutes after our closing time and bought one of our large towels that he said would do for sleeping warmth and as a towel. I was dubious, since the towel would probably be damp, but I was told that it was not a concern. What did concern me was that he informed me that he was very cold last night, which means he had all day to come and find a suitable solution, rather than ten minutes after we closed.
While we ate our tea, we watched a couple of likely lad visitors setting a lobster pot in the Tribbens. They had been in earlier asking where best to set the pot and I told them that although I was not an expert, some inshore, rocky spot might do. I had not specified right in the middle of the Tribbens where the fishing boats and, occasionally, the Lifeboat traverse. Quite apart from that, with tide going out we expected their little inflatable kayak to be rocketing westward, but they appeared to be struggling to make headway. I discovered later, as I rounded the Lifeboat station with the bleddy hound, that the wind had picked up quite considerably from the west. After all that effort I do hope they have their lobster before a boat runs over their pot.
June 13th - Thursday
It was something of an interesting day in terms of the weather; we had all sorts. It was a bit mizzly to start with, then quite bright, then there was a bigger lump of mizzle sweeping into the bay, then some more brightness, then overcast and grey. At least it was a measure or two warmer than it has been for the last couple of days.
Since it was not all that rainy, we had people moving about and some of them visited the shop. In fact, quite a few of them visited the shop for which I was very grateful. They did not all come in a bunch, either, which kept me ticking over for most of the day. There was just about enough of a break in the traffic to allow me to run up and make a cup of tea in the afternoon, but I did have to run up previously and boil the kettle.
It was apparently not a pasty sort of day. Perhaps customers were getting me back for not having any at four o'clock in the afternoon yesterday. I had plenty of pastes at four o'clock in the afternoon today. I also had no customers at four o'clock in the afternoon, so I embarked on some shelf filling down the grocery aisle that is very easy to ignore when ambling along and also when we are very busy, although for the latter we have a reasonably excuse. There was not a lot to top up, but it kept me amused for the best part of half an hour.
What it really kept me doing was ignoring the hooded sweatshirts that had been nagging at me for a top up. With the groceries refilled, I could find no other excuse and with pad and pen counted our remaining stock. This is another area that is difficult to predict. Navy hooded sweatshirts were all the rage a couple of years ago and we had bolstered the stock in response. Our fickle customers appear to have favoured other colours this time around, so I will need to change our focus. I do find it so very hard keeping up.
There was no keeping up for me for the Lifeboat launch that was organised for the evening. I had already arranged an alternative night of entertainment, so I let the boys and girl carry on without me. I will check later if they managed without my services, but I would imagine that they performed a perfectly reasonable textbook recovery up the long slipway, given the tide and conditions. We are, after all, a very reliable, very excellent Shore Crew.
I even avoided the OS quiz such was the longevity of the entertainment I enjoyed. The Highly Professional Craftsperson, his aged parents and my good self - I left the bad one at home - headed to the Acorn Theatre to witness the performings of the band called Hanterhir. We most often see them in acoustic mode in Penzance but tonight they were performing, full throttle electric wonderfulness; all one and one half hours of it.
It is very difficult to put the band in a box, most descriptions have them as psychedelic/punk//folk/rock to try and cover all the angles but even that does not work properly. The songs, in English and Cornish, are wide and varied and part of the offering is a seminal rock opera, just thirty years after rock operas went out of style. Many of the songs crescendo to a wall of sound, which initially just sounds like noise but then you pick out the melody from the sax here, the violin or flute there, the bass, and strong vocals cutting through the haze, each one distinct in the cacophony. Even when they descend into chaos like in the middle of Morwenna and the Lamb, you realise that there is form and structure to it.
They are currently a seven piece, which judging from the shallow turn out to watch them, must spread the jam pretty thin. Clearly not in it for the money, this can only mean they do it because they love making the music and performing. That is alright because I suspect that the people who did turn up did so because they love listing and watching the music and performance. We certainly did.
June 12th - Wednesday
It was a tad mizzly first thing but later we saw signs of improvement when it was merely grey, cold and disheartening. At least it did not put off the work people who postponed their visit to The Farm yesterday. They came through today, early enough for me to guide them up there then return in time to go to the gymnasium.
Also arriving today was a person with a truck who came to collect our big commercial waste bin. I told him that I was sorry for his wasted journey, but he was two weeks overdue and I had arranged with some of his colleagues at the depot to collect it, instead. He seemed ambivalent, and why should he not, as he was being paid regardless. I am reasonably certain I will be billed for the removal, despite having told them several times that my contract excluded any such charges. It is even possible that they will try and charge me for loss of the bin, it would not surprise me, and they wondered why I did not want play with them anymore.
