Sennen Cove: the final frontier. These are the witterings of a West Cornwall shopkeeper. His seemingly interminable mission: to plumb new depths in literary rambling, to seek out the boring and banal, to boldly sink deeper than any Diarist has sunk before.
May 8th - Saturday
It was something of a grey and mizzly morning. Thankfully, it was rather less mizzly by the time I took the bleddy hound down to the beach but it was surprisingly mild even with a fairly robust breeze from the west. The tide has had a little go at the wealth of weed on the beach and it is all now level and not so deep as it was. It may well be that it is the same amount of weed spread out, but the optimist in me rather thinks that some of it has been washed out.
If it had, it pretty much resembled the day. There were probably more people around during the winter when we were closed, as indeed we should have been today. After last weekend when we were drowning in bread and pasties, I radically reduced the order for this week. Ironically, we ran out of bread quite early on, but the pasties were still too many.
The morning before we opened was quite fraught as deliveries arrived together rather than nicely spaced out, leaving me to deal with each in order. In the midst of all that came two knocks on the door. The first was a hopeful customer that I sent packing because he wanted to browse and the second was a neighbour who wanted to point out the 'cow' on Cowloe. This phenomenon I had not seen in quite a while and even then it is very rare to be able to see it from any other angle than from the Harbour car park in direct line of sight. Today, it was exceptionally well defined even from the railings opposite the shop. I took some photographs but it was a bit far off and the visibility poor.
The 'cow' on Cowloe, so well defined you can almost see the ear tag.
Our Boathouse Farm, produce of Sennen failed to attract any bidders today, mainly as there were so few bidders about or perhaps it is because the 'Sennen' cabbages are so large they would feed a small village for a fortnight. There are only a few bits of produce starting to appear from The Farm and we are still testing the waters about how best to package and display. The whole concept of home grown produce seems to appeal to the few people we have polled on the matter. One neighbour who had one of the large 'Sennen' cabbages last week told us that the quality was top and that she was still eating the darn thing. Perhaps we should have sold it by the leaf.
It seemed a little premature, but there was an announcement today by a cycling organisation that a new West Kernow circular route had been created. It takes in Land's End, the north coast, Carn Brea and all the way down to Lizard and back. It sounded like quite an ambitious project and they have glued together existing paths along with newly agreed routes with various landowners to make up 150 miles of track. The website of Cycling UK, the organisation that created the route, says that it is expected to take three to four days to complete and will be opened in September.
Not that I expect our lane to The Farm to be part of the cycling route, unless you like flat tyres, but someone has put up a notice of application to make the lane into a bridleway. We are well aware that horses use the lane from time to time as well as dog walkers and the occasional lost soul but currently the lane has no status and no ownership. The sudden appearance of a notice, first raised with the much maligned council in December last year, rather alarmed us. First, there are people out there with ulterior motives and Machiavellian plans to be wary of and secondly, we were not exactly sure what the ramifications of making the lane a bridleway were. The notice stated that for access, we could still drive motorised transport down there but what could we not do?
Some investigation demonstrated that the applicant was a member of the Ramblers Association. We are also aware of the recent campaign to register footpaths and the like or risk losing them and the Ramblers will be at the forefront of that. Since the sign only appeared on Friday we are unsure how long we have to raise an objection, should we wish to, or how the reclassification of the lane affects us for things like trimming the hedges and maintaining the road - as much as we have been able. Since we cannot talk to the much maligned council until Monday, we are in the dark until then.
One thing though that did raise an eyebrow is that the application not only addressed the status of the lane, which is on the Ordinance Survey map, but also references continuing the journey all the way to the gate at Brew Lane. This last half of the proposed bridleway is private land that does not even have a footpath listed across it. Since that land is held by a farmer who, until today, was a Parish Councillor, we broached the subject with him and await a reply.
By the early part of the afternoon, I was becoming bored to the point of distraction, so I was grateful that the Missus set forth for The Farm to collect the lengthy list of stock required to refill our shelves. Naturally, by the time she came back, bored or no, I did not feel like sorting it all out since I had done so very little for most of the day. The Missus encouraged me, however, and now most of it is in its rightful place. The balls that need to be inflated will wait until tomorrow as the compressor makes an awful racket that would deafen anyone in the shop and wake the neighbours. I will do it tomorrow at around seven o'clock with the door open.
Definitely time for a beer and a hearty meal.
May 7th - Friday
There was absolutely no chance of getting wet this morning unless I wished to dive into the sea. Much as many people think that a good idea, I find the whole thing far too wet and refrain from doing so. No even the bleddy hound was interested today either and again spent the minimum amount of time on the beach amongst the weed that the tide hardly touched.
The sea looked reasonably calm at first glance and there was nothing there to dissuade our fishermen from heading out again. However, if you looked over towards Gwenver there was a fair amount of white water and at Aire Point it was crashing up the rocks. At certain times of the tide, it gave the surfers a jolly time and with a hint of offshore breeze to go with it.
You might recall that I mentioned that we placed an order for the Cornish vodka that started off our journey into local spirits. I was expecting it to be delivered today and had cleared some space ahead of its arrival. I was also expecting high hopes of it since it won 'best vodka in the world' double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits competition. While I was waiting for it to turn up I had a message from the company telling me that they had only gone and won it again for a second year running. I am now doubly excited about getting it onto the shelf and doubly expectant of its success.
