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.
July 14th - Saturday
As busy days go, this was a busy day. It was also sweltering hot as I discovered later on. It was not that cool when I ran the belddy hound the block early this morning, but it was spectacularly sunny and held much promise for the rest of the day.
We were busy from the moment I opened the shop doors. A flood of happy shoppers burst through the doors; I can only imagine that they had camped around the corner overnight so that they were not disappointed. I do not think we disappointed anyone today, as we had stock of most of the things we were asked for. The only exception was an Arabic young man who could not produce any identification in order to buy cigarettes. He came back later with his father who was also rebuffed as it is illegal for an adult to buy cigarettes for someone we suspect is under the legal age. They were quite insistent but clearly had no idea how resistant to insistence the Missus is.
I had planned, after a year of waiting, to go on the guided tour of Boscregan Farm, where the wild flowers purple viper bugloss grow. Its website told us to be there on 14th July at two o'clock and so I was. When no ranger appeared at the agreed time, I took a stank down the lane, which eventually comes to an abrupt end at a sizeable cottage. A footpath goes on from there, which after taking me through a muddy bower, petered out in the middle of a dried out field. I was within striking distance of the farm but without a clear idea of the path, I had to make my way back.
The little walk that I did demonstrated just how hot it was today. Down there in the valley, there was not even a breath of wind and my, oh my, it was hot. I would have still enjoyed a tour around the farm, but I suspect that I would have been nothing but a grease spot by the end of it. Although I was a brae bit disappointed I did get to see some of Nanjulian valley, the little stream that runs down the middle and the monkey puzzle tree, which was a bit of a surprise.
I checked the website again when I got back and discovered that it stated the meet was on "Friday 14th July", so it is highly possible I missed the rendezvous by 24 hours. I have written to the National Trust to tell them of my bitter disappointment and the expensive therapy that I will need because of it. I await developments.
Our busyness eased off in the afternoon. This gave us the opportunity to clear some of the excessive orders that had arrived during the end of the week before the crowds re-appeared toward closing time. I had looked earlier at the large camp up at the top of the beach but with a high spring tide there was nowhere further for them to retreat to.
We are starting to struggle with volumes of beer. We were not supplied some of our order last week and this is due to the ammonia factories, which supply carbon dioxide to the drinks industry, closing down all at once at the start of a global heatwave. This was not helped by the fact that one case of beer that we were supplied, and which appears to be the most popular brand this week, had been dropped before it got here and is unusable. I am just waiting for the prices to go up, which I am not sure will make much difference. I was reminded of an old boy in a pub in Dublin when the price of Guinness was hiked many years ago and everyone was moaning about it. He said, "I don't care how much they put it up, as long as they don't stop making it."
July 13th - Friday
It occurred to me, as I cooked rather fewer baguettes this morning, that there was a rather large L & L shaped hole in The Cove. There were rather more small gifts on our toy shelves but most of all there were two big Gaelic smiles missing, which is a terrible thing to be without. They slipped away - I was about to say quietly - in the evening for the long drag to somewhere called Scotland, which is north of Camborne, I am told. I saw the grandparents just before they left this morning; I think two cars were necessary given the number of gifts L & L had acquired during their holidays. It is always a moment to see such happy people go.
Obviously, grumpy shopkeepers do not dwell on such matters, lest people think he might be losing his grumpiness. I shall instead refer to the weather that entered well above rip gribbliness in the charts right from the outset of the morning. A session at the gymnasium had me in tip top condition again after yesterday's almost coming to a standstill. I had been busy in the shop before I left, and the Missus reported that it had been busy whilst I was gone. It was a busy morning, then.
Over the last few days the Missus has been shelling peas. It is something that we, in The Cove, do in the summer to pass the time. The Missus is on her fifth five kilo box. On the occasions she has been behind the counter, she has shelled her peas there, too. A lady came into the shop this morning while I was serving and asked for some of the peas she saw on the counter yesterday. It took me a moment to associate the question with the ongoing shelling operation but then had to disappoint our customer by reporting that the peas are indeed, just for me - oh, and Mother if I am feeling generous. Yes, not Mother then.
I cannot understand why they taste so much better than frozen peas that are bought from a local independent frozen pea supplier when we are told that they are shelled in the field and frozen straight away. So are the peas that the Missus is shelling, although they have taken a day to get from field to our shop, but they taste so much better, well, they taste remarkably like peas. They are also very tasty raw out of the bucket that the Missus has shelled into but can be quite painful if a hand is caught in the bucket, sampling.
It was a wonderful day made even better when I managed to drop in two of my favourite rib ticklers. A lady came to the counter with a net and told me it was for her newts. I said that I had a pet newt once, called Tiny. Asked why I called it Tiny, I told her it was because it was my newt. Later a delivery man came in with a couple of heavy boxes. They had 'coffee cups' written down the side and I said that they were probably not for us. He told me the name of the company that had sent them, and I said that it was our stationery order. I said I knew it was our stationery order because since he brought them in, the boxes had not moved. I felt much better after that.
I sent the Missus up to Shrew House in the afternoon, as we had not had a restocking from there for quite some time. She came back with a van load at near closing time, so most of it will have to wait until tomorrow to be distributed about our shelves.
There was a bit of a scurry along to have tea and to get back out again. The Highly Professional Craftsperson and I had arranged to go to a musical concert at the Penlee Park open air theatre in the evening. It was our favourite band, Hanterhir, that we have grown quite familiar with over the years. They have now, after a long awaiting, released a rock opera - who thought anyone did those still - and we would prefer to get a copy from the band than some anonymous Internet connection but tonight was not the night. Instead, we witnessed a playing of the entire rock opera from start to finish with a small interspersing of fiddle and guitar playing by a fiddle and guitar player involved in the project.