After a long pause and some effort in restocking the greetings card display yesterday, I remembered to place an order for some more stock. We have been lucky enough to have some card makers drop by this year but, even so, we still seem to have a few gaps. We would have had even more cards coming as I reviewed the offering from a second large supplier. Having gone through the catalogue, I could not find one card that was new from the selection they had last year. Some cards do sell extremely well, and we buy them time and again but having fresh stock is important as we tend to have many repeat customers each year. Either the artists that these companies work with are resting on their laurels or the companies printed too many cards and have not sold them all yet. We still prefer to have good local suppliers when we can.
It has been a bit like the helicopter equivalent of Piccadilly Circus here all week. The Trinity House helicopter has been to and fro to either Wolf Rock or Longships Lighthouses at least a dozen times a day, it seemed. Add to that a naval Merlin thundering low over our heads and across the bay several times over the last few days. We are used to the Merlin being around but perhaps not quite so often. There has also been a couple of sleek helicopters, a black and blue one which I have only heard but was informed about later. It must keep Land's End controllers busy. I only hope that the increase in traffic is coincidence and, hopefully, temporary.
Quite against expectation, the weather perked up in the afternoon. There was blue sky and sunshine and, I am sure, if it had gone on long enough, there might have been some warmth in it, too. It brought out swathes (a comparative term) of visitors who promenaded and came and actually bought things. We also had quite a few who complained that we had run out of pasties. It has been a bit of a trial trying to get the numbers anywhere close to right. We will endeavour to try harder.
The Missus deserted me for The Farm again today. I am fast becoming a farm widower. After the work people finished, she now has a new project, which is a small cabin to replace the caravan that fell apart. She has already started the insulation and it is entirely likely I will have to attend to board up the walls and ceiling in the very near future. It will not matter if it is raining for that.
As she disappeared again after tea, I took advantage of the weather to run the bleddy hound down to the Harbour beach, as even in our winter temperatures, she is too hot. I took a ball that I quickly discovered was not in the greatest shape and when I threw it into the sea it took on water. Fortunately, the bleddy hound did not show a great deal of interest in having a swim, despite its cooling qualities, and shortly after that two of her mates turned up. She had a bit of a dust up with one of them, which was quickly resolved, but it did spoil the mood rather and we came home not long afterwards. It broke up an evening in which we both would otherwise have been idle, so it was worthwhile.
It was not until I had got into bed that I discovered that my legs were still coated in sand and I thought Sandy, Beds. was east of Camborne somewhere. I have waited nine years to get that gag into a sentence.
June 11th - Tuesday
Like two peas in a pod, today and last Friday. Strong northerly winds and rain hacking in, plagued us for most of the day. I had the impression that the rain might have been a bit softer today, but it was wet, nevertheless and stopped customers going about their customering, like they should. Today was officially pants.
It was intended that I meet some work people in the F&L car park so that I could take them onto The Farm. They called first thing to let me know that it was a bit wet and windy and they thought it not a great idea to do the work today. I could not help but agree. This was a particular disappointment as I had dressed in big boys' trousers for the occasion and put on a stout pair of shoes. Since the call came after I had opened the shop, I had to stop in them for the rest of the day.
The bleddy hound and I had avoided the worst of the weather when we stepped down to the Harbour beach in the morning. It was five minutes after we came back in that the first of the daytime showers arrived and were rather heavier than I expected. We had a few like that during the day but, thankfully, they were few and far between. It was the wind, though, that made the day most uncomfortable.
Like Friday, we had a day of it with a robust, up to fifty miles per hour, gusts from the north. It kept our door closed for most of the day but again, the rain crept in through the unsealed gap under the door. The underside of the mat was only just beginning to get dry from Friday's flood. We shall start all over again, now.
With visitors already feeling a bit glum because of the rain, it does not help when they are turned away from cafes that purport to be open but decide to close because it is wet and windy. Although it is quiet, it is the time when those who do make the effort to come down and support businesses, need some warmth, shelter and a friendly welcome. A couple who complained to me, had made a special journey to be here and had already paid to park their car. They were on the way down from incandescence by the time they reached the shop. This was at one o'clock, not the tail end of a grim day.
Visitors pay thousands of pounds to come on holiday here, the least we can do as businesses is provide a decent service, not despite of but especially when the weather is not with us.
As a proper grumpy shopkeeper, I saved my proper grumpiness for when I retired to the flat at the end of the day. I was able to be proper grumpy about how darned cold and damp it was as I sat and watched some nonsense on the television and regretted removing my electric blanket at the last bed cover change. Good job the Missus had gone off to the last of her bee courses else she would have born the brunt of it. The bleddy hound hid in her den behind the sofa and only came out last thing.
Tomorrow there will be cake.
June 10th - Monday
We had quite a busy morning but sadly it was more to do with running around than it was customers arriving in the shop. Thankfully, it turned busy later on in the day and we duly ran out of pasties, because we were not expecting it.
I had been recalled to the doctors' surgery for the second year running because something had gone awry with my blood letting a week or two ago. I properly ignored the recall last year until the end of the season because we had got busy but unfortunately had no such excuse this year. I might be a bit more prepared to acquiesce had they been forthcoming with the reason but last year, having returned and gone through the trauma again, I still did not find out.
