What’s a family vacation for if it’s not for exploring new grounds in a different part of the country? Precisely, which is why I find myself – no more than ten minutes after arriving from a five-hour drive to our Devon holiday cottage – speeding down windy West Country lanes in the direction of an important FA Cup tie at Western League Dawlish Town.
I’ve got company in the shape of my 11-year old son and 70-something father-in-law, the three of us having left the unpacking chores to the ladies (“We’ll do you a favour and get out of your way, if you like….”). The Dawlish ground is just to the north of the town centre on Sandy Lane. Directly opposite is a large pay-and-display car park which needs 60p for several hours parking. By the side of the car park is the club bar which is reasonably capacious and is showing live footy. Unfortunately, cask beer is conspicuous by its absence and my first holiday pint is something cold, wet, fizzy and tasteless.
Across the road to the ground, which is set on a pronounced slope and is one of those ‘why pay if you can peer over the fence for free’ affairs. All of the spectator facilities – seated stand, toilets, twin snack bars (nice cheese pies!) etc – are located on one side, unless you count the nice grassy bank opposite. Behind one goal is the skeleton of (presumably) a huge net designed to stop wayward balls sailing into neighbouring gardens. Possibly latter day players are more accurate; either that or there is a ready supply of footballs. My son chooses this end to stand as he swiftly deduces he will be best employed as the unofficial ball-boy. Behind the opposite end is a large skateboard park which boasts a ready supply of urchins willing and eager to chuck the ball back.
Dawlish’s opponents today in this early FA cup round match are Elmore FC from Tiverton, who ply their trade a division below their hosts. For much of the first half they give as good as they get but are undone by a smartly-taken free kick. A second goal shortly after the break knocks much of the wind out of their sails, and a second free-kick goal on the hour is curtains.
Our Saturday afternoon entertainment over, thoughts return to the task of unpacking, taking solace in the knowledge that the worst of it should be over by now, and that our next mission must surely be the vital one of locating the nearest pub!
Floodlight pylons: Eight (one a TV mast)
Parakeets: The Cornish Riviera this may be but the exotic birdlife is restricted to the usual shitehawks
Toilets – Just one (sit-down) throne – no urinals – so don’t get caught behind last night’s curry monster
Tannoy music – Not even a bloke with a megaphone
Club Shop – Seem to recall a list of stuff behind the bar in the club bar
Quirkiest player name – Elmore’s Daniel ‘Spinal’ Tapp