1. 4th June. Rutland County Show, The Show Ground at Oakham.
Another scorcher. Court Dress was an essential for the day and I was due at the Show Ground for 9.30 am to meet David Wood, Chairman of the Rutland Agricultural Society. Heavy black velvet is ideal for cool Autumnal and cold Winter days, less attractive to wear in high Summer, but it had to be done. For the Show it was a perfect day and strenuous efforts beforehand ensured that traffic problems of previous years were all but eliminated. David was a perfect host and he took me round the Show enabling me to view horses, Highland and other cattle, sheep, a large number of different breed of hens, Tractor Pulling, Hedge Laying, the For Rutland Bottle Tombola (I bought so many losing tickets!), tractors of enormous proportions, new cars, Rutland Pride Magazine, the Military, numerous retailers, lots of hot food stalls, and of course vintage and veteran cars.
There were many more attractions I cannot mention. It was a superb day with huge crowds present and a great success over all. I enjoyed an excellent lunch in the Members’ Marquee and left eventually mid-afternoon after a really enjoyable day. Thank you David for your hospitality, and I can only recommend next year’s show to Rutlanders who were not able to be there on 4th June. A great family day.
2. 6th June. Visit to Catmose College, Oakham.
Rutland is famous for its two Public Schools, but in the state sector Catmose College is an outstanding example of what can be achieved if sufficient funding can be made available. Catmose is led by Principal Stuart Williams and I had the pleasure of a tour of the College with Stuart. The facilities are superb and the students seemed to be stimulated and totally focused on their studies. Adjacent to Catmose is Harington 6th Form College which I was not able to visit, but it is another new facility and I very much hope to get there during my year as High Sheriff. Catmose is rated highly by Ofsted and I can see why. Congratulations on a true local success story.
3. 7th June. Royal Courts of Justice and Dinner in the Inner Temple.
The invitation to Evensong at the Inner Temple Church in London followed by Dinner in one of the Inns of Court was always going to be a special event for me and it turned out to be just that. However, Midland’s High Sheriffs were also invited to a tea party in the Royal Courts of Justice in the rooms of Mrs Justice Carr, who is Presiding Judge of the Midlands Judicial Circuit, and who will also be attending my Justice Service in Oakham on 27th October. It was a very special afternoon and evening, and all three events were exceptional and I will remember the day for a long time. The doors that open to the High Sheriff! We stayed at my daughter’s house in North London that night, and next day brought me back down to earth with domestic duties involving school runs for my two youngest grandchildren. Accessing Rutland schools is much simpler and quicker.
4. 10th June. RAF Wittering Family Day.
A Saturday at Wittering for their Family Day was a pleasure and I was able to meet up with some of the local Mayors and Council Leaders, as well as Surinder Sharma who was High Sheriff of Leicestershire last year. Surinder was his usual chatty and informative self, giving me invitations to Eid and Diwali events in Leicester later in the year. The RAF base is now principally a training base for servicemen with some flying but on a restricted basis. It does remain home to 1700 personnel and it is easy to forget just how large the base is, but inevitably financial cuts mean that its role has changed significantly. It must have been fascinating when Harriers and other aircraft were based there.
5. 13th June. Meeting with Revd Canon Lee Francis-Dehqani.
My Justice Service is now arranged for Friday 27th October at All Saints Church, Oakham. A preliminary meeting with my Chaplain Christopher Armstrong, Kate Blank my Under Sheriff, and Lee Dehqani who is the Team Rector of Oakham and Rural Dean of Rutland was arranged to discuss the Justice Service, and some of its formalities. It will be a large event and I am told to expect at least 250 attending. Yes, this will take some organisation and I’m very glad that my good friend John Merritt will take on the admin, at least he said he would!
6. 18th June. High Sheriff’s informal lunch party.
About 80 guests had been invited to an informal lunch party at Red Kite House on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year. We had plenty of shade, much needed, and the last guests left at about 6.30 pm after a very lively afternoon despite the heat. The caterers did a top job for us, and for once the clearing up was minimal.