It was the same blood letter as last time that I saw this morning. She appreciated my dilemma but could not help greatly. She also has a fine sense of humour, which I am sure helps in her role. I congratulated her on the job last time as I genuinely did not feel a thing. She asked how she was doing this time and I told her that, although it was scarcely a scratch, I did feel it. I told her she needed more practise to which she replied in a trice that I would need to come back more often - to which I responded, 'touché'. She told me to book in for a review with the nurse at reception, which she told me last time and I ignored. I had to fetch something from the car and return and by the time I arrived back at the reception she had beaten me to it. The receptionist asked me to pick a date as the phlebotomist retired to her room, smiling.
I went straight to the gymnasium on my return and by the time I got back to the shop, the joint was jumping. I had not appreciated that the busyness on Sunday related to the week's influx and assumed that it was mostly trippers. It would seem that we have more people this week than last by some margin. The upshot of this was to run out of bread and pasties and be faced with a recalibration of my expectations for the week at the same time as taking into account the weather predictions. It could be a tricky week.
It should have been no surprise that it was busy in The Cove. While the rest of the Duchy laboured under cloud and drizzle, we had glorious sunshine. The lustre came off it a little bit in the afternoon as the breeze picked up but by and large it was a marvellous day. I am sure that the Missus felt that it would be rude not to decamp up to The Farm, especially as she missed the entire day yesterday - apart from the end bit. She was keen to top the field as the grass has grown very quickly in the last couple of months. I noted, too, that since she has been diverted by the necessity to clear the rubbish away, the vegetable patch has been overrun with grass and thistles around four feet high. I discovered later that she had addressed neither of these.
Instead, she tells me that here is even more rubbish to get rid of. The trailer looked pretty full when we moved it last evening, but she is still finding room on it now that the trailer's back flap has been closed. So enthusiastic is she that she returned after tea.
I felt that I ought to reflect such dedication and went about the numbers to finish the quarter end report for the accountant. I also put some effort in to complete the wetsuit and bodyboard order that had been outstanding for a while. Just before the holiday, the salesman told me that the smaller boards, which are most popular, were running out fast. I do hope I got there in time. One day I will have all our plates spinning at the same time.
June 9th - Sunday
I do not recall the gloriousness of today's weather being forecast, in fact I rather thought that today was supposed to be cloudier than yesterday. Despite the brightness first thing and a wander on a quiet and golden beach, I decided to decamp to the range as planned and hope for the best that it was not too busy in my absence.
I learnt later from the Missus that it was far too busy in my absence and, perhaps, I should have stayed. Still, if I had, I would have missed the hedgerows. There is a bit of a furore at present that the much maligned council is chopping down the wild hedgerows unnecessarily and losing much needed bee fodder as well as perfect loveliness. The much maligned council clearly has not got as far and the Far West and all the hedgerows between the range and Mother's and Mother's and home are in heavenly bloom. In fact, there is so much heavenly bloom that they are encroaching on the road from both sides, which only means you have to drive a little more carefully.
There is so much colour in there that it is difficult concentrating on the road and then there is more colour in the fields, too. There are huge swathes of red campion, hawthorn or may and geet clouds of rape interspersed with alexanders and wild carrot and the occasional foxgloves. The Cove was no less adorned by its floral display. I walk the bleddy hound around the block when I come back from the range so got to see the full complement in the blazing sunshine of the middle of the day. It was good to see the sea mayweed starting to bloom and I have already pointed out the flowering mallow here and there. Down by the far side of the car park was something a bit different and I will have to make a special trip down there - the bleddy hound favours the beach in the morning - to take a photograph. I think that it might be a rock sea spurrey, but that is a bit of a guess. Investigations continue.
The afternoon in the shop became busy at times with young families invading our aisles and relieving us of small buckets, spades and nets. It was a perfect beach day for them, and the tide was playing ball by being out during the main part of the day. Word came in that it was cloudy with geet black clouds in Penzance and places east of us, which was a shame and we felt very sorry for them, honest, guv.
After a hard day at the tin stope - alright, it was just half a day, today - it is pleasant and well deserved that I crash and burn on the sofa in front of some nonsense on the television. This evening, however, the Missus needed some help moving a trailer up at The Farm, which meant starting the Massey Ferguson that has been sitting idle for some time. The battery is flat anyway, this we know, and it is easier to do the deed with two people, so I agreed to go up to The Farm after tea and help out.
It took a few minutes to charge the Massey, but it started without complaint after that. I am unfamiliar with its gears and did not realise that the high/low selector was not engaged, which took a while to work out. The trailer is now very heavy with rubbish and the Massey is small and old, but it still shifted the trailer, seemingly without effort. It was a bit of mid evening fun and, up at The Farm, it was perfectly pleasant and quite warm.
