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.
February 14th - Thursday
We had every intention of dashing off to The Farm today. There was a lot of dashing but, unfortunately, it did not lead us to The Farm.
It was a smashing day for it if we had made it up there, dismissing that it was a mite chilly in places. In fact, it was a smashing day, anyway and one to be relished, although I suspect that there are better ways of relishing smashing days that doing what I ended up doing.
Since I was up early with the bleddy hound, as usual, I got myself ready to do the first bit of dashing and headed off into town. With going to The Farm and finishing off the shed in mind, I wanted to gather some timber to build the rack for the windbreaks and tiddler nets. This would very simply be a set of single timbers poking out from the wall to make five bays to contain the items so that they do not fall over. I also had in mind some small beading to fashion slots for the paper bag drawer dividers. Clearly, I had been up all night pondering this great conundrum and had come up trumps. Alright, I spent five minutes this morning scratching my head and hoped this idea would work.
After the collection of wood, which also involved sawing the wood so that I could get it into the van, I headed off on the hunt for a kitchen oven. I had established that there was an Internet shop that could provide the chosen make and model of cooker, but I had also followed the manufacturer's link to suppliers in my area. While it might have been easy to sit in my chair and place the order, and after all the fuss I make about shopping local, I thought that I had better follow my own advice.
The nearest supplier was a short drive the other side of Penzance and this is where I headed next. I had no doubt that the product would not be in stock but would probably be ordered quite quickly and, besides, we would be unable to take delivery for a few days, anyway. There was a very affable gentleman behind a desk in an industrial unit tucked away on a small industrial estate. He told me that the product could, indeed, be ordered, delivered and installed, should we wish. I asked the price of the product and the services and, without my prompting, he offered a price cheaper than the cheapest Internet price I could find and for the services, £120 cheaper that the same service offered online. Possibly the only difference was that we would need to wait until Monday week, since we were not available at the beginning of next week. I paid him a deposit.
While I was out, I received a message on my Lifeboat pager. I was told that a new head honcho from the Institution was arriving at the station and should we wish to meet him, he would be arriving at midday. Since I arrived home at half past eleven o'clock, it seemed churlish not to go and say hello, or even sit and be spoken to, which was probably more likely. When I arrived at the station, I was told he was running late, so I said that I would return later. As I was crossing the road, I was hailed by a passing driver who told me he was visiting the station and where might he park his motorcar. He seemed a pleasant enough person, so instead of sending him to park in the Beach car park, I directed him to park in the station car park and made my way back to the station to be ready for my greeting duties.
As is usual, we introduced ourselves, after which he introduced himself. I was quite taken aback by the wealth of experience the man had, particularly as he did not look that old. He had been in the Navy, the Merchant Navy, running cable ship operations, working in oil & gas, running teams of divers - he quoted 200 working undersea at any one time all over the world. The list went on quite a bit. When he had finished, I told him that it did not give me great comfort that he had spent quite so much time on underwater operations, but he assured me that he had also spent quite a bit of time on above water operations, too.
Not wishing to blot my copybook further, I returned home where the Missus told me that it was now too late to head up to The Farm, particularly as the bleddy hound would need to be rehomed at Mother's for the duration. The bleddy hound has made it abundantly clear that she does not much like spending time at The Farm, as she is, foremost, a beach dog and there is no sand up there. If we have the van with us, she will stay in her seat for the length of time we are there. Since we have been unable to take the van for the last few trips, she mopes around being bored and eventually comes to sit between your legs so you cannot do anything, either.
Since we were not going up to The Farm, I went down into the shop to start the paper bag drawer. Things went swimmingly, especially in light of the fact that I have never made a paper bag drawer before, or any sort of drawer come to that. The small length of beading seems to have done the trick for the dividers, although I did not have the wood for the dividers present; that is up at The Farm. Also at The Farm, is the wood for the base of the drawer, so finishing the drawer will have to wait. I have a suspicion that, despite my careful measurements, that the drawer is a smidge too wide and does not leave sufficient space for the runners - no, I know that it is a smidge too wide. I shall make the appropriate adjustment when I have the runners, which I stupidly forgot on my travels, this morning.
I did not forget, especially as we had spent quite a bit of time there this week, anyway, that it was Lifeboat training night. I prepared myself as I always do with some Zen mind exercises and isotonic muscle relaxing routines only to find that the pager message we had earlier explained that there would be no training tonight. What a waste of three hours preparation, I thought, as I let myself go.
It only remained to potter off in the direction of the OS for a spot of quizzing to finishing off the day. We were men down, clearly, with training cancelled, so it was a surprise that we came second and there were more than two teams. We might have done better if our knowledge of Australian cricket teams and the darker side of the periodic table were more precise, but there again, we cannot be good at anything.
We were quite good at gazing up at the star lit sky on the way home, notwithstanding the occasional disoriented wobble from looking up instead of forward. The bleddy hound was obviously unimpressed with celestial objects but I was more than impressed with my new head lamp that came in the post a few days ago. I could be a bright little star all by myself.
February 13th - Wednesday
We managed to pack quite a bit into our little day today. I knew that the Missus needed to take Mother into town a little later in the morning, so I got up a little earlier that I would have else and did an early session at the gymnasium.
It was still quite cold in there. Like the shop, it seems to have a temperature completely independent of any outside weather as it was not that cold today, but the gymnasium managed a couple or more degrees lower that the world without. I soon overcame this, even without weights available. It was near the end of the session when my gymnasium friend turned up with some that he had brought from home. I had thought to buy some as well, as we use quite a wide range between us, and it is a nuisance to have to keep changing weights for differing purposes. It would be good to find out first if the old weights will be coming back, as I do not want to buy some unnecessarily.