The whole thing worked exceedingly well in the green space cut out among the trees - yes, trees in West Penwith - and I was not even that disappointed with the elderflower cider I was poured inadvertently. The band was supplemented with players that they had enrolled for the album and on occasion put out a wall of sound, pierced with flute tones or vocal highlights and here and there a violin or a saxophone. What a treat.
We repaired to the alehouse at the bottom of bread street that had captured our imagination earlier in the season, for last beers. It is a wonderfully old fashion public house and a pleasure to drink in - until the Missus came and collected us, which was also a pleasure, of course.
I shall probably regret going out and enjoying myself when we are as busy now as we would be during a normal summer school holiday week, but blow it, I can regret at leisure tomorrow.
July 12th - Thursday
What a mixed up and confused morning we had. I do not know quite what made it mixed up and confused but the walk around with the bleddy hound was the last normal thing that I remember. Subsequent to that I forgot to put out the cardboard for the recycling collection and had a nervous cup of tea looking out of the window in case the truck arrived. We also had a delivery that included taking back a case of beer that was wrongly delivered, but for some reason they had decided to charge me for a replacement case of the right beer then credit me for the returned beer later; it would have been much simpler to do a straight swap.
Earlier in the morning I witnessed a sizable RIB rushing about the bay with another smaller inflatable going hither and thither. Through the binoculars, I recognised one of the passengers from television, though I could not tell you from where. It was Radio Pasty that explained the affair, that a young man was attempting a record breaking first swim up the English Channel from Land's End to Dover. He is doing it to raise awareness of something, which temporarily escapes me, but has been slightly more media aware than the other most recent awareness seekers leaving from here.
This has excited an argument about where the Channel starts - or ends, depending on your perspective -, which, I confess, I did not think began at Land's End. There are, at least, two Internet references that have this as correct, although the Highly Professional Craftsperson contested this but offered no evidence to the contrary. I think we will let him swim - the swimmer, that is, the Highly Professional Craftsperson has a boat - his 350 miles and hope that we discover what he is making us aware of in due course.
Thrown into this mix of happening things, a young gentleman ran into the shop to report that his mother had fallen on the Coastpath and had broken her leg. I apologised to the queue of customers, who really had no choice other than be understanding, and called the Coastguard. Apparently, it would have been much more helpful if I had run up the cliff and called them from there, as the ambulance service could have taken me through a triage of the casualty. I apologised to the Coastguard for making an emergency call from the wrong place and inconveniencing them so but asked if they would not mind awfully sending a Coastguard Rescue team up to the lookout on Pedn-men-du where they could ring the ambulance service and do the triage. I also called our RNLI team and the Lifeguards in case they could get there quicker than the cliff team and, perhaps, apply some pain relief. As it happened, I believe the cliff team got there pretty quickly anyway.
Throughout the rest of the morning and into the afternoon we had busyness in fits and starts. There was never really any time to collect the thoughts, regroup and be ready for the next onslaught and it felt like one big roller-coaster ride. I did, however, manage to break away for half an hour to place an order and to make contact with our solicitor. I get the impression that I am not being meek enough and am therefore seen as a troublemaker. I spoke with the secretary initially and pointed out that our last contact from them had been weeks earlier. She disagreed that it had been weeks, even after I pointed out the date on the last letter they sent. I was half way through this conversation when she inexplicably and without warning transferred me to the solicitor without explaining to the solicitor why I was calling. There ensued a very uncomfortable conversation where she explained that she had employed some rather heavy weight legal instruments in conducting some of our requirements that I would have preferred that she had not, or at least asked us first. Once again, there was little acknowledgement that I might have some say in the proceedings, being the client and all that. I shall now apologise to our neighbours, as it looks like we have bludgeoned and cajoled and strike yet another solicitor off my Christmas card list.
If ever there was a tonic for a hard day at the tin stope it is launching a Lifeboat into the clear blue briny. It is just as well that our new Coxswain laid one on, presumably just for my benefit, which was nice. Once again, I played with the little boat while the others played with the big boat. At the moment, this is fine but in a couple of weeks we will have to find a replacement for tractor driving duties on training day, as the shop will consume most of my time.
I was promised, after my gruelling day, that the Inshore boat would only be out for three quarters of an hour and that I could retire early. In fact, it was out nearly as long as the big boat. To exacerbate my desire to elope into the distance sooner rather than later, the wheel of the trailer fell off half way up the car park and had to be fixed in situ. I made my escape, rather later than I expected but way ahead of the Lifeboat even appearing in the bay. I discovered later that it was a textbook recovery but I had expected nothing less. We are, after all, a very consistent, very excellent Shore Crew.
Even though I left my compatriots to complete the Lifeboat recovery I was only just in time for the start of the OS quiz. The bar was much quieter than last week mainly as many of our Scottish holiday makers had left or were planning on leaving early, I believe. Since our borrowed quiz expert from last week had returned to his normal team, we duly lost, although only by the number of questions we knew but were too timid to put into the last round.
For the first time in weeks we returned home under stars that we could actually see; the winter nights are drawing in.
July 11th - Wednesday
Well, I had a good gripe yesterday, so I shall start today on an upbeat note. A contingent of the Scottish school party who had been with us all week pitched up in the shop yesterday morning. They hoped that they had not caused us any inconvenience and thanked us for allowing them to shop with us. I told them that their behaviour and politeness did them credit. I could not imagine any of them throwing their money around in a strop.