Thumbing through the local news in a particularly quiet moment, I read that the Ministry of Defence had put its hands up for the "loud rumbling" that had people running into the streets fearful that the sky was falling in. I apologise for the exaggeration, I think I may have caught it from The Cornishman website for which the word, embellishment, may well have been created. The fact was that there was a bit of a loud jet flying around last night. Yes, it was loud enough to wake me up, take a few seconds to realise it was a military jet and go back to sleep again.
Had it crossed my mind that it was a foreign jet fighter intent on doing me harm, I think I might have still gone back to sleep on the premise that there was not much I could do about it. There is my shotgun, of course, but given my success with clays I do not think that even a low flying pigeon has much to worry about. The one soupçon in the report that was of any use was that it identified the craft as a F-35 Lightning, probably practising for the impending G7 summit here. The MOD did not venture whether it was practising defence or offence manoeuvres.
We gathered some momentum in the afternoon with a veritable throng of people filling the street from late in the morning. We became increasingly busy in the shop with a fair bit of going home presents but also signs of people arriving. This compiled with two orders arriving kept me busy one way or another until an hour or so before closing.
I was also kept busy after tea. Our neighbour came knocking asking if we had a socket set and particularly an eleven millimetre socket for undoing the nut holding the kitchen tap on. Unfortunately, DIYman was out on a message, so I grabbed his tool box from the shop and headed around next door. There, out other neighbour was under the sink with an eleven millimetre spanner which he could not get to fit or felt that the socket may be of more efficient use. Sadly, although we have the socket in question, the rachet that drives it is broken and is up at The Farm. Our under the sink neighbour said that he would go to his workshop in St Buryan to get some more tools.
While he was gone I had a look at the problem and found that my own eleven millimetre spanner fitted the nut perfectly and while it was a bit of a begger, I did manage to get the nut off. The next problem was removing the tap from the sink. The pipe connections were so eroded that they would not undo and thus the tap was stuck where it was. The only option was to wrench off one of the pipes and pull the second through the hole.
It was at this juncture, probably the best part of an hour since I arrived, that we discovered that the new tap had fittings incompatible with the pipes it had to connect to. I suggested a plumber was required, which was probably the person who was required soon after purchasing the tap. Still, I now know that I can undo a nut while lying in a reverse crab position in a very confined space. It may be useful one day.
May 6th - Thursday
It is an outrage; an affront to democracy and I will not have it, I tell you. I will complain vociferously to our much maligned council councillor but first, I have to vote one in. Herein lies the issue: they have closed our normal polling station.
I had arranged my morning to allow sufficient time to scoot down the road to the hut with the tin roof, where, for the last umpteen voting times our voting station has been. It was cut a bit fine for one reason or another, but I arrived at the door with just enough time to put my 'X's in a box and scamper away. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found no big Polling Station sign outside and the door locked. It was only at that point that I looked at the poll card that I had scrabbled to find in a hurry and noticed that it stated that the station was up at the Community Hall - in a different village, I might add.
Had I realised the change in arrangement sooner, I might have saved myself an addition wetting. I had heard some heavy rain during the night but it seemed like it might have stopped when I looked out of the window in the morning. I confirmed that it was still going when I went down to sort the shop out and as a consequence togged up in full metal jacket waterproofs for taking the bleddy hound out. She was having none of it and lingered just long enough for the absolute necessary before heading back up the slipway again.
The sea had calmed sufficiently to let the fishing fleet out for a spot of work. Before they left they had to clear a way through the piles of oar weed that repeated tides had rolled up into deep hillocks here and there on the beach. There is also a sizeable area of it on the big beach and my friend tells me that it is just as deep there, too. Thankfully, the tides have just jumped, heralding the advent of the next spring tide so hopefully it will be washed out again soon.
By the middle of the day it had stopped raining and it started to look much brighter. There was still a fair amount of breeze, more evident because it had gone around to the north again bringing more chill. It was an ideal time to move about a bit and take myself up to the top and do some voting. The process took a lot longer than it should because I met fellow voters and stopped for a chat about the injustice of it all. I had to hurry home after a while as I started to get a little lightheaded. I concluded later that I had not been to the top of the hill for some while, and it was probably altitude sickness. I will take oxygen next time I am there.
The oxygen had been coming at me all day and by the last knockings I was pretty much cold all the way through. I resorted to hugging the pasty warmer every now and again but it was no substitute for the real thing - pasties for tea. Unfortunately, this necessitated taking frozen ones upstairs to cook. Perhaps I will wear gloves next time.
May 5th - Wednesday
That wind from the north is bringing the temperature down nicely. It was all big coats and woolly hats today up and down The Cove and just right for sitting outside for your pint and meal. I did wish I had a somewhat thicker coat this morning when I took the bleddy hound down to the beach. That wind was a lot stronger the other side of the Lifeboat station than it was outside the shop.
If it were not enough for the sea to be eroding the sand from our beaches and putting it back at another point on the beach where it is not quite so useful, the wind has tried to get in on the act as well. We are very used to it sandblasting our legs or into our eyes if we are the height of the bleddy hound, but it is much more unusual to see it blown into dunes. There it was, piled high against the wall at the top of the Harbour beach just ready for a remake of Lawrence of Arabia.