There was another reason that I wanted to be early back from the gymnasium and that was to meet the man from the water board who had arranged to come today. You may recall that we are paying commercial rates for our water when we only have a supply in the flat. The water board wanted to send a man to check the shop, as clearly my word was insufficient. Perhaps, if I were a gentleman rather than a shopkeeper it might have been different. When the man did arrive, he merely poked his head inside the front (new, very clever sliding) door of the shop and pronounced that we did not have an outlet at the business. That may well be the shortest appointment that I have ever had for anything.
The Missus had already gone galivanting by the time the man from the water board arrived. Since I was already downstairs, I took the opportunity to measure up for the smart little drawer that the Missus suggested DIYman knock up, to hold our packing bags. While it may well be more robust than absolutely required for the job, I believe that I can use the remaining wood from the shelves to make the drawer sides but will have to find some gash plywood for the base. There will be dividers inside, which would benefit from being inserted into grooves in the drawer sides but since I do not have a wood router, I will have to improvise. Quite how I am going to improvise, I have not quite decided, mainly as I have no idea what I am talking about. Something will come up, no doubt.
I would have launched into some of this work, but the Boat crew had left during the morning to collect a different relief Lifeboat that was currently at Padstow. They were tasked with bringing it back to the station and another crew - we have more than one - would take the current relief Lifeboat back to Newlyn. During our use of this boat we had identified some issues that would be best dealt with somewhere more appropriate.
As a short aside, you might be interested to note that, at the station, we have no less than four trained coxswains with another on the way. We are also notably the youngest by average crew in the country, I am told. They clearly were not counting the very excellent Share Crew in that average.
The plan was to coordinate the swap so that when the boat from Padstow arrived, we would launch the current boat and recover the new relief boat. To this end, a bunch of grizzled (the very excellent Shore Crew) and willing (the fresh faced, bloom of youth Boat Crew) volunteers turned up both to man the boat and to launch it. With no regular winchman, I took on the role while the others did all the more physical graft, which was fun - for me, at least.
After waving off the first relief boat we very quickly prepared the long slipway for the new relief Lifeboat that had already arrived and was waiting in the bay. Conditions were much improved on Monday's recovery and the boat went astern onto the slipway without issue. From my eerie at the top of the slipway I might venture that it was pretty much a textbook recovery, with each of us slipping into the various required roles with practised ease. After such a journey, we gave the boat a swab down and settled her back in the boathouse, in expert fashion. We are, after all, a very interchangeable, very excellent Shore Crew.
While I had laboured in the shop measuring and planning my next minor project, the Missus had gone out and purchased the doings for hers. She had clearly put her mind to the issue with the blinds and had come back with spring loaded curtain rails, three tablecloths, ribbon and some sticky tape. The Missus had clearly watched more episodes of Blue Peter than I had, and more up to date ones, as her sticky tape comes in a heated gun that can deploy rubbery, non-marking glue. All before tea, she had put loops on the tablecloths so they could be hung from the spring-loaded rails and wedged the rails inside the recess of each window. On the door, where the recess is much smaller, she glued the rail in place. It seems to work just fine. I did remind her that no one likes a smart Alec, but she countered that while she was, indeed, very smart, her name was not Alec - however I spelled it.
It will be my turn tomorrow, once I have worked out how to pin the drawer dividers in place, unless we get diverted to The Farm. It will be useful to go up there as there is some gash plywood I can use for the drawer. Hopefully the additional wood has arrived, too, and I can finish off the shed.
Not quite finished yet, I spent some of the evening trying to nail down the right replacement oven for our kitchen. It was no easy task even having whittled it down to one manufacturer. There were still six different models with apparently no or very little distinguishable difference, although I surmise that there must have been. I looked at four different website for information and surprisingly the lightest on detail was the manufacturer's own. It took more than an hour, but I think I have identified what is a direct, modern day, replacement for the current model. Apparently, the oven gets hot and cooks things and it has a grill that gets hot and cooks things - oh, and it fits in the hole that the current one sits in. I think that ticked all the boxes. There are two local shops to call tomorrow to see if we can get hold of one. This will be where I find out that it has gone out of production and I have to start all over again.
February 12th - Tuesday
After a star lit night last night everything turned a little grey this morning. There was hardly any breeze at all, which was a bonus, and the sea had returned to a placid pool with a few gentle, by comparison, lapping waves.
I had a bit of a mad moment with a pile of invoices and receipts that had built up over the last few weeks. I have learnt from experience that it is best to try and keep on top of such things now and again, else we are faced with a mad dash at the end of February when we are trying to get the shop and stock ready for opening. That is only four weeks away from last Saturday, but do not tell the Missus; she does not like being reminded.
My plans for the rest of the day were many and varied. First up was to route the cabling under the counter that had been pulled out to allow the counter to move. Some of this cabling had been a right pain in the rear end as it had grown organically and had been slipped in with insufficient clips or, in some cases, no clips at all. This was not quite as easy as it sounds, as it meant crawling into confined spaces under the counter and wielding a hammer with my left hand, which oddly made my right thumb ache.
That done, it was time to work on the tissue paper shelf. I struggled to remember where the idea came from but just after I finished a paragraph about it being on a television programme, I remembered that it was from a shop we visited on our travels at the end of last year. The salesperson, very cleverly, pulled a roll-out shelf from under the counter on which he stored a ream of tissue paper. We thought this idea so bright that we decided to have one ourselves, except where the shop we went into, obviously had it build for them at great expense, ours would be cobbled together from bits of cereal packet and sticky backed plastic.
