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.
April 12th - Monday
The bright aspect of the day seems set to carry on for a while. I was looking out to blue skies in the morning with just a few fluffy white clouds dotted about. I was very pleased that the wind appeared to have dropped out, although the early part of the day for the last couple of days the wind has been light. Today, however, it managed to keep to itself from beginning to end, which was something of a relief while standing behind the counter later.
We were consigned to wander around the block, the bleddy hound and I, since the tide was all the way in at the appointed hour. I had rather expected a few more cars in the car park from the overnight arrivals but there were only three cars I could not account for. The other arrivals clearly felt the need to be clandestine or were merely a figment of my imagination - or, indeed, had somewhere else to park. Whoever was here must have also felt the need for a lie in as it was just as peaceful as usual as we completed our walk.
Conversely, our first hour of opening was filled with our regular visitors turning up in some abundance, well, more abundance than we have been used to in the recent past. It was comforting seeing happy and friendly faces to start the season off, something I would hope that we could continue throughout the rest of it. It was of particular comfort seeing the smiling and happy faces willing to part with a bit of cash for products and services that we have on offer - all at exceedingly keen prices, as you might imagine.
I left the Missus to it half way through the morning while I partook in some exercise. It was a blistering session, which will become increasingly necessary now that I am not heaving bags of earth, wielding heavy hammers and tilling the soil by hand. It had not occurred to me just how much additional exercise I was getting over the last six months. I dare not go near the beach this season as I will have muscle bound oafs kicking sand in my face left right and centre.
The flood of customers, comparatively speaking, was given a bit of a coup de grâce by the arrival of a sharp shower of rain toward the middle of the day. It was a heavier and longer sharp shower than any of us would have liked and cleared the street in short order. The absence persisted until the middle of the afternoon when we started seeing small groups returning to amble about and drop in for the occasional purchase. It only then came to me that it was possible that the street cleared around the time for dinner. Unless you wanted a pasty, or I found out a little later, fish and chips, you were pretty stuck for something to eat. You were also constrained to eating whatever you could find in the open air, which at the time, was a bit wet.
The Missus left me to it early into the afternoon and headed up to The Farm with Mother. I sent her off with the first list of the year for items we needed from our store shed. I had not previously noticed that we were looking a little bereft of buckets and spades, unless of course, the Missus had sold a shelf full in my exercise absence during the morning. Perhaps it was less not noticing and more not expecting buckets and spades to be on shopping lists but there were more children about than I was expecting. It was only a week ago, but I had already forgotten about Easter and the fact that the school holiday carries on for many. I believe that some will still be on holiday the following week as well, although the numbers will be negligible. Still, we should be prepared for all eventualities and will, no doubt, be on top of our game by the end of the season.
The Missus returned early from The Farm with a call for help. She was trying to extract the back box, a sort of large container that fits to the back of the tractor, from the barn but had found it too heavy for one person. It is secreted at the back of the barn and getting the tractor in to move it would have been as much effort as trying to do it without. The box is required to move all the earth that I helped our friend and neighbour shift in the last couple of weeks. It crossed my mind that it would have been such a jolly jape to get the Missus to give him a call to see if he would help her shift the earth to its new home. Our friend and neighbour is not given to the use of rude words but I suspect that even he might make an exception in the circumstances.
I was quite surprised just how far the Missus had already moved the box by herself. It was exceedingly heavy and I struggled to move it a few inches - which just proves my point that I have become a weedy, grumpy shopkeeper again. I put a strop around it and the Missus manoeuvred the truck closer in to drag it to the door. We were then able to man (and Missus) handle it into a position where we could attach it to the tractor.
The job had taken a little while and the evening sun at The Farm was glorious. We might have been a little earlier with it but we had our first five minutes to closing rush of the season to cater for. Once again, had there been facilities to eat up there, we might have tarried. It would have completely upset the bleddy hound, however, as her tea was still at home. We were already in the dog house as she was looking daggers at us when we left the shop, which was already beyond the appointed time. You would have thought she would have been used to us by now.
April 11th - Sunday
Well, there was a blue sky, which I thought might be a good start to the day and it was. Once again, there was not a great deal of breeze first thing and I got away with running the bleddy hound down to the beach and back still feeling reasonably comfortable in the clothes I was in. It was only after a few hours behind the counter that the cold began to creep in no surprise, really.
It was just about the time we opened when a vicious squall blew in from the north. I was expecting the off chance of a little rain but what fell from the sky, angled to enter the shop doorway at maximum velocity, was hail - or big sleet if you want to be fussy. We have the first electric sliding door in The Cove for a reason and it was promptly closed to avoid being flooded with ice. Not really paying much attention, I could suppose that this was when the breeze picked up and my big freeze commenced.
Most of our customer activity happened in the morning and revolved around newspapers. There was a bit of grocery buying and some beachware went out of the door but in all it was sufficient to stop me from running upstairs to fetch another layer to put on. There was also not a great deal of running around involved, so that did not help, either. I did consider keeping the first electric sliding door in The Cove closed but it does tend to put people off and also reduces the airflow when we do have customers in, which is a factor to be considered in the age of the dreaded lurgi.
Other than serving customers, most of my morning was taken up by trying to get the cctv cameras to record again. During our closed period we had replaced the discs that they used to record to and this it seems really upset the software. I spent far too long on trying to get it to point to the replacement set of discs but it was having none of it.
The same group that produced the software we use has a new and posh version out. I did try it before, but it used a phenomenal amount of CPU and brought the computer upstairs to a grinding halt. I thought it worth a try on the laptop in the shop since the computer is used for little else other than having access to the inventory file. This took some time to install and get working. The first camera installed recorded very nicely but the subsequent cameras refused. It took a while to find out that the system set up the subsequent cameras differently from the first - why would it do that?
Anyway, having spent a ridiculous amount of time setting all the cameras up it became apparent that nothing else would run on the computer with the cameras recording. I persevered for a while but in the end, I had to remove the software completely. This was exceedingly irritating as I have just had six months to look at alternative software products and it is only now I get the problem.
I left it for a while to concentrate on opening some more boxes and putting out our new gifts. This only distracted me for so long and I was drawn back to testing and looking for a suitable solution. It took me until nigh on five o'clock to find a way to install a fresh version of the original software and solve the problem I started with. Gosh, that really got my goat.
It was obviously not a pasty day for our customers and I ended up throwing away the contents of the warmer. I did manage to sell all the remaining bread, so overall I was not too disappointed. The same applied to the till at the end of the day, which was an improvement on yesterday. It is heading in the right direction and the rumours of holiday lets filling up already, we have great expectations.
The Missus headed off to The Farm in the afternoon with Mother. It would have been a sight warmer in the greenhouse than in the shop, which is where they spent all their time. They planted kale and other things that I cannot remember, and I strongly suspect that in another few days we will need a bigger greenhouse. I have already had enquiries about honey, so I might have to nudge the Missus in that direction as with the blooming going on all around, it is likely the bees have started production.
I think we will have to hold onto our hats as it looks like it will be a busy season all around.
April 10th - Saturday
I manged to haul myself pout of bed at the appointed hour this morning with very little trouble and without any help from the bleddy hound who was fitfully sleeping. I momentarily toyed with the idea of sticking my tongue in her ear to wake her up but very quickly thought better of it.
We were expecting a bit of a north easterly blow but first thing in the morning it had barely got going and I rather thought that was it. It was not until later in the morning that it got its act together and started to get serious. I had quite forgotten just how irritating the wind is when it constantly rattles the polythene on the windbreaks and was very quickly reminded. The tiddler nets also spent most of the day flattened and the balls that I had forgotten to place under the netting were almost lost and saved at the last minute by an astute passer-by.
I had ensured that most of the hard work about opening the shop in the morning was already done - milk delivered, green grocery priced and in the fridge. This just left me to put the displays out and rope them down and to concentrate on the newspapers which thankfully arrived. After all that was done the shop was opened on time to some gritty early birds who had presumably camped out to be the first through the first electric sliding door in The Cove.
It seemed churlish not to sample one of Mr Prima's excellent steak pasties after they arrived in the morning. It was definitely a stab in the dark wondering just how many to order in but a least we will have one less to throw away or put in the freezer. I definitely messed up on the bread front because we were very quickly out of white bread and the multi seed cob that I would have had one of myself, went too. Still, there is no point in using the weekend as an indictor for what to order for Monday, as we suspect that that will be very much busier.