While we had sunshine first thing, the skies soon clouded over and the cloud thickened by and by. Despite that we were still quite busy. There were not quite so many people on the beach, although at high water there was still quite an encampment above the high water line. The cloud had the effect of trapping the heat of the last several weeks, working much like a high tog duvet. As a consequence, it was excessively humid today and I can wholly understand the bleddy hound dragging her heels, metaphorically speaking, around the block when we went in the early afternoon.
The Missus had run over to Mother, early doors, to wait for the telecoms engineer to turn up. She had waited six hours yesterday, which resulted in my thirteen hour breakless shift, for him not to turn up at all, so we hoped for better luck today. As it transpired the engineer that the company had sent was a voice engineer when a data communications engineer should have attended. She will have to go tomorrow as well, now.
When the Missus did come back I scurried off to the gymnasium, as I had dropped Monday in favour of having a tooth out. It was a hot and steamy session, which might have sounded alluring in different circumstances. I retired upstairs to the flat on my return and amongst my chores I telephoned the solicitor who is allegedly carrying out the conveyancing for The Farm. We have not heard a peep out of her since the snotty reply I had to my letter pointing out the slack performance she had put in so far. That was back in the middle of June. I only spoke with the receptionist and asked if our solicitor still loved me, as she did not call and did not write. I left a message as there was no one else to talk with.
I realise that I am only a lay person and know nothing of the intricate workings of lawyering but from my simplistic point of view, the seller wanted to sell, we wanted to buy, the price is agreed and there are no chains or third parties involved - it should have been done in a week. Naturally, they will know that there are complexities and complications that I am blissfully unaware of that require months of planning and hard-nosed negotiation - oh, and making the fee look about right.
It is as well, therefore, that we have had a busy few weeks. It continued apace today, although the afternoon was a little more subdued, partly due to the humidity and partly due to some sporting event going on in the evening. It felt good to have a little break, particularly as the Missus had just finished putting away the mammoth grocery order that arrived yesterday. In the middle of that we took on another delivery of bodyboards, which thankfully was only half the volume that we had ordered due to a supply issue. We are running out of time to ensure that all our ducks are in a row and I know that some of them are still straggling behind. Oh my, will we laugh about all this rushing around in the first week of September.
Last night the bleddy hound made another desperate bid to get down on the beach at last knockings. I had to rein her in as it was late but I vowed to make amends and took her down to the Harbour again in the evening. With everyone else distracted by some television programme, the Harbour was a peaceful place to be and we had it to ourselves. I took a paddle in the crystal and temperate sea and she took a swim, mainly because I threw her ball a little too far on a couple of occasions.
When we came back I finished some ordering duties, which completed another tick on the list of things to do to prepare for the rush. That would sound good if there actually was a list, but we have always sailed this ship by the seat of our pants. Although that is not actually a plan, I believe that it is probably the only way, as we are able to adapt quite rapidly to unpredicted changes. Gosh, that sounds very grand and management bookesque. Perhaps I should write one.
July 10th - Tuesday
There were two irritations yesterday and neither was my tooth. I had another today so I thought that I would clear the air and get them out of the way before commencing with yet another beautiful day.
An older chap came by to purchase a bottle of pop. He wanted to pay by credit card for his £1.30 drink, but I told him that we prefer to take cards over five pounds, thank you. This evoked an extraordinarily violent reaction, which was him throwing his card file on the counter with some force. This was followed by the correct coinage being thrown onto the counter with equal force that left it bouncing in several directions. This Missus told me that I should have refused to serve him, but I will take anyone's money, no matter how rude they are. Instead, I was sarcastic, because I am already at the lowest ebb of wit, and complimented him on his grace of movement.
The second point of issue was that someone had used our private bin for a whole heap of loose detritus. The problem with this is that the bin men do not always tip the bin and sometime just hoick out the black bag; any loose waste is left behind to rot until the bin is next tipped. What I cannot fathom is that our bin has a very polite notice on top of it and the lid is strapped down with a bungee cord. Not ten feet across the road is a public litter bin with an opening for litter. How is it less work to unstrap our bungee cord and lift the lid rather than walking ten feet and throwing the rubbish in a hole?
It must be the time of year, as I was set upon again today. A foreign lady had asked the price of postage for a large letter to a European destination. I employed the new and tedious Royal Mail website application for calculating postage and determined that the price was £2.65. It appears that an English gentleman who was with the lady knew far more about it that the Royal Mail website and he told her that the £2.65 was for first class postage, of course, and she could post it much more cheaply if she went to the post office. He also advised that the 'air mail' stickers I offered for her normal postcards were completely superfluous. Just because I read it from the Royal Mail website, why should it be right? I did not bother to explain.
There, that feels so much better.
It was another delicious day in The Cove, although we had to make do without the big blue sky. Kevin, the weatherman, explained that there was a weather front on its way from the east that would give us some cloud for the next day or so. If we were really lucky we would get some rain, too, as people have been complaining that it has been too hot and too dry, so that would be very nice, obviously.
There was no rain today, despite the cloud, and it remained warm the day long. The stiff breeze from yesterday calmed down, too, and our visitors were, once again, encouraged onto the beach. Down by the entrance to the Valley there was, what appeared to be, a camp of white tents. I thought that we might have been invaded by a tribe of Bedouins but on closer inspection it was a group of people making makeshift windbreaks out of big white sheets or towels. I had thought to send an emissary to explain that we had a healthy supply of proper windbreaks at very reasonable prices that would have saved them the trouble of their poles falling over. Unfortunately, I was completely out of emissaries.