It was not quite as Blue Peter as that, but I did use some of the shelf I had taken down from above the door and the only bought thing were the runners which cost a princely £2.59 for the pair. There was some use of electricity to saw and drill but other than that the only addition cost was my time. Another tuppence ha'penny, then.
Although I had to shave the shelf a tad to get it to fit, by and large it came together marvellously and actually worked. The only fly in the ointment is that the tissue paper comes in a larger size than the shelf and will have to hang off the back. This was a constraint of the available space rather than a mis-measurement, honest, guv. I showed the Missus and even she was impressed, mainly impressed that I did not make a mess of it. So impressed was she that she now wants me to make something similar for the paper bags. Now, that is a completely different saucepan of screws.
As if I had not contributed to the ascent of Man enough for one day, I had a batch of pasties to make. I had managed to eke out the pastry to seventeen rounds including four mini ones for the Aged Parent. It was only right and just that we sampled the batch, just to make sure there were up to award winning specification, you understand.
This brings me to the second fly in the ointment. It was while I was making the pastry rounds yesterday that our oven in the kitchen went bang. At first, I wondered what it was until I checked the bread roll that we were baking and noticed that it was not baking. It took the rest of the ring main with it, which I also had not noticed until the Missus told me the Internet was broken, too. Although we have electricity back in the rest of the house, the oven is definitely no longer capable of ovening, and since it has given ten years of sterling service, a new one is on the cards.
We are lucky that we have an oven in the shop, and I resorted to this to cook the pasties. The oven is a little smaller than the kitchen one, but it is a proper commercial oven and is some fierce in its capabilities. The cooking of the pasties, therefore, was done with some trepidation, for fear of burning them, which I nearly did on the initial 20 minutes blast of hot before dropping down to a lower temperature for the rest of the allotted time. It worked out in the end, having chosen a temperature a few degrees lower than I would normally have baked them on. They were bleddy 'ansum. I know, because the Missus said so, and she would have let me know if they were not.
February 11th - Monday
Today was showing some potential for improvement, which made a pleasant change. It was, however, still quite blustery first thing and the chill was also there but, at least, it was not raining, and the skies looked like they might be brightening.
It was just the sort of day to head, early, down to the gymnasium to throw some weights around and do a spot of rowing. The rowing element looked as ready as normal, but all the weights had disappeared, which poses something of an issue since I use them to continue to tone up my calf muscle on the right side. This has not recovered completely from my Achilles tendon breakage some six years ago, although it is much improved; I am still optimistic about its future. I have had a chat with the only other person I know who attends and we might have to refurnish the weights ourselves as the ones that were there may well have been reclaimed by their owner.
I continued with as much of my routine as possible and it was during the rowing element that the music I was listening to started to take on a beat that I had not remembered from its previous playing. It was only after the music had stopped and the unfamiliar tone continued that I realised that it was my Lifeboat pager going off.
Pulling my hooded sweatshirt on and locking the door as quickly as possible, I managed a dash down to the station. I should sooth the furrowed brow of our neighbours, who were gazing out from their bay window, that the blurred orange streak they saw hurtling down the street was not some supernatural vision but merely myself at top speed as I made my way past. It is a natural concern that I am faced with often and I can only apologise for any anxiety caused by my rate of progress. All I can say is that it was a good job that they were safely indoors, else they may have been caught in my vortex.
Even at my best speed I was unable to make the launch. Other members of the very excellent Shore Crew had got there ahead of me - obviously using motor vehicle conveyance to pip me at the post. It was then that I learnt that the boat had been launched to investigate the sighting of an upturned liferaft, spotted by a passing ship in the Traffic Separation System to our north west.
The boat was gone for some time and conducted two searches. At the outset of the second it found the offending liferaft and took it onboard. It was impossible to tell if it had been launched in anger or if it had been washed overboard in the recent storms and gales. The Lifeboat was released from further searches as the Coastguard were satisfied that the liferaft had clearly been out there for some while.
The delay in the boat coming back worked to the advantage of all. Had it arrived back any sooner we would not have been able to bring it back onto the slipway as the sea state was too boisterous, with several feet of waves hitting the bottom of the slip from the side. We had set up anyway when we heard that the boat was on the way back and by the time it arrived in the bay, the waves had diminished sufficiently to attempt an approach. In these conditions it requires some concentration and an attempt to keep the slipway cable as short as possible so that when it is hooked onto the boat there is the shortest possible delay in taking up any slack and bringing the boat back to safety. Too short, however, and it will not reach the boat and may cause a delay while it is lengthened.
I am pleased that we had the barest minimum of spare cable when the boat went astern onto the slipway. There was hardly any delay and the boat was hauled up onto the concrete tow in what was, quite possibly, a textbook recovery. Maintaining our rigorous attention to detail, we brought the boat up the rest of the way, washed her down and tucked her away safely. We are, after all, a very fastidious, very excellent Shore Crew.
I had arranged an appointment with a person to come and suggest a solution to our blinds for the shop windows. I had taken care to explain on the telephone the situation and was told that it would be far better if a sales representative called. I missed him as he arrived during the Lifeboat recovery, but he was only on site for five minutes before he explained to the Missus that his company could not help. I rather thought that he would be better off not coming and making the decision on the telephone as the information I supplier was detailed enough.
It was fortunate that he was early, as I could have been waiting for that expected response until three o'clock. It would then have been too late to head into town. I had a shopping list of items to complete the work on the counter in the shop as well as a couple of items for a second attempt to bring the Aged Parents kicking and screaming into the 21st century by installing wireless Internet at their house. It is, of course, possible that the house itself will reject the signal, crumble and fall to the ground or the wireless radio waves might disturb their equilibrium such that stories emerge of visitors to the house mysteriously disappearing. I shall fashion two helmets from tin foil, which should alleviate that particular issue, although we will just have to risk the house falling down. Why should I worry? It is not my house.