Watch out for camels.
I was not expected much more of the world to be shifting today and I was not disappointed. I headed off down to the gymnasium in the morning just as our visitors were beginning to stir. By the time I came back to the shop, the street was quite busy and the Missus reported some good spending activity in my absence. She must have had all the action because it was all very sedate for the rest of the afternoon.
We have found an issue with our new freezer: the shelves are very slippery and things like bags of mince beef tend to fall out even from the middle of the shelf. The shelves need a lip ideally, but since they do not I decided that some sort of tray placed on top would probably do the job. So, with a bit of spare time during the afternoon I decided to scour the Internet for something that suited.
Two hours later and I had only nailed down one solution that fitted the shelf. Unfortunately, it was not exactly cheap. Everything else was too big, too small or too deep. Even the too small were not so small that you could fit two on the shelf to compensate and I did not think it sensible to find boxes that wasted any space since the shelves we have are pretty packed as it is. We will be better off when the extra shelves turn up, but we will still need to insert the tray solution for those, too. The slightly more than I wanted to spend solution it is then and if I had gone for that when I found them, I would have saved myself best part of two hours. That will teach me to be a tight grumpy shopkeeper.
While I trawled the Internet for freezer shelf solutions the Missus laboured in the kitchen. I had spotted the Goan fiery curry kit that she had bought at the shops yesterday and when she asked what we were having for tea, I told her I was having that. It is a kit you can throw anything you want into as extras, so she did exactly that. Mostly, with these shop bought curries, they are a bit tame as I suspect the makers worry about offence and litigation, so I was slightly unprepared for the taste sensation that hit my tongue when the Missus offered me a sample near its completion. I think that the makers used the word 'fiery' in the name of it because they could not think of a word that expressed just how spicy it actually was, without using rude words.
Quite what it was that made me think of the wind, I do not know, but it was obvious by its absence as I stepped outside the shop to bring in the outside display. It had not actually gone away but changed direction to one that is much kinder on us. For the first time in the day, it felt like how it looked through the window, which was bright, sunny and temperate. That will do very nicely, thank you, even if there were not so many people about to enjoy it.
May 4th - Tuesday
The howling had largely stopped from last night and the wind had moved around to the north west and moderated by the time I got around to getting out of the door. It was quite blustery still, especially as the bleddy hound and I rounded the corner of the Lifeboat station, but it was nowhere near as severe as yesterday.
The sea that had been dormant for quite a little while, gave up its dead after having something of a temper tantrum last night. The beach was crowded with oar weed, though not as deep as we have seen it at its worst, although there is time yet. The sea state was still pretty lively even if it had calmed a bit since last night and it was boisterous enough for the Lifeguards to red flag the beach. It is unlikely to have upset the surfers much as the waves were all blown out in any case.
Our contrived grocery order arrived late in the day not giving me much chance to clear it before the end of the day. Ordinarily we would not have placed an order this week, but I had forgotten to include toilet rolls last week and we were about to run out. Therefore, I had spent Sunday trying to imagine what we would run out of in a week hence and ordered accordingly. We now have a lot of everything but will almost certainly run out of the things that I did not order because life is like that.
On top of this, the other half of the beachware delivery from Friday appeared. It contained the balance of the beach robes and since we have still not decided what to do with them, they can remain in their boxes until we do. Most of the rest was sunglasses, which they had managed to mess up. I had asked for a gross of men's and ladies' sunnies and got just the one box of ladies' and a whole host of children's. In our store room we have sufficient child sunglasses to furnish the needs of a large junior school several times over, as I think the same company did a similar thing last year that I let ride. This year, however, I had to pull them up as, first we would very quickly run out of sunglasses for ladies and secondly, we would still have children's sunglasses long after the sun has gone out. They are working to rectify the issue I am told.
Our business days currently, including today, taper fore and aft with the busiest bulge slewed toward the early part of the afternoon. There was still a trickle of business towards the end of the day but it is clear that we are back to a sedate pace for a week or two. It was such a pretty afternoon, too, for all those people to be missing and the Lifeguards even opened up the beach for the people who were not there.
There was no five minutes to closing rush today; what a disappointment. Along with the quiet of the afternoon, I was able to clear some space on our spirits shelves for some new stock coming in. Ever since they won the top prize at the World Spirits competition in San Francisco last year to make it best vodka in the world, I wanted to get it back in. Last year being a disaster for orders and supply, I did not bother but this year it would have been unforgivable. It did not d terribly well when I had it in when it was first created but that was a few years back and things in the spirit world have changed a lot. We have high hopes for it and have also cleared a space for their ready made cocktails in a bag - just add ice. If it does not work out on the sales front you might find there will be some lost Diary weekends come winter.
May 3rd - Monday
Well, I expect that you have only opened this page, dear reader, to hear the disaster that the delivery of the washing machine became. How the people who turned up did not know one end of it from another and how they plugged the water into the mains and vice versa. So, I shall not keep you on your seat edges a moment longer than necessary but first I should tell you about today's weather.
