Becoming St Ivian, part 4: Hidden treasures and the road to Wem-ber-lee

Unfortunately a combination of crappy weather and other commitments have curtailed any further opportunities to explore the St Ives countryside. With the evenings starting to shorten and free weekends drying up, there will be precious few chances for decent exploring again this year.¬†However, it’s amazing what you can find on your doorstep.

Our cute little ginger neighbour, coincidentally named George (see below), is about six or eight, or something – I have no idea, he’s a child anyway. He seems a nice little chap, but just after we moved in he said something very odd. We’d come back from the chip shop, which is about a 15 minute walk away (and not called George’s) and he was playing outside. “Have you been to George’s?” He said. Strange boy.

So it was with supreme embarrassment that, two months later, I decided to take a different route to the bus stop – and stumbled upon George’s Chip Shop, about five minutes from our house. Alongside a handy (when you know it’s there…) corner shop and a (far less useful) hairdressers.

You’ll be pleased to hear we have since eaten at George’s and it’s every bit as good as the further chippy, which is dead to us now (so fickle). But I digress. The point was, there was a bloody chip shop five minutes from our house and we didn’t know!

I think its mainly because, where we previously lived in the flat on a new estate in Cambridge, the building firm had clearly been told they needed to build absolutely no new facilities at all. And this has become common; new areas are just thrown up, with no provision made for lazy locals who want a bag of chips.

Now our nice house in St Ives was built in the 70s, probably under a Labour government, who understood that greasy food was what made this country great and that the working classes needed to be fed, godamnit! In fact I’m sure I remember a tax on people (mostly posh) who didn’t eat fish and chips on Fridays after work – I expect the tories scrapped it. It makes me go all misty eyed just thinking about those halycon days.

But the point is, when you see a big housing area now, you don’t expect there to be any hidden gems – like shops, or doctors, or schools, or green space, or trees, or telephone boxes, or community centres, or roads that haven’t been dug up 85 times since being laid three weeks earlier. All you expect are piles of pizza delivery fliers, expertly spammed through unwanting doors by a desperate Royal Mail.

I blame Thatcher.

Wem-ber-lee! Wem-ber-lee! Wem-ber-oh, shit – boo!

My fourth (or fifth – already losing count, I’m such a veteran) St Ives FC experience came in the FA Cup. Nope, not the Final, but nearly – it was the… First Qualifying Round!

Yes, a mere four months before the big time Charlies start noticing the FA Cup at all. And then put out their third teams to beat the team who beat the team who beat the team who beat the team who put out St Ives Town. But not yet!

Joking aside, this was a big day for St Ives. This was the equal highest round the club had got to in the world’s finest football competition, so a win would be club history. We’d got a tricky draw against a side on equal footing (also tier 8) but in a different part of the pyramid; Dereham Town from the Ryman North.

My season ticket didn’t cover cup games, but I wasn’t going to miss this one. Luckily my hangover meant I wasn’t worried about the pitch-side booze ban, but there was definitely a different atmosphere around the ground. A sad lack of pints of the magic of the FA Cup? Who can say.

On the pitch St Ives started slowly (as usual) and Dereham took a deserved lead. But a hilarious goalkeeping blunder unfortunately (for him) gifted the ball to Town’s on-form striker Ogbonna, who lashed it straight back past him shortly before half time.¬†This calmed the nerves and not long into the second half he’d scored two more for his hattrick and everyone could start to relax. History had been made – Wembley loomed large!

I got excited about the draw for the Second Qualifying Round. It was when some pretty big sides came in, up to tier six of the pyramid, which offered all kinds of possibilities – a local-ish game versus Histon (boo!) or Cambridge City (hurray!); a bigger club fallen on hard times (Stockport County anyone?), or a team from my past (Harrow Borough, or Wealdstone). It could mean some decent money, or a fun away trip – or maybe even progress to the next round and even bigger teams. Or it could mean away to Concord bloody Rangers.

Yes. The biggest game in St Ives town history was to be against some no-mark team I’d never heard of, from the far from convenient Canvey Island – described by some as the worst chav town in Essex. Worse still, it was a team punching above its weight with a better team than Town’s but getting smaller crowds. Marvellous.

I didn’t get to the game (although around 100 fans did make the journey, doubling the crowd – bravo!), but I am pleased to report the Saints apparently held their own, only to go out 4-3 after going down to 10 men.

So FA Cup glory is gone for another year, but joking aside there are no hard feelings. In fact, I will be cheering on ‘the beachboys’ in the next round – because they were drawn against bloody Histon! Bugger bugger bugger bugger…

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