Hello dear friends around the world!
Since March enormous changes occurred in our lives – some brilliant, and some not quite so good - so I will start from the early summer months right up to this week, which is really important… So read on!
At the end of May we gathered all the children and grandchildren (except Jessica and James and their two tinies – but I will come to that later) to France to celebrate Lauren’s 40th and Emily’s 42nd birthdays. I managed to rent a wonderful place with a swimming pool that sleeps 12 and the others occupied the rest of our house up to the attic rooms(!) culminating in a huge dinner at the local restaurant, with many of our French, Irish and English friends.
It was woooonderful! Excellent food, wine and much hilarity and even Lauren’s little Arthur - previously know as Nathaniel and now aged two - stayed to the bitter end and no crying or squabbling amongst all the little cousins.
When they left for home they were all tanned and swum out! Luckily the weather had stayed brilliant, but as they left we succumbed to rain and wind, but in a way we were glad as Roger and I collapsed with exhaustion. My cooking skills had been stretched to the endth, with four vegetarians and the rest all carnivores,. We were 19 every night, and luckily I only did the cooking and the young did the washing up! We were glued to the World Cup football, although the French and the English didn’t enjoy it too much. We had a couple of footie nights at the restaurant, and some came armed with the dreaded vuvuzelas (the horns that annoyed everybody) but despite the dreadful play we all enjoyed ourselves.
The reason why Jessica and James couldn’t make it was that his book My Friend the Mercenary was released with all the accompanying press nights, radio interviews etc., It is an incredible, but very graphic account of James’s remarkable friendship with one of Africa’s most notorious mercenaries while filming in Liberia during the civil war there. Our own experiences of some parts of Africa (Roger’s visits on tour to West Africa in the l960s/70s and hearing from my father, who was involved in many ways in the problems and wars in Angola and Congo) it was history repeating itself. Anyway if you want to know more and read the book, go to and also the attached link. So many people don’t know about these wars properly until they see on the news things like the trial of Charles Taylor in the Hague, only really highlighted by Press and TV due to the appearances of the likes of Mia Farrow and Naomi Campbell as witnesses. Even the film Blood Diamond only showed minimal effects on the poor people there. For more use this Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LldBQiqez8E
Back home, we had only a week before I went into hospital for my foot operation. Two days before the surgeon told me that they had to take bone from my hip to try and build up the arthritic broken bones, as well as steel plates etc. What they didn’t tell me was that when I got home I was not allowed to put my foot on the floor at all for 6 weeks!
After a couple of days trying to crawl up and down three flights of stairs it was decreed that I spend the 6 weeks in my bedroom, which meant that Roger had to do all the cooking. I have to tell you that the man might be a singing star but he became a complete kitchen STAR as far as I was concerned. He is very modest and says he could ‘read the packages’ but he cooked everything from lasagne to trout in almonds, and became the world mashed potato champion. He was given a few nights off by wonderful friends and neighbours who came round with ready prepared food, and one in particular, Maureen, who is a care nurse came round to make sure I was washed, as I couldn’t get any damp anywhere, and dressings on my hip changed. Above and beyond the call of duty…I want to THANK them all from the bottom of my heart. Maureen N, Elyse T, Ingrid R-M, Jane McG. Mary D, Kathleen H and Phyllis C – ladies Here’s to you all! Hope I can return the favour one day.
As soon as I was on my feet – actually one foot – we had a visit from Neue Post to do a home story for a four part series they are doing leading up to Roger’s 75th birthday and the tour. It was tiring, but also hilarious as the dogs wanted to be in every shot and almost whenever we posed for photos, so did they! (photo 2)
In the middle of all this, poor Roger had to supervise the removal of all our antiques, paintings, silver, and his old guitars, cameras, rugs etc., We are not taking anything else to France, as it is all fully furnished and we certainly didn’t want to leave anything precious in the house as we will probably rent it out for a couple of years – the market in property here is so dreadful that it isn’t worth trying to sell.
We are not going to move there until Christmas next year, and then take the dogs. In the meantime we will float between the two houses, and make absolutely sure that France is the answer….certainly warmer. The most important items to make note of is that, owing to lack of space in France, we are auctioning of FOUR platinum and gold discs for a very special charity the Children’ Medical Research Foundation at Our Lady’s Children hospital in Crumlin, Dublin. Like so many research and medical establishments, due to the recession, are crying out for help. I know the estimates on these discs are high, but maybe groups of you, in different countries, could gang together to buy these,
does bid for them successfully, Roger will write a personal thank you to
have framed along side the disc in question. For all the information and to
see what is going for auction please click to the Sheppards link on the
opening web site page. The auction is on the 28th and 29th
Later, nearly all the other discs will be auctioned for the Crumlin Children’s Fund, and also for the Great Ormond Street hospital for children in London.
Children’s charities have always been very close to our hearts, not only because of the thanks we give daily for our own 5 children and all our grandchildren but because the fate of the world is in the hands of the next generation, to make many more healthy and happy, therefore able to do a better job in adult life than previous generations are doing!
Having mentioned all our kids, we have a very joyous announcement to make and that is that Guy and Mette are expecting their first baby, the first week of February next year. We are absolutely over the moon, but I can see us having to rent TWO houses in France for the next big family get- together which will be August next year, when we hope to renew our wedding vows, and get married again under French law.
Jessica and James have moved to the country and out of big city life. A tremendous upheaval and incredibly stressful for them as their new house needs work and they have had to do quite a bit of work on it before they can move in. So they are having to live in a rented house until Christmas. On top of it all both Jessica and James have been inundated with work, and especially Jessica, having had a very quiet summer work-wise, is now having to commute by train to London several times a week. For them all, children included, it is a harrowing and life changing experience. I was so sorry that my inability to walk properly meant that I couldn’t be there to help, but timing on these moves is never right and always exhausting.
Now back to work! Roger will be off to appear on the Florian Silbereisen show on October 16th, and it will be announced that the tour next year seriously will be the last major tour, although, he is NOT retiring, and will do specials every so often, but to all our friends, in the Americas, Canada, Australia and wherever, it will not be likely to tour that far away again…..So please as many of you as possible, try and make a special holiday around some of the dates, especially Vienna on the 29th May.
If you all keep in touch with Vicky and Rory and let us know who is coming and when, we will try and arrange a few Fan Club ‘meet and greets’ wherever possible and when the days off aren’t enormous travel days (sometimes 8 hours driving!).
Around Roger’s 75th Birthday there will be special Television and press dates, and I will keep you in touch on those as they are confirmed. However I know for a fact he will be on Krone der Volksmusik January 8th for a Life Time award and on March 16th he will be guesting on Fruhlingsfest der Volkmusik with Florian , including celebrating his 75th Birthday.
In the meantime, the English album is coming together and Roger has his work cut out on that during the winter months, and we will both be visiting the UK to catch up with all the children before Christmas, and see Jessica- and James’s new house.
Lots of love to you all and keep writing, even if we can’t answer all the wonderful letters we read every one.
Natalie & Roger
The Official Roger Whittaker
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