Alright, alright, I had a telephone call shortly before nine o'clock from the driver who announced that he was just leaving Poole. Poole, I thought might be a few hours away, so I told the Missus that we had plenty of time to clear the route through the living room. I was half way through some rather pleasant Cornish brie on a chunk of multi-seeded cob when a big truck pulled up outside. They had left Pool, just the other side of Camborne at a coupe of minutes to nine o'clock.
They wasted no time at all extracting the old machine and while one deliverer was doing that the other had the other unwrapped ready to bring up. Together they lifted the machines up and down the stairs and installed the new one without fuss. They tested it before announcing that they were done. Both local boys - to Camborne by the sound of it - they were exceedingly pleasant and professional. I also discovered that they worked for a competitor of the company that lost our accounts last year and did not have much good to say about them, either.
Now can we talk about the weather, please? Thank you. Since before the weekend, today has been chalked up as being a bit of a stinker. Heavy rain all day and particularly high wind, especially around polytunnels up at the top of the hill. As is generally the case the weather did not turn out quite as bad as was stated. Although the wind was severe around the corner, we only got the tail end of the bulk of the rain that largely went through further up the line. As our pathetic tail of rain went through in the early part of the afternoon, things got a bit squally for a time and caused me to rescue our pasty sign.
The sudden turn in weather also sent all but our most hardy customers running back to their billets. It had been remarkably busy during the morning, given the forecast, but could well have been people getting out ahead of it turning poor. There was also a fair amount of going home present buying, so I must conclude there were quite a few people here just for the long weekend.
There was no heading off to The Farm today, so the Missus took the opportunity to try out her new washing machine. She came down to take the bleddy hound out, who had been relegated to the shop when the delivery happened, and she was less than happy. I am told that the 'fastwash', the one that gets used most frequently out of the scores of other programmes that do not get a look in at all, takes fifteen minutes longer than the old machine. Not only that but the programme ends in a 1200 rpm spin cycle, which does not dry the clothes sufficiently for the tumble dryer. She can set the 1600 rpm spin cycle separately, which then takes a further twenty minutes and requires intervention that the old one did not. Lastly, the 'fastwash' will only take 2kg of clothes instead of the full 8kg the old one did. She makes the point, and quite rightly, that this last detail demolishes its super green 'eco' credentials and she will have to run four washes to the old machine's one and have to employ the tumble dryer for twice as long for each load because the clothes come out wetter.
I think that we are within our rights to send it back under the distance selling rules but when I looked for alternatives when I could not find this model locally, there was very little choice without spending a fortune. I think that we will just have to be grateful that it works. I also looked at the manual later and found it to be ambiguous. One places says there is a limit of 2kg for the 'fastwash' and in another table it says 8kg and that it will spin at 1600 rpm. Further investigation is required.
As remarkably busy it was during the morning, it was remarkably quiet in the later afternoon. I managed to clear the store room of the remaining bits of delivery we had during the last week but after that it was down to watching the tumbleweed rolling past the door, except it was not tumbleweed. Someone told me earlier that the big bin the Harbour car park was overflowing and rather than find another bin, people were just piling the rubbish on top and around the sides of it. I think that it is only emptied once a fortnight, which is woefully insufficient during busier times as demonstrated by the tumbling cascade of litter blowing down Cove Road.
It did not take long after the big squally tail of rain passed through for the sea to respond. By the time it went dark, big untidy waves were rolling into the bay. Water was sloshing over the Harbour wall and lumping up the cliffs opposite as the wind went north westerly. We would have that howling all night I expect but at least it is not the bleddy hound any more who has mainly recovered from her woes.
May 2nd - Sunday
Another glorious morning to behold and another carry of the bleddy hound up the slipway. Who needs a gymnasium when you have a heavy bleddy hound that needs hefting everywhere.
It is just as well because it looks like I will not get to the gymnasium again on Monday. I had a text message from the chain store that we purchased our new washing machine from first thing, confirming that they would be here Monday between seven in the morning and seven in the evening. A second text message narrowed it down to the morning but added a slightly worrying note at the end saying that it would be delivered by a courier company and not the chain's own drivers.
It left a contact telephone number, which I employed in a quiet moment and after five minutes battling with the IVR system, I got to speak with a human. The very pleasant lady on the other end told me that, indeed, they now routinely outsource deliveries to this courier company and that will also install the machine and take away the old one. Whilst the very pleasant lady convinced me that the chain had not got it wrong it still left me deeply concerned. The crux is that the courier company is the same one that lost our accounts last year when we asked them to deliver them to an address eight miles away. If the company cannot carry out a simple procedure that is their core business what hope do we have that they can correctly install a washing machine. I await to be amazed tomorrow, when everything will be just fine I am sure. I will keep repeating that until it is over.
We were busy again during the day. That was no surprise as the weather was just about as good as you can get given that it is early May. I had reports that it was warm on the other side of the street - the grass was presumably greener, too. There were thankfully no mask wars today and everyone was pleasant and bought many things. A grumpy shopkeeper could ask for no more, although obviously we are never quite satisfied, else we would not be grumpy. We even had the exact number of pasties required and we ran out just after the main busyness of the day.