It seemed that we were a bit quieter today, at least in the morning and we certainly did not do very well on the pasty front. We had our moments, where we were descended upon and obviously we had some of these when our frozen order arrived and our big grocery order. Between times I managed to arrange our order for surf jewellery. This has been on the to do list for a week or so and I am glad we have it complete, as it is a big seller during the school holidays - and now, too, it seems.
Thanks to our good weather our busyness recently has been not a great deal off the busyness we experience during the six weeks summer school holidays. It is a good time to have extra busyness, as if the weather was not as good as it is, people would probably choose not to come, as they have a choice. During the six weeks, people have booked and will come anyway. If we have good weather during the six weeks it is a bonus, but we would be relatively busy anyway, as we were during the poor weather last year. In short, we are having a bit of a bumper time of it and very pleasant it is. I am sure the tax man is rubbing his hands with glee, too.
There, I always have to spoil it right at the very end.
July 9th - Monday
I will spare you the weather report as you will know that it was hot and sunny yet again. We did have a bit of a breeze to play with as well today, which very much took the edge off the heat.
The morning was predictably busy in the shop almost from the word go. Oddly, nobody said the word go but it was busy, anyway. Being busy rather prevented me from telephoning my dentist, which had ignored the fact that it said on its website that it was open from eight o'clock and only opening its phone lines from half past. Fortunately, or perhaps not, the Missus managed to make an appointment for me which was scheduled for the middle of the day.
I have had a broken tooth for a number of years that had hitherto behaved itself. Only in the last week or so have I noticed some grumbling from it and since the start of the weekend its grumbling had become louder to the point that remedial action was required. I decided that the swiftest and simplest of actions would be removal.
A flaw in the master plan - not counting being unable to go to the gymnasium - was that it was so busy in the morning that I did not get the chance to have any breakfast. Admittedly I did manage to cram half a sandwich, which turned out to be lucky. It was only after I returned, minus a tooth, that it struck me that I was, indeed, peckish. Having only half a mouth complying with the standard demands of motor function made consumption of anything a tad tricky. Even water poured in the good side, seemed to dribble out of the inoperable side, which was something of a nuisance and one best performed privately, at that. Even by tea time, with a list of products that I had been warned against eating, eating was limited to anything luke warm and liquidised. Perhaps just a taste of something I might be looking forward at longer term.
I returned to a shop that had been deluged with orders that languished untouched in the store room; the Missus had been busy while I had been detoothed. Since I had been warned not to over-exert myself, I too left the collected orders alone. This was doing nothing but putting off having to move them at some point as we were expecting quite a serious grocery delivery the next day for which we needed the store room to be clear. When the Missus ran over to sort out Mother's broadband that had been 'repaired' by the telecoms provider, I piecemeal, put away the orders, expecting any moment to topple over with delayed shock or loss of blood or whatever it was my instruction was meant to protect against.
We finished the afternoon in a good place to receive anything the world could throw at us, regarding order, at least and I even managed to scrub the storeroom floor. All we need now is for those morning orders to arrive at sensible times and all I needed at that point was some sustenance. This was delivered in the form of a vegetable soup that the Missus threw together and rather, er - I was about to say, toothsome, but perhaps just tasty will do at this point.
When the Missus ran out again in the evening, this time to drop some boxes off at Shrew House that she had not had time to do earlier, the bleddy hound looked ever so needy about not being left behind. I decided that a suitable alternative would be to run her down the Harbour beach with a ball, which is what we did.
She was not too keen about swimming in the cool water, although now stockingless, I took a brief paddle. Instead, she did some chasing of the ball and, mainly, digging big holes here and there. She seemed to be enjoying herself, so I left her at it until we both decided that it was time to wander home. I do wish that I had done my paddling a little earlier in our visit because it is absolute murder trying to walk uphill in wet flip flops.
It was definite a day for an early retirement to my bed, although I was kept awake by a rumbling tummy and thoughts of liquidised pasties.
July 8th - Sunday
The bleddy hound and I were distracted onto the beach first thing where her mate was playing. Both took an early morning dip and I was very tempted to do so myself until I remembered I was wearing my stocking and it had taken ages to get the seam straight. She was clearly of the opinion that we should have tarried longer but with breakfasts to be prepared (hers) and shops to be opened (ours), there was little time to spare.
It seems a little churlish to bring up the subject of the Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company on such a sublime day and especially as I have not had to berate them or telephone the service centre for even so much as a missing newspaper for months. However, let us be churlish. It was reading the lead story in a trade newspaper, ironically delivered by the very same Laurel and Hardy Newspaper Company, that prompted this report. It stated that the Government is to take up the challenge of looking at the whole newspaper supply business after being landed with a report from said trade newspaper and the National Federation of Newsagents. The report basically said that the service provided by the only two newspaper distributors in the country was rubbish and was costing newsagents around £5,000 per year in lost trade through their mistakes. The Government has promised to look into it so, we can either expect an expensive and damming report in five years' time and nothing else or a much more complex and bureaucratic system that anyone could ever imagined that the newsagents will have to pay extra for. I can hardly wait.
In the meanwhile we sold a whole heap of newspapers today to the whole heap of visitors who turned up to buy them. I turned away my very first customer, as he followed me into the shop at half past six o'clock to see if we had any newspapers, which we did not. With a sunny and hot day in prospect we were exceedingly busy from the off, which continued right through until the early afternoon lull, when everyone had settled on the beach and could not be bothered to move because it was too hot.
