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.
September 20th - Wednesday
As quiet days go, this one was quiet. It is entirely likely that the rain washed away the last semblance of sound from The Cove. Not all sound, of course; there was still the sound of rain pouring out of the launder that the Village Elder mended and also the sound of motor cars going somewhere else. Not even launching my breakfast, early in the afternoon, could raise any more than a few lost and wandering souls.
I did anticipate a few visitors arriving during the morning because the weatherman told us that rain would be arriving from early afternoon onwards. An hour after that broadcast the rain, or at least heavy mizzle, started in earnest. It is pretty rubbish forecasting when you cannot get the time right even when the rain was probably falling on the Sevenstones weather station when you announced it.
Fortunately, I found some things to occupy me while nothing was happening. First, a geet lump of fish arrived this morning, on the basis that our freezer was empty of fish due to the medium demand and the fact that not many fishers were out fishing during the poor weather last week. We only had four portions of cod left and a few scallops. Strangely, the cod is not shifting at all and it is starting to look like I will be eating it with Big Sis; the Missus hates fish. This morning I had an abundance of MSC certified hake turn up along with small fillets of haddock and pollack. I resisted the urge to run upstairs and smoke the haddock - or even the pollack - and vacuum packed the lot. They are now in the stock room freezer and will be ready for sale tomorrow - just in case you are interested.
Sadly, I managed to do my vacuum packing and labelling way before the pasties turned up, which was the next item on the agenda and even that was short lived. I had pared the order down to the bone for today and it appears that I was right to do so. We sold a few pasties, which was roughly what I had ordered. Eventually I got around to refreshing our stationery stock with an order that should see us into the new season. We have had a few orders that we would have preferred not to do at this stage of the season but the shelves, here and there, are looking a little bleak.
They reflected the current situation in the street and this is a day I would rather not see again, thank you very much.
September 19th - Tuesday
We started the day with a few dark and lumpy clouds around but out to the east was a warm glow that spoke of potential, proper sunshine and a bit of warmth. How right it was.
Morning warmth and telephone wires
We were not exactly inundated during the morning. Even by the middle of the day things were quite sedate and ordinary but it does rather seem that the lot we have here at the moment are late developers. It was into the afternoon before we had any sign of busyness and, really, it was not that busy then.
At least we were not disturbed by the air ambulance circling about today. Yesterday, I forgot to mention - which was just as well, else I would have had a big hole in today - that the air ambulance dropped in for a medivac during the running of our casualty care course. I did not find out until later, from the Missus, who has her finger on the pulse, metamorphically speaking, of the ins and outs of such things. She told me an elderly gentleman had come into the shop to find her engaged in having a small geek at the action on the beach. He told the Missus that it was probably for his wife. They had come down from the camp site for bread from the shop and had tried to traverse North Rocks with the tide coming in. Noticing that it was encroaching upon their progress, the lady of the party had gone barefoot to paddle around the rocks only to have a wave push her forcibly against them. The Lifeguards had brought her out on the jet ski.
The Missus suggested to the gentleman that perhaps he should be in attendance with his wife, especially if the air ambulance was about to whisk her off. Our gentleman thanked the Missus for her concern but they really did need some bread.
I have no idea of the outcome but if it happens again we shall be fit for it because we did the second half of our refresher course in the afternoon. Similar to bringing out my breakfast, having some sort of appointment or pressing engagement also has the effect of bringing out the crowds. The Missus came down to the shop about twenty minutes before I was due across the road; it had been relatively quiet until this point. Five minutes before I left, the street became crowded and the customers started piling in through the door.
The Missus said that she had been pressed in my absence but, typically, now that I had returned our visitors all had run away. She went off to do some shopping and to collect our van from the garage where it had been drained out, topped up and bits replaced because they had worn out. I know this because she very kindly brought back the bill for me to deal with.
We still had some stars to gaze up upon when I took the bleddy hound out. I was treated in the morning, too, just as the sky was starting to get light, sitting high in the eastern sky was a perfect crescent moon with and attendant Venus. I would have taken a photograph but I believe you need the right lenses and some cleverness; I have neither.
September 18th - Monday
We started the day with a bit of rushing about. The van is due its MOT at the end of the month and knowing how busy our garage man has become of late, I booked in back in August month. There is never any particular time pressure on how long the process takes and sometimes we get the van back at the end of the day and sometimes not. We have a loan car in the meanwhile which is good fun getting used to driving.
We endured a slow morning after I came back so the Missus took off in the loan car to take Mother shopping at the new Tesmorburys store in town. Perhaps I should start calling it Teslimorburys instead but as that is getting silly, just assume that it means all large supermarkets. It has promised to sell MSC certified hake from Newlyn but we shall see whether they can take it straight from the fish market or whether it has to do a five day round trip to Scunthorpe first.
In the afternoon I was scheduled onto a casualty care course courtesy of the RNLI. We had only just completed such a course about this time last year, if you recall. The last one lasted for four weeks and took up two afternoons in each of those weeks. Today's course has been billed as a refresher and contains the same elements of the original course - updated, of course, - but only lasts two afternoons. The new trick is that it will run every year and cycle through three years until we have completed all the elements of the original course. I do hope you are following, dear reader, as I would not wish to have to repeat myself. For those who have never done the course or, more importantly, miss any one of the refresher modules, will have to go off to Lifeboat College to do the whole course at once. I shall not be missing tomorrow's session, that is for sure.
It certainly turned out nice again in our afternoon. In fact much of the morning was not to be sniffed at. It generated a little more business than we might otherwise have expected and we were kept on our toes for a few hours. The profile of our visitors changes gradually during this period and we are experiencing a few more older couples and a wealth of additional dogs. We have always thought that the beach dog ban could well be lifted a little earlier; as if to prove the point every table at the OS last night had a dog under it.
You may recall, although if you do not I shall not hold it against you, that I attended a development session for the project to create a Tin Coast concept to drive tourism in the St Just to Zennor areas. We floated all sorts of notions and shared our knowledge and our passions, well, the others did, and everything was captured on bits of paper stuck to the wall. Well, time moves on and the team have not been idle. Today I had a message from the chief architect telling me that the website had been launched today. You will find this at www.tin-coast.net and a very splendid it is too.
Since the rest of the day was pressing in various ways it was only fitting that we had a bit of a five minutes to closing rush, to round off the shop day. Perhaps we might have a proper September, after all.