Most of the items I required, as described, were readily available at the independent stores in town or the industrial units nearby. I had previously dropped the Missus at Mother's on the way into town and picked her up on the way back. The whole operation took a little longer than I had hoped and by the time we got back I found myself labouring long into the evening preparing pastry rounds. As well as the technical items I had purchased, I had also bought the doings of a batch of award winning pasties, some of which we will be consuming for tomorrow's tea. I am sure you can hardly wait to find out just how toothsome they were.
Apologies to @RaceNewForest, a twitter person, for failing miserably to post yesterday's Diary. It took a moment to understand that Cabode Gata was actually Cabo de Gata in Andalusia, a little south west of Camborne, I believe, but a bit warmer. Hola, lector del Diario
February 10th - Sunday
Some showers were blowing through The Cove as I awoke this morning. I took the precaution of full metal jacket waterproofing myself for the walk around the block, but it was not necessary. It did, however, provide an extra layer of protection against a blustery breeze hacking in from the west, or thereabouts, which had decided, once again, to carry something of a chill with it.
The walk around on a Sunday is a good yardstick for how I might dress for a day up at the range. Today would require an additional layer, I mused, and I decided to take the precaution of carrying some waterproof gear with me as well. It was the chill, though, that was most problematic especially for squeezing small, cold metal things into small, cold metal holes, as you do at the range.
There were not too many of us there today, which means additional running around resetting targets and the like. For once, I was quite grateful for the extra work as it kept us warm. The shortage of people also made for a much shorter morning session, which then meant a lot longer hanging about for the afternoon session to start. This is when the chill started to set it. It did not help to have a few scattered hail showers come through from time to time and as the afternoon progressed, the wind became fresher and colder. At one rather noteworthy point, we were all standing in line, waiting for targets to turn, and being dowsed by a particularly heavy dose of hail.
We did break up a good deal earlier than normal and I was back home in the warm for the last bit of the afternoon. I was just beginning to feel my fingers again when it was time to take the bleddy hound around the block. Fortunately, the hail showers had cleared up completely by this time, although the sky did look threatening from time to time. The sea was a good bit calmer than at any time in the last four or five days and the ground sea appeared to have diminished. With a good run of weather next week, we might be able to get enough time at The Farm to finish off the shed and prepare to move the stock in. What a relief that would be.
February 9th - Saturday
It was a most auspicious day; a day for the gathering of super heroes, although one was rather more super than the other and possibly more heroic. It was Highly Professional Craftsperson meets DIYman for a spot of sorting out the remainder of the shop work to make it look like a shop rather than a building site. It did end up looking more like a shop but not so much less of a building site.
We, I will use this pronoun, but you might want to assume just one of the party was doing most of the work. So, we had previously pulled out much of the electrics that was in the way of the door and window fitting and this needed to be put back. Additionally, I had asked if we could add some power points in the cupboard to the rear of the counter to save cables being draped awkwardly. Last, was the counter itself that needed to be put back in place but also modified so that it would accommodate the new position of the windows which are deeper into the shop than they were.
To get ahead of the posse, I had gone down to the shop early, or rather DIYman had, to pop out the cable clips for the mains under the counter. The original plan was to pull back the full length so that the slatwall, through which the cables pass, could be removed for cutting to its new size. As it happened, we thought that we could probably cut the slatwall in situ, thus rendering my earlier work unnecessary, which was heartening.
I left the slicing off of a length of counter to the Highly Professional Craftsperson and his big and meaty circular saw. This made light work of the effort but put an inch thick layer of sawdust over every flat surface within around ten feet of the operation. There was some fine tuning to be done before the counter eventually slotted back into place. Because of the narrowing of the return, it looks like we might have lost the space where the rubbish bin used to sit. It has also made it slightly awkward to get into the cupboard to the rear of the counter in which we keep the cigarettes. It will have to wait until we are open again before we discover if it works or not in full flight operation.
There is some routing and clipping of cables left to do but by and large all that remains is some cleaning up. It has made life far easier to have a Highly Professional Craftsperson on hand and willing to give up a chunk of his weekend. DIYman might have managed but it is more likely that we would have had to bring in the services of an electrician, at least, which would have introduced an unacceptable delay into proceedings.
Not that it mattered too much, as we were working inside for most of the day, but it was not particularly pleasant outside. In the middle of the afternoon it started to rain, which was just after I had been outside cutting up the old shelves to make getting rid of them more manageable. The sea had been quite robust in the morning, but it seemed to be calming down into the afternoon and instead of being a magnificent, angry beast, it was dull and grey and just a bit bad tempered.
Stirred up sea filling the Harbour Once again, it was quite pleasant to stop. Perhaps I should make more of a habit of it.
February 8th - Friday
We managed to evade the rain when we took a turn around the block this morning, but I got caught as I went off to the gymnasium just a little later. I was keen to get on, as there was work to do in the shop today ahead of the more major works at the weekend. Before that could happen, I also needed to go and see a man at the Lifeboat station who apparently wanted my input on matters technical. Obviously, that would not take very long at all, but he was delayed talking to someone who had some proper input and, clearly, that took much longer.