7. 19th June. Fly the Flag at Oakham Castle.
It was Armed Forces week and on Monday morning at the Castle the Military arrived to raise the Flag after a short ceremony attended by various local dignitaries, including the Lord-Lieutenant Sir Laurence Howard and his charming wife Chris. I had not mentioned the Award given to Laurence for many years of outstanding service to Rutland and Her Majesty and there was universal acclaim for his work. A KCVO is the personal gift of the Monarch and very much reflects the exceptional leadership which Laurence has provided to the County. His will be a hard act to follow when he retires next year.
8. 20th June. Visit to Brooke Hill Academy Trust, Oakham.
I always enjoy school visits as High Sheriff. The children are intrigued by my uniform, as they see it, and of course the sword needs a lot of explanation every time. (No, I have not used it in anger, at least not yet). 10 minutes from me on what I do were followed by about 20 minutes of questions from the children. Young children love the information they can glean from such an occasion, and I love giving them as much fact as possible. A very pleasant hour at Brooke Hill. Thank you Mr Westley.
9. 21st June. Uppingham Community College.
The College is all but on my doorstep but I had not visited it before my visit as High Sheriff. The age range for students at the College is 11 to 16, and it seemed to be very full with a large number of stimulated and very active pupils going about their business. I was taken round the college by two senior students who were both, very confident and helpful to me. They knew exactly what was going on at the College and I was given detail of the College’s Sponsored 10k Walk due to take place on 30th June. Their target for new facilities was to raise £50k, but as yet I don’t know what was raised. There is no doubt that it provided a huge stimulus to the College and I know was a great success. Would love to hear what was raised.
The College does need some upgrading of its facilities generally, but the students gave the impression of being very articulate, happy and working hard. All good news.
10. 22nd June. Visit to Voluntary Action Rutland, Oakham.
Voluntary Action Rutland (VAR) operates from a significant site in Land’s End Way, Oakham and is geared up to provide all sorts of different services and facilities in the Charity/Voluntary section in Rutland. VAR has onsite meeting rooms available for use by all kinds of organisations, and it also provides transport manned by volunteers to take Rutland residents who do not have transport otherwise available to them, to appointments, to visit families, and to other places which can be outside the County altogether. The drivers usually provide their own vehicles and VAR now has about 60 volunteer drivers who carry out sterling work in moving clients around.
I was lucky enough to meet Lindsay Henshaw Dann (Chief Exec), and Carsten Pigott (Chairman of VAR) who spent some of their valuable time in explaining to me precisely what VAR does. What it really confirms to me is that Rutland benefits to a large degree from the Voluntary Sector who provide huge amounts of valuable and largely unpaid work for the benefit of those who are disadvantaged and are not able to provide for themselves.
11. 24th June. Armed Forces Day. Service in Leicester Cathedral.
The Military were out in force in Leicester City Centre on Saturday 24th June, and the Service at the Cathedral was a full house with the Military in full parade uniform and very much looking the part. I was there as an official guest in Court Dress, although I had been asked to leave my sword at home. It was a splendid occasion with a long parade including a pipe band marching along High Street down to the Clock Tower. Lord-Lieutenants, High Sheriffs, senior officers and Civic Dignitaries were all present for the march past, after which we returned to the Cathedral for refreshments in a less formal environment.
I left at about 1.30 pm and returned to Barrowden for the Barrowden Village Gardens Open Day, followed by a second day on Sunday. The life of a High Sheriff is nothing if not varied.
12. 30th June. Visit to Force HQ of Leicestershire Police at St Johns, Enderby.
The joint visit by me and Tim Maxted, HS of Leicestershire, had been in my diary for some months and it was a revelation to me. I have known Simon Cole, Chief Constable, for some years and Simon spent an hour with us explaining the way the Force is run and also discussing the budgetary constraints they face. The service this year is provided at a cost of £169m which to me did not seem to be a huge amount of money. They have to be very selective and careful on how those funds are spent, and inevitably some services suffer. However, the quality of the Police Service over all to me is undoubted and I felt a real sense of pride in what I saw and heard. After The Chief had finished his introduction, Tim and I went to Forensics which of course is fascinating, and we were shown an Audi which had been involved in a jewellery robbery the previous day in Leicester. All very hi-tech stuff which was as interesting as anything you see on television.