September 17th - Sunday
For the first time since the beginning of July I managed to get up to the range again. It was a spanking good day for it too, with a pleasant, big blue sky and hardly a breath of wind. It was quite crisp first thing and I could quite imagine some frost inland. Frost is a distant memory in The Cove but I was glad for a jacket as I took the bleddy hound around the block. There was some evidence that it had rained and quite heavily at that but I missed it all through my deep sleep that we innocents are famed for.
We innocents are usually spared the upsets in life's smooth running, so I shall be having words about being paged to attend a Lifeboat shout just as I had my 44 magnum ready for a Clint Eastwood moment. While I knew that I would not make the launch, being available to recover the boat is rather more important since it requires more man power. On occasion, recovery can be very shortly after launch but on this this time I could have stayed and finished my session as the boat was off to tow a yacht with engine failure from twenty miles north of Pendeen. I conclude that there was something else wrong, too, as there were plenty of yachts to be seen using the wind to move about.
Despite the forecaster's best efforts to convince us that we would have sunshine all day long, some dark clouds gathered in the afternoon and hung over us in a threatening sort of way. It did not rain but the menace was enough to spoil the afternoon.
The Lifeboat returned to The Cove just before five o'clock in the afternoon. By this time we had gathered a good number of us to help bring her in up the short slipway. It was fortunate that the ground sea and big winds of the last few days had abated. As it was, the sea was relatively calm and we managed to execute a pretty much textbook recovery after tracking the boat's movement over the previous five hours or so. We are, after all a very patient, very excellent Shore Crew.
To celebrate our success, the Missus decided that we, along with Big Sis and Mother, should head along to the OS for a spot of tea. I had thought about having a pasty but some small children had brought in a bucket full of Portuguese Man O' War, which, one of the party pointed out, look distinctly like a pasty - a purple one - and put me right off. They are not Cornish pasties, of course, as the 'crimp' is along the top, but I could see exactly what the maid meant when she told me.
The Missus took Mother home leaving Big Sis and me to drag the bleddy hound home. She behaves very well while we are all sitting down and will curl up under the table, it is just me standing at the bar with her that she really does not like. However, when we are finished she cannot wait to get out and get going. Trust the Missus to get a dog that does not like being in a pub; you might think it was done on purpose.
September 16th - Saturday
At last there are signs that the northwesterly blow is starting to diminish. It takes years of experience to spot the signs; it was not blowing so hard. We were told that there was still rain about but we were mercifully spared a repeat of yesterday's drenching of the shop floor until nearly closing time.
Some of the weed had been cleared from the Harbour beach to let the fishing boats out. While the sea state has calmed over the last couple of days I would have been very hesitant to slip out of the Harbour today on a small punt. On the big beach, even more weed had arrived overnight along with a fresh supply of Portuguese Man O' War. Fortunately, these are at the upper reaches of the beach. If you are cunning enough to wish a quick stank down on the sand at lower water you are probably unhindered, on the big beach, at least.
It was not the busiest day that we have ever had and I found myself engaging in the chores such as refilling shelves and hangers. Our hooded sweatshirts have continued to sell strongly, despite being now extremely short on sizes. Our order should arrive any day now, although I will probably have to give them a kick. Most of our sales, though, are groceries at this time of year and especially at this stage in the week. Grocery shelves have to be topped up more frequently, such as our fruited scones that were selling particularly well last week. I had to crow bar in the additional stock next to the plain scones which had run out.
Every now and then we are surprised by an unexpected question, or a request for something exotic, like grapefruit. Now and then things appear in the post such as an unsolicited book called, "Afowereets Owgun!" roughly translated as "Teach Yourself Northern" or more specifically, Staffordian of the Moorlands Village variety and signed by its author. I have not yet had time to peruse it properly but I have had a little dip in here and there. I will treasure it always and I will now have to produce yet another book to be able to return the favour to our Land Locked Staffordian friend.
It had started to look particularly grim by the time last knockings of shop opening arrived. We were told to expect some clouding over and it was certainly that. Glowering is probably the best description of the clouds hanging over Cape Cornwall and just before we closed it lashed down. We are promised sunshine tomorrow; I can hardly wait.
So in the spirit of détente with our Northern friends arl deck fufflin an git to bed fer arl git narky - there, like a true native ... of somewhere.
September 15th - Friday
What a whirlwind of a day. I do not know about the whirl but it was definitely windy in the morning and wet, too. It was one of the worst possible combinations, as well, with a sharp northwesterly and showers which blew directly through the shop doors. I had to be pretty sharp, myself, dashing out to move our postcard stands and the bleddy hound's bed before they got a soaking. It is not often that we are compelled to shut the doors but this was one of those occasions.
I had cleverly evaded the showers as I ran around the block this morning with the bleddy hound. We wondered at the Harbour beach that was covered from head to toe with oar weed. With Portuguese Man O' War littering the big beach and weed on the Harbour I do not think the bleddy hound will be running around on either in the near future.
Despite the inclemency of the weather we were blessed with a few customers many of whom were embarking on walks along the Coast Path. I am sure that there have been better days for doing so but dressed in the right wet weather gear it might have been quite, um, refreshing.
I held the fort until the latter part of the morning, whereupon I handed over to the Missus while I dashed to an appointment in town. The Federation of Small Businesses organises a round the table discussion with local MPs across the county. I went to one about a year ago and found that I was one of two local business people attending. On the basis of not wanting the poor chap to feel unloved and alone I signed up for this meeting as well. I also wanted to have a chat about the proposals regarding plastic bottle deposit schemes.
Now, it has been in the press recently that the people at Surfers Against Sewage had been banging on the door of the Prime Minister, carrying behind them a model of a boat made entirely from plastic bottles, demanding that a scheme be put in place. However commendable the sentiment might be I strongly suspected that banging on the Prime Minister's door was probably the easy bit and not one of the demanding surfers had cast one thought about how the scheme might operate. I, on the other hand, having been victim of other well meaning schemes had no doubt that some smart Alec sitting in an office, who had once seen a picture of a shop - probably a big Tesmorburys - would have all the answers about how the scheme would operate because he had read all about it once.
Our esteemed Minister, who backed the scheme's objective, also had failed to consider the mechanics that would be needed to deliver it. At least he appreciated the problem and graciously conceded some work would be required to make it work in smaller communities with small shops with no storage space.
