During the past couple of days, I’ve had some friendly chats with Steven Blair, who has managed the Allendale Inn for two and a half years now, and I’ve cobbled together a few notes to present here.
I caught up with Steve, most recently, while he was setting up the bar at Allendale Village Hall for the Burns Night Supper, where he told me about his body-building endeavours soaking in icy cold water like the River Allen in February, which help him train for strong, endurance competitions in the likes of Iceland, Slovakia, Mongolia and on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. Steve is, of course, the winner of the past year’s Allendale Local Strong Man competition, held in the square during the May Fair. I knew already that he trains with his coach on the tarmac beside the skate park in the Recreation Ground, of a Wednesday morning, rain or shine.
But I first met Steven on his first Bar Management job, such a long time ago, back in about 1995, when Carrie was working with him at The King’s Head, then run by Jacquie Robson. Carrie remembers how tall he was even then, but he proved his worth by keeping the cellar and the beer in pristine condition, and he’s been in demand around the region ever since.
Latterly, he moved on from a successful stint at the Twice Brewed Inn along the Military Road, to try to rejuvenate the Bowes Hotel in Bardon Mill, there developing a passionate crowd of regulars who asked for his assistance in running their village hall bar. But when the Allendale Inn opportunity came up, he knew it was a good time to return to Allendale, where he now plans to settle down.
But living in a place is not the same, necessarily, as working there, and Steven is still moving along in his management career — the Twice Brewed Inn have been back in touch and are spiriting him away from tomorrow, to return to the biggest pub in the region, with something like 50 staff, an in-house brewery, 19 guest rooms, hosting an endless stream of visitors to Hadrian’s Wall. The opportunity to return to larger venue management was too good to pass up, and so today is Steven’s last day at the Allendale. No doubt the Dorbiere Pub Group will miss him, but there will be interim managers to keep the place running, of course, until a permanent new manager is secured. What was it we were mentioning, a few pieces back, about living through transitions in management at establishments around the square? I remember when Syd and Mary Martin had the Allendale, way back when, and Syd ran the party bars in village halls around the area, but that’s another story for another day.
So it just remains for us to wish Steven all the very best in his new position, and to hope that he does manage to keep his roots in Allendale, even while he embarks on strong man adventures all around the world. Part of those roots, he hopes, may be regular service of the village hall bars at Allendale and Bardon Mill. So we have to remember: ‘au revoir’ means ‘see you again’ idiomatically, which we’ll hope for too.