Today was no slouch for the first day of opening. We are used to seeing one or two people when we first start out, but we are a month later than usual. Custom was not exactly steady but there were small numbers in fits and starts throughout the day. There was a bit if a hiccup with the new card payment machine at first, but we discovered that this was user error, not placing the card in the appropriate place on the machine to be read by the contactless reader. It is rather odd to have the reader at the back of the machine, especially as you would generally offer it for use facing the customer so that they can see the screen. We have also noticed that it is not that sensitive and will take some getting used to.
Bit by bit during the day I worked my way through the boxes in the store room. The Missus joined in at the early part of the afternoon and attacked the local interest books that has arrived last knockings on Thursday. There was still some to do by the time we called it a day, but it should still be quiet enough again tomorrow to finish that off, especially if that robust north easterly keeps battering in.
I had not noticed until the last hour or so of the shop day that I had been slowly chilled to the bone. I added an extra layer, which could have been useful much earlier but was essential while bringing in the outside display. It then occurred to me that it was traditional, but usually in March, to have a cold wind from somewhere in the east when we first opened. It is good to know that we can still rely on some things. We only now have to rely on customers turning up with bulging wallets and we will be away.
April 9th - Friday
We were hot out the blocks this morning with plenty to do. That is not why we were hot out of the blocks this morning, however. We were hot out of the blocks this morning because I had a bleddy hound lying on my head deciding that it was time to wake up by licking my ear 'ole.
There is no defence against a bleddy hound's tongue in your ear at that time of the morning, so I got up. It was not important that I met the milkman as it was cold enough in our newspaper box out the front for the dairy to stay in there an hour or so but it if I did, so much the better. As it turned out one of the grocery deliveries beat him to it and the bleddy hound and I were finished our stretch on the beach and having a cup of tea by the time he came and went.
I decided that I would get a blistering exercise session out of the way first and therefore be at the peak of my fitness to price and put away the milk. There is nothing new and exciting on the dairy front but I have ordered in our usual peak operating products like the Cornish camembert and brie, so if it does not get sold I will have to eat it myself. I put the grocery order to one side while I went and cleaned up after the session and had a spot of breakfast. This has become slightly easier with shop stock to plunder, thank heaven.
The Missus beat me to returning to the shop to continue with everything else. Not only did we have the grocery orders to put away but more was on the way, which completed the grocery arrivals and we are now a shelf full shop. The wine will have to wait until the morning as, by the time I was ready to put it in the fridge, the Missus had mopped that bit of the floor. I dare not set foot on the wet floor regardless how important having cold wine was.
In truth, there was a sheer mountain to climb to get all the recent orders out. We focused on what was important to get the shop open tomorrow, which meant cleaning the ice cream freezer that we had been living out of all winter and putting it back in its place. Once that was out of the way, all the other postcard stands, body board boxes and book spinner could be put back, too. I struggled to remember where everything went and shall have to remember to take a picture of it before we close next time. It was not only which order everything went in but the exact place on the floor given that we pack everything in as tightly as reasonably possible without compromising the passage ways for wheelchair access. I will have to put markers on the floor next time, which I will only remember when I am trying to put everything back the following year.
I told one neighbour who asked if we were ready that of course we were. We just had three days' work left and we would be absolutely ready to open tomorrow. It was not far from the truth, either.
There was some reason to the headlong rush to have the shop operational as soon as possible, other than being able to open tomorrow. The Missus had told Mother that it was a Farm day and that we would pick her up in the middle of the day. Despite there being quite a bit of gift stock still to clear, I was also quite keen to have one last afternoon up at The Farm that would last me the rest of the season. I think I am getting to the point that if The Farm paid sufficiently to keep us afloat, I could give up the shop for that - but only on nice days. Alright, I know, that is not ever going to work - unless marigolds and cress suddenly triple in price - but I can dream can I not.
We did make it up there but not until close on three o'clock. The trouble with the clocks springing forward is that we are still not naturally aware of the time. Previously, I was beginning to be able to tell the time by looking at the sun, but that went down the pan. We all set about various activities as soon as we had a cup of tea and pottered about doing them. After completing the essential stuff of battery swapping around, I went and got a garden fork and started work on another strip of soil. After only a few days the ground had dried up and hardened; it was rock solid. It was the second blistering session of the day while the Missus and Mother planted another several thousand green things into pots.
I prised them away shortly after five o'clock, as tea was calling. I think that we all could have stayed a while longer, but I also think that we would have regretted having a late tea. It was a splendid evening up there and if we had the wherewithal for an impromptu barbeque, we would have done that instead - if the new barbeque was not still in the box. I can feel investigating how we keep frozen food up there with very little electricity - bury it deeply?
As it was, we came home to fish and chips. Having emptied the ice cream freezer, the Missus found some more haddock, which was a happy result - at least for Mother and me. The Missus hates fish.
April 8th - Thursday
It was another long day of doing lots of things related to trying to get the shop open on Saturday. So long was it that I could barely remember what happened at the start of it other than, at last, I managed to get my scrambled egg on toast with black pudding. Even then it nearly came to disaster when I was distracted by a neighbour while the butter was melting in the pan. It was a blackish colour by the time I came back.
The wind had completely dropped out today and as a result the air temperature was much more tolerable than it has been for the last few days. The bleddy hound is still a bit wary about going down to the Harbour. She would sniff about and wander all over it before seals invaded her pitch, now she can hardly wait to get away. I thought that I was in trouble yesterday as she spent a lot of time sniffing the air while heading down the slipway. That turned out to be a dead gull over by the short slip, which I managed to steer her away from.
Our main cash and carry order was short of a few items, particularly my beer, which could have been something of a disaster. It needed to be remedied, which required a trip out to Hayle to replenish the missing stock. The Missus decided that there were a few more items needed to be collected on the way and Mother had indicated a short while ago that she needed some greetings cards for upcoming birthdays. She agreed to take care of the bleddy hound while the Missus and I sallied forth.
My simple trip to the cash and carry and back became a drop off at a busy Tesmorburys for the cards and a stop for Costalot coffee along the way. I then dropped the Missus at the Hayle garden centre for even more plants to grow while I went on to the cash and carry. Happily, there were no detours on the way back, other than to pick up the bleddy hound, and as soon as we returned, we set to in the shop with some more shelf filling.
You would think that this is something of a finite process where there are a number of unpacked boxes and empty shelves. As the goods are put on the shelf the pile of boxes diminishes until the job is complete. Progress can be measured and appreciated the nearer to the end you get. That all works splendidly until you factor in the arrival of more boxes during the process. Instead of the pile of boxes diminishing as you complete the job, the pile gets bigger and is disconcerting. We had three deliveries during the afternoon amounting to an extra twenty boxes or so.
We reached a plateau, where the work that was left seemed easily achievable with a small amount of effort the following day. I had just retired upstairs to collapse in a heap before tea time when yet another van turned up with eight big boxes. I am sure lesser men would have wept.
Having girded my loins and had my tea it seemed a shame to waste all that girding, so I went across the road to the Lifeboat station where some bright soul had organised an exercise launch. It was just a hint of normality - training on a Thursday night but this one would not be followed by a dash to the OS for a good quizzing. I suspect that will be a distant memory only for some time to come yet.
The boat launched with good numbers in attendance at seven o'clock and on schedule with the Inshore boat following on. As usual, we on the shore set up for the recovery and did a good deal of thumb twiddling until the appointed time that the boat came back. We were just about at minimum numbers and looked a bit thin on the ground compared to other recent launches.
Between the boats leaving and coming back we retired to the crew room where, we were told, samples of our shiny new kit had arrived. Our esteemed Coxswain had eschewed delivery of the XXL size on the basis that most of us are fit and lithesome examples of very excellent Shore Crewmen. My current trews are medium, I shall have you know, dear reader, but I struggled with the large size in the new kit as indeed did we all. The clothing is made by a company more famed for producing smart fashion equipment for yachting sailors. Perhaps these people are all small in stature - even the very big ones. Anyway, all of us - of which I am neither the largest or smallest - settled for the XL version on both trews and rather posh jacket that comes with a removable fleece and waterproof inner layer.