While on the face of it a meeting with a Member of Parliament might seem the last thing a grumpy shopkeeper might want to do, I find it interesting if only to hear what else is going on in the world and what issues are forefront of an MP's mind. There are still many rumblings about business rates and quite rightly too - it is a shambles - and, in this neck of the woods, immigration and access to the right sort of labour. Did you know that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly produces 75 percent of the world's daffodils? That is not to be sniffed at.
With the weight of such weighty matters weighing heavy on my mind it was only right and proper that Highly Professional Craftsperson and I take ourselves into town to witness a proper banding at the Acorn art place in the big city. The main band were a rock group playing their own rock music. They were supported by no less than three other acts of varying musical types including a gospel singer and songwriter. Another was billed as a young lady singer and songwriter from Newquay, Cornwall, which is apparently on the English south coast - ouch!
Now in retrospect, the first girl was a youngster featured on the evening news as a local sensation. She was very good but would benefit from some professional coaching and direction, perhaps. The second, I had heard lots about and was not disappointed with her and her small band playing pop/rock with her voice leading the group. The penultimate crew consisted of a singer, complimented by a backing vocalist and a band singing gospel, country rock harmonies, which sounded excellent. The last ensemble was a traditional bloke rock band that was slightly better than average and a penchant for rhyming lyrics such as, 'I had an itch/it was a son of a bitch'. It is the last time I shall take the Highly Professional Craftsperson on such a sojourn of cultural delight; he hated every minute, apart from the intros of the last band, lest, of course, I can find some cultural wasteland through which I can drag his sorry carcass. What can you expect from a self-confessed psycho-rockabilly concert goer. No, me neither.
September 14th - Thursday
A small shower passed through The Cove just as I was about to go downstairs to start work. It made me grab my light waterproof - yes, I have a light and heavy waterproof for different sorts of rain - as a precaution. It had stopped by the time I went out of the door and was the last we saw of the rain all day. It continued to be blustery, mind, and straight in the door. Usually, I would be quite sheltered behind the shop window but on this occasion the gusts were circulating in the shop; I had to succumb to my Lifeboat jacket to keep out the cold.
It was not our busiest day for the time of year but it was not the quietest either. It is, however, completely impossible to gauge bread and pasty volumes so I have resorted to wild guesses instead and resolved not to hate myself for throwing away bread and pasties when I get it wrong in the wrong direction.
Yesterday, the RNLI lifted its warning about Portuguese Man O' War jellyfish littering the north coast's beaches. It was the same day that they started to come back in abundance. Today, one of our regular visitors told me that she counted 150 in a relatively small area of beach and while some had clearly been there for a while, some were brightly coloured beasts, fresh from the sea. I would guess that they are something of a menace to beach users as the stingers will continue to sting even when the creature has expired. I would advise anyone planning on visiting the beach to wear a pair of aqua shoes. Did I mention we hold a good stock of aqua shoes in the shop?
The gentlemen of the press have managed to label them as lethal, bless them, because on a bad day, if you were a poor swimmer in a rough sea with the current in the wrong direction, were 104 years of age and in poor health, there is an outside chance that you might succumb if you were stung while swimming. For ordinary mortals it, apparently, is just extremely painful. I will keep the bleddy hound away as she was stung by a different and less venomous model earlier in the year and limped for days afterwards.
Our Lifeboat training was cancelled in the evening. Although I was at yesterday's meeting for only an hour and a half the others were there far longer. I suppose it might have been reasoned we did not want to do that two nights running, especially as the sea conditions made launching the Lifeboat unlikely. It is not so much the launching but more the getting it back in again which is the problem. Despite having a world class, very excellent Shore Crew, getting the boat aligned with the keelway on the slip is probably like trying to draw a straight line when the paper is moving and someone is constantly jogging your arm.
I repaired to the OS, instead, for a world class spot of quizzing in a much reduced field from the ones we have been used to. We have still to see the gathering reduce to the point where we can sit at a table, which demonstrates just how many people are still about. It made absolutely no difference to our performance so I am fortunate that I have a shouty bleddy hound to vent my frustration on the sleepers of The Cove after we return late at night. There were stars in abundance and a bit of Milky Way, more visible from the darkness of the car park. There were a couple of planets about but I forgot to see which ones they were; maybe I will get the chance again tomorrow night.
September 13th - Wednesday
The large majority of our customers, nay, all but a very few and seldom, are polite and friendly. In the main, they are on holiday, so why should they not be. This morning's happy chap very kindly enquired after my health, which I told him was fair under the circumstances. In return, I told him that I had great respect for a man who could walk the streets and, as it happened, the Coast Path, with a toilet seat strapped to his back. He explained that he and his partner were in the middle of potty training their small child - also strapped to his back, the small child, not the partner - and saw no reason to curtail the arrangement just because they were walking abroad. I shall look forward, in a couple of decades, to the quirky news story of the person who will not leave the house without a toilet seat as they were trained to do in infancy. Although, in Cornwall, it is almost a necessity after the much maligned council closed half the public toilets.
Allow me, by way of comparison, to juxtapose this visitor with another who entertained me later in the day. I had been asked by one customer to bake a half baguette for her, something we are pleased to do to order, now that we have ceased to bake them as a matter of course. It takes no more than fifteen seconds to extract a baguette from the freezer, place it on a baking tray and slip it into the oven, including setting the timer and switching it on.
It was during this fifteen second interlude that I was hailed from the shop by a lady asking if anyone was serving. I told her that it was highly likely that no one was serving at the till because the person who would be serving at the till was serving another customer by placing a baguette in the oven. Vexed, she told me that she only asked because she had been waiting for ages and that she only wanted a stamp. Such was her hurry that she paid me in the smallest coin she could find in her purse, extracted one at a time, most likely in a selfless effort to save my change.
We were a tad wrong footed by another dickie weather forecast but the afternoon was bright and clear, if a bit breezy. We were not half as busy as we were yesterday, not even bringing out my breakfast did the trick today. Our seas are still stirred up but not quite as badly as they were earlier in the week. The waves brought in a few visitors, some to watch the spectacle and some to dive in and try to surf in it, although it was not the best surf we have ever had. More entertaining was the military contingent who must be completing their mountain leaders training. It is a signature of being near the end of the course that they must complete a climb from the Harbour wall ladder to the beach, preferably without getting wet, along the face of the wall.