After Forensics, we went to the 999 Call Centre to see how it all functions. On three consecutive days in mid-June when temperatures were so high, the Force had received in excess of 900 three nines emergency calls each day. This was the highest number ever received by the Police. Because of the demand, every call has to be prioritised, and appropriate action taken, or deferred. An alleged theft of chocolate valued at £3 from a shop was deemed less important than a serious sexual offence, not surprisingly. A police officer did suggest it would be much simpler to hand over the £3 to the shopkeeper. A pragmatic comment no doubt.
From 999s, we went to Firearms which was truly fascinating. An Armed Response Vehicle came in to the Unit and we were able to chat openly with Firearms officers, as well as handling Tasers and the arms they utilise. Leics and Rutland always has 3 or 4 BMW x5s on the go in and around the City and County at any one time, ready to be called into an emergency at very short notice. The weaponry was impressive and frightening too, but it is what is needed at a time when guns and knives are in constant use amongst criminals. I was also intrigued to view a Scorpion Machine Pistol which had been seized, and was capable of firing 25 rounds in 2.5 seconds. Bad news in the wrong hands.
Lunch followed with Keith Vaz MP there, plus the Police and Crime Commissioner Willy Bach, and his assistant Kirk Master. A number of senior officers also attended and it rounded off an exceptional day for me.
13. 2nd July. Polo at Langham, sponsored by LOROS.
A very nice invitation to have from John Knight, Chief Exec of LOROS to join him and his Team to watch Polo being played for the Assam Cup , and to enjoy a very good lunch in the Marquee there. It was another hot day and a good time was had by all. I had been a Director and the Company Secretary of LOROS for 14 years from 1985 and I know the charity very well. My wife had also been a bereavement counsellor at LOROS for 18 years and so it was a very good opportunity to see how well things are going now. LOROS needs to raise £5.5m each year to cover revenue costs now. In 1985 we built a 25 bed residential hospice for just £1m. How times have changed. A big thankyou from us both for the day.
14. 4th July. Visit to Great Casterton C of E Primary School.
Another chance to tell young children about my role as High Sheriff, to explain why I carry a sword, and also to tell them how the HS is appointed. Lovely children and delightful friendly staff headed by Anne Platt.
15. 5th July. High Sheriff’s Charity Golf Day for Warning Zone.
I have run the Rutland Warning Zone Golf Days for about 4 years, and this year we decided to move the venue to Luffenham Heath GC. The day took some organising over several months, but we started with 19 teams of 4, plus sponsorship of every hole as well. It was an incredibly hot humid afternoon and the HS did not play too well. However, the event was a resounding success with refreshment on the 9th hole, and a dinner for 80 afterwards in the Clubhouse. A huge thank you to the teams entered, the sponsors, the Club and Tim Stephens in particular, and to the three Elizabeths for feeding and watering us at the 9th green – (Elizabeth, Libby and Liz). The result of it all is that Warning Zone should benefit to the tune of about £9,500. A fantastic result for everyone.
I must also thank Ross Hallett of IMG for providing such wonderful prizes and auction lots for us.
16. 6th July. Knighting Ceremony at Oakham Castle.
This was a delightful event held at Oakham Castle during the early evening of 6th July. The Knight School trains and educates small groups of young children in matters of courtesy, respect, good manners, health, politeness and generally chivalrous behaviour. The 12 young children were all knighted by me at the Ceremony allowing me to unsheath my sword and dub them “Sir” or “Lady” with a name from the Knights of the Round Table. Sir Lancelot had a special meaning to me.
A lovely evening with lots of proud parents, and very happy dignitaries as well. I very much enjoyed the ceremony and hope to be invited again at the end of 2017.