Once this shiny new kit would have lasted five minutes before it was lagged with grease from the heavy equipment and cables we hauled about. I will give this new gear a couple of weeks at least before we have taken the shine off it.
In no time at all, which was quite a long time really, the boats were ready to come back in. We had watched them in the flat as a dish bay in the evening light come and go, practising things and it was just turning to dark when they headed into the station. It was gloomy at the bottom of the long slipway but I eat a lot of carrots and to my mind it rather looked like a textbook recovery from a perfectly still pool at the slip's base. With so few numbers, we all fell in with equal workloads and brought the boats in and tucked them away. We are, after all, a most very thin, very excellent Shore Crew.
April 7th - Wednesday
It was not just bitter cold this morning, although wearing sports shorts probably did not help, it was bitter cold and wet. I did not in the least appreciate that we were to get any rain but there it was, just in time to take the bleddy hound for a spin.
The rain on the window suggested that these were just light showers blowing through and nothing too much to be alarmed about, especially as I was already wearing a wind proof jacket that also did the same job with rain. I could see the rain approaching across the bay and it did not look too bad and sure enough we had a light, wind blown shower dancing on my back and pinging into the bare backs of my legs. It was as we were heading off up the slipway that it reserved its cascade of heavy rain. It accumulated in a bit of a torrent as it came off the Lifeboat station roof at the top corner. With the wind behind it, this dropped an especially heavy curtain right across the road. We ran the gauntlet. It left my gauntlets alone and dropped into my shoe instead.
There were smaller showers throughout the morning, so I avoided going out very much at all except for a bit of a blistering exercise session early on. The rest of the morning I tied up with some local orders, like from our excellent butcher in St Just and letting the dairy know we would be ordering right soon.
I also tracked down a supplier of freezer shelves, although I had to try again in the afternoon before I actually spoke with someone from the parts department. I was pleasantly surprised that first, the very pleasant lady at the other end of the telephone knew exactly what she was talking about and secondly, the shelves were considerably cheaper than I was expecting. The only downside in the whole enquiry and ordering lark was that they would not be in stock until the end of the month or early the following month. Since this company is about the only supplier of this product in the country, I placed the order.
We had tentatively agreed with our earth moving friend and neighbour that I would come and move the earth with him again today. We decided that moving Heaven could wait for another day, although it felt like we had done both. What I did not appreciate was that the meeting time I gave him was almost upon us and I hurriedly had to get ready and run up to meet him.
There was only earth for two runs today and after that the work was finished. He showed me where it had come from; I had seen it earlier in the piece as well. The transformation was incredible, and the area was now flat and level with the rest of the garden. He had discovered he had an inspection cover he did not know about, which was a bonus. That was a monumental piece of work that he had carried out all by himself and quite an achievement. I was worn out just looking at it.
The cold seemed to be going off by the end of the second load and the wind appeared to be dying down. We took tea on the decking in the shelter of cabin and basked in the sun for a while. It is likely to be the last of my daytime visits to The Farm for a while, for which I am sure, dear reader, you will be grateful - that is until you get fed up with tales of grumpy shopkeeping.
I returned home just in time to meet the Missus coming out with the bleddy hound. She had intended to start work in the shop a little earlier but I had secreted the keys in my sports shorts. We retired upstairs after she came back where I was able to update all the prices for new stock including another delivery expected tomorrow. I also checked that our local cash and carry still had our regular orders and will be placing the order with them tomorrow for Friday.
With a bit of a session tomorrow down in the shop we should be set to open on Saturday. Friday, perhaps we can have a day's respite but I imagine we will find something that needs to be done, even then.
April 6th - Tuesday
I was a little pressed this morning with expectations that the freezer service man would arrive during the call I was expecting from our backup software supplier and that our second grocery delivery would cap it by arriving, too.
The run out with the bleddy hound was, thankfully, brief - she must have sensed the urgency - which was also a relief because it was still extremely chilly in the robust northerly breeze. I made a mental note not only to wear a wind proof jacket but to also wear an additional layer when I took her out again. With the few minutes extra that I had, I risked my ablutions hoping that there was not a knock on the door from the freezer man.
I made a real error in planning my breakfast which was going to be scrambled eggs, toast and black pudding. There was no way I was going to squeeze that into the schedule that was developing. I cooked some eggs but nearly messed the timing up all together when the appointed hour for the software company to dial in crept up on me.
Letting other people onto our main computer always carries with it some element of risk, no matter how competent we think the engineers might be. It was for this reason that I wanted to be present for the entire session so that I could see what was going on. It was also for this reason that not long after the session began, the fridge engineer turned up.
It is a little obtuse not to trust a software engineer on our computer where there is little that can be stolen or misued and to let a fridge engineer loose in the, now, stocked shop to do what he wants. In my defence, the fridge engineer is the same chap who has turned up for years and we have quite a rapport. Secondly, if he should nick a bottle of coke or at worse a high value spirit or two, the lasting damage is negligible other than financial but if the software engineer messes up the computer, it would take hours to put it right and make moving ahead with opening the shop much more complicated.
So, having pointed the engineer at the only thing that was out of the normal for his visit, to fit the handle on the new freezer door, I was able to leave him to it with a promise that I would bring a cup of tea as soon as I could. Returning to the computer, progress was apparently slow.
Some of the analytical routines can take a while to run and the resulting files that need to be uploaded, are large and take time to copy. I was exceedingly disappointed to note that the only procedures that the engineer was undertaking, were ones that they had asked me to undertake more than once before. In my feedback from the last problem I had with their software, I reported that I did not think that their escalation process was clear enough. I was promised several times that the problem was being escalated but it never really happened. We ended up going around in circles of doing the same data capture for weeks. I found a solution to the problem myself in the end and I already have a work around for the current problem. I can see this going the same way.
The dial in took some considerable time. Not only has the fridge engineer completed his job and gone but the second grocery delivery arrived during the process as well. As the Missus had just stopped half way through last night, the store room was not ready for another delivery and I hurriedly created a space, which I should have done earlier, really. Between the driver and I we lumped the boxes inside and by the time I got back upstairs, the software engineer was still going.
I was exceedingly grateful after she had finished so that I could at least put together some semblance of breakfast and a cup of tea. I found the running between the three requirements of the morning had left me quite worn out and in need of sustenance - and a cup of tea.
Later, I managed to get down to the shop to actually do something towards our opening at the weekend. Some of the outstanding packages that had been sitting on the floor for a week were the first on my list. I had to pass by the new freezer on the way to their new home and I was taken aback by the sight. It is like a big spaceship type thing, shining like a beacon of frozenness in the darkness at the far end of the shop.
The bright light made it exceedingly obvious that it was missing a couple of shelves. We have a wide range of stock and every inch of space in the shop and the freezers is used to good purpose. Having wide open spaces in our freezer is wasteful, although I would wager that the freezer company insists it is for efficiency of operation and that way, they sell more freezers. I have forayed into addition shelves before and discovered that they were deterrently expensive. This time, I will look more thoroughly and even if they are expensive, it will be cheaper than an additional freezer that we have no space for anyway.
I decided to relax in the evening and put all thoughts of shop opening to one side. Unfortunately, I kept thinking of things that still need to be done. I have a list now for tomorrow, so at least I should not be bored.
April 5th - Monday
It was bright and exceedingly breezy today. The wind was banging in from the north or thereabouts all day and probably came from somewhere very cold. I discovered this when I took the bleddy hound to the Harbour in the morning. I ensured that I had some protection against the wind as well as a hooded top next time I took her.
As a consequence of the wind, any visiting was almost certainly reserved for the south coast and The Cove stayed empty all day. This was, of course, a bitter disappointment for the Ice Cream Parlour and must have been more than a bit tedious for the girls running it. The quietness did not bother us very much, particularly as we had planned to stay in The Cove all day.
Things took a turn away from the strict plan we had formulated when I had a call from our main grocery supplier asking if we would not mind them delivering today rather than tomorrow as they had a free slot. It did not bother us in the least and by half past ten our store room was chock full of grocery items. I had to do some quick tidying up as we brought the items in so that we could squeeze it all in.