Bright day; big seas
The main excitement of the day was a meeting with one of the top RNLI bosses. She has been visiting several stations to gauge opinion after a big organisational shake up and the implementation of a new IT system. As these events go, this one was very well attended, especially as it was a work day afternoon when it started. Unfortunately, as I had told the Missus that I would be half an hour, I had to duck out one and a half hours after it started. The Missus thought it quite a hoot that I had underestimated the time and teased me dreadfully about it. Oh, how we laughed.
September 12th - Tuesday
Rain was battering on the skylights first thing this morning; it sounded quite heavy. It had only just stopped when I went down to the shop to start work. Out to the east there was a very dark cloud, notable by being darker than the darkness all about it, that I took to be the culprit. Looking out to the west it was not at all clear whether it was the last of the rain or not so I felt very silly washing the last few days' salt from the windows. I would have felt particularly foolish had it rained on me with hose in hand but fortunately there was no one about to see me even if it had, which it did not.
Despite the sparkling clarity of morning, and it was the best first thing we have had for a while, there were very few people about. Having not been able to send a package out yesterday I took off to the post office in St Just, as I was going that way anyway, early doors. It was still no busier in the shop when I returned half way through the morning. There was only one thing for it and almost the moment I placed my breakfast roll on the shelf behind me a group of customers came through the door. There followed a string of happy shoppers for the rest of the morning and right up to when the rain started in earnest, which - completely at odds with the forecast - was not until late in the afternoon.
You might have thought that a cash strapped, much maligned council's arm's reach organisation would have been a bit more careful. After all, they are part of the group concerned that the old and vulnerable do not answer the door to strangers. Mother repelled a caller, because she is a wily old bird, and because he was not expected and did not carry anything to identify him. He came from Plymouth and will now need to come back. The Missus checked with the much maligned council's arm's length organisation today and he was a legitimate workperson. He was lucky he was not savaged at the door.
I had a conversation yesterday with someone I cannot now remember who. We wondered what impact the raging seas of the last two days would have had upon the beach. I watched with interest as the falling tide of more placid seas revealed the beach. On the face of it, nothing much has been taken away, for which we should be grateful. However, it was more to do with the acreage of weed that has been left behind, which if not taken out by the next big lump of sea, will have matured nicely by the time half term is upon us in six or so weeks' time.
It was a close run thing but I almost acquired a social conscience of late. Fortunately, the daft world at large has beaten it out of me just in the nick of time. Looking back, I might have been a rye grass blade away from becoming a vegan.
I had read in the press that the old pound coins are being rather stubborn about coming out of circulation. Even on Radio Pasty it suggested that goodly shopkeepers should do their bit and stop handing out the old coins and instead keep them to be changed at the bank. On the basis that we do not ever bank coinage, I reasoned that we should collect old pound coins and have Big Sis change them into new ones on her regular trips into Penzance. In this way we would be doing our bit and not have too many piled up when the drop dead date of 15th October comes along.
Today I thought it would be a good idea to test drive the process, as Big Sis dropped by on her way into town. I gave her just the one bag to see how it would go and all being well would buy her a wheelbarrow for next time. I basked in the glow of righteousness for the next hour and a half. When she returned she told me that the bank had reacted with some surprise and, effectively, told her not to be so silly because the coins did not stop being useful for another month yet.
I place this alongside our battery collection initiative, where we still have a box of batteries that I cannot throw away nor will they ever be collected. I cannot transport them myself for fear of being arrested for illegal transport of toxic waste. So, that is it, no more Mr Nice Guy, putting my tin cans in the right box and scooping my dead lettuce into the compost and only eating beans to save the world from the scourge of cattle farming and methane production - other than my own. No, henceforth I shall be brown, not green.
Actually, I was heartened after a call to our commercial waste collection company. During the summer we collected the little hangers from which dangle our aqua shoes and in some abundance, thinking that we might use them again. We did not and ended up with a shopping basket full of them. I asked our company, which already charges us separately for cardboard collection, about collecting our plastic. The very pleasant man at the end of the telephone said that, indeed, they could set up a separate collection but for the volumes we were talking about it seemed scarcely worth it. He suggested putting our plastic waste in the general waste collection, instead. I told him that it would be a shame to landfill such waste since we had studiously kept it separate, despite my new found disregard for any environmental good doing. He wasted no time in correcting my assumption in telling me that all our rubbish put into our commercial bin was sorted for recyclable materials, despite it being all in the general waste bin. How very progressive and simple, I thought.
I now, of course, have a dilemma. Putting my waste into our commercial general waste bin in very much akin to being green, which I have avowed through my disappointing experiences to eschew. I am in torment.
There is only one thing to do if you are in torment, so I did it. I have a bi-annual get together with an old chum at the OS and today was one of those two days. Given that I was there and we have not had them for a while I brought back some of their rather good burgers in cheap, non-recyclable packaging, which we could throw carelessly into the bin. It was the right thing to do and completely aligned with my new life philosophy.
September 11th - Monday
At half past four o'clock this morning there was deathly hush in The Cove. At that time the tide would have been mainly out, so that would explain the absence of the sound of waves banging about. The wind, however, had been howling previously and when I got up an hour or so later, it was howling some more. There was no eye of the storm to pass over us, so I have no idea what happened to the wind for those few minutes of nocturnal lucidity; perhaps they were no so lucid, after all.
If time and the elements had stood still for a while overnight, they were making up for it when I took the bleddy hound around the block; her ears were flapping like the flag in the RNLI flagpole. The sea was churning in turmoil and throwing itself with mighty force over the Harbour wall. Later, someone asked if the red flags on the beach meant not to go into the water. I told him, very much so and why. I was surprised at the question; even at low water, the sea hardly looked benign.
There were a fair few people about today. Whether it was just wave watching that brought them here or the improvement in the weather. The bleddy hound and I were caught first thing in one of those fine rain showers that will soak you through before you know it. After that, The Cove seemed to miss anything else heading this way and by the middle of the morning the skies cleared and we had something of a glorious day, if you were minded to ignore the thirty to forty miles per hour wind heading in from the west - and many were.
If the weather had been better this week, I think we may have had a bumper time of it. All this up and down busyness rather encourages some slack behaviour on our part. There is still some time before the gender neutral person with weight issues starts to sing and it is not yet time to rest on our laurels - even if we had any.