When we came back, I entreated the Missus to take us to the other end of the Harbour car park so that I could photograph my unidentified plant. At first, I could not see it then realised that the flowers had curled back into their buds. It has either died after one day of blooming or it only comes out during the day. I will have to make effort to get down there during the day tomorrow to find out. I will probably forget my camera if I do. It seems it might be that sort of week.
June 8th - Saturday
This is still not the June we love and cherish but it was a sight better today than it was yesterday, with bright skies, sunshine and everything apart from heat. When we rounded the corner of the boathouse this morning the brisk north westerly wind was very much in evidence, but it did not bother us much in the shop, unlike yesterday's northerly laced with rain.
There was at least one glimmer of good that evolved out of yesterday's wash out. A local lady, half way up the hill had recently lost both her dogs. One was recovered quite quickly, but the other was gone for more than a week. The first involvement we had was a telephone call from another local lady who had heard via the post lady that a dog had been found and had given the name of a farm where it was. The name had been somewhat lost in translation, but the tenuous link was somehow with the post office at St Buryan. Our contribution was to provide the telephone number of the post office.
After this, we heard that through a friend of a friend of a friend, a contact had been made with the friend of the person who had found and had possession of the dog. Quite how this small terrier had worked its way over to a farm in St Buryan is a mystery, but it was in a poor state when it was found. By now it will be resting in the bosom of its loved ones, hopefully a wiser dog.
The Missus avoided The Farm today on the grounds that she needed to do some mowing and strimming and it would have been too wet. Instead, we both stayed put, the Missus became a housewife and cleaned things in the flat and I ran the shop. It was a much busier day than yesterday but to be brutally frank, it could not have been less busy. I spent some time in the afternoon wrapping gifts for those leaving and welcoming this week's intake in which there were some familiar faces. Two girls and their mother, who come at least annually, arrived in the afternoon. I had to ask if they had missed a year as the girls had shot up since the last time I saw them. It is a feature that marks our time here, the growing up of the children.
The rest of the day was unremarkable save for the fact that it was broad daylight when I took the bleddy hound out last thing. The lengthening day has crept up rather and also to do with not having stepped out at that time for three days, so there would have been a greater difference. It is obviously quite wrong and against nature that it be daylight when it should be night time. I am surprised that there is not a campaign group about it. Maybe I should start one, when I have some time.
June 7th - Friday
Rain pretty much stopped play today. It did have the decency not to start in earnest until after I had taken the bleddy hound down to the beach, first thing. Beyond that it had free licence to be as bad as it wanted to be, and it was. The strengthening northerly breeze did not help at all and neither did having to look after the bleddy hound on her seat in the shop, which excluded any use of the electric sliding door - did I mention that it is the first electric sliding door in The Cove? In the end I had to move her back into the shop because she was getting wet and staring at me forlornly.
The reason why I was looking after the bleddy hound was that the Missus had run off to The Farm again. Ordinarily, the bleddy hound would have gone too but the visit to The Farm was to move the old topper and an engine block. The Missus had made contact with a scrap metal man who was meeting her up there to make the trade. Since the topper and the engine are particularly heavy items, the Missus had enlisted the help of two burly Lifeboat crew, bless them. The move brings in sight the end to the rubbish clearance at The Farm and opens the door to more productive effort.
There was little in the way of productivity in the shop today; rain really did stop play. Toward the end of the afternoon we had served a total of 35 customers. It rained constantly from the start to the end of the day in varying levels of intensity and the north wind, unable to blow the rain through the closed door, blew it through the unsealed bottom, instead. We were told that the bottom of the windows and door was left unsealed on purpose to allow any flood water to exit but unfortunately there was only one direction the water was flowing today.
It has been far too long since the small group of us knitted together by quizzing and concert going have dined out together. I was supposed to organise something last year, as everyone else had done so for their birthdays except me. I thought that I had better pull my finger out this year or be left behind. The usual venue, a Tex Mex bar in town, had since changed hands so we looked for an alternative and I looked closer to home to try out the recently moved Sennen Bar and Bistro that had set up at the caravan park towards Land's End. It suited most of us but was a bit of a trek for the Heamoor Anarchy Two, of whom I spoke yesterday but I thought that, at least, it might confuse any stake-out that might be watching them.
It is the first time, I think, that most of us had been to the caravan park and the venue is modern and clean but also doubles as the social club for the park. The menu is none too fussy, with good portion sizes and very reasonably priced and more importantly the food is good quality and well prepared. The service is friendly and efficient and not over-bearing. Though only established in their new venue this year, they have made a cracking job of the whole package, which makes this as good a choice, if not better, than the alternatives in the vicinity.
We rounded off the evening by repairing to the F&L for a small libation afterwards. It was the first time I had been back for a while and quite like old times, although the Missus was waiting to take me home, which was an improvement on the old times when I would walk home. We do so like improvements.
June 6th - Thursday
It was an absolute stunner of a morning and in the sunshine, it was quite warm. We have yet to have the air temperature catch up and every time it seems like summer has arrived, we slip back to springtime again. There could be no complaints about the day, even though showers were threatened for the afternoon; it was all right.