The Missus was going to clean the shelves today ahead of putting out the groceries but instead she did a bit of both. Once she has the bit between her teeth it is difficult to stop her, and she returned to the shop after tea to finish it off. I had thought that she might want to get stuck into it today, so I spent the morning checking all the prices, a process that had me glued to the computer screen for an hour or more and practically dropping off on the keyboard by the end of it.
We both headed downstairs as I had intended to clear the wetsuit and rash vest delivery from a few days ago. Quite a bit of it was destined for the store in the barn but I wanted to extract as much as I could for the shop first. We have always struggled with hangers for the wetsuits, so I bought some metal ones to use instead. They are not completely ideal as they bend down with not too much effort, however, in normal use, they do the job quite nicely. All the addition wetsuits on the rack now have the new hangers so hopefully they will keep their shape better than the crumpling plastic ones.
Unpacking the order and sorting it took far longer than I anticipated and consequently, it was about the only thing that I did. The remaining boxes I piled into the van and now have sufficient room to move the shop furniture back to its proper place. This is on the cards for tomorrow, although I foolishly double booked myself in the morning and if the new grocery delivery turns up at the same time, I shall be properly in a pickle.
I took the bleddy hound out in the middle of all this shenanigans but remembered to take a wind jacket this time. She elected to avoid the beach and headed for the Harbour car park instead. There were a few cars parked but not like the numbers from the weekend. The Cove was definitely not the place to be today unless you like being buffeted about and frozen. We headed for the circuit and since we were last around this way, which was probably only a week or so, the tri-cornered garlic is out in abundance and a few Spanish bluebells have bloomed at the foot of the footpath up Mayon Cliff.
Up Mayon Cliff into the sun.
I did some tidying up when I returned to the shop. We are already amassing cardboard and plastic wrapping and we have only just started for the season. We are also gathering other forms of waste and our big commercial bin, which was already half full, was brimming at the end. It is a good job that I have asked for collections to recommence from Wednesday. One thing I had overlooked was the additional stock wastage from our extended closed period. When I checked the dates at the end of last season, we were due to open in March, now it being April we have more groceries that have gone out of date in the meanwhile including nearly thirty litres of fruit juice. That was some fruit cocktail down the drain.
I sat, tortured by guilt while the Missus labourer downstairs and I merely watched some television. Did I 'eck? I was up and working while the Missus snoozed in the morning. All is fair in love and shopkeeping and we have to do it all again tomorrow.
April 4th - Sunday
It very nearly was not someone's day today. It also turned out to be an object lesson on why outboard motors come with kill cords.
The bleddy hound and I had not long returned from our morning run down to the beach and I was enjoying my first cup of the tea of the day while cleaning up and posting yet another page of Diary. I did not see the initial problem but something in the Harbour must have made me look and I just caught a runaway RIB thumping bow first into the Harbour wall. The boat rebounded and turned, narrowly missing the erstwhile crewman who was floundering in the water. I think we both breathed a sigh of relief.
The boat headed out of the Harbour and did slow turn to port, completed a full circle and heading out to sea again. This time it went straight as an arrow heading in the direction of Brisons. A second RIB that had launched a little earlier tried following on but it had two on board and a smaller engine by the look of it and stood no chance of catching up. Fortunately, the runaway did another slow turn to port and headed into the rocks under the car park. I lost sight of both the RIB and the followers on as they went behind the Lifeboat station.
I paused, waiting for my pager to go off but there was little the Inshore could do at present. This is when I saw the duty Coxswain arrive and assumed that he had an advance call from the Coastguard, so I went and met him. It turned out he was here only coincidentally, so I apprised him of the situation and we both went into the car park to see if we could establish what had gone on subsequently. The crewman of the runaway had caught up with his boat that had come to rest amongst the rocks. He had shutdown the engine and was attempting to push the boat out to sea, which he eventually managed. We trusted that this time he had attached his kill cord, which would have stopped the engine when he initially fell out and saved him a whole bucket of effort - not to mention avoided the possibility of the boat running over him.
I returned to finish my cup of tea. So, if you are wondering why your eagerly awaited episode of tales of everyday folk was late, I could not possibly tell you, but it explains why The Diary was late this morning.
I was full of assumptions today, 'eagerly awaited' being the first. The second was that we would be heading to The Farm at some point as it was such a luscious day, it would have been very rude not to. I knew, however, that it was of great importance that we completed the two grocery orders before we went as we would not want to do them after we got back. Also, if we did not do them today, we would have missed the boat and the shop could not open for another week because we would have hardly any groceries to sell.
The Missus is usually lead on the grocery front but on this occasion I decided to head down to the shop to prepare the list. It is also different this year because we are switching some supplies to the new supplier and picking up new products along the way. One of the main problems with the original supplier is that they could not supply and there is nothing worse than a supplier that cannot supply. In particular, it has failed us on several important non-food lines, such as soap and toothpaste and many toiletries, too. These we could not pick up from our alternate supplier as they are food only, but they were doing a good job in filling the food gaps that we had.
It was after I had made our lists, including all the things we thought that we could not get that I retired upstairs to check the online larder of both suppliers. I ventured an Internet query to see if there was anyone out there who could replace our non-food lines. I was very surprised to see in the list returned, our stationery supplier. I knew they did some household goods but it transpired they did most of the items we were after, although we would have to compromise a bit on pack size and brand. The items were a little more expensive, but we expected that.
So, it was with a song in my heart and great expectations that I headed to The Farm with the Missus. While I laboured long in the shop, she had gone over to St Buryan to fetch Mother so there was not hanging about when she arrived back home.
My sole aim for the day was to complete the beehive - oh, and not look in the cupboard under the sink, just in case. I fully expect that my Farm opportunities from this point forward will be very limited until the end of the season, so I wished to make the most of the day.
All I had left to do, and I really wish I had not used the word 'all', was to complete the last super, which would have been more appropriately finished on Wednesday, and make the roof. The base and stand come complete and just require the varroa floor and drip tray slipped in and there is a queen excluder and hive top to insert. I set to with the super, as I had done those before and the roof looked the most complex of all the structures so far.
I had closely examined the instruction video during the morning and referred to it again - several times - during the build. The roof frame is less robust that the other sections and it took some dexterity, which I possess in toothfuls, to glue and nail together, ensuring the corners were square. That done the laths need to be nailed in to strengthen it. This is where the story really starts, dear reader, for the reality on the ground started to depart from the instruction video and the instruction sheet.
There is a round hole at the gable end of the roof and the gable end lath is supposed to sit underneath it. It is also supposed to be half an inch from the base of the roof and in the video that works just fine. On the example I had in front of me, half an inch had the lath passing straight across the round air hole. If I dropped it, the structure would not sit securely on the roof so, stuck, I asked the referee for her decision as to where it should be nailed. We elected to have the lath cross the hole, which was almost certainly the right move.
It did not get a whole lot better after that, either. The apex batten required some pernickety measuring and angling of the nail going in, which I got completely wrong and bent the only four two inch nails that I had. Then, having been using one inch screws with abandon, realised that some of them were wire nails and not lost head and were for the aluminium roof. Fortunately, I had enough wire nails left to do the job and supplemented them with a few lost head nails, which still worked regardless.
At the very end, I placed all the constituent parts together only to find that they were from three different types of hive. I jest, of course. The finished article actually looked like a hive, thank heavens. The frames, where the honey is deposited, still need to be made and that rather looks like a labour of love and there are so many of them. I may well have to enlist the help of the Missus for that.
One complete beehive
The Missus has taken to naming the hives. The first was after Mother and her Father, Horrie and (H)Ivy, which I thought quite inspired and this one, the Missus decided to name after the Aged Parent, maternal division, and is calling it Barbee. She will paint the name on the side, happily long after I have left the party. I just hope that she finds time to put it into production.
We hurried home where the Missus cooked a roast dinner in record time. I think both Mother and I were exceedingly impressed. As usual, when Mother is with us, we sat up at the table for our tea where we can look out across the bay. The evening was just as ridiculously fabulous as the rest of the day had been, but it had been a tad cool in the breeze for most of the day and in the evening the temperature had started to dive.
There were a few sea birds standing on the rocks down by the tide line, the rest seemed to have drifted off. I spotted quite a few black backed gulls directly in front of us, which is very lucky for you, dear reader, as I do not know any jokes about black backed gulls.