September 10th - Sunday
Once again we find that the weather is nothing like the forecast that we looked at yesterday. Indeed, the forecast for the day is completely different too. This is really not what you would call a forecast, is it? I know that Land's End Airport and other professional bodies, such as farmers, get a more detailed and accurate forecast which they pay for. My theory is this, that the forecast that we, ordinary folk, see is deliberately wrong so that there is value in paying for a right one. If the free one was right all the time there would be no point in paying for one, would there.
Our morning was grey and bland with enough wind to blow our flags out of their holders at the front of the shop. We have not had them out for three days now because of the breeze and its direction. When I put them out it seemed to be ok but no more than ten minutes later the wind increased and seemingly changed direction. There were a few light showers about, too, but not as many as we would have been led to expect. Despite a forecast for a brighter afternoon, we had more gloom and a few more showers instead.
Something else I did not expect was a visit by a character from Whitby, which is somewhere northeast of Camborne. You might recall, through the forest of drivel in this frivolous journal, that I had a call about three months ago from an aged gentleman from the very same northern town. He was seeking a very specific item of serpentine, made into a table lamp. I had made enquiries and pointed him in the direction of a very helpful Cornishman who owned a shop located in the town of Lizard on the Lizard peninsula but the request was so specific I doubted that our man could help.
Three months on and an aged gentleman with a northern accent popped his head in through the shop doorway about half way through the morning. He mentioned a serpentine table lamp and asked where the shop was that sold them. I had an odd sense of déjà vu but things did not fall into place until the gentleman mentioned that he had actually managed to acquire the table lamp. He was looking the shop that had acquired it for him to thank them in person. I told him I recalled his telephone enquiry to me and told him where the shop was that I passed him onto. Upon repeating the information I gave him to ensure he remembered it, he left without a word.
It is as well that we do not provide these services for thanks or appreciation; it is sufficient to know that we have done a good job that has a value to the enquirer. There lies our satisfaction. Is this a good time to mention our new enquiry and consultation service which will be provided after just a small donation to the shopkeeper's ball fund; we have found it overcomes gratitude issues.
While I may be a little distrustful of the weather forecasts of late, I decided that it was worth tying up our wheelie bin. I have heard suggestions that there is a bit of a blow expected from the lump of low pressure up to the north of us. I think I might leave the flags where they are again tomorrow, as well.
Just about tea time the sea was winding up nicely and we could hear the gusting wind. Autumn is here, I think.
September 9th - Saturday
It was strangely light at my new usual getting up time this morning; it has been so dark all week that I have needed the light on. It was also light enough to see that the sea had been stirred into more action that it had yesterday and, while the day before it was floshing over the Harbour wall, this morning it was doing so considerably more forcibly.
Floshing over the wall
I was in two minds about wearing a jacket to walk the bleddy hound around this morning. It was breezy but not particularly cold. I elected to wear it in the end and judged that I was slightly more comfortable with it than I would have been without. The bleddy hound already has a woolly jacket but her ears turned inside out.
I spoke at some length with our first customer of the day. He had been running the cliff path early doors and had got wet under a passing shower the other side of Land's End. It had missed us completely but turned out to be a trademark of the morning with sunny spells interrupted by the odd sharp shower of rain.
We were remarkably busy in the morning. I do not know if it was an influx of day trippers or the next week's contingent of people staying locally. I shall, no doubt, discover this tomorrow if I see the same people again. There was certainly several returning holiday makers, so we are hoping for a buoyant week. Sadly, the afternoon was not quite so busy, perhaps it was the incessant north westerly breeze that put people off. It certainly took the edge off the temperature and sent me scurrying for a jacket half way through the day.
Although we had a last minute surge in the shop there was no real upturn. Despite this I still ran out of bread earlier than anticipated. How was I supposed to know that the crowd this week are bread eaters and do not overly care for a pasty. I find it so hard keeping up.
The trauma rather forced me to return to the OS later in the evening to bear witness to the band, Overdrawn. We had seen them before so we must have judged them worth seeing again. In the first half this was difficult to imagine why but by the second half matter had improved enough to wonder if it was us, them or the beer.
On the way down to the OS the sky was clear and I was looking forward to a stroll back, gazing upward at the stars. By the time we walked back the way, the sky had clouded over and there were no stars to observe. As I ran the bleddy hound around the block I wondered if it was us, them or the beer that obscured our view.
September 8th - Friday
It was quite hard to avoid the rain since it rained on and off for most of the day. The bleddy hound and I were caught out first thing and it was quite plain that she would rather have stayed in bed. In fact I had to drag her kicking and screaming out of the bed in the first place, when normally she is waiting by the bedroom door for me at the due time.
The rain had cleared out a bit by the time I went down to the gymnasium, which was late in the morning. It started again, however, after I had returned and stayed for an hour or so, keeping the dust and our visitors down. At least it did not come with a thick bank of fog and it was possible to see the shapes, like torn cotton wool, of the cloud formations. Standing out in front of the grey, like little white lights, were wheeling and diving gannets.
As it was a dull day and the customer visits were few I decided to do something about out telephone top ups that have not been working since our card payment machine was replaced several weeks ago. The service has hardly been missed and we have lost only a few transactions in that time. It is fair to say that it is hardly worth having, especially as we earn less than three pence in the pound from it. All the same, I am glad that we chose the service over contactless payments, which we had originally and sacrificed for the telephone top ups. The sheer volume of people who believe that the service is costless and permits them to make purchases for frivolous amounts is quite formidable. It is also quite good fun watching people try to remember their PIN numbers.
Anyway, I digress. Now, where was I? Ah yes, fixing our telephone top ups. Now, there are three companies I can choose from, four if you include the company that rents us the box, and it was fairly good odds that I would choose the wrong one to call, so I did. The very pleasant young man at the telephone top up company at the very outset asked for our terminal identity number.
From memory, this is a number so secret that it takes hours to find out what it is and requires telephoning at least two of the three companies involved and both will come up with different numbers. Because of this I had written down the terminal number from a previous experience and it is in our little book of facts that we keep under the counter. Unfortunately, I did something very silly and let logic rule and suggested to the very pleasant man at the telephone top up company that the terminal number I had written down was most likely to have changed when we had our machine replaced. Naturally he agreed.
