Life as a High Sheriff under “House Arrest”
Like all other High Sheriff`s this year, our hand overs coincided about the same time as lockdown.
In South Glamorgan we just managed to hold the hand over dinner from Dr Isabel Graham my predecessor; but that was about it.
Having few expectations about what to expect taking on this role, apart from it being a great honour, I took the approach that; “it is what it is and I just had to get on with it”.
My marvellous Under Sheriff Philip Evans was is a font of all knowledge.
He and I arranged with Jason Edwards (Mid Glamorgan HS ) a joint declaration “behind closed doors” with Judge His Honour Richard Twomlow and a JP.
I suspect forthcoming 2021 declaration will similarly be held behind closed doors in the Spring.
Lockdown showed how essential it is to have a good and close working relationship with both your Under Sheriff, and also with your Lord Lieutenant. The Lord Lieutenant in South Glamorgan, Morfudd Meredith, has been fabulous and a real help to me. Some ceremonies you may go to together and she knows the role extremely well and is a consummate expert, guiding me subtly.
So once in office, what does a High Sheriff do when a 1 in 672 year event condemns you to be unable to fulfil this traditional yet still very important role with only a few permissible forays ?
When the extraordinary becomes normal and normal becomes forgotten.
Indeed the previous comparable happening, the first plague, the black death of 1348 has left me little to go on.
I did do some research and found that the Black Plague halted the hundred year war.
So I hoped COVID may also have some positive effect and may of helped climate change. But alas it hasn’t and the initial reduction in carbon dioxide output, and slight cooling of global warming experience, mainly from China, didn’t last.
The black death did lead to the Peasants revolt and to number of recurring years of plague!
This just shows how difficult it is to plan for the unplannable.
I do think a lot of this virus is all about evolution. So we should remember Darwin who said;
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”
We have to adapt and innovate. And quickly to get ahead of this virus, which has the ability to evolve, more quickly than any other biological entity.
Fortunately innovation comes easily to me and I adapted my business in February into making hand sanitiser and PPE. As a manufacturing company we worked throughout the lockdown 24/7 for our NHS, blue light and other front line forces.
I tell you now it was a crazy time; really busy. It did also give me a valuable insight into what was needed on the front line and to what support the local community and charities and international charities may need. Those we were working with were all terrific; they all went forwards towards the danger and didn’t hide away from it.
I witnessed first hand the extraordinary work and dedication of so many - whether in their professional or voluntary capacity - and this was indeed a humbling experience.
I am grateful that within the confines of this invidious pandemic I was able to meet and I hope support so many of these marvellous people.
Although the majority of the splendid events a High Sheriff would have the honour of attending were cancelled, a few were scaled back and I was able to attend all very strictly socially distancing a few including;
• Indian Independence Day at Cardiff castle with the first Minister and other VIPs, all drenched in the rain.
• Remembrance Day ceremonies; in Cowbridge on Sunday and Barry on the 11th November.
• All 4 of the magistrates swearing in ceremonies at Cardiff courts. Four due to social distancing, no tea or biscuits were allowed. It was though a great opportunity and privilege to spend some quality time with the judges.
• I also attended two Ambulance award recognition ceremonies in Barry.
So I have only wore my splendid uniform 5 times. But it is what it is and not having any high expectations before my year, really helped.
It is though vitally important to keep connected to the community. I reverted to pigeon post, email, phone and now zoom and teams calls and continue to connect with the Police, Prison governor, the 3 Cardiff universities, charities, and medics all on a regular but unintrusive basis. They are on the front line.
As a result of this interaction, I will be awarding some of my High Sheriff Recognition Certificates for those who have gone the extra mile during this worrying Covid crisis.
We all know from our own “house arrest” the importance of connecting with people.
Keeping in contact with each other is now needed more than ever!
I have also been in touch with the South Glamorgan`s Sheriff family past and future. They are great for advice, and instead of the typical functions, I keep in touch with them with a regular email newsletter.
Not waiting for the storm to stop, we have to learn how to dance in the rain!
So on Black Friday I hosted a virtual cocktail party, which will also introduce the high sheriff in nomination for 2023/4.
To help bring a bit of sparkle to the evening, I put together a hamper of cheese and wine of course hand sanitisers and some other goodies which were very well appreciated. I had back many great comments including this one…..
So I am less of the sanitiser Sheriff, more of the Santa Sheriff. Having door step chats when I delivered the hampers, with them was really uplifting.
I did think in this bleak and depressing year, which has hit the most vulnerable the hardest, it is now more than ever important to help those whom need help.
So with the assistance of my extremely talented family and the 2 other Glamorgan High Sheriffs, Debbie Williams and Jason Edwards, they became my posse comitatus. We pulled together Welsh stars of sports, theatre, music and TV personalities to create a video in support for the Welsh NHS. Funds are still being added to the over £18,000 we have raised so far.
This uplifting video was seen on national, and international tv and of course social media. Please help by sharing it if you haven’t already.
The posse got together again 2 weekends ago and videoed a pantomime for Ty Hafan, a local children`s hospice. I had the pleasure of throwing a cake in Jason`s face.
Jason has been in touch with me and we now want to start a new initiative;
“To feed the food banks”
Putting others before ourselves.
I already work with a number of local homeless charities and the main Cardiff Food Bank, so this is something I really want to support and drive forward. Not Just now before Christmas, but long term.
Finally, I hope that next year is better for everyone worldwide. With the vaccine on the horizon hopefully opening up the possibility of some return to whatever a “new normal” will be; we still though will need to adapt and faster than the virus can.
I close with these thoughts.
The High Sheriff tradition has lasted 1000 years, its has survived wars, famine, civil uprising, plague, religious intolerance and now a pandemic.
It is now more essential than ever in this time of crisis. It will continue in its steadfast nature to be true to our sworn duty as defenders and representatives of our sovereign monarch and our community.
With any posse comitatus, we together need to take the fight to defending the vulnerable and protecting the protectors.
To each of you for Christmas and for the new year remember as Sir Tom Moore said
“Tomorrow will be a better day”.
High Sheriff of South Glamorgan