April 3rd - Saturday
The year is really bowling along, helped by another glorious day in the offing with the sun poking me in the eye from over Carn Olva as we went out first thing. For all that sunshine and blue sky it was some sharp, aided by a brisk north easterly breeze and that continued for most of the morning.
How to make friends, lots of them at once.
I slipped over to St Just early doors as the Missus had some clever plan for cooking a meal over an open fire at The Farm in the evening and needed supplies. I went early, partly to avoid any potential crowds - I dislike shopping on a Saturday - and partly because I fancied one of the butcher's very excellent pork pies for breakfast. All of nature was alive and vibrant in the strong early morning light and by a stroke of luck the sun was not in my eyes at any point in the journey.
When I returned, the Missus had the bit between her teeth in some rabid preparations for the meal and an early start up at The Farm. My only plan of the day, to continue beehive building, was being slowly elbowed out of the way by additional activities such as installing the rainwater system to make the tap work in the cabin. To be fair, this had been on the cards for some considerable time and the wiring was already in place and the holes in the cabin wall, already drilled and filled with pipework.
It was where I started after we arrived at The Farm and since most of the wiring was already there, it did not take long to set up. What took longer was drilling a hole into the top of the IBC so that we could pump some water into the tap's reservoir. I was a little taken aback that the whole thing worked first time. It was not until later that my little moment of triumph was trampled into the dust as I discovered that the cupboard under the sink was soaking wet. The tap connector was leaking at the join. We scouted around for some plumbers' tape, which we thought we had but none could be found. The tap was back to its original use for the moment, an ornament.
In the meanwhile, I had set about finding and starting on making the beehive super. What I did not appreciate earlier is that the super is the same as a brood box, although the way the Missus has it set up is that the brood box, of which there is one, is bigger than the other supers in the hive. So, not really caring whether I was making a brood box or a super, I set about making the box that could be called either, but in the Missus's case, only the large one was going to be the brood box. I did that first.
If you are confused, dear reader, think about me; I was making them.
As with the far simpler lift, the super comes in a kit but with more pieces that have to be constructed in a particular order. Also, some of the clearances are important when it comes to putting in the frames later on. What I also should have appreciated sooner was that I needed some wood glue. I had spotted a bottle with a nozzle at home and meant to bring it with me but since I had spotted it more than 24 hours earlier, I had forgotten all about it. I realised that I had not brought the bottle when I got to the stage of needing the wood glue.
Fortuitously, we have a five litre container of wood glue at The Farm. Not very fortuitously, it is almost impossible to apply the glue from the container, even decanted into a smaller container, in an accurate and non-liberal sort of way. I discovered this by trying to. Happily, the water leak in the cabin had resulted in a whole roll of kitchen towel being soaked through, which was exceedingly handy for mopping up spilt wood glue.
At the earliest opportunity, which was before I commenced the second super/brood box which was definitely going to be a super because it was smaller, I dropped back home to collect the bottle with a nozzle. This I discovered was blocked and took about twenty minutes to unblock. I sensed some hidden force working against me, here.
Between gluing and water disasters, the Missus and I has a go at tightening the polytunnel polythene at the back of the tunnel. This had worked loose through successive big blows, so we made attempts to secure it a little better than it was before. With the polythene doubled up in the fixing groove it is very difficult to bend in the stiff wire securing loop. It is even harder to put a second securing loop in, which we discovered adds a good deal of resilience to the fixing. We managed only after we had both had turns and pressing the wires home.
The Missus had started to prepare for cooking by the time I started the last super, which on reflection I should have done on Wednesday, but I estimated I had time for it now. The process required the Missus to construct a chulha, which originally was a horseshoe shaped clay oven, covered in dung. Being only a stone's throw from a waste water treatment plant, we probably had better access to one of the ingredients than most but sadly we had no clay. The Missus found some old bricks with which she fashioned the oven and used some twigs for the fire.
As I watched the Missus labour over the new, steaming pan precariously balanced over the makeshift fire pit, sorry, chulha, I could not help wondering why we had spent about a month researching and half a fortune buying, a new gas propelled barbeque. For my own sanity I dismissed such thinking and for my own safety, kept very quiet and went instead to fix the water intake on the cabin sink tap.
I had brought some plumbers' tape from home where it was lurking close to the wood glue and had already wrapped it around the inside of the connection. I had to try twice to get the wrapping thick enough but on the second attempt the connection seemed much more secure. I was just about to start screwing tight the jubilee clip when I was alerted to a conversation on the radio scanner that we routinely have on in the background. The Coastguard was assuring a vessel that their failed engine would not be a problem as the Coastguard would ask the Sennen Cove Lifeboat to come out and assist.
We all know that Lifeboat shouts do not happen when you are casually lazing about doing nothing with no commitments for the foreseeable future. No, Lifeboat shouts happen when, you have organised a barbeque, sorry, chalha; you are just about to open a beer; when you are about to screw tight a jubilee clip to repair a leak and/or all of the above.
Given that I was in a field a half mile from the road and a further mile to the Lifeboat station, I made haste even before the pagers had been fired off. My pager sounded just as I was passing the shop at the top and well on my way down to The Cove. I am very rarely in a position where I have to drive to a shout, but I am well aware of the problems that others have.
We have no blue or any other colour flashing lights to alert other road users and pedestrians to our cause. Some crew do have a visor sign that says we are on call that cars in front are unlikely to be able to see. We must obey the rules of the road, no speeding, but it does help if other drivers on the route do not slow down to look at the view or take umbrage to an urgent beep of the horn and actively seek to impede your progress. At the height of the holiday season it is ten times worse, where cars are parked along the length of Cove Road and sections are single file. I was lucky, and only had a few slow drivers in front of me, but I had a flavour of it.
It was not the most urgent of launches, anyway. The yacht that it turned out to be, was in sight of the station with sails set and heading north. They elected to be towed and when asked where they were headed, replied Plymouth, which was in the direction they were heading away from. Nevertheless, the boat took them in tow back to Newlyn and made good time in getting there.
We returned to the station for around half past eight to set up for the boat's return. We had already done the lion's share of the work as we guessed which slipway would be required. In doing so I noticed that the terns had multiplied and a five or six were sitting on rocks nearby. They looked like they had been here before; many happy reterns.
As the boat's lights hove into view at around nine o'clock, we were sitting twiddling our thumbs with all our work done. For once we were gathered in numbers, which made light work of what appeared to be a textbook recovery up the short slip. The boat was all tucked up and we were away by close to half past nine o'clock. We are, after all, a very ever ready, very excellent Shore Crew.
Despite the hour, I forced down the beer that I had promised myself earlier in the evening. Just after the launch I had returned to The Farm, much because tea was up there and so too were the Missus and Mother. I just had time to finish screwing up the jubilee clip and to ascertain that the leak was fixed. I could not think of a better reason for being worthy of a beer at half past nine o'clock.
April 2nd - Friday
I girded my loins today against the possibility of disappointment if it turned out to be really busy today. I suspect that it could have been as both car parks were busy and the ice cream parlour reported some good business. During the few times I was in The Cove, however, the street looked remarkably empty and the beach was not exactly packed with revellers, so I took comfort from that.
The weather held together well. Blue sky dominated the day with fluffy white clouds dotted about here and there, sometimes bigger than you would have wished for on a day with a bit of a chilling north easterly. Despite the light breeze, it was not as cold as we had been led to expect and I found myself stripping off layers again up at The Farm in the afternoon.
We had not particularly leapt into the day with vigour and urgency. In fact, the morning was quite sedate after a bit of a blistering exercise session that I was pleased did not leave me in a groaning heap. We ambled up to The Farm after collecting Mother and pottered about a bit, the Missus trying out her new hardcore brush cutter on the strimmer and me setting to with the first of the beehives.
I was keen to get at least one beehive finished before I became a grumpy shopkeeper again. The Missus struggled a bit last year with just the one hive and all the growing going on but unfortunately, the honey is the only thing up there making any money at present and needs must. At some point the tax man is going to ask to see some return on all the investment we have claimed in the name of The Farm, although I am hoping that he is rather more busy on bigger matters than ours.