I have no idea what manual he was working from but the buttons he was asking me to press on the card payment terminal to find out the terminal number bore no resemblance to the buttons I actually had in front of me. After several failed attempts, he told me that I had to call the company with whom I had the contract as they would know where my terminal identity number was. The number they gave me did not look anything like the last terminal number I had and I told them so. I was told that was the only terminal number they had so I called the telephone top up company back. Naturally I could not speak with the same person I had spoken with already so I had to explain the problem to a new operative who told me that it was nothing to do with them and that I should call the other company, the one that runs the technical management of the service, and ask them, which I did.
Had I telephoned them first I would have saved myself a great deal of time and anxiety. They fixed the issue straight away, without a terminal number, which is what they should have done when we were switching over terminals all those weeks ago. Once the software had been installed it printed off a small status page. It showed details of the application version, the Internet Protocol address and, yes, the terminal number - the same terminal number as it was on the previous machine.
While we waited for our first telephone top up customer, the skies cleared. A few people came out from wherever they were hiding during the bleak hours but it was too late for any serious crowds. We had a bit of a flurry in the late afternoon, almost a five minutes to closing rush, half an hour early, which was quite satisfying and a few bottles of artisan liquor left the building. And so was emptied the first box of Mr Tarquin's rather jolly good gin just two days after it had arrived.
I managed to evade the last showers of the day when I took the rubbish out and again when I took the bleddy hound for her last run. It had been blustery for most of the day, so much so that I had to keep our flags inside. The evening was no different and the sea was thundering quite nicely. There is nothing quite like dozing off with the sounds of the banging sea in your ears, it is chief amongst the things I miss whenever I am away from it, which thankfully is none too often.
September 7th - Thursday
The Trinity House helicopter was to and fro all day yesterday and this morning it was at it again. It has been back and forth so often I am convinced that they are building a new lighthouse out there.
We, on the other hand, are struggling to repair our shopping trolley that we both use to ferry stock around the shop. I find it immensely useful in the mornings for taking the milk delivery down to the fridge and the Missus uses it for groceries. It has stood up to some punishment over the years and, in truth, really only needs new tyres on the castors.
Since tyres by themselves are not available, new castors was the way forward. Before I went ordering some I felt it to be a good idea to check the size required and in order to do that needed to remove the castors from the trolley. I discovered that I needed a socket extension bar to do the job and since I have been looking for a new shop tool kit, I decided that I would expedite the purchase.
This leads nicely to my first trip away from The Cove in many weeks, or at least, my first trip to the big city. It is always a bit of a trauma going beyond the top of the hill at the best of times but after several weeks of being secure at the bottom of the hill, it is a mountain to climb - so to speak. We are still, clearly, sharing the roads with many travellers and progress to town was tortuously slow - except for the only thirty miles per hour stretch through Drift, where the convoy ahead of me sped up.
Regardless of the delays I made it there and back with my new tool kit on the floor of the van, sloshing about. On the way into town I had passed a large number of catering trucks heading the other way and was intrigued. I detoured on my return all the way to Land's End where a small tent town had sprung up at the entrance to the attraction. There are hundreds of single person tents, set up in regimented rows and I rather suspect that this is the start of the annual coast to coast cycle run, where more than one thousand bicycles are let loose, hopefully not all at the same time.
So, there I was, fully armed with the necessary taking castors off a shop trolley tools and duly set about taking off the tyreless castor. This went very well for the castor at the rear of the trolley, however, the one at the front appears to be pinned in place with no discernible method of removal. I might ask the Highly Professional Craftsperson his considered opinion. There again I might just spend one hundred quid and buy a new one.
I have never considered my visage to be anything less than very ordinary - other than the boyish charm that it generally exudes, which is a clever trick for a grumpy shopkeeper. It therefore surprised me greatly when a very pleasant young lady, for whom I had baked one of our fresh bake-over loaves, asked if she could take a photograph of my face. I looked quizzical and told her that I was quizzical, in case it did not show, about her request. She told me that she was an artist and was always on the lookout for character full faces, although much of this alleged character was, apparently, due to my connection with the Lifeboat. I asked if by character she meant old, haggard and full of lines to which she very kindly demurred but insisted that I did not smile for the taking of the picture. This, obviously, generates an immediate and immovable grin that trying to remove, looks utterly false in much the same way as asking someone to smile who was not already doing so. I shall be eternally grateful that I shall never see the finished portrait, though legions of scholars in the years to come will be posed the question what gave the subject his enigmatic gurn.
Speaking of Lifeboating, I had been due to go to my first Lifeboat training session after the holidays last week but it had been cancelled due to the emergency launch the previous day. Therefore tonight was the first and due to the sea conditions there was no launch this week either. We met, nevertheless, to discuss falling off Lifeboats and how that is not to be advised and launching the Lifeboat from inside the station as opposed to dropping it down on the slipway.
After such excitement there was only one thing to do and that was to set ourselves under the calming influence of an OS quiz night. The soothing and soporific tones of the quizmaster along with a few gallons of narcotic liquor did the trick and we were relaxed as we ever had been. We neatly avoided the forecast rain, too, on the way on, probably because there was none. For this the bleddy hound and I were very grateful, although when we returned the Missus looked at me strangely. I put it down to my character full face.
September 6th - Wednesday
Alright, let me clear something up. The gulls out in the bay yesterday were predominantly juvenile herring gulls and black headed gulls, which apparently do not have a black head when they are young - how refreshing -, which in turn makes them look like common gulls and kittiwakes, which is what I thought that they were but felt silly about saying. There were in fact common gulls out there, too, which are quite rare and also Mediterranean gulls and if I could remember what colour beak and legs to look for, even if I could see at that distance, I might recognise them next time around.
It is amazing what you can find out if you ask a chap with a long telescopic, camouflaged lens on his camera and a pair of binoculars dangling around his neck. I also meant to ask why the camera lens was camouflaged but the binoculars were not. Perhaps the birds do not mind being looked at but cannot abide their picture being taken and spread over the Internet.
The joint was jumping by the time I came back from the gymnasium; I had left while the shop was still very quiet. In the meantime the sun had come out and so had our visitors - in abundance. It seems like this contingent were avid shoppers and we did some good trade through the early part of the afternoon. We do so love it when a plan comes together.
