Norfolk High Sheriff excited about challenges ahead.
Georgina Holloway strikes you as one of those people who just gets things done with little fuss and no hullabaloo. A self-confessed traditionalist with an inability to say no, she tells Rachel Buller about her busy year ahead as the new High Sheriff of Norfolk and grandmother-to-be.
As an enthusiastic and sprightly Cavalier King Charles spaniel bounds around the driveway to greet me, an apologetic Georgina Holloway is not far behind, ushering her dog back in the house.
'She has gone a bit mad as the other dog is away at the moment,' she explains.
Leading me into the beautiful old rectory at Whissonsett which has been her home for a quarter of a century, she is dressed impeccably, very smartly and very much the dignitary; this she explains, though, is because of a tour of the civic offices in King's Lynn which she has just rushed back from.
'I would usually just be in my jeans,' she says, looking rather embarrassed.
As she makes coffee, Georgina admits she is nervous about being interviewed, and even more so about the photographs to follow.
This seems at odds with her role at the forefront of countless charity events and fundraisers, but it seems that Georgina likes to go about these things rather quietly.
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'I just can't say no,' she says with a smile. 'I always think that sounds interesting and so I just say yes and think about it later.'
This modest reflection on the direction her life has taken suggests that much of her achievements are somehow accidental. Of course this is not the case.
In March, she officially became the High Sheriff of Norfolk, in a simple, but centuries-old ceremony at the home of the retiring High Sheriff, Charles Barratt. It was perfect for Georgina. 'I love traditional things, the pomp and ceremony, and we are fantastically good at it in this country.'
The responsibility of the title is not a complete mystery to her as her husband Charles has been Under-Sheriff for 16 years. But nonetheless she is nervous about the responsibility she has taken on. 'Historically, the High Sheriff was in charge of the law and debt collecting and although the role has changed, the fact there is a link still between the Sheriff, the judiciary, the church and the community today shows its importance and relevance.
'Now I think our role is to get people together, connect people from all different parts of life and backgrounds.'
It isn't just the role of High Sheriff which will keep her occupied during 2011, she will also become a grandmother for the first time.
Moving the knitting out of the way to take a seat on the couch, a little white unfinished creation pokes out of the top of the bag.
'I have to keep unpicking the arm because I keep finding big holes in it when I have finished,' laughs Georgina. 'It is so exciting. My daughters are both having babies close together – one in July and one in September,' she says.
Georgina was born in Dennington in north Suffolk. It was not until she and Charles decided to leave London to move back to East Anglia that she made the choice to settle in Norfolk rather than her home county. That was more than 30 years ago.
Having worked as a secretary for Savills in London, a job which she loved, she stopped working when she had children.
'I suppose there were a few of us who had stopped working and had children of similar ages and we would spend time together. Then someone asked if I could help with this huge tea party in St Andrew's Hall in Norwich for a charity.'
Then she says, it simply grew from there. 'I started having these big fairs here. It was so much fun and raised loads of money for various charities including Macmillan Cancer Support.
'My husband was working in London at the time so I got him out of the way, moved all the furniture and we just got as many stalls in here as possible selling different things. I would charge people money to have a stall and do lunches in the kitchen, it was all friends of friends of friends and we would have it before Christmas.'
The charity which has mostly occupied her efforts over the years is St John Ambulance. Charles was involved with the organisation for many years and was area commissioner, but due to work commitments he was forced to give up. However, Georgina was ready to step in and is now county president.
'Everybody thinks you just go to the Norfolk Show or the football. But it is about so much more than that. They train people in business; work with schools and the benefits to young children who join are fantastic.
'You often hear about the seven-year-old who has saved someone's life because of something basic they learned with St John Ambulance – even if it's just calling an ambulance.
'But you don't always hear about what impact joining St John ambulance can have as the children get older. As older cadets they do leadership courses and the confidence it gives them when applying for jobs or university is amazing. That is largely forgotten, but it is really helping a lot of young people for the future.
She says that although she is well aware of the work that the charity does around the world, teaching important first aid skills and acting as a medical support network, she was still surprised to meet volunteers during a recent trip to Africa.
'I was in Zimbabwe before Christmas visiting my son who was working out there at the time and I found the St John Ambulance in Harare. My son said it was the only place he had been to which had not got a picture of Robert Mugabe on the wall and had a picture of the Queen up instead.
'They have two ambulances they use and they are training people and teaching first aid in pretty difficult circumstances.'
As part of her fundraising role for St John Ambulance, she runs the Open Gardens events in Norfolk, which she 'sort of fell into by mistake'. Her involvement doesn't extend to opening up her own garden though.
'I am not really sure it is good enough but I might think about it in the future.'
As part of her duties as High Sheriff, she can choose to support different causes and use her position to raise awareness.
'Although I fundraise for St John Ambulance, I thought I didn't want to just focus on one charity. So I chose the Community Foundation, which is brilliant because it supports lots of charities throughout Norfolk all doing different things.'
She will also be looking more closely at the issue of domestic violence during her year of office, drawing on the experience she gained while being a non-executive director on the boards of two Norfolk hospitals.