The company from which we purchased the beehives has produced some very useful videos demonstrating how to construct the various elements of the hive, of which there are several. I discovered that this was just as well since the instructions that came with the packets were just a little basic. I would have struggled had I not watched the film before I read the book and thankfully they did not change the ending.
Since I did not know what was in each box that has languished in the barn for some months, it was something of a lottery as to what I would start with. Just my luck and a very good reason why I do not buy lottery tickets, the first box I picked out contained the feet and the roof bits, neither of which need anything doing to them. I was a little luckier with the second box, which gave me a little lift, in fact, a whole box of lifts. I had hoped it would be super, as I thought supers would be a lovely place to start but supers are more complicated and perhaps it was for the best that I got the lifts instead.
The kits seem to be remarkably well constructed, requiring only to snap the sides of the lift together and to use nails from a supplied bag to secure them. There was some care required in making sure the dovetails were closed and the corners at right angles but otherwise it was straight forward. I managed to build four lifts in two hours before I had to finish off for the day. One of the packages was missing the screws but luckily, we have some spares in the tool shed that suited. Hopefully, I will have some time tomorrow to be super with the supers.
I would have continued a bit longer into the afternoon, but I received a message in the morning telling me that the delivery that I thought I was getting yesterday, was turning up today. I left the Missus and Mother behind as I went to attend to the delivery. They were content to carry on with planting and knitting. If the plants do not grow, we can always sell shawls and scarves.
In all it had been something of a glorious day. When I drove down the hill to The Cove it could easily have been a high summer day except for the empty spaces on the beach. The sea was a flat as a dish, which probably gave the Lifeguards no pleasure at all on their first day of operation since last year. I was there at the wrong time of day but there was no one at all in the water in the morning or in the afternoon when I returned.
There were, I observed as we sat and had our tea, several flocks of sea birds out across the bay. Many were too far off to see exactly what they were but closer in, sitting on the breasting buoy, was a lone tern. I could get a good geek at it through out powerful binoculars. The beach had nearly emptied completely on a pressing tide but for our Coxswain, his missus and dog out for a stroll along the tide line and a few smaller groups - I presume less than six - possibly having a picnic tea. When I looked back, there were two birds on the breasting buoy. I assumed one was a retern.
April 1st - Thursday
I was expecting much the same sort of day as yesterday, not due to reading any weather forecast the previous day but simply after having several days in a row that are the same, that is what I expected. Imagine my surprise when the bleddy hound and I were nearly blown down the road when we stuck our heads outside the door.
It actually looked very much the same as yesterday that added to my surprise, although the mist had largely gone, leaving behind a bit of a heavy haze hanging in the air. The wind was not that cold when I stopped to examine it in detail but because it was whistling in at such a ferocious speed, it seemed much colder than it was. It stuck with us for the entire day and into the evening and seemed to be increasing as it went. Thankfully it was easterly, which is not something I am usually thankful for, but it is kinder on the polytunnel from that direction.
The plan of the day was to fire off a few more orders before most of our suppliers closed down for the long weekend then hold firm and wait for the orders already placed to arrive today. Well, what a waste of time that turned out to be. The first promised order was clearly someone else's, which I did not appreciate until I was putting it out on the shelf and the second did not show up at all.
The day was not an entire waste of time as I set to doing some preparation things in the shop. The Missus, heading to The Farm with Mother, took some boxes from an order dropped yesterday as well as a heap of cardboard, which helped clear the decks in the shop but there is much more left to do. She also helped put out the out of date drinks that I meant to do a little while ago. I had planned to be a bit more organised than just putting them out on a bench and was going to get the Missus to put a message on FacePage so that everyone had a fair chance of getting some. As it happened, most of it disappeared during the afternoon as there were quite a few passers-by passing by, helping themselves.
It is too late to worry about it, as the shop will definitely not be opening until next weekend, but there are stirrings that suggest it may be a brae bit busier this weekend. The weather is looking half decent, too, if a little cooler than we might have been used to of late but if local visitors are arriving, they are hardy souls and will not care too much. I rather put my money on the 12th being the start point but I never was much of a smart gambler.
In preparation for when we do open and because I had little to do else while waiting for the deliveries, I started to wash down the shelves. Ideally, I had hoped to get the order that turned out to be wrong out of the way on the shelf but that turned to dust before it began. Nevertheless, since I had the bucket filled and the cleaning gunk in it already, I set about doing as many shelves as I could in the time I had to me. In fact, I could have done quite a bit more but when I looked at the clock it was ten minutes to four. Having been fooled by that once already and knowing that the shop clock had not been put forward an hour, I packed up my chattels and locked up. It was not until I had thrown away the cleaning water and gone upstairs that I realised that the Missus must have corrected the shop clock when she was down earlier.
Still, it permitted me to sit about and not do a great deal. I did manage to get through to the company who had delivered the wrong order, which they are now resolving but clearly that will not now be until next week. I spoke with the Aged Parent who had slept for 24 hours after his second vaccination. That is the modern world for you, everything must be done in such a rush. The last person it happened to was a princess and she slept for 100 years after getting her jab. I do not think there was some 'ansum prince involved either, just the fact that he was getting peckish for a bit of tea.
My tea time was no fairy tale, either. The Missus was so wrapped up in being at The Farm she forgot to home until late.
March 31st - Wednesday
It was difficult to tell whether our windows had steamed up or it was actually misty outside at first glance. It was the latter, which came and went all day.
Again, like yesterday, it was not an unpleasant day and our walk around the block was another peaceful one with a bit of chill hanging in the air. The sea state seems to be calming down although it was still coming over the wall first thing, aided by the high spring tides.
I curtailed any exercise this morning as I had been over zealous in my exercising yesterday. I did give it a little try, but it was clear I should give my creaking parts a bit of a rest, which is why I scheduled in moving another ton of earth with our friend and neighbour from up the hill later in the day.
In the meanwhile, I took all the rest I could muster by sitting on my behind and preparing to spend lots of money. It is the time of year when spending lots of money is a bit of a tightrope walk about when to place an order, when we expect to receive some money from selling it and when the bill is likely to come in.
This year is complicated by a cascade of events due to the dreaded lurgi and piled on top of an existing shortage of containers in Asia - where most of your body boards and wetsuits come from. The UK has additional problems at shipping ports and many shipping companies are rerouting containers to European ports where the goods have to be shipped on from, adding extra cost. Expect your wetsuit this year to cost half as much again as it did last year if you are able to get one at all.
Fortunately, many of our grocery products are produced locally as are quite a few of our gifts. Since we have a new Westcountry supplier, even more will be locally produced this year. We will therefore have something to sell, which is comforting even if everything else will be in short supply and very expensive. I made sure that we have yet another local gin and rum on the way which is entirely made in Cornwall right from the base spirit up. I also note that the Aval Dor vodka, which won best vodka in the world at San Francisco last year, has come down in price but at present is not available. It will, of course, be double the price when it is available.
Much of this preparation for our opening was marking time waiting for an order to be delivered. Once it has arrived, I was free to run off to start earth moving again. I had expected the weather to be reasonably clement and had not bothered too much about additional layers. I am glad I did not because the layers I was wearing were quickly shed after the first load of earth was delivered to The Farm.
I have to hand it to my friend and neighbour who had, during the morning, filled around 60 bags of earth and transported them from his back garden to the front and had also already filled the trailer that I left there on Monday. He then shared the unloading and then the loading of a second and third batch, which was the last to be unloaded before we stopped for a cup of tea. The man has a few years on me and looked like he had just finished a bit of light dusting. Perhaps I should not have shared that as his missus might consider he has some spare capacity, sorry R.
We had sat on the decking at The Farm is a blaze of hazy sunshine, wishing that we had brought sunglasses. There was a bit of a breeze to cool us off but the cabin itself was roasting. We have discovered that the cupboard under the worktop where we keep the fresh water, is a bit of a natural refrigerator and the water bottles come out nicely chilled and dripping with condensation in minutes. I wish we had discovered this before investing in a quite expensive solar powered cold box.
It was warm and sunny all the way down to the brow of the hill winding down into The Cove. From there I could look down at the swirling and patchy mist filling the bay. We sat for a while by the Lifeboat station, chatting with our neighbours who were sitting in the hazy sun that was able to break through from the west. After the sun dipped behind Pedn-men-du, the temperature dropped quite sharply, which was convenient as it was also time for tea.
