Every week I have tried to put fingers to the computer and every week something else happened to distract me.
I have let you down terribly this last 16 months but 2013 was a year we would like to forget! Actually it started just after I wrote to you last as Roger and I were talking and posing for cameras for all the magazine interviews prior to the tour.
As we finished the last visit from journalists, Roger, who had been complaining of a pain behind one of his knee replacements, pointed out to me that it was extremely swollen. Doctors appointment made, and instantly he was sent to a specialist who organised an immediate scan. It revealed that he had a large aneurism in the main artery, and two smaller ones in his body. Whoops!
He was told that if the big one burst he would have 30 minutes to get to a hospital, and also , in view of his career, no long distance flying until it was fixed. As his wife, I was only concerned in his health, and wanted to delay the German tour until he was fit to carry on…..But the answer was NO, as no promoter could get health insurance for somebody over 75!
Roger being Roger said “OK I will carry on and have the surgery in May as soon as the tour finishes.” I am sure you can imagine what I was going through with worry, but he did it, and exhausted came home and underwent the surgery 10 days after he returned. He was only an inpatient for 3 days, and then came home where the local medical service sent a nurse daily to look after him.
They were wonderful. It took him about 5 weeks to start to feel human, but very depressed, especially as we had lost a fortune due to the Bank and property collapse in Ireland…not funny…but at least we were basking in sunshine in a lovely friendly stone hill village. We miss our Irish friends and neighbours, but not the climate, and both of us have realised a wonderful change in arthritis problems….as they say ‘getting old is not for weaklings’.
Then we had a terrible shock….Boris who was, to all intents and purposes, fit as a fiddle, suddenly keeled over. Roger yelled for me to help. I rushed into the sitting room, and Boris was completely unconscious, peed himself and had stopped breathing. Instinct took over, and like with a child in the same circumstances, I threw myself on the floor, grabbed his jaw , closed his nose and started to give him ‘kiss of life’ while alternating with chest compressions and pulling his tongue out, which he had almost swallowed . It worked and he lay there looking at us as if we were crazy.
Our really great English vet was there in 30 minutes and she said it was probably a heart attack, and organised an appointment with a vetinary heart specialist in Toulouse (1hr. 30 mins away) the next day. After giving him a shot he seemed to be absolute fine, and was playing with his toys as normal. But just before bedtime he did it again, and again the following morning, and in the car on the way to the hospital. Now everybody laughs at the image of my giving mouth to mouth resuscitation to a bulldog….but it worked.
A heart scan showed he has a tumour in the lower chamber of his heart, stopping the beat out of the blue. At his age, inoperable. After several other scans, the only solution was heart tablets twice a day, and steroids every other day. Keep your fingers crossed – so far it is working, and on his last checkup the vet said she had fully expected him to die months ago, but he is going to prove us wrong. He is our baby and cant imagine life without him.
So we settled down to summer visits from family which were really good fun, but at that point, feeling a bit like a nurse, I gave up on unpacking etc. apart from the library which was finished, and is fabulous thanks to a great English carpenter who lives locally. The spring I hope to get round to cataloging!
I have joined a book club once a month that has made me read many different books I would never have looked at in the past. The village, with only 1,700 residents is full of life, and nearly every week something is going on, especially in August when there is a festival of stone masons and artists. They set up their Exhibitions, initially, in the market square, and encourage both young and old to try their hands at sculpting. Then the second week, they set up a special exhibition in the main square near our house, with musicians, and fun and games for all.
Roger has plenty of time to play his beloved backgammon and get together with friends for dinner and Bridge evenings, darts club which he is nervous about ! After his cataract op. two years ago, he had to have further laser surgery to correct the Irish op. but he still says he looks at the darts board , aims but the darts go wide. So, if you want there is plenty to do, including Quiz nights which are usually hilarious and we realise there is plenty to learn still.
Just as autumn started, thinking everything had calmed down, we were struck again! This time it was the most enormous storm that Roger and I have ever seen. Our terrace looks over a valley and we could see it coming. The sky alight with lightening and roars of thunder. We had a friend for dinner, so I pushed forward the cooking as such storms usually mean no electricity, but all was good. Lights stayed on ,but you couldn’t hear yourself for the noise of hail (which actually killed pigeons and other small birds).