The Missus went off to Treliske again in the afternoon and I found myself a little preoccupied with forthcoming matters. Everything gets a bit tricky from now on because there are only something like seven weeks left until we close. While there is still ordering to be done we have to be careful what and how much to order. I am also suffering from post main season drift. It takes a couple of weeks to make yourself slow down, like finding how much to wind a clockwork toy so it goes at the right speed. Yes, rubbish analogy; who knows what a clockwork toy is anymore,
The bright weather persisted through to the end of the day, although there was a couple of dark moments toward the back end of the afternoon. Business slowed to a crawl, so it seemed sensible to pack up shop and go home. Maybe we will do it all again tomorrow and hopefully I will know how much to wind myself up by this time.
September 5th - Tuesday
I am sure that it was not very long ago that I was perplexed by the leaving behind of walking sticks in the shop. We had a gentleman in this morning who came sporting quite a posh one that stands up by itself if left unattended. This is how I found it two minutes after he left the shop. Given that it was such a short time between him leaving and me finding the stick I fully expected him to be not far from the shop but when I ventured outside to find him he was nowhere to be seen. A lady who had seen me come out of the shop with the stick, pointed in the direction of the RNLI car park so I headed in that direction. Our man was half way up the slope and I needed to run to catch up with him to return the stick.
In fairness, we know the gentleman quite well, having been a regular visitor since before we arrived. He was always an active person, undertaking long and quite arduous walks while he stayed here. I suspect that the stick is less a necessity and more a precaution as he is due a knee operation in the near future. I shall chase after people with sticks less ardently next time.
It took a while for the grey and mist to clear this morning and there was rain in the air from time to time. When the sunshine did arrive, it came with a bracing north westerly breeze that settled in the day long. It blew out any surf that might have been there as we still had that heavy ground sea in the bay. However, it was bright and it brought some visitors in and although we were not as busy as yesterday we did have some notable moments.
I am no longer minded to think that the birds in The Cove are manx shearwaters; on closer inspection they are closer to a kittiwake or common gull but without the black wing tips. There were a few herring gulls and, further out, a few gannets in the mix, too and today they were joined by a small band of great northern divers, diving greatly in the south. They are easily identified by their flat caps.
That was about it for our blustery day. The Missus took the bleddy hound and went out hunting blackberries; I had no idea the Missus trained her to do that. I understand it is thin pickings this year, although she came back with quite a haul. That bleddy hound must be some good at tracking them down.
September 4th - Monday
It was something of a foggy start, at least for those at the top of the hill. Here in The Cove we simply had our duvet over us again, keeping us warm but not so dry. There were short periods of mizzle and light rain here and there but I made it around the block this morning, unscathed.
I had set my alarm for a later rising again this morning and again I managed to wake up ahead of it. This is perturbing as, since the mornings have been dark, I have needed my alarm to wake me up. I discovered this morning that I can now probably get away with an even later start because the bake over bread that is so popular when we are busy has gone out of favour; I only needed a very early start to get the bread out of the way.
Although we had a very quiet start, the day blossomed eventually and brought out a host of visitors, many of the hailing from foreign parts. The shop was rather busy by the time I came back from the gymnasium and settled down to my breakfast. I had executed some snappy timing between getting back and going downstairs to smoke some fish. After the very mild smoking I ended up with last time I was quite determined to get it right this time. Oh my, did I get it right this time! A mixture of juniper, oak and alder that I will probably never be able to repeat, smoked for a bit longer than last time and finished in the oven. I could never get away with any clandestine smoking; I carried the waft of it with me for the rest of the day.
It had been a bit of a surfer's day today. The waves were large and robust and anyone who knew anything about what they were doing was out at North Rocks earlier in the tide. By the time high water came along toward the end of the afternoon the sea was a bit of a monster. It was banging up the cliffs at Nanjulian, Aire Point and even North Rocks was getting a bit of a pasting. Naturally there was a bit of a line up on the Harbour wall where the young had gathered for their thumping off the wall. They were joined by one less than young Welsh person who wanted to join in and be filmed doing it. I know this because we sold him the wetsuit he did it in. It seemed to have survived the fall quite well, although I could not vouch for the condition of the Welsh person.
At least it did not happen at the peak of the season but I must sadly report that after thirteen years, the wheels have come off. While it is quite easy to believe that the shop has come to grief I refer, instead, to the shopping trolley that we acquired when the old Jackson's Stores, now Costcutter, closed. It has provided sterling service, as it was fairly ancient when we got our hands on it. Since then it has carried the weight of cases of pop, piles of clothes and all manner of groceries, though not all at the same time. While it is only the rubber tyre that has fallen off one of the castors, given its age, finding a replacement will be difficult; I suspect that a ceremonial departure at Wheal Alfred is more in line.
Just when you think it is safe to leave your newspapers unattended I notice that my phantom newspaper tidy upper is back. He or she had raised the game, too, with the newspapers that normally sit on the floor now being placed in the magazine rack above. I shall be searching for castors and cctv cameras in my leisure time tonight.
September 3rd - Sunday
There were little fat birds dotted all over the bay, at least unwilling to fly and probably not daring to try and float; they were littering the big beach covering an expanse of sand. In the Harbour, absent from the food fight last night, a flock of cormorants floated about, dipping now and then.
It was not the sort of morning for feeding frenzies, or anything else for that matter. The promised rain for today had largely cleared through by the time I opened the shop and we had only been mizzled upon as the bleddy hound and I strolled around the block, first thing. We were left with a light mizzly morning, grey, with a blanket of fog sitting on the cliffs from Carn Olva all the way at to Cape Cornwall.
It had rained quite heavily overnight. I am not entirely sure that an overabundance of fish is one of the signs of the Apocalypse but I was certainly glad that it had not rained frogs, else I might have started to be concerned. Of course, if it had rained frogs it would not have leaked into the store room, which would have been a help. Fortunately, it was just a dribble and easily mopped up. Had I remembered to clear the drain I would not have had the problem in the first place.
I was a man on fire this morning, mainly as there was little else to do. The weather had seen to a vast reduction in customers so I restocked the surf jewellery stand. On the last order I had bought some overstock, which can be risky but in the main worked out. We could still do with another order as there are some serious gaps. I even made up a black list of the items we would not order again, being slow sellers and non-sellers including some of the items I had chosen for overstock, darn it.