The Missus headed for The Farm as early as she could today. Apparently, beans were on the menu and she spent time clearing the bean growing area that she set up last year and I spent some time fixing the frames for and re-stringing them. If those beans and peas grow into prize specimens, I shall expect part of the acclaim. I also sent her a list of goodies that we need for the shop, which did not materialise so she will go up again in the afternoon tomorrow.
A trip to The Farm tomorrow may just be a good idea as the forecast tells us we will have a bit of a blow from the south west. This is the direction that the windbreak is set up for so I shall be interested to see if it works. Obviously, there is nothing I can do if it does not so perhaps it will be better not knowing. We spent tea time looking at the line of big container ships heading up the channel. Some were bound for English ports so I am hoping that at least one contains some four pole windbreaks and a big box of tennis balls with our name on it. Well, we can all dream.
May 1st - Saturday
One newspaper headline this morning excitedly stated "Hug friends in a fortnight". Just one question - do I have to? I have kept from hugging the Missus since the bleddy hound arrived and we have not had another bleddy hound since, so it is working.
It was a wonderfully sunny morning for refraining from hugging people. The fishing fleet were out early doors to take advantage and there was a little sliver of beach to take the bleddy hound down to. She is still not right, and we are hoping that she just needs a little time to recover but at the moment I have to carry her up the slipway. I conclude that she is going on a diet if this keeps up.
They have waited a long time for it but for the good people of the parish it is election time. For certain it is twenty years since a parish election here and I think I read somewhere it is closer to thirty years. During the intervening time the parish has struggled to find more contenders than seats and thus the Parish Council has been made up from the ten people that did not hide quickly enough.
This time around it seems that the whole village has been gripped by election fever and half of them have daintily placed their bonnets into the ring - most are ladies and throwing your hat in is so vulgar. Many of the potential councillors have hoisted their flags on social media and a few have hit the campaign trail on foot, which is what happened today. It is very rare that we see campaigning or protesting anyone in The Cove because there are so few residents here we are not deemed worthwhile. Fair play, then, to two of the ladies who knocked on the first electric sliding door in The Cove - metaphorically speaking, since it was open - to leave me a poster and beat me into submission to cast my vote in their direction.
I am sorry, but all this face to face and kissing babies stuff carries no sway with me at all. I will vote for the first candidate that drives past the shop in a van with an unfeasibly large speaker on the top and placards down the side calling out, 'vote Denzil'. The name will not matter because you will not be able to understand a word of it anyway.
As predicted, we got a bit busy today. What with the sunshine and the holiday weekend there seemed to be an influx of visitors and trippers. There was a hint of mask wars starting up again, which is disappointing. After more than a year we would have expected it to enter the common culture, but it seems some people routinely go places without one. We understand the occasional forgetfulness but an entire family here on a trip where going to a shop for drinks and snacks was probably inevitable was somewhat irritating especially when they had to be told. When we are wearing a mask for nearly ten hours a day, we do not think that insisting our customers to wear one for less than five minutes is too much to ask.
We became a little quieter in the afternoon and it gave me the opportunity to break out some of the new stock. Our supplier has introduced a towelling changing robe that we thought alluring and also quite the rage amongst bathers. They are a sight cheaper that those huge branded, quilted changing robes and should do quite well. As usual, we spent no time about thinking where they might be displayed in the shop as well as not knowing exactly how they would come packaged.
When I opened the box I was quite pleased to see that they came in an oblong pack with an integral hanger. They are, however, bulky and only three fit on a wall hanger at a time. Since there are five sizes we will forever be restocking them if we do not find a better solution in short order. Since the order was split, I only had two sizes to play with; the rest arrive on Monday, I think. I gave up in the end and deferred to the Missus who also had no idea. Big pile on the floor for now and hope for the best.
As is usual on busy days like this with an extended lull in the afternoon, we have a five minutes to closing rush. The five minutes to closing rush was so intense today that it started twenty minutes before we closed and finished five minutes after we were due to close. It was shortly after the Missus brought back the first of this year's Boathouse Farm, Produce of Sennen in the form of two unfeasibly large 'Sennen' cabbages and a bag full of micro baby spinach.
Them big Sennen cabbages. What a whopper.
The Missus decided, and it is not a bad idea, that we have a separate key on the till to record sales of our own produce. This was we can see just how big the gulf is between the investment we have made at The Farm and how much money we have made from it. It is the mental equivalent of beating yourself with birch twigs and is good for the soul, apparently. I shall let you know, dreckly.
April 30th - Friday
What an exceedingly pleasant start to the day with a bright sun shining out from the east and just a few white clouds dotted about. Fishermen were out in the bay, for pollack quite possibly given the number of gulls surrounding the boats as they came in, and all was well with the world. All that is apart from the bleddy hound who has a bit of a problem and would later be visiting her least favourite place in the world - the veterinary doctor.
The bleddy hound notwithstanding, it was a bright and positive sort of day helped along, not least, by some of the people around and about. We have seen some regulars this week and some more arrived for the weekend, who are always good to see. One in particular stood out for making my day. It was odd because he was a fairly ordinary sort of customer and our conversation was hardly going to shake the world. Nevertheless, after he left, I felt much uplifted and ready for the rest of the day. It is the sort of thing that makes being a grumpy shopkeeper such a pleasure.