The mallow thinks summer is here, just need to tell the weather.
We are occasionally asked to do favours for other shops at our end of The Cove as our hours often exceed theirs. We can take in deliveries when they are closed and act as a pickup point. Yesterday, we were asked if we could look after an art object that was broken. The artist who made it was coming today in the morning to collect it, we were told. I did wonder how I might recognise the person, but my concerns were unfounded. The lady turned up clutching a small pair of pliers and a tube of wood glue. Had these been in a paper cup or just in her hand I might not have thought much of it, but they were in a decorative old tin, possibly a tea caddy with the lid broken off. If she had come in wearing a paint smeared smock, a beret and palate in her hand, she may have looked less of an artist. She fixed the item, a wooden boat, on our newspaper box outside. How bohemian.
We were quite busy through the latter part of the morning and the early afternoon. It all went quiet, then, for a bit. The weather in its glorious state had a few people pinned down on the beach, quite a few outside Little Bo Café and I would wager a fair few in the gardens of the OS. It was that sort of day when everything outwardly looked calm and peaceful.
It is hard, then, to imagine that in the quiet, leafy suburbs of Penzance, insurrection is brewing. Odd too, when it is usually the sultry heat of summer that stirs up the frustrations of tormented youth to anarchy and riot, as it is quite temperate just now. It is not the youth, however, at the centre of this revolution; it is the middle aged and oldies causing all the trouble in quiet and peaceful Heamoor.
Yes, hard to believe, but a group of residents - extremists, obviously - have banded together to campaign to leave the influence of the Penzance Town Council, citing a "democratic deficit". On the face of it they may have a point. They have been banging on about not being kept informed about changes that affect them, but the crux of the matter comes when they point out they pay in £167k in precept and get £8,000 back in benefit. I can see their point and they are not alone, there are rumblings coming out of Gulval as well.
Very bravely they had their pictures taken for The Cornishman. It will be nice to have something to remember them by when they inexplicably go missing from the community and Penzance Town has no record of them ever living there. We are meeting a couple of Heamoor dissidents tomorrow evening and if anyone will be standing in front of a corporation dustcart with a carrier bag full of shopping in protest, it would be one of this unlikely pair, I am sure.
At the last knockings of the shop day, we get an odd request. We are used to odd requests, but this one was odd. It was a request from a visitor if they might be able to purchase a fish from somewhere in The Cove, to which I replied that one could be ordered for tomorrow and collected in the afternoon. I was told that this was too late and it was needed from early in the morning, because the couple wished to paint it. They added that they would eat it afterwards. I recoiled at the very idea. Who would want to eat a painted fish but they assured me that they would only create a painted image of the fish, rather that the fish itself. Even so, I protested. Unless they did their painting in a very cold place, the fish would be not worth eating after a few hours in the sunshine - or rain, which is most likely.
It was not raining for the Lifeboat launch in the early evening. The boys had a capsize Inshore boat to play with all afternoon, practising their capsize drills so I am surprised they still wanted to play in the evening, too. The boat launched only for an hour and was recovered, in textbook fashion I am sure, up the short slipway a little before high water.
You may determine from this that I was not present. I had intended to be there for the recovery, but the speed of the exercise foxed me rather and I missed that too. Our replacement fan had arrived in the middle of the day and I though it best to swap it out with the broken one as soon as possible. The process is very straightforward, in the main, but the hard work is in moving the freezer that stands in front of the fan. This is heavy enough when empty but when full of product is a big lump. It is also extremely hot at the rear, something that I initially forgot when I put my had there. The moving is not helped by the fact that it has wheels at the back but not at the front meaning it had to be lifted before it can be dragged forward. Putting it back is easy as it can be tipped in the direction of travel.
I did encounter one problem with the fan. It has two three way switched by which it can be configured. Since there were no instructions, I decided to sit the new fan with the old and copy the switch configuration across. I had both on the shop counter and inexplicably switched the old unit instead of the new. Because I could not remember where the original positions were, I had to use trial an error to set the switches correctly with the new fan installed and powered up. I got there in the end and we now have a working fan again - for a while.
The use of my brain made no improvement at the OS quiz, which I attended later on. We came mid-field in a busy bar in a high scoring quiz. It must have been easier this week, although it did not seem so at the time and once again there were no stars to gaze up at on the way home, which would have been some compensation, just one lone bright spark up to the north, Capella, I found out later. Even the bleddy hound decided not to make too much of it on our run around the block. Must be the weather.
June 5th - Wednesday
We were told that today would be the best day of the week. We hope not.
The forecasters had taken some of the edge off our 'best day of the week' by mitigating their earlier prediction with the risk of sporadic showers during the day and most likely in the afternoon. It had looked quite hopeful in the morning, with a very bright sun low in the sky. It was even relatively warm as I stepped out to the gymnasium and was looking not too bad as I came back again. Just before I came back down to the shop, however, it was teaming down. It was hardly sporadic unless you want to stretch the definition quite a way. A prolonged shower might have been more accurate, and the rain radar show a geet pile of rain moving in a line, west to east. I am sure it would not have impressed the Diary's botanical consultant, who is here on holiday, and chose today to go on a cycling tour of West Penwith.
