It was many moons ago that I decided that I liked the idea of joining the ranks of the unemployable and should start my own business. ‘Self-employed’ sounded quite glamorous and had lots of perks as part of the package, not least of which would be the ability to go several months without bothering to do a jot of work, on the basis there was nobody to have to answer to.
Of course it never really worked out like that. I quickly figured out that the only person I’d be cheating would be myself and that it was a case of ‘no work, no money’. Illusions shattered!
The other downside has been that holidays have become increasingly shorter. Whereas in a life as somebody’s lackey I would at least benefit from six weeks paid leave each year – not to mention Bank holidays – my time away from the office has gradually reduced itself until now I grant myself just the one annual week off. This year I have modified that. My one week at the end of August contains a Bank holiday, and on another of the days I arrange to see a potential new customer. That early vision of months of relaxed inactivity has long ridden off into the sunset .
This year our family holiday is to take us to eastern Cornwall, and as usual I have my eye on a recreational footy match or two whilst in that part of the world. The step 6 South West Peninsular League throws up lots of possible opportunities, but I have my sights set on a level higher, namely the Western League match at Ilfracombe Town on the Tuesday night, quite handy as a follow-on from my business meet in south Somerset earlier in the afternoon.
Despite being a touristy region, the roads around this part of north Devon aren’t necessarily friendly to non-sat-nav drivers like me, and more by luck than judgement I happen to arrive in town via the correct route and spot the floodlight pylons over the rooftops.
There’s a small car park adjacent to the clubhouse building and although I’m early, there are club officials about and the bar is open, so I settle in with the club programme, a glass of hand-pulled St Austell Tribute, and a couple of cheese cobs which fill a small hole. The club secretary is chatty and tells me that they don’t expect much of a gate tonight with the club’s two other teams playing away and visitors Street not likely to bring many from Somerset. Seems even holidaymakers can’t be bothered to tear themselves away from their slot machines to check out the local non-league scene. When the club has paid the officials, the secretary muses, there won’t be a lot left in the match day kitty. I dutifully buy another cheese cob to help alleviate any shortfall.
I’m joined in the bar by the imposing figure of the referee’s assessor, soon to be followed by the three officials themselves, all smart young men in suits. A number of other regulars are greeted by name as they arrive and pretty soon kick-off time is upon us.
The ground itself is overlooked by a church yard where you can get a good view of the match except for the near goal, which is obscured by a small seated stand which remains unused during the game. There’s another seated stand on one side of the clubhouse complex but the view is restricted by the number of people who favour standing in front of the clubhouse to watch the match. The pitch itself is curious in that it is appreciably lower at the halfway line than it is at either goalmouth, forcing both teams to kick uphill!
The game itself is quite competitive and as a result a fair advert for this level. Visitors Street create the better openings but the young home keeper is on good form although he can do nothing about the equaliser which follows only a minute after Town have gone in front, slightly against the run of play. Shortly after half time the deadlock is broken by the Somerset side and they have a chance to go further in front from the spot, but the afore-mentioned home keeper denies them again. So right until the end the result is in doubt, contributing to an entertaining 90 minutes of football.
As it turns out, an official total of 72 people struggle up the hill to watch a good game. At least one of them was a holidaymaker, taking in a ‘local’ game – even if I did have a 45-mile post-match trip back to my holiday ‘home’.
Programme: £1, presumably from the turnstile, although I got mine from the Secretary in the bar. He said they don’t sell many. I suggested they did what many other clubs do – add £1 to the gate and give the programme away free. Food for thought. It’s a functional effort reasonably light on adverts but just a five-minute read. 4 out of 10.
Pylons: 8 (a fair few bulbs were absent, as the referee seemed to note at the start of the second half)
Birdlife: as you might imagine, Sammy the Seagull is the dominant bird in these parts.
Toilets: Clubhouse Bar
Kop choir: Missing
Away fans: At least one, who was in the bar prior to the game
What’s in a name? Presumably Street’s Keith Emmerson gets to tinkle the ivories at the club’s Christmas Bash