There were signs that the weekend might present some more lively business than of late; the street was thronging for most of the core of the day. I had the pasty numbers just right, too, which was a bit of a bonus. The flow of business was a bit up and down leading some customers to remark just how quiet it was today while others were surprised how busy it was. Gosh, that was a bizarre affair.
I heard that the OS inaugural opening went very well, especially if you do not mind ordering your beer by mobile telephone while connected to the OS wifi network. I am not ever so sure what you do if you do not have a smart mobile telephone. Perhaps you need to get friendly with someone who has. It seems that it is a procedure that will require some getting used to and one customer from last night reported that you would not wish to arrive in desperate need. I cannot help but think of the bar scene from Ice Cold in Alex where John Mills et al gaze in suspended anticipation at their condensation dripping pints before tucking in.
I also heard there was an invitation only free beer event the night before. My invitation must have been lost in the post. While it is obviously inconceivable that I was left off the guest list, I think I might have suffered apoplexy realising I was quaffing free beer ordinarily at five pounds a pint. I think my ale house session days are well and truly over. Mind, my pint would never empty as I would be too busy crying into it.
Our new card payment machine arrived today. It is much more complex than the current one and will required some heavy getting used to. It is a shame that we had to change as apart from its obvious lack of stability, the old machine was just right. However, the new machine has more functionality that you could shake a Swiss Army knife at and I am sure that we will come to love it.
I had quite forgotten that I had placed a bunch or orders recently and they seemed to all come home to roost at the same time. We now have an abundance of St Ives soap and those smelly sachets you put in drawers. I am not the world's greatest fan of smelly things - they make me sneeze - but I have to say there are some fragrances in this company's offering that are most alluring.
Not satisfied with being overrun by the recent deliveries, I set about by seeking some more. We abandoned the distillery that started off our expansion into local alcohol last year, to my disgrace, so I set about to make amends. They produce a vodka, and other brews, from distilling their potatoes grown on their farm. The vodka is the closest thing that I have tasted to genuine poteen and their gin ain't too shabby, either. While talking to the main man there, he told me of their new invention which is vacuum packed sachets of cocktails - just add ice, apparently. I could not resist, even though I might have to knock a wall down and put up another shelf to accommodate the addition.
The business day petered out towards closing time with just one mad dasher at five minutes to closing. As is usual on Friday, with Mother at the helm, we sit at the table for tea and watch the bay as the sun slips away. Well, someone has to do it.
April 29th - Thursday
The morning was hanging heavy with portent as I opened our virtual curtains this morning. Out to the northwest the sky was a deep grey, which seemed to meld with the sea that was remarkably flat through to the horizon. Anything vaguely white in that direction stood out starkly, lit by the rising sun trying to fight its way through the thick but broken cloud in the east. Sea birds and the occasional tiny wave glimmered like tears in a backlit curtain. It was quite mesmeric.
Just a few shades of grey this morning.
As threatening as it looked, I cast caution to the wind and took the bleddy hound around without even thinking of taking a rain jacket. Fortunately, it very kindly waited until we had returned before it started to rain and then rained with a vengeance. There were further showers during the morning each of which lasted fifteen minutes or more. We were warned that in the afternoon those showers increased in frequency and length. Naturally then, the afternoon brightened up and was dry as an old stick.
It was not the best day for business and especially not the selling of pasties. I got into a bit of a muddle with our pasties and have an excess. I thought we had sold through the large amount we had on Tuesday and ordered a further large amount for the following day. It was only after that I discovered there were some left in the box. Still, we will have spares in the freezer for when we run out another time.
The change in conditions brought some waves into the bay but they were not the best for surfing and in the later afternoon it went flat as a dish. This did not put off about a dozen hopefuls but I had some more hardcore lads in the shop in the middle of the day who had a different view. They decided that the only thing that their boards would be useful for today was fishing off them. They bought some mackerel feathers to give it a shot. I wish them well, but I did say that the mackerel were not in abundance recently. All the same, they concluded it would be better than surfing.
It became so quiet in the early afternoon that I resorted to doing my invoices. This kept me amused for an hour or so and after that we had a bit of a flurry of business. I am very pleased we took the jump into our wide range of gins and now rums as we sold quite a few today. The range of more vegetarian friendly products from our new supplier are also beginning to gain some traction, which is good to see. This was a bit of a risk at this time of year as our core customer base tends to be the same in the shoulder seasons. It is also a bit more interesting for us seeing new things come across the counter rather than the same old packets and tins.
Casting all thoughts of gin and rum aside, a merry bunch of Lifeboat people gathered at the station for a half past six o'clock launch. With the large number of available crew we have at the station, numbers for exercises are selected in advance as not everyone would be able to get on the boat. This is not so much of a problem for the very excellent Shore Crew who are short in numbers to start with, and some are even just short. Happily, we have a new recruit who is on the doorstep local and willing, so hopefully this will make a lot of difference when he is up to speed.
The boat had to slip away somewhere quiet to conduct a shuffling off duty for a benefactress before returning for some training activity. It was gone for more than an hour during which we short in numbers on shore, bolstered by some Boat Crew volunteers who made up our averages by being very tall, set up for the short slipway, it being high tide an' all.