I was under the impression that we were in for a bit of a pasting, particularly with the wind, which was supposed to be worse and longer lasting than the blow we had earlier in the week. By the end of the afternoon I was still wondering where it was and was told by a friend, passing by at the time, that what we were getting was it. I cannot express my disappointment. Actually, I noticed later that our anchor point for the newspaper bin had been removed by the cementing team from yesterday, so it was just as well that it did not blow here today. It was only later when I spoke with Mother that she told me it was blowing a hooley over at St Buryan. When I checked, wind speeds had reached 77 miles per hour from the south west, which is why we were sheltered from it. It was our turn later in the night, although I cannot say I noticed then, either.
It was into the afternoon that I managed to set to with a paint brush on the inside of the shop. The cement down the sides of the windows would probably need another day or two to dry properly, but we are putting the counter back tomorrow and I will not be able to get into that corner again, so it needed to be pained today. I also put some wood stain on the edging that will cover the long cut on the counter, as it has to be shortened to fit against the new window.
The one thing that took more time than was necessary was working out where to drill the holes for the estate agent style advertising panels that go into the window. The window is 1700 millimetres wide and there are four pairs of fixings, 250 millimetres apart. For the life of me I could not work out the equidistant position of each pair and it took ages and several attempts to get it right. I think I need a rest, or a beer, or both, perhaps.
In all it was a bit of an odd day. The weather did not seem to know what it wanted to do, and we had blue skies, grey cloudy skies and bits of rain here and there. We did not suffer the heavy rain that Penzance did earlier in the morning and the only constant throughout was the thrashing of the sea.
There were a fair few people down - given the time of year - presumably drawn by the stormy seas. I spotted a few down on the Harbour slipway, very sensibly standing near the top to take their photographs. There has been quite a bit of advice posted on social media regarding being safe while watching the waves. One simply said to stay away from the coast, which we might find difficult to comply with unless we move the shop.
It was exceedingly pleasant to relax and do not a great deal in the evening. Mother came around and we enjoyed tea together. I am quite looking forward to tomorrow and getting the shop back in some reasonable order, all supposing we do not find some thing to stop us.
February 7th - Thursday
It should be of no surprise that The Cove shows utter resilience to the most mighty of storms. After suffering 85 miles per hour winds last night there was hardly any evidence that it had been through when we took our perambulation this morning, save for a few upturned and misplaced wheelie bins. The oldest dwellings in The Cove have been around for the best part of 400 years and will have suffered all manner of challenges over that time. After all that weather, the only real mark left on the place has been Man's.
The mark that we had hoped would be left by the window people today, did not happen quite as it should because of the inclement weather. Our cement man turned up but could only really get on with the inside, while the other worker did manage to put in place the panel to cover up the hole above the door to the front. They will have to pick their days to complete the work, as the forecast is not too encouraging over the next week or so.
While the big wind had abated, there were showers piling through, some missing us, some heavy. The sea had calmed considerably from its performance yesterday but there was still a hefty ground sea running into the bay, more evident in the evening. There were a few showers hanging about but, in the main, they missed us almost completely, but more persistent rain came through later.
There would certainly be not much in the way of fishing going on for the next few days with big wind forecasts being broadcast. Adding to this, bad news for fish lovers in the report that the MSC has revoked its certification for mackerel. This affects eight countries in the North East Atlantic region and stems from scientists of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) telling us that the mackerel are in short supply. Apparently, the quota for mackerel has been set too high, against scientific advice, and the new advice is for a 68 percent reduction in fishing.
For the UK, only the Scottish fishery is affected; the mackerel around here were not included in the MSC certification. However, the information on mackerel stocks has been contested by one Irish fishing organisation and supported by Norway, that the data does not include a dramatic increase in stocks outside the traditional fishing areas, where no data had been collected. Whatever the case, it is unlikely to affect the amount of mackerel around here because ours tend to all disappear just when our customers are starting to get interested in having a few on a barbeque.
With great plans in mind to start work in the shop today, I ran into town early to pick up some screws, drill bits and paint. I was in a bit of a rush because we were expecting some important visitors just before the middle of the day. Naturally, the one shop where I expected to get most of the list did not have all that I wanted, and I ended up visiting several stores when one should have done. I did manage to get back in time but missed any opportunity to have a spot of breakfast.
Our important visitors arrived in a very understated way, on time and full of light and vigour. It has been some years since we last saw Teenager, who no longer is one, long since. She will forever be Teenager because I cannot change her name now. She came along with her boyfriend, Haarlem - after the Globetrotters, who is a tall, athletic basket ball player type and a very personable person at that. It was quite delightful having them here for tea and a chat and after the intervening years, there was quite a lot to talk about. I was conscious, and I think so was Haarlem, that time was pressing, as they had to drive back to a place called Gravesend, which is somewhere east of Camborne, I believe; a long journey and fraught with traffic, especially near the other end. Had I not interrupted the girls, I think that they would still be here talking.
I had in tended to drop back down to the shop to do some actual work, but by the time our visitors left, and I had thanked our two workers from the window company, the lion's share of the day had come and gone. Also, there is much of the work that requires some serious tools and I should wait the arrival of the Highly Professional Craftsperson who not only has the serious tools but knows how to use them, too.
Instead, I lazed about for the rest of the day and awaited the call to the Lifeboat station for a spot of training. Here, we were told of a new procedure to check the slipway ahead of launches in the dark and went down in the cold and wet to practise them. We are very quickly coming to terms with, and even embracing the new regime of safety first. Most of it makes utter sense and is proportionate, even though when written down it might seem excessive. We all now don our boots and tin hats when passing into the boat hall, and our lifejackets when heading onto the slipway. It takes a few extra minutes, hurts no one and may well mitigate the effects of an accident. Even most old dogs can be taught new tricks.
