As we approach the end of the year it seems an appropriate time to look back over the first 9 months of my time as High Sheriff.
We have become familiar with a whole new vocabulary from lockdown, tiers, isolation, R numbers and sadly many more as Covid has wreaked havoc suffering across the world.
Margaret Miles and I were scheduled to hand over the role of High Sheriff of Rutland at Oakham Castle on Thursday 2nd April. Margaret had events planned to mark the end of her term of office and I took leave work from Friday 13th March to clear my diary for a busy year ahead.
That weekend was to be the last normal one for some time, the BBC described March as “the month the world changed”. By Tuesday of the following week everything was cancelled as retail, hospitality and public buildings were being closed.
In a unique event we handed over in the Castle carpark on a grey windy day, other of my colleagues would do their declarations from their homes over Zoom or Skype.
High Sheriffs from the East Midlands had our first meeting over Skype to discuss what to do as lockdown prevented us from getting out and acknowledging great work done by people across our communities.
Letters were written and emails sent, Zoom meetings became the new normal and innovative ways of doing things were found.
The emergency services were under incredible pressure and the nation thanked them as we stood on our doorsteps to clap for the NHS.
New heroes arose across the county – in Rutland people shopped for others, collected medicines, made face masks and scrubs for the NHS, we recognized the contribution made by our bin men, delivery drivers and so many more who kept the fabric of life going.
Citizens Advice Rutland put together a great video to thank all volunteers during Volunteers Week
15th June saw High Streets reopen, in a county the size of Rutland I took the opportunity to visit as many stores as I could in Oakham, Uppingham and the villages as we hoped for some sort of “normal” was returning.
Leicestershire Police kindly allowed the High Sheriffs of Leicestershire and Rutland to join some of the virtual meetings; what an impressive well-led and motivated organization they are, we are so fortunate to be in their safe-keeping in such challenging times.
July saw a general easing of restrictions as people began to have confidence to get out more.
I had planned a walking holiday along the Caminos of northern Spain at the beginning of August but new travel restrictions prompted a rethink and good friend Nick Clarke and I walked the Rutland Round to promote staycations in Rutland and raise funds for the Community Foundation which supports local voluntary organisations. Rutland Radio supported us along the way and the Spanish twist was complete with paella in Uppingham Market Place on the final day.
September and October actually began to feel a little more normal and I was delighted to visit a number of initiatives around the county but special credit must go to staff, pupils and parents for the way schools got back to educating and stimulating our young people.
Sadly Covid began to take a hold again as the second wave grew across the country forcing the government to impose measures to protect our communities but bringing with it hardship and worry for so many.
Remembrance Sunday this year was curtailed but, although numbers able to attend were limited, the events took on an even greater significance. We recalled with pride not only the Fallen of the Great War and World War Two who won our freedoms but so many casualties of our latest battle with the Covid pandemic as well.
(Photo courtesy of Clarke PR & Media)
During the late summer the Lord Lieutenant and wrote to all town and parish councils asking them to identify people across Rutland who had stepped forward and shown great kindness to improve the lives of others during the crisis.
In early December we were delighted to write to over 250 people and thank them on behalf of our whole community.
We are very aware that many others have done great work and so we created a short video service to thank everyone for what they have done so far.
(Photo courtesy of Oakham School)
December has brought with it increasing levels of restrictions and local lockdowns across the UK as we wrestle to defeat Covid.
We know we still have a long way to go and tough times lie ahead but I am sure that Rutland will eventually emerge a much stronger community.