It was, in fact, a big high tide and our clever 'fishing rod' that permits the Boat Crew to collect their own span, did not fit very well on the upper grilles of the slipway. We made it secure enough and when the boat returned in the blaze of the setting sun, we conducted what was very clearly a textbook recovery up the short slip. We are, after all, a very long, short and tall, very excellent Shore Crew.
April 28th - Wednesday
Oh, how disappointing. After what seemed like weeks of sunshine those big black clouds have come rolling back in. The Missus told me that after the rain that fell on our faces, even more turned up during the night. She was happy because even half an hour of moderate rain will fill the water butts and give a good fill of the IBC fed from the cabin roof. We must pull our finger out and get more water butts or a second IBC for the greenhouse roof, which is bigger than the cabin and an ideal collector. At present there is only a small water butt doing the job.
There were still some showers around in the morning but the bleddy hound and I missed them all during our run around the block. Either the tri-cornered garlic does not smell when it is not sunny or we got used to it very quickly but the aroma was not quite so in your nostrils today. It might also have been the resurgence of a boisterous wind, this time from somewhere in the north - I do not think that even it knew where it was coming from today - which battered us about all the day long.
It looked like it did not bother our good friend, ex-Head Launcher, who dropped in at The Farm for a visit. He could be seen on our CCTV system basking in the shelter of the cabin on our decking there in the mid afternoon. He got here when the Missus had nipped off on an errand and was about to leave when she came back. I think that actually he was just waiting for someone to make the tea for him.
The slightly adverse weather put a cap on the numbers in The Cove. Sitting outside the café would have been none too comfortable as indicated by the lack of people doing it. We had a few people breeze through but nothing of any substance. This was probably just as well because our card payment terminal played up yet again. I was feeling a bit of a cad for planning to terminate their contract after only six weeks but the failure today gave me better justification. I gave the go ahead to the other party and hopefully we will have a more stable platform by the end of the week.
The robust northerlies and lack of any decent surf did not upset everyone. For most of the day there were a couple of windsurfers scooting across the bay, back and forth. Later a wingsurfer came out to play. I do not know whether I mentioned it before but the board the wingsurfer uses has a hydrofoil of sorts, like the super yachts you see Ben Ainsley and the like sailing. It seems untenable that someone can scoot at such speed across the water, apparently levitating above the chop of the waves.
Just as I was closing up the shop, a bunch of swarthy Lifeboat types started to arrive in a bit of a hurry. Some of the crew get a heads up a bit before the pagers go off, so this was definitely a shout in the coming. I closed up and headed across just as my pager went off. I had barely opened the first of the slipway doors when we had another page to tell us the whole thing had been cancelled. What a bit tease that was but we had an alarmingly good turnout. Those boat boys are keen as mustard.
April 27th - Tuesday
For the first time in what seemed like weeks we had a still and warm morning. The sun was doing its best out of a clear blue sky and there was hardly a breath of wind from any direction. Naturally, it did not last but for a long morning, at least, we revelled in the springness of it all.
Perfect morning for it.
One of the most remarkable things about the day was a hint of scent hanging in the air. It was not immediately apparent what it was or even that it was not just something imagined but when we rounded the corner at the end of the car park the full force of it hit our olfactory senses head on.
We had chosen to walk around the block this morning given that there was very little beach to plod across. It was exceeding pleasant to do so too, and I do not think that I even needed the jacket I was wearing. When we turned the corner and advanced on Mayon Cliff the smell of tri-cornered garlic was thick in the air. I do not think I have ever seen quite so much of it up the cliff all the way up to the old hotel. It was a sight to behold but there was definitely more beholding of the aroma than anything else.
Good job the hotel has a new coat of paint ...
... it would have looked shabby along side the bright white of the tri-cornered garlic.
We turned quite busy during the day - in a comparative sense. This was presumably predetermined because I had ordered a big haul of fish to be delivered during the day. The smaller order arrived first and was fairly easy to deal with but the larger order came in during the afternoon when there were more people milling about. With the Missus at The Farm all day, there was no help coming for me, so I managed to do the vacuum packing piecemeal between customers. Where I could, I served one handed but on other occasions I had to take off my surgical glove as both hands were needed. I think we will need a new box of gloves on our next order as I did go through them a bit.
It was all worthwhile because as well as the first fish orders of the year, we also have a freezer stock to offer including some pie mix, hake, haddock and ling. The way I have set things up now with two suppliers is that we can have deliveries twice during the week. This will be much more convenient for our customers as neither of the deliveries falls on a Friday. I am very pleased that we were able to continue with the supplier we were using last year. There is nothing wrong with the restaurant cuts we get from the new supplier but it is still great to get more, erm, rustically cut and often larger fillets. These will mainly adorn our freezer while the new supplier will feed the fresh orders as they are more conveniently packed.
The afternoon disappeared in a rush. It did seem as if we had been much busier today, but it may also have been because I was busy too. I had taken off my warmer jacket - the wooly pully has been relegated to the wash now - but on and off it started to get chilly again. There was a breeze blowing up from somewhere, but I could not say from where, and the skies had started to cloud over. I might have to start looking at the weather forecast again to see what is going on because right now, I have not a clue.
I still did not have a clue until, lying in bed half asleep, I started to get rained upon. I think there may be some showers on the way.