Feeling smugly compliant, we headed to the OS for a spot of quizzing. Once again, we felt we did terribly badly, only to discover that we were in joint second place because everyone else had done worse than our terribly. Fortunately, there is no one to remind us that there are no prizes for second place and what do we care anyway when there is beer on sale.
I tried to discuss this with the bleddy hound when I returned but she was far too interested in shouting and screaming and turning in circles. I, on the other hand, considered the inadequacy of my torch, having seen the new super bright one provided by the Institution for examining the slipway in the dark. I might just see what might be on offer on the Internet tomorrow, in between the gymnasium and doing what I should have done today in the shop.
February 6th - Wednesday
There was quite a bright start to the day and, in fairness, it was not bad throughout. We lost the blue skies towards the afternoon, but we did not get any rain until well into the evening and I will certainly settle for that. It was the sea that provided all the action of the day with thumping great waves rolling into the bay and providing quite a bit of entertainment. Over on Brisons the waves were coming in as big as houses - long terraces of them. We lost the Harbour wall towards the latter part of the afternoon as the waves came crashing over the top in rapid succession. Over Nanjulian way, white water was dancing up the cliff side and exploding in great plumes. How exciting.
The sea was just warming up first thing.
Pretty start on Coastguard Row
I cannot say that I squandered such a day, but things certainly did not go quite as planned. The only bit that did was a run down to the gymnasium for a punishing session, which was thoroughly enjoyable, and I even managed to get down there quite early so that I had plenty of the rest of the day.
The plan was to put up fixing points for the power outlets in the shop and to arrange for some blinds for the windows. DIYman emerged from the bedroom to get stuck into the meat of the work but got as far as opening the new sliding door before he was inundated with people wanting to come and have a look at a chat - alright, two people came and had a look and I chatted with one of them for a while. I then set about the measurements for the blinds.
At least someone managing to press on. Roofing on fishing stores.
Normal roller blinds will suffice for the door and the free window but on the other side, where the door slides across, there is insufficient clearance. It took a while to discover that there are such things now as clip on blinds that will fit into the recess of the window. This seemed ideal until I discovered that the maximum width comes nowhere close to the width of the window. I had thought that maybe two together would work, but the blinds clip to the sides of the windows, not the top. It took an inordinate amount of time to check all the reputable suppliers - and some not so reputable - as there are quite a few. This put me back for my other duties.
We have sufficient spare wood in the shop from the dismantling of the shelves and some of the wall above the doors to provide for plates on which to place the power points - they are going onto uneven granite walls. It did not take long to fashion the appropriate items from what was there, so I returned to the shop to fit them. It was at this point that I realised that they would interfere with the finishing off works when the window people came back tomorrow. I mollified myself by measuring and marking the cut out in the counter top that will be necessary to fit it back into place but then had to give up for the day.
This gave me plenty of time to consider what I could have done instead and, failing to do that, research some more blinds. I drew a complete blank but there is one company that will send someone out. Doubtless expensive, they may have some ideas that we can steal. At present, all I can think is that we use roller blinds where we can, and two custom made boards to fit into the recess at night and remove in the morning. I am wondering how long that process will last before it become utterly irritating.
The weather raised the stakes in the latter part of the afternoon and into the evening. We barely noticed the slow increase in wind speed until our big picture window started to flex worryingly. We should have been grateful that it was coming in from the west at that point and not straight at us, but we were too busy wondering where our wheelie bin had gone. Having tied it down with some enthusiasm on the last blow, I had to cut it free for the rubbish collection on Tuesday and had omitted to tie it down again.
It was no surprise that it had run away and more of a surprise that there was not more damage about. When I checked with the Gwennap Head weather station, wind speed had topped 85 miles per hour at ten o'clock. Fortunately, it was all over by midnight, but I was fast asleep by then.
February 5th - Tuesday
Today was D-day, door and window day. No, it really was and there was no snow to stop the boys from turning up and starting bright and early, well, nine o'clock, anyway. My dealings with the company throughout have been utterly professional, apart from a small hiccup with the surveying not spotting an RSJ, a mistake anyone could have made - especially if they were not a surveyor - and meeting the workforce on the ground was no different. They wasted no time in getting the old windows out and starting on the preparation for the new, so, I kept out of their way and only made appearances bearing cups of tea and coffee and at dinner time to produce some hot pasties.
It was about that time that the electric door people arrived to do their bit. There were, at that point, six of them working in the reasonably confined space of the door and window area of the shop. I was very impressed that none got in the way of any of the others and each knew which bit they were working on and when. I get the impression that they may have done this before. I over-heard the door people telling the others that they had work lined up all over the country and next week they were going to Paris (France - I thought I have to put that in as every film and television programme now seems to deem it necessary to spell out exactly where each location is), where they are fitting security shutters on shops in the Champs Elysees - Paris, France, Europe. It certainly gave me some confidence that they are the right doors for us and also probably why they are so expensive.
Into this mix was a call to launch the Lifeboat. It is going away to have some outstanding maintenance jobs carried out, ones that could not be done on station or locally. In the meanwhile, we are furnished with a relief boat, which the crew picked up from Newlyn after dropping ours off there.
The sea conditions were perfectly benign on the north coast, although possibly a little fresher and lumpy on the south. We launched the boat shortly ahead of the scheduled time and set up for a short slip recovery later on in the afternoon. Our boat would need to meet up with the relief boat so that a few items of kit could be transferred. The crew would need to wait, anyway, so that there was sufficient water on the short slip for recovery. So, I returned to the flat where, once again, I kept out of the way of the workers who were steaming along with the window installation.