I am hoping for a rather less physical day tomorrow. I know, what a wimp. One day they will make a man of me.
This just arrived hot off the press - an artist's impression of the new Sennen Cove wind farm. There will be 'ell up, for certain.
Wind Farm in the bay
March 30th - Tuesday
If we thought we were cramming in as much as possible to each day so far, today simply took the biscuit.
The day itself had been flagged up as being the hottest, loveliest, sunniest day in creation and, of course, the forecasters got it completely wrong. Well, they might have got it right somewhere, but here at the bottom right, it was not quite as spectacular as we had been led to believe.
That is not to say that when I ventured out with the bleddy hound it was less breezy than the day before and it was mild and there was no rain falling from the sky. It was a bit on the cloudy side, mind, with the sun fighting to get through the haze filled cracks in the thicker cloud that surrounded them. I cannot say that it was not exceedingly pleasant, but I also cannot say that it was the day of startling gorgeousness that we had been promised.
I had volunteered some while ago to assist at the range ahead of it being opened for shooting again. The weather had taken its toll of the sand in the butts where a crust had formed and the rain had driven rivulets down the face in a number of places. The plan was to break up the crust and loosen the sand by forking it over before piling up the bits that had slipped by shovelling it up from the bottom. We were to meet at ten o'clock, which was a sensible enough time to start and the expectation was that we would be there for several hours.
As instructed, I took along a garden fork but from my experience in the field, I also took along my big wrecking bar, which had proved invaluable when breaking up the earth on our planting strips. There were six of us on the butts and eight in all gathered for the work party, which allowed us to spread out sensibly. It was somewhat different from the field in as much as the field is flat and the butts are in the region of 45 degrees. This made some difference while trying to fork or use the wrecking bar, especially when sliding down the loosened sand. My expectations, however, were correct and the wrecking bar made the forking over much easier. Without so much as an instruction or suggestion given, we fell in with me breaking up the sand and the others following up with forks.
We had started fairly immediately after we arrived, much at the same time and within an hour and a half we had completed the task. This was something of a surprise to us all and especially the person that organised the working party who had no further use for us. It was rather energetic work and we had set about it with some vigour. It was tiring, for sure, as we were all relying on each other and no one let up for the full hour and a half. I cannot say exactly what it was, but I found the whole episode immensely enjoyable in such convivial company.
We said our farewells, especially as I am unlikely to be able to attend the range now until the end of the season, and we went our separate ways. The Missus, who collected me was especially surprised as she had not even started the jobs she had set out to do today. She had gone over to Mother's to strim the garden edges - that is edges and not 'edges - and to cut the grass. Since we had the pressure washer to hand, she also intended to clean the paths and, at the end, suggested that we stayed an enjoyed the first barbeque of the season while we were there, it being scheduled to be such a stonkingly good day an' all.
So, as it went, with my services readily and unexpectedly available, I could go about cutting the grass and the Missus could attend to the pressure washing. Except she did not and did the weeding of the border at the front instead. This was a big mistake that we did not fully appreciate until later.
The small lawn mower that Mother has is quite suitable for her neatly trimmed back garden lawn. The Missus had seen to it earlier in the season and it was just in need of a small, short back and sides. The grass at the front was a completely different nest of hedgehogs entirely. The grass had clearly not been attended to since grass was invented and although Mother's section was slightly shorter, the neighbour's section, whose grass joined on and would have looked daft or churlish not to have cut as well, had antelope running through it.
I think even Mother's lawnmower winced at the prospect of ploughing through the frontage, but the eyes of expectation were upon us and there was no backing out now. The other slightly worrying thing about Mother's electric lawnmower was the number of points along the flex that had been wrapped with insulating tape. Even where it disappeared into the machine was frayed and the inner wire exposed. I drew a deep breath and blessed the fact that I had elected to wear rubber wellies, albeit ones with steel toe caps.
The mower made hard work of the thick clumpy grass. In the upper reaches of its canopy, the grass was dry but deep below, where no light had seeped through in centuries, it was damp and difficult to cut. The stretch probably took as long to cut as six men took to turn over the sand the butts at the range. So damp was it that it refused to be blown into the grass box at the rear of the mower and just spat itself out in clumps to the side of each pass.
It was not until I eventually finished that the Missus set about with the pressure washer, washing the paving at the front of the bungalow. While she was doing that, I was enjoying the ease of mowing the back garden. This was probably as well, since the water and the electric mower with a cord of questionable integrity was certainly not a good mix. When the Missus announced she was moving operations to the back garden, I made my excuses and headed to town to buy a replacement flex for the mower.
Mother's back garden has drainage issues. We know about this. It probably would have been the best plan to pressure was the flagstones at the back first allowing time for the water to drain while the front was washed. Hindsight being what it is, the Missus ended up starting our barbeque in a fairly deep puddle while we waited inside for the output. While eating outside would have been pleasant, it was getting a little chilly, so perhaps it ended for the best. The first barbeque of the season would certainly be memorable.
So, too, would be the journey home. We had decided to drop the pressure washer and the strimmer up at The Farm on the way home, so the Missus detoured through Crean and Crean Bottoms for a change. May blossom was out in abundance along the hedgerows, and it was not even April, and in several gardens squat little fruit trees were in full bloom. It added a splash of colour other that the yellow of gorse and daffodils that we have been so used to and in the setting sun looked utterly splendid.
The sun was just touching the horizon when we reached The Farm to tuck away the tools. Since the greenhouse had not been attended to for a couple of days, we stopped to water the seedlings while the bleddy hound roamed and stretched her legs. I promise that proper sitting down had never been so welcome when we eventually got home.
March 29th - Monday
It really was an ugly ducking of a morning. When I looked out of the window first thing, I hardly gave the grey and misty vista a second's thought but, oh, what carelessness.
We were pressed to walk around the block by the burgeoning spring tide that had invaded the beach. It made a change and we will be compelled to do it for the rest of the week, too, I imagine. Today, it was quite mild but there was a bit of a breeze going on from somewhere or other but it clearly was not that remarkable to be accurately recalled. Apart from a bit of nonsense from the sea, it was proper peaceful about The Cove with only a few gulls for company. These were herring gulls in some abundance, but they must have been newly adult as their plumage was exceedingly white. I suppose their mummies told them to look respectable for the visitor influx we expect in a week or two.
I was in two minds about undertaking some exercise as I had lined up a bit of physical effort later in the day. I was either going to be at my peak of fitness by practicing first or I would have reached my peak and be careening down the other side. I decided to cast caution to the wind, especially as I had avoided such exercise for a week and undertook a blistering session.
By the time I had finished exercising and prepared myself, the day had evolved into a beautiful swan. The sun shone down from the clearest of blue skies and there was a light breeze to sooth the increasing temperature and to keep the flies off my beef sandwich. It was the sort of day to go and see a friend and help the earth move for him, in a socially distant sort of way, because that is the sort of people we are in The Cove. It had come about after an absence of conversation of some three months - we know how to do socially distant here, I tell you - where he had told me that he was carrying out some renovation work. The message, clearly in code, asked if we needed any earth for up The Farm. I quickly worked out that the cypher roughly said, 'I have a geet pile of earth I need to get rid of and you look like the sort of eejit I can convince to take it away for me'.
He was right, of course. We need earth for up The Farm as the Missus wanted some to cover the cardboard in the polytunnel and I was the eejit to go and get it for her. It was either this or have the additional effort of digging up our own earth and since our friend had already dug his up, it seemed a contract of convenience that we take his away.
I arrived in the early part of the afternoon after going up to The Farm to get the trailer from the barn. The earth was already in neat bags in the front garden, around 50 or so of them and all we had to do was load them onto the trailer. First, I had to go through the embarrassment of trying to reverse the small trailer into his garden. To be honest, the first attempt was not a complete disaster, the second was worse and the third, not bad at all. I did manage all three manoeuvres without breaking the light cluster, although I did notice that our fog light is now hanging from its cord having been broken previously.