I spotted one of the Man versus Coast runners in the shop today, wearing the Rat Race t-shirt which must have been handed out to all of them. I told him that he looked remarkably chipper for someone who had run more than a marathon but with nasty bits in it. I had been told that the dip in the Harbour had not been the only challenge en route and he confirmed that there had been another swim and duck under a buoy as well as a wall climb and other nasties on the way. He said that chipper was not the first word that came to his mind to describe how he felt. He told me that he ached all over and if anything of his dropped on the floor, no matter how valuable, it was going to stay there.
I cannot imagine there were any such issues for the thirty motorbikers who roared into The Cove yesterday. They were doing a sponsored ride from Falmouth, I think, around the Cornish coast raising funds for the RNLI. While very worthy, I think they were just enjoying the ride in the sunshine and scaring the wits out of little old ladies.
The day was a real rip wurliger from start to finish and judging from the condition of those crawling into the shop, it was excessively hot out there. I avoided having to step out into it at all today, which is either a crying shame or a blessed relief. Whichever it was it is what grumpy shopkeepers who run shops in busy seaside resorts do, so that is that.
With two windows and the door open in the evening in a robust breeze from somewhere northerly, we actually achieved cool in the flat. It will be something to cling onto in the sweatshop tomorrow.
July 7th - Saturday
As gorgeous mornings filled with loveliness go, this one was so gorgeously filled with loveliness, it was delicious. The sky, so clear and blue, matched perfectly by the sea and blessed in some early morning warmth of the sun. It is generally a pleasure rounding the block first thing, but this had something altogether belting about it.
To the north west way before the sun gets there.
We were not long out of the starting blocks when the shop was deluged with happy shoppers. The Scottish school contingent, who have been stripping our shelves for the last few days, made two forays about two hours apart - I am guessing that is about the length of time a sugar rush takes to wear off. It would be wrong not to mention, while talking about these Celtic youths, that they have all been, to a boy - and girl, exceedingly well-behaved and polite. I have no idea why the Romans would have wanted to build a wall to keep them out, er, in.
Of course, today was always going to be about the major sporting event of the day; a big challenge that has been looked forward to for some time. Quite how the players were going to be able to perform well in the heat had been a major question but, when it came to it, they all met the challenge head on. I believe it was the first time that the Man versus Coast run had been put on and it was a tough and gruelling run. Starting in Marazion, the runners hack across the moors to Levant, I believe, and from there along the Coastpath into The Cove. Here, they scrambled over the rocks at the west end of the beach, under the Lifeboat slipways and dipped into the water to retrieve 'treasure' from the Harbour. The treasure was a block of wood attached to a rock and at the state of the tide was 20 metres offshore by the ladder. The organiser who secured it there told me that the wood was "far more buoyant than he expected" and had to be weighed down. I wondered if he anticipated that the wood might sink. Anyway, after this feat the runners headed off to Land's End for the finish.
They came through The Cove in the middle of the afternoon for a few hours. At around three o'clock, The Cove went a bit quiet for a while, so I imagine everyone had gone off to see the finish of the race. I can think of no other reason.
Alright, alright, I am joshing with you, of course. I was tipped off about the football match earlier in the day when someone came in and asked if we had anything English. He was blissfully unaware of the concept of Cornish nationalism and could not quite fathom why, in the middle of a football world cup, we would not stock any English flags or shirts. I tried to be helpful and tell him the flag of St Piran did have some white in it but apparently that was not quite the same. After the result this afternoon I am now ruing not having that flutter at 33/1 the other day.
It is not the first time this week that we have been asked for football regalia. Earlier in the week we were asked if we stock an English football shirt. It seemed a little odd as the asker had a foreign accent. She explained that her husband lost a bet; they were German.
It is most deceptive whether we have been busy or not during the day. Days when we think that we have been run off our feet have shown a less than glowing report on the till at the end of the day. Today, that was busy in fits and starts and, on occasion, manic also had a long lull in the afternoon. The till, however, showed a very pleasing result for the day and the forty minutes I spent after closing bottling up both the soft drinks and the beer fridge demonstrated that we had been comprehensively cleared out.
With Mother staying for the weekend, we dined at the table, like proper people. There were still quite a few little groups of people down paddling and a few swimming. With the sun starting to sink toward the horizon, the light was softening, and beauty and serenity cast about the beach like a sepia comfort blanket; it looked more like a painting than real life. Out at Aire Point, dolphins broke the water and advanced on Gwenver where they danced and somersaulted in the surf.
Gosh, I thought.
July 6th - Friday
We awoke to a cloudy bay and since most of the heavy effort happens before we open, this was quite acceptable. I am still glad that I topped up the water as I would have not had time this morning. I do try and organise my mornings so that I am not in a mad rush, but the milk arrived two minutes before we opened which had me in a spin trying to get it away before opening up.
Soon, though, with the shop open and the skies clearing, the world settled into its groove and all became calm again. It was very calm later in the afternoon as the leavers left and the arrivers had not yet arrived. This leaves a bit of a hole in proceedings that happens every week but that I am yet to come to terms with. I could fall back on my recollection of the late morning when the leavers were buying their going home presents and everything was wonderful. It made me feel like cake but I had one yesterday and was trying to be good.
One very welcome visitor today was our Caspyn gin supplier. I had heard tell that he had a new product on the market and we had also run out of the 'summer' gin that he supplied us. The new product will be universally loved, after all, absinth make the heart grow fonder, so they say. Alright, please yourselves. The absinth he supplies is top drawer stuff, made with botanicals from the Zennor moors, and comes with a commensurately high price but we thought we would try some anyway. It tends to be a little bit specialist, anyway, so those that really crave it are willing to pay a bit more for the good stuff or, at least, that is the theory.