If we do not like the weather here, we will soon be able to take off and go somewhere where there is no weather, or at least not the sort we are used to. The Government has decided to throw some money at Cornwall so that it can develop its space industry, which it rather wanted to do from Newquay Airport. There are a few caveats, such as the much maligned council putting its hands in its pockets to make up the shortfall but it seems we already have a bit of an agreement with Mr Branson to fly his Virgin Orbiter out of there. Quite how the strategy squares with the much maligned council having declared a climate emergency, I do not know. Perhaps jumbo jets taking off from Newquay on tourism related space journeys is somehow good for the environment, I am not an expert.
It makes some sense to use Newquay for the project, since the runway was built to accommodate the RAF's big transport planes and will be eminently suited to the new role. There was some concern that it might be a bit noisy out there, but I have heard that it is very busy in Newquay what with all they henny nights and stag dos and discotheques that they probably would not notice.
It got a bit animated in The Cove during the afternoon, too. There was not much dancing going on but there was a SAGA coach party turn up and a senior citizen walking group. I would not say that it was overly loud but there was a heady mix of linament and Sanatogen tonic wine hanging in the air for a while. It did not seem that busy but there must have been a fairly continuous trickle of customers as I fancied a cup of tea at two o'clock and could not get clear to go and make one until four o'clock. I know, I know, it is a lonely, pitiful struggle for a long distance grumpy shopkeeper.
What was not animated was our extractor fan, this morning. It was making some strange noises while it chugged away at its lowest setting and for the previous two nights we have heard this upstairs in the flat. So it was, that the silence was ominous when I awoke and, sure enough, the fan had failed at some point during the night. It is the second time the fan has failed, the first was after we only had it ten months. The company we purchased it from were very accommodating last time and when I reported the failure this morning, they came straight back to say they were despatching another unit, no questions asked.
They did suggest that it was uncommon to have two fail in such a short time - a couple of years - and given the company's reputation, I can believe it. I wrote back to tell them how we use it and they suggested that it might have something to do with the four months of inaction during the winter that will allow parts to seize. When the new one is installed, we will have to make sure we run it a couple of times a week at least, just to keep everything fluid and exercised. It is why I go to the gymnasium but there are still occasions when my parts creak and seize.
I oiled them tonight, after we finished work. It seemed the right thing to do.
June 4th - Tuesday
The wet stuff falling from the sky was not so severe this morning that it required full metal jacket waterproofs, but a light waterproof jacket was needed. It was raining a little harder by the time we returned from our walk around the block, but the absence of any breeze kept it quite comfortable. The rain came and went in degrees of intensity throughout the morning and eased off in the afternoon to sporadic showers, so sporadic that, indeed, we did not see one.
I took the opportunity, when the Missus arrived downstairs, to run off into town to collect our new number plates for the truck and to drop the quarter end paperwork into the accountant. It is only the second time that I have driven the truck any distance and it is a very comfortable beast to go around in. The lack of load space is, however, most noticeable.
We have been looking for some second-hand solar panels to use up at The Farm, since it has not an electricity supply of its own. She found some on a local bulletin board and made arrangements to pick them up today. The seller very kindly sent the measurements through, which is something that would have been unnecessary if we were still using the van. We concluded that she might just have enough room with the top part of the tailgate open. Considering how much space we have will have is something we must adapt to.
The lack of customers took some adapting to, as well. The quietness fell fortunately at the time we had two fairly large deliveries close to each other. There was nobody here while the driver and I brought in the general groceries then the frozen food took some organising while the driver sorted our items from those being delivered to our neighbours. It surprises me how any of the frozen deliveries are ever right; the van contents are always mixed up between orders and the driver has to pick through it all for each customer's items. By contrast, the grocery order is segregated in the van if there is more than one delivery. There may be a very good reason why the frozen vans are so disorganised, but it does not seem very efficient.
A lady, in the vanguard of a group of students, came into the shop to purchase some umbrellas for her poor little lambs who were not happy with the weather. She told me that they needed better attire for the weather here; I suggested she could do with more hardy students.
I met them all, a cheerful and polite bunch, a little while later when they piled in for gifts and postcards. I asked where they had come from and it appears that they were from disparate areas of the United States of America. I also questioned if they were here to support their president as he is here on a visit and for some reason they declined to rejoin on the subject. They told me that they were students of Shakespeare, although what they were doing here, I have no idea unless the working title of one of his plays was Two Gentlemen from Camborne. One brought to the counter a bumper sticker that we have that had 'Independence Dreckly' written about a St Piran flag. She asked what it meant, so I briefly related the background to the flag and that 'dreckly' was like 'manyana' but not so much of a rush. I tried to explain the 'independence' aspect and she told me that she was from Texas, once an independent state itself, so understood what I was trying to explain. I thought the analogy most apposite.
