Meet 2016 High Sheriff Kathrin Smallwood
PUBLISHED: 22:12 01 July 2016
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
She's brought up three sporty sons, has a background in catering and St John's Ambulance and has taken on domestic abuse as her Shrieval theme
Not many High Sheriffs would be able to whip up a cordon bleu meal in a galley kitchen in gale-force winds, administer first aid in an emergency and have the name of her local glazier on speed-dial.
But Kathrin (‘Kaff’ to her friends), trained cook, mother to three sporty boys and President of St John’s Ambulance in Kent ticks all those boxes – although her sons, aged 14, 19 and 21, are (hopefully) now past the ‘breaking windows with alarming regularity’ stage, and she is taking a year’s sabbatical from her charity role.
However, if you get an invitation to dinner, I’d accept with alacrity. Kathrin is still very hands on in the kitchen and intends to keep it that way during her Shrieval year. This is despite accepting every invitation that comes her way so that she can really embrace her new role and possibly not being at home as chief cook quite as much as usual…
Originally from Oxford, she trained at catering college before moving into a variety of different jobs (including cook on board a square-rig brigantine, which got as far as Portugal before being shipwrecked on a sandbank: “beware the Ides of March when sailing!”) and finally cooking directors’ lunches.
Which is how she met husband Matt, literally eyes across a dining room table; he works for a financial PR company in the City and Kathrin was their cook.
Matt is from Kent and his parents live near Hythe, so when they decided to move out of London to grow their family, they knew they wanted to on the old Pluckley-London line: “we just drew a circle around where we needed to be.”
Kathrin adds: “We sold our house within three days in London and looked at so many houses before we came here (Charing) and felt it had the right amount of space.
“The house was painted a depressing grey inside and out when we saw it, but it was the lovely view that sold it to us, and the big rooms.
“We’ve been here 18 years now and the boys have all grown up here and have all been to school in Kent and just love it. The rail station at the end of the road was perfect for them growing up, as they could be quite independent while still enjoying a rural life.”
Kathrin’s charity work started once her sons had gone off to school, initially fundraising for Kent Minds, then she joined St John’s Ambulance nearly 10 years ago as its President.
“St John’s has played a huge part in my life,” Kathrin tells me. “In those days the President didn’t really get their hands dirty, but I decided if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it properly. I wanted all the members to know who I was rather than be a distant, terrifying figurehead.
“Most of the time I dealt with the youth side, because hopefully they are the ones who are going to stay on in the organisation.
“I tried to raise as much money with them as possible for things like their outward bound courses, which would just see the young people blossom over a weekend.”
And now she is following a new path and as is always customary at this early stage (the installation service at Charing church was held on 3 April), Kathrin says she is “still finding my feet – but it’s a bit like my role at St John’s, I just get in there and talk to everyone I meet.
“So far I’ve had lunches with members of Kent County Council, met the Army in Canterbury, the Sea Cadets – the doors are completely open. I’ve met the new Mayors, been to some Mayor Makings, heard Kent Youth Music play, visited the University at Canterbury, the magistrates courts in Folkestone and Maidstone – I even went round the sewage works at Bewl Water!”
Every High Sheriff chooses a theme to focus on and Kathrin’s is domestic abuse. “I hope to give the topic awareness, because we all know it’s out there but it is so often hidden,” she explains. “I’m hoping to be able to put charities together who all have this theme at their heart and they can then work together.
“I went to a forum in Dartford and listened to two women telling their stories – thank god I had waterproof mascara on, it was so shocking. One woman’s husband, the perpetrator, is still out in the area and she is only just, after two years, able to sum up the courage to go out into town – but she still can’t go on her own.”
Kathrin is holding a drinks reception to raise awareness on domestic abuse after the High Sheriff’s traditional Garden Party this month. Another high point in the calender will be her annual Justice Service, held in the autumn.
It’s early days, but I am curious to know as to what kind of High Sheriff Kathrin would like to be remembered. “Hopefully I am going to be approachable, easy to talk to, I’m going to help as much as I possibly can – and I’m going to enjoy my year, which will culminate in the High Sheriff Awards,” she beams.
“There’s never a right time to be asked to do a role like this, but at our age Matt and I have the energy to get the most out of it, and get the most out of it I will!”
My favourite Kent
View: King’s wood in Challock, I go there every morning to walk or dog Sid and you can look across to Wye and to the Crown and on good days you can see Dymchurch and Charing Hill. For me that is my time, it’s when I sort out my day ahead, and it’s also the most beautiful part of Kent.
Place: Where we live now – when we first arrived in Kent and I didn’t know it at all, I used to pick the boys up from school and say ‘we’re going on an adventure,’ and we would just drive around and find all these different villages and different places
Coast: Broadstairs and Margate, both are so typically English, gloriously old-fashioned, great sands, ice creams and rides on the beach – just lovely. My first date with my husband was in Broadstairs, watching him play cricket at Wellesley, his old prep school.
Eating out: I love going out to eat, before the boys came along we’d eat out once a week and I’d always be picking up new idea for recipes. Local pub food is great, The Wheel at Westwell is a favourite, as is The Woolpack at Warehorne
Hobbies: I do pilates as much as I can, and I am invariably watching a match most weekends, as Matt and all my boys are sporty. It’s very relaxing. I still like to entertain as much as I can.
What is a High Sheriff?
The Office of High Sheriff is an independent non-political Royal appointment for a single year. The origins of the Office date back to Saxon times, when the ‘Shire Reeve’ was responsible to the king for the maintenance of law and order within the shire, or county, and for the collection and return of taxes due to the Crown. Today, there are 55 High Sheriffs serving the counties of England and Wales each year. w