The crew on the relief boat were a little late leaving Newlyn and arrived back in a more stirred up bay at around twenty past five o'clock. We had to shorten the cable some because the tide was in further because of the delay. Nevertheless, we executed what was very clearly a textbook recovery up the short slipway before tidying away and closing the doors. We are, after all, a very prepared, very excellent Shore Crew.
I returned to the shop with the Missus to admire our new doors and to wonder at how we might install blinds. One window and the door are no problem, but a solution for the window behind the sliding door eludes us at present. We may have to resort to a sign that says do not look. That aside, and apart from a couple of snagging issues, we are very pleased with our doors. The automaticness of the doors is unlikely to be used during normal hours, unless to amuse small children, as whenever possible we like to have the doors open. It will be very handy when the chill wind is in the east or when we have a raging storm hacking in from the north. It will all be a big adventure to start with, I am sure. We do like big adventures. Starting in just over four weeks, I believe.
February 4th - Monday
The day was not blessed with good potential when I stepped outside the door first thing. Actually, that was clear when I looked out of the window but stepping outside the door confirmed that it was, indeed, misty and a bit damp. Cape and Brisons were both shrouded and only dimly visible and everything else was just plain dull and grey.
I would have taken myself straight down to the gymnasium to battle my way through it, but I was waiting on our ever ready handyman to run up a ladder for us to retrieve the television aerial. He arrived shortly after nine o'clock and was up the ladder in no time. The aerial would not have come down, he told me, as it was snagged on the launder. Had I only known; I would have left it there. He did not charge very much but whatever it was I would happily pay it as I would have not gone up there myself even if I did have a ladder that long.
When I came out of the gymnasium an hour or so later, the bay was a different place. The mist had cleared away and we had blue skies, nearly everywhere. There were some dark grey clouds still about, but they did not seem threatening. In short, it was the short of day to take a small bleddy hound down to the big beach to chase a ball about and dig a few holes. Since that was the sort of day it was, I did not hesitate to get her kit bag out of the cupboard and, without undue delay, took the bleddy hound down to the big beach to chase a ball and dig a few holes.
From the top of the OS slip
There was a huge expanse of beach just waiting for us, bathed in sunshine and with just the lightest of breeze so that it was not too chilly. With hardly another soul about, we had free reign to do what we wished and where we wished to do it, so I selected a good sitting rock to the west of the beach and plonked myself down awaiting the bleddy hound's command.
Big sand and big sky
She had already chased the ball all the way to this point. After a bit of scratching at the sand, she was handing the ball over for a long throwing and catching session. She would normally have prepared a two feet deep hole within a few minutes of arriving at our spot, but the sand proved too wet. This only left going after the ball, so that she could demonstrate her tenacity of running around despite not being quite as young as she was. I make sure that we do not do this for too long, as she will not rest long enough between throws, and going home time arrived far too quickly for some, although I admit, it is awful denying her.
One very happy bleddy hound
She was definitely not happy about walking in the direction of the slipway. If she had a teddy with her, she would have been dragging it by the foot behind her as she scuffed along. It was a very slow march back to the flat.
Quite by chance I thought about a trip to the cinema in the afternoon. The Missus has always been a bit partial to Laurel and Hardy and so I suggested going to see the latest film. It was being shown in the Newlyn Filmhouse, which is very well done and most comfortable. The film was very good, although it was in colour and I secretly think that the Laurel and Hardy were being played by someone else. I have not told the Missus as I know she will be most disappointed.
The Missus asked Mother if she would like to come along but she turned down the offer. She told the Missus that she had seen the real Laurel and Hardy at the Chiswick Empire in 1947, so why would she want to see some film about them. While I was looking up the date, I discovered that on the same night a small child fell out of the toilet window - a likely tale; he was probably trying to get in - but fell six feet onto a foot wide ledge, fifty feet from the ground. The Empire's electrician and fireman managed to rescue him, and he and his sister were given a free pass to see the second half of the show. Different world then, I think.
It was while I was sitting in the theatre that my Lifeboat pager went off. I managed to silence it before the audible alarm went off, else I expect I would have been given short shift by the other members of the audience. The Inshore Lifeboat had been called to a couple of people stuck on rocks over at Cape Cornwall. The helicopter took them off. I shall have to make sure I am here next Monday, as it seems to be the day for shouts.
February 3rd - Sunday
We continued our warm spell today, the sea was behaving itself and, apart from a light rain shower in the early part of the morning, it was a dry day with a light breeze. Later in the morning and early into the afternoon the sun broke through and, in its direct gaze, it was positively hot with the layers of clothing I was wearing.
There has been a veritable river flowing down from Stone Chair Lane these last few days. There normally is after heavy rain but it has not rained that heavily of late. After the hail storm yesterday, I sank quite deeply into the sand on the beach just where the river came down the slipway. Today, the bleddy hound decided she was going to go around the block and we ended up at the foot of Stone Chair Lane. There has been some digging going on up there and this has clearly opened the sluice gates for a spring or two - there are several along the foot of Mayon Cliff. This explained the river running down to the beach.
I took an extra jacket up to the range but I did not really need it until it was time to come back. By the middle of the day I was thinking about shedding layers rather than putting them on, but the temperature dropped steeply in the afternoon. There were not that many of us left for the clay shooting in the second session and we were all done by about half past three.
It is quite wearing all that running about at the range and even more so when it is cold. It is quite surprising the amount of energy required but I suppose all that lifting of heavy plates, used as targets, every five minutes or so takes its toll. This, no doubt, accounts for my little zizz after I had cleaned up and put everything away. This is my excuse and I am sticking to it.