Talking of the United States of America, I received a surprise package from the Aged Parent. It was a booklet of 'Real Cornish Humour' compiled by the late Charles Thomas, who was Professor of Cornish Studies at Exeter University and one time drinking pal of the Aged Parent's parent. Some of the stories enclosed in the pamphlet are those of my grandfather of whom he wrote, "Bertie, from a long established family of shopkeepers at Connor Downs " It would seem shopkeeping runs in the family, though it missed a generation. He had a van, too, and a farm, but I do not know what he would have made of a four by four and solar panels. Grandfather also spent some time in the United States of America during the depression. He did some mining out there, then was a milk roundsman in Philadelphia, which is a long way east of Camborne. I might share the stories from the booklet, by and by.
Apart from two groups of students, there were a few more people about in the afternoon. We have always had European visitors, but we are seeing more and more each year from further afield. It brings a cosmopolitan feel to The Cove and it is interesting to see different behaviours and purchases. I have already discussed the Americans who seemed to purchase items no different than our own domestic shoppers. Later in the afternoon we had a family from the Far East, who bought a stuffed, toy pasty. It either proves that the humble pasty is now an international icon, or that people from the Far East like buying odd shaped stuffed toys. I thought not to ask on this occasion and took the money instead.
We finished the day on a meteorological high, with sunshine in the sky and fluffy white clouds dotted about. We were told it would be cooler, but I confess I did not notice. The Missus was off to her bee course, so it was dinner for one, some fish goujons with the fish ordered in especially for it. I did not save the Missus any; the Missus hates fish.
June 3rd - Monday
All good things come to those that wait.
All hoped-for things will come to you Who have the strength to watch and wait, Our longings spur the steeds of Fate, This has been said by one who knew.
'Ah, all things come to those that wait,' (I say these words to make me glad), But something answers soft and sad, 'They come, but often come too late.'
I do not like using proverbs and sayings if I do not know where there came from so, I looked it up. I imagined that it was from the bible but the English poetess, Lady Mary Montgomerie Currie (I suppose Montgomery Curry would have been too many 'y's) writing as Violet Fane, and who can blame her, wrote it in the poem Tout vient a qui sait attendre, of course, which is an odd title for a poem written in English - she also missed the accent above the 'a' before you mention it.
I did not choose this opening randomly, it took moments of research, I shall have you know and stems from the fact that I had a visit from the much maligned council's arm's length contractor this morning. He was a very pleasant gentleman in a high visibility jacket and wanted to know if I could put him in touch with the Top car park owner. He wanted permission to park there while he repaired the path.
My ears pricked up at the mention of the path, could it be really, after all this time since my enquiries. Well, my bless Aunt Melissa's wooden foot, it was. He was here to repair the footpath that runs from the Top car park down beside Cove Hill that has, through wear and tear of years, developed steps nearly a metre high. It is the path that the much maligned council denied ownership of two years ago, even though the person who said he was responsible for it worked for a body of people called something else but sent emails from the much maligned council.
It sounded like a proper job was being planned, with granite steps going in. I expect they will stop short of a brass handrail and decorative water feature running alongside it. Frankly, I do not mind which body does the work as long as we end up with steps of a reasonable height down there and just before the holidays, too.
It would not be too bad if today's weather held out for the holidays. Having been threatened with poor weather all week, it was good to see some blue skies about for our trip down to the Harbour beach this morning. The breeze that had blown in last night had eased and it was a particularly pleasant bit of day. The Meteorological Office website was showing what a clean and pleasant day it was going to be, when I looked a little way into the shop opening day. This was somewhat at odds with the geet black sky that had slipped in from the north west while we were not looking. Within half an hour it gave us a short, sharp and quite heavy shower before passing on its way up the Duchy. Another half an hour more and the skies were clear again, as if not a drop of rain had dropped on us.
It provided for a decent day with visiting coach parties and a reasonably steady trickle of customers. Once again, we had a flood of happy visitors just before we closed up for the evening and you wonder where they might have been all day. It would be good if they all wanted loaves of bread as I rather misjudged our weekend supply and they will go out of date tomorrow. Our neighbour takes the occasional out of date loaf from us for her freezer as she has quite a few visitors now and again. I fear that her freezer is not big enough for the bread we will have left and, sadly, either is ours.
I fretted over this while we tucked into our local beefburgers the Missus prepared in the evening. She had been over to St Just and one of our excellent local butchers and came back with a bag full of goodies. It is another reason we will not be getting spare bread into our freezer. Sometimes I wonder how we cope.
June 2nd - Sunday
Well, that is the end of that, then. It did not help that some rain was threatened today and no matter that most of it went charging up the Bristol Channel and left us alone, it turned The Cove into a ghost town. At the very last we got our bit of rain, which lasted no more than an hour, but it was that mizzle that soaks you through before you notice. By the middle of the day, the rain had stopped and the skies had brightened but it was a good deal fresher than it was before. People came back and quite a few of them, at that, but it was clear that the holiday was over, and this was a completely different demographic mix than we had the day before - there were very few children, to start with.