Lastly today, I have a confession. The person who I trespassed against was very pleasant about the whole thing, but it was still very embarrassing. I was walking the bleddy hound down Coastguard Row and towards the end she started speeding up a bit. There was a gentleman, a neighbour, standing at the end and I presumed he had another hound or something that attracted her. The bleddy hound started sniffing about in some earnest and I commented to our neighbour that she had found something of interest at which point he mentioned a cat. I immediately thought that he referred to the ginger cat that torments the bleddy hound whenever it can and sure enough from behind a bush a ginger cat came running across the lane. The bleddy hound, unusually alert for once, took off in hot pursuit and ended up chasing off the cat in the direction of up the hill somewhere.
I explained to our neighbour that the bleddy hound had history with this particular cat and I let her chase him because a) he deserved it and b) the bleddy hound has demonstrated on several occasions. that if she ever catches up with the cat, she screams and runs away. It was at this point that our neighbour explained that he knew of this particular cat but the one I let the bleddy hound chase off into the distance was, in fact, his cat that he was trying to coax back into the house.
There must be a limit to the amount of apologising a person can do but I do not think it applied in this case. I looked at the bleddy hound for the slightest glimmer of remorse but the look I got back was mostly 'it's a cat' or rather more disturbingly 'the only good cat is a dead cat' - which I think she paraphrased from something she read by the American General Sheridan about native Americans but that is another story. I, at least, had the good grace to slink away with my tail between my legs.
July 5th - Thursday
What goes around, comes around, or, if you piddle into the wind you will surely get your own back. It is roughly what happens when you take the rise out of another resort for it being rainy there when you are dry and the next day you have thick mist and they do not.
Yes, we were blessed with a variable mist this morning. It came and went for a few hours until it cleared enough to see almost out to Cape Cornwall. There was a vague expanse of blue sky out to the west and some cumulus over the cliffs to the east but the day brightened and blossomed. By the middle of the day the sun had burst through any remaining cloud and we enjoyed something of a rip gribbler again.
With the sunshine came people, although we have seen busier days. There was also a proliferation of school age children emptying our sweet shelves. I can only presume that surfing has become a GCSE subject and that all their surfing activities are powered by an excess of sugar. I am told that the younger children have spent the last nine weeks down there each Thursday. It is probably a good thing that they learn to surf because when they are working age all the jobs will have been taken by robots and surfing will be all there is left. What modern times we live in.
It is a good job that there are some traditions still alive. What could be more traditional than to have a Lifeboat exercise on Thursday evening, involving both boats and lots of people. This exercise was arranged with another flanking station, Penlee, and the Lifeguards at Porthcurno. It must have been some beano around there in the sunshine for they were gone a fair while.
In the mean time we prepared the short slipway for the boat's return. Although we could have prepared the long slipway and switched at the last minute to demonstrate the slickness of our operation, we felt that two day's running might be seen as hubris. I returned to the shop in the interval to ensure that we were prepared for the following day, having run out of large bottles of still water in the refrigerator. With the door closed the heat in the shop increases a degree or five and by the time I had shifted the nine boxes of water, I was a little bit over hot.
What better to cool a grumpy shopkeeper down than to head on down to the Harbour beach to recover the Inshore Lifeboat returning from its exercise. After I had slipped the boat away in its shed, I returned to assist with the latter stages of bring in the big boat. It had been recovered up the short slip in, what I was told later, a textbook operation conducted with all due solemnity and gravitas - apart from a bit of an inadvertent soaking for Head Launcher by one of the Boat Crew operating the high pressure hose. Boat Crew who inadvertently soak Head Launchers should, of course, be mindful of who is getting the high pressure hose next, lest they receive an inadvertent soaking in return. We are, after all, a very fair minded, very excellent Shore Crew.
We repaired to the OS for a spot of quizzing in a packed room. We accepted onto our team a member of the team that usually give us a drubbing as he had been deserted by his usual team mates. He is the chap who sets quizzes for several local charity evenings and knows a thing or two about questions and how to answer them. Quite unsurprisingly we won, which was a most peculiar feeling.
I shall leave you on a note of interest that I have been holding back, waiting on information. When I recovered the Inshore boat from its shout on Monday one of the crew spotted a weird fish minding its own business in the shallows of the Harbour. Between them they managed to catch it in a helmet so that I could take a photograph.
Boar or zulu fish
Being such an odd fish, I felt it worthy of investigation and sent the picture off to a couple of likely experts. One came back having passed it on to someone who knows about these things and he was pretty sure that it was a boar or zulu fish. These inhabit the deeper seas between 50 and 100 metres so this chap was definitely way off course. They are widespread across Northern Europe and have been found in Scandinavia, the Mediterranean and north east Atlantic. In the UK they are to be found mainly along the western coast.
There is a shore caught rod record of 3 ounces and I did ask if being caught in an RNLI helmet counted, but since we did not weigh it, the question was a bit academic. It was quite toothsome on a slice of toast, but not much of it. There, who said that the Diary was not educational. Alright, mostly everyone.
July 4th - Wednesday
It was clear that the weather had well and truly broken today. At last light yesterday, mizzle had descended on the bay and it was a very different picture from the last few weeks. It had not changed much by morning, except the mizzle had become heavier. I got wet putting out the display first thing but thankfully it had largely dried up by the time I took the bleddy hound around the block.
It helped that I was delayed for the normal walking time by the arrival of our frozen order. This came just before I locked up to go upstairs so the timing was impeccable; another couple of minutes and I would have been half way around the block.
Our rain cleared up quite quickly into the morning and the day brightened and brought almost as many customers as we have had previously. It appears that we were lucky because one of the delivery drivers had told us that it was pouring with rain in Penzance. Obviously, we were very sorry to hear that but unfortunately we were not going there so that we could tell everyone how lovely it was in The Cove.
