By Stephanie Richardson - 23rd February 2020 6:09am
Allan and Jo Brown — Pillars of our Community
As I sit here with my glass of wine — alcohol is necessary because no great story ever began with someone eating a salad — I contemplate the fact that great pubs don't happen by accident. Some clever people have made them happen, through their choice of staff, drinks, decor, furnishings and, more importantly, by stamping their personalities on the pub in a way which makes it a relaxed but stimulating place to talk, eat and drink.
Now, I'm not in this world to live up to your expectations and you're not in this world to live up to mine so I need to explain that I'm not addicted to wine, we just have a committed relationship which often leads me to tell my friends that I love them at some unearthly hour! Also I have my drinking under control. I waited ten minutes in Brambles at Christmas until St James's clock struck midday before taking the proffered glass of Prosecco which Lisa had kindly offered.
I'd also like to explain that as someone who enjoys a glass of wine each night for health benefits, the other glasses drunk are for my witty comebacks and flawless dance moves, as the above mentioned friends can easily testify!
So what makes a great pub? These days, it's not really about the beer -- that battle has largely been won. Even grim chain pubs sell craft beer and the days when it took serious research to find a decent bitter are long gone. For most of us the mark of a good pub is not its look or its location, but if it has the right atmosphere and this is created (or destroyed) by the pub landlords.
Fortunately for Audlem, Allan and Jo Brown are the couple who girded their loins — on special offer at Oxtail & Trotter — and took on the mammoth challenge of creating a bustling, welcoming hub within our village. We are indeed fortunate to have them both as doyens of one of our three great village pubs, The Lord Combemere, and as many of us suffer from Novinophobia and Nobrewophobia they are also just what the doctor ordered!
If you've missed the endless articles whingeing about pub closures, it must be because you've been too blotto to focus.The best landlords don't suck up to their customers as drinkers want genuine character rather than conveyor-belt 'customer service', and Allan and Jo have spent the last ten years of their lives giving "blood, sweat and tears" in order to build up a hub for the community's infrastructure offering events, support and friendship. Their initiatives have contributed hugely to enhancing the quality of life and wellbeing at a local level and they fully deserve their recent award for ten years service from the Ei Group.
Personally I think they both also deserve a gold medal, which we all know is really composed of enthusiasm, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts. Being told you're appreciated is one of the simplest and most uplifting things you can hear. However, life is like underwear, change is good, and we will be sad to see Allan and Jo leave the Lord C in 2022 to further their life adventures.
Armed with my temporary AOL press badge, (I'm an editor's risk), I decided to investigate further details of these village stalwart's community involvements and as the Lord C is only round the corner, a major consideration when purchasing our house, I still wore my slippers, which I felt would put Allan and Jo at ease.
To make any type of impact, you have to become involved and there are three kinds of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who say, 'what happened?' Allan and Jo belong to the first category and a fine example of their community involvement and support is with ADCA, a hugely important lifeline for many within our community.
Opening their doors before noon — bleary eyed but ever willing — Allan and Jo host fortnightly Carers Group coffee mornings which enable the carers to have some quiet space for chats, advice and mutual support. They also hosted the ADCA Friday Coffee Mornings until the end of 2018, when they were moved to the Annexe due to a Games Afternoon being introduced which may have interfered with the Lord C's business and clientele, after all no-one wants a table tennis ball in their beer!
A few years ago, ADCA was "homeless" for many months whilst their base, the Hankelow Chapel, was being renovated. They were indebted to Allan and Jo who came to their rescue by offering the Lord C as a place to hold their meetings, providing lunches and teas/coffees to their members, which enabled ADCA to continue to flourish.
Allan and Jo continue to provide excellent Christmas lunches for their Carers and the Tuesday Club members and for many years in the past they have also hosted ADCA's Annual General Meeting. More than all of the above, they have always been very welcoming and a source of good practical advice and help. They've also assisted with the occasional fundraising initiatives that ADCA has run and generally been valued friends of the charity and its members.
Now I always thought football was a simple game. Twenty two men or women chase a ball for ninety minutes and at the end the Germans win. How hard can that be? However when the idea of a village football team was first mooted, Allan and Jo were the first to support this new venture by offering to provide the kit, complete with a Lord C logo!
Allan was also a leading light in instigating the Audlem Beer Festival in 2010, which included all three pubs, and he still plays a major part as a valued member of ASET — Audlem Special Event Team — a group that organises several of the village's long roster of major happenings which enhances our village profile and enables our small businesses to prosper.
Allan and Jo believe that people actually want to move to Audlem because of its community spirit, and were ASET to stop putting on these annual events there's a real danger of the retail side suffering, pubs closing, and the village cohesion disappearing.
After all, one of the best thing about living in Audlem is when you are not sure what's going on in your own life, someone in the village usually does!
Sometimes you can spot a gang of muddy looking desperadoes on the balcony and steps of the Lord C, armed with a variety of weapons, scythes, rakes, spades, secateurs and wheel barrows for a quick get away, fear not, once again Allan and Jo are providing free sustenance to the hard working ADAS group as they strive to enable Audlem to win yet another Gold award.
Allan and Jo's communal generosity is endless. They host the regular Tuesday night quizzes run by Ralph Warburton BEM, several of which raise money for our local charities.
Although pub quizzes are meant to be a bit of fun, when the stakes are that great (pride); and people are that competitive (and intoxicated); tensions can run a little high. After all, tact is for people who aren't witty enough to be sarcastic, however the half time chips and sandwiches provided by Allan and Jo ease all tensions and restore equability.
The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members and I have only scratched the surface of the many involvements that Allan and Jo have, and still do, participate in.
If the world had more people like them it would be a better place as alone we can do so little but together we can do so much. All we can do is thank them and wish them well in their future endeavours.
I can sum up the story of my life in a few words. 'I knew better but I did it anyway!'
Have you ever looked at people and thought 'Really? That's the sperm that won?!'
Tuesday 7th Apr
Monday 6th Apr
Scout and Guide Hall
Audlem Methodist Church