One child bounded into the shop. This was CH of this parish and is a small child of very tender years. He is also of tender arm because he broke it yesterday while trampolining. You might think that such trauma, which occasioned several hours in accident and emergency - or whatever it is called now - might have dampened the lad's spirit but no, he was as happy as a sand boy, whatever one of those is.
The child's effervescence was the highlight in an otherwise pretty sedate sort of day. There were some periods of busyness and even longer periods of quietness, which we need to get used to again. I took advantage of the slow times to complete the grocery order, which will replenish the stock we used up during the last week. This fairly simple task took most of the rest of the day as I found myself diverted to other tasks during the process. However, I also managed to complete the order for frozen food and ice creams, so at least I felt that I had managed to achieve something today.
The Missus ran away to The Farm, despite the inclement weather of the morning. Over the last week or so she has accumulated quite a tan on her back and looks quite weathered - in a good way, obviously. Over the weeks she has been clearing the field of its accumulated detritus for the previous owner to dispose of. She chose to do the clearance herself, as she knew that she would make a better and more thorough job of it than leaving to someone who, first, probably would not have done it and, secondly, if he had done it, would not have done it properly or at least to the satisfaction of the Missus. She was very keen to get up to The Farm today because she felt confident that she could complete the work and be able to get on with more productive things.
Despite being open for nine and a half hours many of our customers decided that it would be much better to arrive twenty minutes before we closed. While they arrived at slightly different times, they all decided to come to the counter at the same time, causing quite a queue. Perhaps they feel that they need to shop in a bunch for safety or is it a tribal sort of thing. It is perplexing but I would prefer they come at any time rather than not at all.
We have already seen the sudden drop in visitor numbers but there are more here than there were before the holiday break. We shall see a slow increase to the next school holiday, mostly driven by the weather, or at least that is what it says in the big plan.
June 1st - Saturday
I cannot say that it is not an education, working behind the counter. I have learnt much in the last sixteen years, some of it quite bizarre and random such as how customers attack a full shelf of milk looking for freshest dates, even though they will be back the next day for another bottle. I now arrange my milk specifically with the oldest in the 'target' zone - think you will get one over on a grumpy shopkeeper, eh?
Today's soupçon came from a lady, a regular visitor, who brought twenty postcards to the counter. Twenty postcards do not constitute a particularly a large number, a lady two weeks ago bought 45 of the same scene, but uncommon enough to warrant discussion. She told me that she had starting postcrossing, which I had never heard of. Apparently, the postcrosser subscribes to a website where you enter some details about yourself and your location. Once your side of the bargain is complete, you can apply for an address and the system will randomly pick another subscriber from disparate parts of the world for you to send a postcard to. Our lady customer has a map pinned to her wall at home, marked up with the locations where she has sent to or received postcards from. It seemed to me a very gentle pastime to indulge in.
A question was laid before me earlier in the week regarding some red thread-like plants seemingly growing on the gorse on the moors en route to Land's End. The lady told me that it looked a bit like spiders' webs adorning the bushes. I had absolutely no clue what this might have been and have never seen such a phenomenon during our winter walks up there. I had little time to investigate, so was thankful that the enquirer came back with the answer, after enquiring elsewhere. It is a parasitic plant called Dodder (Cuscuta epithymum) and grows in the springtime. It latched on to the host plant and thereafter feeds off it, letting go of its own roots. It will weaken the host but does not kill it, which would be self-defeating, obviously.
I also learnt that the breeze increased today and went south easterly. I discovered this because it started blowing at me through the door. Thankfully, it was a warm day and the breeze, though reasonably robust, was not as wearing as it was earlier in the year. It went with a day of brightness that was sometimes mitigated by some high cloud, but it was enough to draw a crowd to the beach again, although not quite so many as yesterday.
The sea, by contrast, was much busier, with groups of surfers all out in a bunch in the middle of the more southern part of the beach. Those more capable of bigger waves were camped out by North Rocks where it was fair bowling in. It was not doing a bad job up the cliffs, either, and it was charging over Cowloe and banging over the Harbour wall. Brave, young guns were decorating the wall and jumping off yesterday and it did not take long after the waves started coming over the top for them to come back again. It also did not take long for the first outraged comment that even parents were taking youngsters out on the wall to be knocked off by the waves. I can understand the point of view because the practice does carry some risk, but since it has been going on probably since the wall was built in 1908, it is unlikely that anyone will stop it happening now.
Yesterday, I had extracted a curry from the freezer with the intention of eating it last night. Events conspired to me falling back on a sandwich, late in the evening, and I do confess to being very disappointed. With matters being eased by closing a whole hour earlier, I was utterly determined to have it tonight, come what may - so I did. 'Ansum.