Becoming St Ivian, part 2: Of antelopes and season tickets

As Zoe and me near the end of our first month in St Ives, I thought I’d take the opportunity to continue the twin topics of my first St Ivian post: local walks and local football. Yup, I am firmly embracing middle age – no mid-life crisis for me, bring on retirement!

A typical English summer

A typical English summer…

Having enjoying our previous week’s walk to Woodhurst so much, and with the English summer holding out into a shock second week, we decided to retread our steps then continue onto Old Hurst.

A part from taking about the first wrong turning we could (which luckily we quickly realised) the walk was otherwise blissfully uneventful; the council had even removed a fallen tree we’d reported the previous week that was blocking the path (nice work chaps). The walk on to Old Hurst is unfortunately along a road, but it’s only about 30 minutes and the views are pretty stunning.

You've got it, they'll kill it and shove it in the freezer

You name it, they’re probably butchering it

While I was disturbed to find that like Woodhurst it didn’t have a pub, Old Hurst did at least have alligators. And not only live, swimming ones – its also got ones you can put in a sandwich.

Because Old Hurst is home to Johnsons Farm and Farm Shop; a fantastic combination of family friendly animal park, restaurant and farm store.

More scared of me than I am of them. Possibly

More scared of me than I am of them. Possibly

If you’re in the Cambridgeshire area this is definitely a place to take the kids.

There’s everything from the domestic standards in the working farm (from pigs to peacocks) right through to the more exotic: kangaroos, bison, antelope and the aforementioned crocs, amongst others. And because it’s a shop, it’s free.

Python crocodile kangaroo nom

Python crocodile kangaroo nom

There’s a nice little tea room/restaurant that covers you for everything from an ice cream or cream tea to a fully blown meal, while the shop itself sells all the usual farm shop fare – plus a ton of interesting animal bits (literally).

We grabbed ourselves some antelope burgers and headed home (they were actually really nice too; quite tough, but pleasantly beefy). We’ll definitely be back for more.

The walk home was just as lovely, if ever so slightly blighted by some Christian ‘rock’ band playing very loudly at a camp site to about 12 people. Weird and frankly more of an audience than they deserved.

“Do you all work at Thorpe Park?”

My first St Ives Town programme from the season opener, plus my misprinted season ticket

My first St Ives Town programme, plus my misprinted season ticket

While I couldn’t make it to any more of St Ives Town’s pre-season friendlies I did follow through on my plan to pick up a season ticket.

Club secretary Simon gave me the warmest of welcomes, showing off his Spurs tattoo and dutifully spelling my name completely wrong on my hand laminated pass – non-league football at its best!

But in seriousness, once again it was a 100 per cent friendly and welcoming experience. I had some fun banter with Simon over email and at the opening game of the season (versus Chertsey Town), plus some beers and a good chat with a semi-regular Scot (by which I mean a Scotsman who occasionally goes to St Ives games, not, well, you know) who really loved his non-league footy.

Despite knowing no one, from the fans to the players, and having no history with the club, I was still nervous at kick-off: It was St Ives’ first game ever at this level (the exotically titled Calor Southern League Division One Central) after promotion last season. Could they cope with the step up in class?

Just my luck - stuck behind a pillar

Just my luck – stuck behind a pillar

The answer was a pretty resounding yes. After going one down against the run of play, second half goals from Jon Stead and new signing Dubi Ogbonna gave the Saints a deserved 2-1 win in front of a ‘bumper’ (according to the official website) crowd of 232.

I’m already convinced the season ticket was £80 well spent. I know it’s a cliché, but this does feel like ‘proper’ football. You’re not going to find the home team’s physio going round the crowd asking for headache tablets at an Arsenal game are you?

And, as a former gooner, it’s not like I’m used to a great atmosphere at games: I’m more than happy with an imaginative, “Do you all work at Thorpe Park?” chant from a small group of St Ives lads – admirably applauded by Chertsey’s travelling army of 10 or so fans.

This week’s Arsenal Supporter’s Trust statement refusing to back a new contract for Arsene Wenger puts things very much in perspective. I just paid £80 for my season ticket here, while over at Arsenal these poor schmuks are paying £1,000 for theirs – and I’m pretty sure that even now, a week into the season, St Ives have spent more on players. Makes you think doesn’t it…