While we enjoyed some busyness, we also had some lulls that allowed us to sort out a couple of big deliveries. Our Cornish biscuits are now stocked up and ready for the onslaught, which we hope will come. We also had a postcard delivery a day or two ago and I only just got around to breaking open the boxes and setting out some alluring new views of The Cove. So alluring were they that a young lady purchased several later in the afternoon and asked for stamps to go with them. One was to go to Jersey and neither of us was completely sure whether this counted as 'Europe' or domestic in terms of postage value.
To ensure that I did not sell our young lady a pup, I checked on the Royal Mail website, which has a page that allows you to check postage values to anywhere for any item that they handle. The page used to be extremely simple to complete, so simple that they obviously decided that something more complicated was required and changed it. Fortunately, there was no queue but it was still an irritation that it took so much longer than the previous application. There was an asterisk along side the UK option which indicated from the key that to check postage to Jersey a person should use the 'Overseas' option for postage prices, which I duly did. I then followed a series of other questions about the type and size of letter and its value before being shown the price - the same as UK postage. Fortunately, there was a young lady present, else I might have said something ungentlemanly.
The rest of the afternoon was fairly sedate, except for our foreign buyers who purchased just as much as they had done the previous day. I kept a weather eye out for any signs of the Lifeboat returning to station as I had promised to help with the recovery. The boat had launched with minimum assistance at three o'clock to undertake it's nine year assessment - yes, that surprised us, too. Luckily, the boat did not return until after I had closed the shop for the evening, and then some.
The boys who had conducted the launch had set up on the short slipway, as it was expected that the tide would be sufficiently high for the boat to return there. As it turned out, even at half past six o'clock there was not enough water for the short slip and we had to hurriedly switch to the long slipway. There was a pretty slick manoeuvre, so slick it was almost unnoticed by the watching crowd in the gallery, performed by a team so versed in performing switching of slipways that they could do it in their sleep. Oddly some seemed like they were, actually, asleep. After all that manoeuvring, we still managed a textbook recovery up the long slip and had the boat tucked away in no time. We are, after all, a very slick, very excellent Shore Crew.
July 3rd - Tuesday
I felt a little weary this morning, I have no idea why. It was not the sort of morning to be weary on because it was bright and blue and delicious. It was also pretty warm from the very moment I stepped out into it and when I whisked the bleddy hound around the block first thing.
I was on a bit of a mission as we had booked the van into the garage because the power steering was making a bit of a racket. Fortunately, the milkman and the newspaper man both arrived in timely fashion and I was able to box everything off and have the shop ready for the Missus to open when I took the van away.
We have noticed on the last couple of occasions that the garage's loan cars, while perfectly drivable, have been getting a little long in the tooth. It was quite a pleasure to be offered a more recent Renault model. It was a cracking good drive that clung to the road and the corners like glue; it has the most comfortable seats and driving position, too. It is just a shame that it was so pot ugly. It was fortunate, however, that there was not much wrong with the van and it was back with us after less than an hour. It was so not-much-wrong that the garage man did not charge us anything, so what a jolly fine chap he is.
The other jolly fine thing was that while I was out delivering and bringing back the van, our weekly grocery order was delivered. This is the first time this year that I have been absent for this and will probably be the last time, too. This was quite a coup; there were nine cases of mineral water that I missed having to hump into the shop. It is a good job that there is no carbon dioxide in our mineral water as our supplier had rationed products that contain it. We were only able to order ten cases of beer, ten of cider and ten of soft drinks. It was a tough choice making the cut between my beer and customer beer, I can tell you.
Also drying up is our supply of local dog treats made from fish skin. A local lady started up the business with the help of a Newlyn fisherman and it was going very well. She dropped by the other day to tell me that she was closing up shop because the business was no longer viable. The health inspections, which she must pay several hundred pounds for, had increased from one a year to four. On top of that, because she lives so far from the inspector's base, she was charged an additional £75 per visit for travel. If small businesses are the backbone of the economy, it will not be standing up for very long with that kind of support.
Our brightness waned toward the back end of the afternoon, as did our customer visits. We were still busier than we would expect for this time of year and we have played host to some big grocery buyers this season. There is a family staying hereabouts who have consistently purchased their entire food shop from us. In the last gasp of the day one of them returned to collect this evening's tea, I would say. She commented that she had not expected to be able to feed her family of ten from a small shop in The Cove but we had all that she had wanted. I did ask if there was anything we could order in, she should just ask, to which she replied that we really did have everything she could want. This was heartening indeed, especially as most of what they bought was fresh ingredients and predominantly local produce.
The Missus had decamped earlier to take Mother to an appointment and herself to another, later. She still had not returned by closing time, otherwise known as teatime. Sardines on toast time, for me - well, it was a little more exotic than that, but it served.
July 2nd - Monday
It was a very sultry day with high humidity throughout. There was a bit of breeze now and again to ease the situation but mainly I had to reply on the dog's fan, once she had finished using it half way through the day. There was some brightness here and there but largely, there was an expanse of thick cloud covering the sky.
This did not prevent this week's contingent from hitting the shop no sooner had the doors opened. Rarely have we seen such queues down the aisles outside of the school holidays, but this lot were definitely on a mission. Our baguette offering, which has been slow on the uptake this year, vanished in a trice and I found myself baking more, less than an hour after we had opened. It is always good on a hot and humid day to have the oven running lots and lots.