Next, I moved onto to our hooded sweatshirts, which have been ransacked over the last few weeks. I had given up trying to replace missing sizes about three weeks ago as I could not keep up and we would pull any requested size from the stock room. It should have struck me earlier but we were quite short of the small and medium sizes and if I had thought about the likely customer base over summer, I would have bolstered the numbers of these sizes. Looking at what we have left, we need to place another order as soon as possible.
The Missus took our neighbour off to Treliske, visiting again in the afternoon. This left me to our less than busy day and more counting and thinking about orders that may have to be placed. I also managed to read a newspaper for the first time since about May. I wondered why I had bothered but there are some interesting articles, since it is a locally orientated newspaper, the Western Morning News - did I tell you I once had a review in the Western Morning News?
Going from busy to quiet in such a short space of time is quite a change to get used to. I have set my alarm for later but still get up at the old time. I have also rediscovered how little there is to watch on the television, too; I shall have to get a hobby - maybe write a book.
September 2nd - Saturday
As pretty little mornings go, this one was pretty pretty. We had sunshine and a little bit of warmth to head off the slight chill of the breeze and with the tide out and the sea placid, it was still. Out in the bay there are still some shoals about it appears guarded by a few dozen white dots, which I took to be seabirds.
I know that the sand eels have been driven onto the shore in places but I found a few up on Coastguard Row this morning. Let me be a bit more precise; the bleddy hound sniffed out the sand eels stuffed into a crevice by a van wheel. Fortunately, the crevice was a little too small for her snout, so for the second morning this week we were saved from a skanky, fishy bleddy hound to live with.
It was deathly quiet in the shop, first thing, too and I began to fear for the guesstimated pasty and bread order I had placed. Then, at around half past nine a horde descended upon me acquiring parting gifts and presents for rabbit carers, plant waterers and Aunt Gladys who could not come because her haemorrhoids were giving her gyp. What I would like to know is what happens if the rabbit has expired, the plants are nothing more than twigs and Aunt Gladys was lying about the haemorrhoids and has run off with the milkman? Do you thank the responsible parties politely and eat the fudge yourself, eat the fudge in front of the responsible party in a look-what-you-could-have-had sort of way or give Aunt Gladys' biscuits to the dog? Somethings in life will remain a mystery and probably quite rightly too.
Shattering the quiet in the shop was mother and small child and small dog. Small child had clambered all over the log bin outside and had a play with our nets. According to mother he had set his mind on a ball, which she then bought. In the meanwhile, small child headed down the newspaper aisle and small dog, unsure what was happening, stuck its nose in here and there and looked confused. Small child was eventually caught, which was against its wishes and unleashed hell. The scream, I am certain, is in a dossier somewhere on weapons of mass destruction. One customer has filed a suit for burst ear drums and I was very glad I was not wearing my false ears; it was truly deafening.
The Missus, when she came down to the shop, sent me off upstairs for a bit of a break. This is quite normal but what is not is that I see the Lifeboat being lowered onto the slip for launch while I am breaking. I had quite forgotten that it was Cape Sports Day, notified to us yesterday on our pagers. Saturday is notoriously difficult for crew and when I arrived at the station I discovered that Head Launcher had to go back to work and the only other member had been co-opted onto the boat to fill their shortage of crew. This left me and the winchman to wait for the return of the boat at around half past three.
Fortunately, there was enough water about to direct the boat onto the short slipway. Here we can use our new, clever extendable pole that the Boat Crew can pick up without assistance. Even with just the two of us we managed to execute what was quite possibly a textbook recovery by cleverly ensuring that we were in two places at the same time. We are, after all, a very ingenious, very excellent Shore Crew.
We were disturbed in our relaxation time in the evening by the squawking of a host of birds out in the bay. When we got up to have a look we saw a host of birds, squawking and while they were squawking they were having a bit of a bun fight down ion the harbour over a feeding frenzy on the sand eels there. There was another large group in the middle of the big beach. It was hard to tell the bird type due to the loss of light, possibly some sort of smaller gull, while a few herring gull swooped about trying to get in on the act. In all our years here we have never seen anything like it.
I spoke with a kayaker, earlier in the day, who told me that when he put his oar in the water he thought that he had got into some weed. When he looked closer it was millions of fish. Big Sis relayed a report from her friend who lives at Penberth. She told of being able to dip a bucket into the water and pull out mackerel, there were so many.
The birds in the Harbour were disturbed at one stage and where they vacated, the water was boiling with fish breaking the surface. Tomorrow I expect to see little fat birds dotted over the bay, unable to fly and barely able to float.
September 1st - Friday
We were blessed with a sparkling little morning. There was a cool breeze blowing in from somewhere and I hesitated about wearing a jacket when I took the bleddy hound around but by the time I got back I decided that it was not that cool after all. The day just blossomed after that with big blue skies and white fluffy clouds dotted here and there. Hot it was not but sunny and good enough for what was for most, the last day of the holidays.
Along with the fair weather we had a goodly crowd of visitors, pushing the boundaries of their holidays to the very limits. There was also a bit of fishing going on, some kayaking and a little surfing. The tides are not kind for beach dwelling this week with the sand covered for most of the day with sea. This does also not work too well for crabbing, which is mainly a low water pastime in The Cove. It is possible to drop a line or a drop net off the end of the Harbour wall but it can be crowded out there at peak times and with small children it is not to be recommended unless you have a few spares.
Humans were not the only ones to be out and about today. I spotted a flock of terns over by North Rocks and quite animated, they were. Do not worry; I will restrain myself from usual collection of tern puns on this occasion. I suspect that they were after the sand eel, maybe, being driven into the shore. They all came over in a bunch to visit just below the chip shop moments later, then settled on the water. They had disappeared later and I went across the road to see where they had gone. They were all settled on the rocks doing not a great deal. On reflection they might have been manx shearwaters and I definitely do not have any puns about them, Perhaps they were waiting their tern - sorry.
We watched the lazy sun dawdle on its way to the sea while we ate our tea. We can do that now that we close at six o'clock - or try to. For the last couple of days we have had last minute shoppers whose last minutes were after we had shut the doors. Anyway, there we were watching a yacht in the distance when a large pod of what can only have been dolphins, traversed the middle ground, er, sea. I do not suppose that there are many places where you can eat your tea and watch dolphins. Lucky, ain't we?