Then an enormous crash and I thought the chimney over our bedroom had gone and rushed in to look - nothing! So continued with dinner, and when our guest left, went into the sitting room to see water coming from under the door to the newly finished part of the house. On opening the door, with difficulty, I found a sea of water and plaster and insulation filling the landing area. I managed to get the builder out at 11.00 pm and gave him and his helper, brooms, mops and buckets. The roof was brand new! So , weeks of screaming at insurance people followed. Luckily, although the water had gone down into Roger’s studio nothing was damaged.
When all was said and done, we were lucky. Roads had been washed away leaving people unable to get home, or get out, and one house green friendly with a roof of entirely solar panels, which were smashed to pieces, lost everything, and a neighbour’s car was destroyed by the hail. We got off lucky.
Having only had Alex and his fiancée Kate for family visits, in the summer, I began to prepare (in November – as one does) for a family Christmas. It was wonderful and such a joy with Guy, Mette and little Molly and little Alex, Alex and Kate and Jessica with Bells and Max. I had been worried that darling old Boris would be put out by crawling screaming kids, but not at all, he loved it, and actually sulked for two days after they left. Emily and Lauren and their families couldn’t come, due to working over Christmas, but we will get together with all of them in England when we go over for our Golden wedding anniversary.
All the children are in good form, but the only really sad news is that Jessica and James are in the process of getting a divorce, which,
with two small children is hard for them to understand and is very upsetting all round.
Roger is now fully recovered and thinking about his recording of his new material. He will not tour again, I am afraid, as, at 78 and so many years, he would find it too tiring, but we are talking to various record companies, and I will keep you in touch with news on that score. I do know that Universal are putting out a compilation of songs going back to the 1960s/70s which will amuse our grandchildren, and bring back glorious memories for our generation. I believe some have never been on CD.
Well as you can see it has been a stressful time that left me a bit weary, but now the weather is getting better, and I find myself singing while I am preparing my seedlings, pruning roses and looking forward to balmy summer evenings looking over the gorgeous valley.
Roger sends his very best wishes to you all and enormous thanks for all the support over so many years…he wishes he could go on touring but I am sure you understand that all the travelling in just too gruelling as you get older.
As I said I will keep you in touch over new recordings, and in the meantime I, too, want to thank you for all your letters and for caring for Roger so much and for so long.
Love to you all, worldwide and take care of yourselves.
Oh my goodness! I was reminded last night by our doctor, that I had completely ‘blocked out’ the worst event of last year…so here goes – as short as I can make it
In October, we went for a quiet early lunch at the delightful restaurant 100 yards from our house, with Boris, who we hardly leave alone in case he has one of his ‘moments’ As I was saying goodbye to Steve and Joyce, the owners, Boris decided to take Roger up the very steep hill outside to do his ‘thing’. Suddenly he spooked.. and ran, with Roger holding tight to his lead, pulling him over three times, hitting an iron railing and the stone wall below. We all screamed, and rushed the few steps down to him. Boris had bolted across the road, and Roger was lying with blood pouring from his head.
Steve and I rushed to Roger and got him sitting on the low wall, while Joyce tried to ring for an ambulance. Suddenly Roger completely lost consciousness and slumped, apparently not breathing. I have never been so frightened in my life. While Steve propped him up, I raised his head and was yelling at him to ‘stay with us’.
Then the miracle, the Doctor was arriving for lunch himself, and just took over. As soon as he established Roger was still alive, he took over and talked to the ambulance people. They were there in 5 minutes.
Roger came to, when we were about 10 minutes into the hospital journey. Completely confused, of course. The hospital were wonderful, and after scans etc., established, the head wound was not serious and there was no bleeding in the brain, but that he had cracked 3 or 4 ribs when he hit the Iron railing.
Later that night Steve came to collect us, after we had been told to watch for signs of concussion. Needless to say it was at least 5 weeks before Roger would sleep with out pain from the ribs…and he is very careful walking Boris now. Boris was fine, of course, and cared for by Steve and Joyce in our absence.
So, in a nutshell, you can see just why the last year was definitely one we want to forget, and not repeat.!
Taken from the:
The Official Roger Whittaker Website
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