April 26th - Monday
It was exceedingly refreshing this morning to discover that the robust easterly wind had dropped to somewhat less robust during the night. The warmth in the sunlight on the Harbour beach was pleasant and today, not whipped away by the easterly. The tide has jumped and there was much less beach today at the same time as there was yesterday. The tides are also heading into some of the largest of the year again with evidence that it has recently been six or eight feet up the stone of the slipway without any appreciable swell.
The upper part of the beach looked like it had been ironed and we were the first to sully the virgin sand. First, that is apart from a couple of gulls, Kitiwakes possibly, one sitting on the water and the other paddling on the edge. I watched the one on the beach for a while and noticed that it was dodging the waves as they came in. It was either having a jolly wheeze or the gull was afraid of the water. The bleddy hound settled the issue by chasing it into the air after which it had little choice but to land on the water with his mate who probably said, 'There, I told you it was lovely.'
I had a visit during the weekend from a fishrman from Lizard who was a tad agitated. He had been awarded a parking ticket in the Harbour Car Park having inadvertently overstayed his welcome. He was not happy. In truth, he had not noticed the new charges in the car park that had been implemented very recently and paid the old rate thinking he then had plenty of time. It was possibly a case for leniency as it was an honest mistake. However, for the parking companies that patrol the car parks, matters are black and white.
It minded me that it might be useful if you are planning to visit to explain that the charges for parking in the Harbour car park have changed significantly. The first three hours are £1.30 per hour. Parking all day, until midnight is £6 and for 24 hours it is £9. It will also be worth mentioning that the toilets in the car park are still closed.
The disappearance of the wind was most welcome. The street was much more alive than it has been for a while and we did not have every customer who came in mention how unwindy it was. I took my leave while it was still relatively quiet and undertook a blistering session down the road now that I can use the gymnasium again. It is far more comfortable than the hut with a tin roof - outside, of course.
The Missus ran off to The Farm in the afternoon. It was going to be a long one because she left me in charge of tea. There is only one sort of tea that I can cook down in the shop and that is pasties, from our frozen stock, I suppose, at a push, I could have made a salad in between customers or cooked some fish in foil - except the Missus hates fish. Pasties it was, then.
If you ever wish to torture yourself, dear reader, just be moderately hungry and be in the same room as the oven while you cook some pasties from frozen. They take an hour and the aroma flooding from the oven will in short order have you climbing the walls. There is the consolation, if you are a grumpy shopkeeper, that the smell also attracts similarly hungry visitors from miles around keen to appreciate a pasty or two as well. The satisfaction is particularly poignant when you ran out of pasties some hours earlier and have none to sell them.
April 25th - Sunday
The big beach was looking rather grand in all its loveliness during the early part of the morning. A large sandbar has diverted the stream out of the Valley to add a little interest to the view and a line of rocks at the back of the beach marks out how much sand has been scoured out below it. At low water, the sandbars reaching out into the bay can clearly be seen as light patches in the darker areas of sea and still it all moves to the left under the incessant east wind. Looking at the breaking waves, there is not much depth of water about 100 yards off at North Rocks and made for some interesting surf conditions there.
Big sprawling beach and sand bars
Our card payment machine was showing the same signs of the problem that it had yesterday. Once again, I could not get through to the helpdesk to check that the machine was still alright to use. It has been best practise for years to have a voice message on the telephone system and messages on websites when major outages occur. This not only helps the customer understand that it is a broader issue than just theirs but relieves the pressure on the helpdesk. I was not particularly chuffed at this failure. I think it may well be time to call it a day with this crowd and have written to the opposition to start a dialogue with them.
We were busier that we were last week, although I found that we had more than enough pasties to see us through the day despite not having a huge stock left. In the battering and wearing breeze that continues from the east, even the café tables were deserted for most of the day. On the bright side we did a roaring trade in windbreaks, woolly hats and hooded sweatshirts all of which I would have felt better wearing myself. By the middle of the afternoon I regret to say that I resorted to the first electric sliding door in The Cove to save me from hypothermia.
The quiet of the afternoon allowed me to piece together some more orders. I also tried to track down some short windbreaks as a stop gap until our original supplier got them in but to no avail. I also had the same problem with tennis balls would you believe, and the only ones I could find from our alternative supplier were twenty pence each more expensive, which is a lot for a normally eighty pence ball. I think that this probably calls into question whether Wimbledon will go ahead this year, nothing to do with the dreaded lurgi, just lack of balls.
The Missus took Mother out for an impromptu jaunt up east in the afternoon. She had found someone selling ground stabilisers second hand and going for a song. These are the mats we put down to stop the tractor mashing up the earth outside the woodshed, which cost us quite a bit and did not cover half the ground we thought it might. We will have to wait until the earth gets a bit soggy again, but it will save a fortune when we are able to plant them.
They went straight up to The Farm to water the plants on the way back. It seems we still have some water in the butts and our big IBC and we only need a short shower to fill them up again. It will also help lay the dust, a covering of which adorns the truck from its numerous trips along the rough lane. We are not fussy about the type of rain we get as long as it only happens overnight.
There was no chance tonight as the bay was still looking resplendent it the soft light from the setting sun. It is quite a distraction when you are sitting at the table for tea. We can cope with distractions like that all day long if we must.