I exacerbated matters by heading to the gymnasium in the late morning. Despite a cooling shower it took hours afterwards for the body temperature to get back to normal. Just as my metabolism slid back to normality my Lifeboat pager fired off for another Inshore Lifeboat shout. Unfortunately, the Missus was off with Mother on an appointment, so I had to hurriedly close the shop. There were only two customers in at the time who were quite amenable to being thrown onto the street for a while.
The boat was launched after a member of the public called in a concern. I am not entirely sure what the issue was, but it concerned a kayak going out of sight. The details of the incident were very vague and the Inshore boat could find nothing awry at the location it was sent to, and widened the search. They found a kayaker, merrily enjoying his kayaking, just south of Brisons and reasoned that it might be he, the subject of our caller. Eventually, the Coastguard cliff team found the original called and confirmed that the description matched the description of our kayaker and the boat was sent home again. Once more I closed the shop and uprooted the bleddy hound, much to her chagrin, to recover the Lifeboat close to low water in the Harbour.
The Tooktrak tractor that launches the Inshore Lifeboat is showing signs of age. Because it was a low water recovery, I had to tractor out quite a way into the water to find a bit deep enough for the Inshore boat to float onto the trailer. At this point the water is half way up the doors, which have seals to prevent the ingress of the sea. While I waited for the boat to approach it was slightly disconcerting to watch the water level in the cab rise up the door from the inside. I suppose that is why we wear yellow wellies. I shall be minded to take one of the shop's snorkel and masks on the next shout.
There was a solitary customer awaiting my return. When I flung wide the doors again, a whole cohort of customers must have been waiting around the corner for me and we were flooded, although I should be careful of my metaphors. In all it was a busy day in fits and starts. I do not think that the short time for which we were closed would have made much of a difference and people of broadly understanding, although I did not have time to leave a note on the window explaining what was going on. At least I managed to lock people outside the shop on this occasion.
As if one day of Lifeboating was not enough, Head Launcher telephoned late in the evening to ask if I could see what might have been an upturned craft in the bay. The Missus and I both had a geek but could see nothing. The long and the short of this was that we were called to muster again at about eleven twenty o'clock for both boats to explore the bay. Once again I found myself launching the small boat into the darkness, so at least I could not see the rising waters about me.
We watched from the boathouse as both boats gave our visitors an impromptu fireworks display by firing off parachute flares here and there. They did a pretty comprehension search from the shore out towards Longships but found nothing. The Coastguard called off the search reasoning that every effort had been made to find Head Launcher's 'upturned craft' which could just as easily have been a bit of flotsam that had been touring the Atlantic for years. It was a worthy exercise, however and there were sufficient of us to service both boats. I focused on the Inshore boat again, which appears to be becoming my exclusive domain, while the others managed a textbook recovery up the long slipway in the dark. We are, after all, a very multi-functional, very excellent Shore Crew.
July 1st - Sunday
Our heavy rain turned out to be nothing more than a damp squib. Heaviest in the Far West, they told us, but it appears that he worst of it went through East Cornwall and a bit of Devon. There was also another lump out to the Isles of Scilly and we were squashed into the middle with nothing but a little sprinkle.
It did slow down our morning surge, but people here are clearly made of sterner stuff and they came anyway, just later. This was shored up by a Shearings' ancient persons tour from St Ives, where our first 'what have you done with the weather' came from, which was nice. They all bought postcards with loose bits of coinage, which took ages to extract from the corners of their purses, to 'save your change, duck', which was kindly thought.
By late morning the clouds fled to the north and the blue skies appeared again, along with the searing heat of the midday sunshine. Those that had hoped for some brief respite and for some water for the gardens, were sore disappointed and it was as if nothing stormy had come our way at all. Oddly, with most organic growth other than the most hardy dying in the ground for lack of water, the yellow of the yellow corn marigolds on Boscregan Farm over the bay, came into bloom almost overnight. There is some purple viper's bugloss showing there, too, although that seems to be in the fold of Nanjulian Valley in the main part. If you are interested, the National Trust Ranger for that area is leading a guided tour of Boscregan Farm on 14th July. Meet in Nanjulian car park, which is down the road immediately after Land's End Airport on your way to St Just, at two o'clock. There is no need to book, although now that it has been featured in The Diary, there will be even less need to book.
If we had expected a drop in busyness for today because of the rain, we would have been very much mistaken. It was a good job we had not expected a drop in busyness and this was not through any cleverness or prescience on our part but simply because I forgot to check the forecast at all. With days as consistently busy as the ones we have been having, ordering is much simplified. If we are running high or low of a particular stock, more of less can generally be ordered the next day.
This weekend has seen a bit of a change in the visitor profile with more families turning up. We also have a proliferation of Scottish people, as their holidays start much earlier than the English ones. It is good to see the family all pulling together and, at least at the start of the holiday, all work well as a single unit. I had a more mature couple in buying a few bits and pieces. They told me that their son was cooking that evening and they were expecting some sort of spaghetti dish. They described their son and something specific he had bought earlier, which I remembered. I suggested that they best not think too Jamie Oliver, lest they be disappointed, for I had also remembered what else the son bought: two tins of Heinz spaghetti in tomato sauce.
We had a very pleasant end to the day. We had been busy since the sun broke through in the latter part of the morning and I do not mind admitting I was feeling a little fatigued by closing time. There was no five minutes to closing rush, despite the obvious beach weather we had enjoyed; I had forgotten to see if there was much action on the beach today. For this I was quite grateful.
I was also quite grateful for the breeze that had been coming and going all day. When we first came up to the flat in the evening there was hardly a breath and we had windows and front door open, just to catch whatever we could. By the end of the evening we were being blown about and loose papers ended up all over the room. It was pleasantly cool, though.