We both showed our mettle, his looked shinier than mine, and we shifted the whole lot in two loads, although we did have to pack in the second a little. The Missus requested that we pile up the earth at the back of the cabin. It will have to be moved again from there to the polytunnel but by that time I shall be a shopkeeper.
It seemed right that after shifting much of Mayon up to Churchtown that we repair ourselves with a cup of tea and sit on the new decking to enjoy the sunshine. The job is not yet done, and I will return during the week, hopefully to shift some more and practice my reversing with a small trailer skills.
I had expected the Missus to be in full swing inside the shop, cleaning the shelves as she told me she intended to do. Instead, she was on our steps painting the black edges with the bleddy hound in her bed at the bottom of the steps, keeping guard. She had also painted the high bit behind the bins, in white, thankfully, and thus all the frontage now looks spic and span for a new season or five on a slowly decreasing scale of spic and spanness.
Even at six o'clock, the day was still bright, making the white of the sea, of which there was plenty, looked very white indeed. It was white all the way from Cowloe, where it danced and leapt about to over the wall and into the Harbour. Further out in the bay it was the bluest of blue set off by the brilliant white of the towers of spray lunging up Creagle and Aire Point and all along the cliff in between. The high spring tide was even banging up the wall by the OS but not quite coming over and down in front of us there was the frequent splash of white as spray shot into the sky. It was definitely more entertaining than the prospect of the news, so I watched the sea instead.
I am very pleased that we have a sitting down and downing nothing for a few hours in the evening. My head needs to stop jangling with all the things that need doing before our O-Day and the usual hubbub that surrounds the shop being open once more. It will start jangling again tomorrow, but as Scarlet knows, tomorrow is another day.
March 28th - Sunday
I had pencilled in doing the painting today, but I had heard the wind howling in the night and when we headed for the beach it was definitely breezy. Last time I did the painting with a bit of a breeze on, the windows ended up flecked with white paint where it had blown off the brush. I was eager to avoid a repeat, so I concluded painting was postponed.
My defeatist attitude kept me sitting at my desk for most of the morning updating the website. You are now able to peruse the bus times and see what hours we will be opening the shop for, all things being equal, you lucky, lucky people. I am also looking forward to updating it with news of our new grocery products we will have on the shelves but I will wait until I have pictures. Mind, if it is as busy as we expect, I will be too busy selling the new products to update the website with them.
The longer I sat at my desk the more frustrated I became about the painting. I decided that I would do something rather than nothing and mopping the floor before returning our door mats seemed just the thing. The welcome mat and its companion that sits behind the counter are those clever ones that attract the dirt or more accurately, sand, from people's shoes and ferrets it away somewhere in its clever fibres. The Missus pressure washes these once a year before we open and it is utterly amazing just how much they conceal. We had left them outside during the night to dry - and also because we had forgotten they were there. When I picked them up they were at least half the weight they were when I loaded them onto our shopping trolley ready to be washed.
Having motivated myself enough to get off my behind and actually do something, I turned my attention to painting again. In my view, the breeze had diminished a little but also, I told myself, with the wind in the west I could at least paint the eastern pier and the concrete at the bottom of the windows. There, any wind blown flecks would land on next door's new pale lime frontage. That would serve them right for painting it in the first place and shaming me into painting ours.
I have no idea if I started in the late morning or the early afternoon because some clever Alec messed with the clocks last night. It is the first time in close to twenty years that I have been able to get out of bed without getting up an hour earlier.
Anyway, I digress. Now, where was I? Ah yes, starting to paint. Of course, having got going with the painting, it seemed churlish to stop. I was quite surprised that the dribble in the old tin of paint lasted for the whole of the eastern pier and the footing of the easter window. Having got that far I thought I may as well risk it and try to finish the lot, which I subsequently did. Not a spot fell on the window but a geet dollop went on my shoe and there were other spots on the Missus' lovely clean pavement and steps, too. I cite François de Charette and his breaking eggs for omelette - although he said it in French.
I did not do the wall behind the bins on the premise that it was too difficult. Had I started earlier, I might have attempted it, but it is a little high and will require standing on a ladder rung higher than my personal best whilst holding a paint pot and brush. When I took the bleddy hound out just before tea, I observed the whole from the other side of the road and concluded that it looked silly. I will have to man up and paint it - or get the Missus to lady up.
I went and collapsed on my seat for a while after painting. It was not cold out but the constant breeze was a bit wearing as was the constant stippling of brush on granite. I had been aware of it but had not consciously acknowledged the increasing thumping of the waves during the afternoon. Looking out across the bay the heavy rolling ground sea was getting into its stride. Over Cowloe was a mess of white water and waves were regularly crashing over the Harbour wall. At Creagle and along to Aire Point white plumes were climbing up the cliffs. I am guessing there will be a bit of a game of hunt the lobster pot when the sea calms down and the fishing boats can get out again.
After my exertions, our roast beef dinner was very welcome. All of it came from a few miles away including all the vegetables from the Polgigga stall. Along with what we are saving on diesel, it is a big win over shopping in Tesmorburys. Perhaps it will catch on.
March 27th - Saturday
I did say that plans were fluid today, which is probably why the Missus ended up using the pressure washer to scour down the front of the shop.
The bleddy hound had me out of bed early this morning but it was bright and the clearish blue skies gave the sea a welcome look about it, even if it was stirred up. It must have been lumpy at the last high water as all the sand on the Harbour beach was wet and cleaned all the way up to the slipway. We are also building towards spring tides, so no wonder that the fishermen had pulled their boats up to the top of the slipway the previous day.
Happily, the wind had diminished from its big blow yesterday. We were able to stick our heads around the Lifeboat station corner without being bowled back. It also gave me some hope that I would be able to start the painting of the shop front, though I had not yet checked the condition of the paint that I knew lurked in the store room somewhere.
The Missus wrong-footed me by getting up early and telling me that she had booked the bleddy hound into see the veterinary doctor at half past ten for a regular procedure. She went off leaving me to my own devices and, sometime later, wondering if I had a suitable paint brush for the stonework out front, I sent a message asking her to pick one up but it was not until much later that I thought to check the paint. There was only a dribble left in the can and far too late to ask the Missus to pick one up. In fact, she returned with a tin of paint and I wondered if she had read my mind, but it was not to be. When I last painted the white at the front, she intended to paint the black edges on our steps. That never happened. There is a likelihood that it will not happen again, but we can always use the black paint on the wood at the front when our work is eventually started.
I hurriedly telephoned Clemo's Stores in St Just that always has everything and luckily they had one pot of the good white masonary paint left, so I booked it. It was close to their closing time, so I bolted over to St Just to pick it up but when I returned, set on parking up, the Missus stopped me and told me that she had decided to jet wash the front instead of cleaning the shop shelves. This made sense that I could paint clean surfaces whenever I could schedule in the work, so I left her to it.
I shut myself in the shop while the Missus squirted away; it is one messy business and wet, too. I busied myself with pricing the latest delivery, although I could not put much out as the Missus still has to clean the shelves. The other half of my job was to mop up the water seeping in under the first electric sliding door in The Cove. Occasionally, when the Missus was pointing the other way, I stole a look at the progress she was making. It is quite astounding the difference in the pavement between the washed and unwashed; it is as stark as black and white in some places.
With the bleddy hound getting restless and getting me to shift her from the window to the floor and back again, I gave up and retired upstairs. Since the Missus was occupied, I prepared the tea and then looked to see if I could find some hangers for our wetsuits. This is problematic in two ways. First, we have hangers coming out of our ears and that is after dumping large numbers in the bin. Unfortunately, none of the ones that we have left are robust enough to support heavy wetsuits, apart from one set that we have used for the hooded sweatshirts. It seems gratuitous to buy more when we have so many but I get fed up during the season trying to find ones to hang the wetsuits on that do not subsequently break or buckle. I found some metal ones but I will wait until I have conversed with the Missus and checked with the supplier about their suitability.
I have been quietly working away in the background building shopping lists with other suppliers. I do not wish to be too self-congratulatory too soon, but with deliveries planned for the week before we open we should be able to hit the ground running. All is different this year because normally we would open to a grand audience of half a dozen pensioners and a few truant children. This year our expectation is that we will be flooded from the first Monday - we will have the weekend, at least in some solitude and who knows, the Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company may also have realised that we are open after a couple of days.