The bleddy hound's later afternoon stroll now comes in at after five o'clock, now, losing light at around half past. There are a few cars in the Harbour car park, especially at weekends now, but there was no one about. I did notice that when we came back from the range there were quite a few visitors along the road, presumably taking advantage of the more pleasant temperatures. Still, it is very pleasant having a peaceful walk around the block at a leisurely pace - some of our walks are at an extremely leisurely pace, as every blade of grass must be sniffed at on occasion. This evening was unusually quiet as we tend to see at least some wildlife. Today there was not even the odd sparrow or gull hanging about.
It was just as quiet for the last walk out, aided and abetted by the rain. I will check tomorrow to see if the apocalypse has happened or not.
February 2nd - Saturday
There was a terrific hailstorm just before I took the bleddy hound out this morning. She was showing signs of being very keen to get out and, thankfully, the downpour finished shortly before I opened the door. When I did the front of the door was cover in hail and so was the first step. There were several piles of hailstones on the road, down the slipway and over the beach, too. That was a proper hailstorm, that was.
That fearful wind from the north west had diminished but there was enough of a breeze to drop the ambient temperature down to below freezing in wind chill effect. I had managed to put on a pair of waterproof trousers but as the bleddy hound was demonstrating a pressing urgency, I only had time to slip on flip flops. I am all for going barefoot on the sand, but I do draw the line when I am kicking through ice slush.
Once the hailstorm had passed the weather improved significantly. So much so that it seemed a bright idea to run up to The Farm and finish the shed lining, or so far as possible. Again, we parked at the F&L and walked in with all the required tools in a heavy rucksack. When we left several very chilly hours later, most of the lining is complete. It seems that I was two sheets of OSB short of what was required to finish the job and out of the second, I only required a sliver.
The timing was immaculate. We had just enough time to return home before I shipped out again for a visit to the OS. It is that time of year again when rugby takes centre stage and there is no other place to watch it than an alehouse. It must be the atmosphere, watching with like-minded people and the result did not hurt, either.
It appeared to me that the temperature had shifted between going to the OS and coming back and that it was considerably warmer on the return. At first, I put it down to my beer overcoat, but the Missus said that she felt it, too. It will have been predominantly down to the drop in that fierce northern chill but it was most peculiar having the temperature apparently increase after the sun went down. I cannot say that it was a complaint.
February 1st - Friday
It was supposed to be D-day today, door and window day, but the weather put paid to that, which was entirely disappointing. The boys doing the work hailed from Newquay, St Austell and Plymouth, all of which were in deep snow last night and it was still inadvisable to travel from there first thing this morning. I missed the telephone call to tell me they had cancelled while I was out walking the bleddy hound. It was not until well after they were due that I found the message on the telephone answering machine.
If they had turned up, they would have been a bit chilly. The breeze picked up into the afternoon and settled in at around forty miles per hour. I think with the windows and doors not in place, we would have been dusting the shelves all year and still not got rid of everything that blew down into the shop. In truth, it was not that cold but with the wind chill the temperature was just above freezing, which is quite cold enough, thank you.
The sea decided to get all upset with it all, presumably because all the focus has been on land and how snowy it has been. Geet rolling waves, the tops blown back by the wind were thumping nearly over Brisons and on the reef between there and Cot Valley. Later, the waves were banging over the Harbour wall and boiling atop the rocks of Cowloe.
The sudden change in plans left me at rather a loose end. My back issue was on the mend, but it probably was still not advisable to resume my gymnasium attendance, plus the fact I had left that too late, waiting on the window people to arrive. The Missus disappeared off to have a 'full head done', whatever that means, but it is something to do with hair dressing, an art that I have absolutely no connection with. With the other projects on the go, I had put on hold some proof reading that I promised to do for a neighbour. It was an ideal opportunity today and I finished the last story off in no time.
Our neighbour and friend has written a number of books and is really rather good at it. One, particular, stands out as the tale of a sailor, home from the sea, who takes on a warehouse in the 19th century. Called Wharfinger, it is quite absorbing and has a sequel too. I would buy a copy if I were you, dear reader, although I have been quite remiss in not putting them on our own Internet shop. I shall have to remedy this dreckly.
On my way back from visiting said neighbour I had a little geek at our roof to see how our television aerial was doing. It had been loose and banging around in the wind for some while, which naturally we had ignored when the wind dropped. Today, there was a distinct lack of banging from the roof, despite the wind, which is why I looked up. Thankfully, the aerial is no longer loose and flapping about. Unfortunately, it is at the edge of the roof, free of restraint.
I called our handyman, as he is pretty deft with everything we have thrown at him so far but by close of play we had not heard back from him. I know that I would not be up a ladder in this weather, in fact, I would not be up a ladder at all. What I meant was someone who does not mind being up ladders probably would not wish to go up in forty miles per hour winds. I managed to thump it with our window cleaning pole, and it seems pretty stable. In the worst case I am rather hoping that the launder will stop it coming down. Either way, I think we are stuck for the weekend and I hope that it is too.
Mother demurred on her weekly Friday visit noting that it was too cold to be out and concerned about the Missus bringing her home in the dark in these conditions. Reading between the lines I suspect that she knows full well that beyond the drawn curtain keeping the heat in the living room, there are icicles hanging from the picture frames and I have heard that polar bears are keen to move in from the melting ice cap to a colder climate. Personally, I think that Sir David would be proud of us, making such a personal sacrifice to slow climate change, although I think that the Missus is not overly enthused about playing the part of that maid from the Frozen cartoon film.
We spent the evening with the hatches battened down but I had to go out twice to retrieve our wheelie bin that broke free from its moorings. I used a better knot the second time and more string than was strictly polite. While it was still breezy at last run out time for the bleddy hound, at least it was dry. We are grateful for small mercies.