When you audition by accident and take your cross-dressing ballerina act to entertain the troops in Iraq & Afghanistan
In 2005 I auditioned for Combined Services Entertainment for what I assumed would be recitals of light classics for officers' mess nights at the Hilton, Park Lane. What C.S.E. actually had in mind for me was touring my interactive drag ballerina around the outlying military bases of Iraq and Afghanistan – with the Royal Marines out in theatre, the camel spiders and the insurgents hopefully holding off on the respective maulings...
I had been sent to C.S.E. by Admiral Sir Alan West, First Sea Lord, who had invited me to sing on-board H.M.S. Victory at the naval supper marking the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, in the presence of Her Majesty…
More importantly: in the presence of Royal Marines Commando Stacks. Baby of face, blue of eye and rocky of outcrop, Stacks had been chosen for guard duty because he was the biggest, warriest marine to hand, that was also interested in the arts: his grandmother having been a church organist until the incident during Devotions. Lord West, sending me for my audition with C.S.E. said that if I ended up in Iraq, I might meet Stacks again, as he was often asked to liaise with the entertainment tours. His granny again.
I ended up on four tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, and on the very first our liaison was, yes: baby of face, blue of eye, rocky of outcrop. Stacks peered down at me as I stood jet lagged and terrified in the Basra A-pod and said, 'Of all the bases, in all the warzones, in all the world…'
And we were off. The most unlikely friendship was formed. True it was dented at the start after he asked me not to get him onstage for my act, his fellow marines pushed him onstage, I was lippy to him and he upended me and ran to the nearest tank to dump me on it.
'That, you lippy fucker, is that naughty tank. And you're not getting down off it till you sing me the song I particularly liked off Victory.'
While I was singing I had my first experience of rockets close to…
As Joanna Lumley has said, 'Iestyn is our eyes and ears out there. His stories are both hilarious and touching.'
- Stacks – 42 Royal Marines Commando
- Nicky Ness – Director of SSVC
- Ian – ex SAS and currently C.S.E. tour security
- Paul Tonkinson – Comedian on the tour
- Rhod Gilbert – Comedian on the tour
- Gina Yashere —Comedian on the tour
- Andi Askins – Comedian on the tour
‘Okay, peeps,’ Stacks called us to order on the bus. ‘All wearing body armour? Got your bed roll, spare knickers, wet wipes, condoms, asthma inhalers, flask of warm milk, vitamin pills, pair of bed socks, single wank-sock, PMT tablets, reading material – in short whatever you might need in for an overnight stay away from this beautifully administered camp in case we get stuck where we're off to? We’ll be going now from here to the airheads. There we’ll be transferred onto a helo for the short flight down to Camp Smitty. The helo may be running late as I hear we have a Brigadier in the area at the moment and he mistakenly thinks that his need of the helicopter is greater than yours.’ He sat in the front passenger seat. ‘Right, Michelle, we’re off.’
Closing Talk at Olympia: Stanford's
Friday, 26 January 2018
Good morning, all.
Hope this finds you very well. I've been super-busy, as the youth say, hosting Alde and Ore Estuary fundraising events, interviewing arctic explorer Alec Greenwell and becoming a stalwart of the WI Speakers' Circuit.
Since my book talks at Brandeston and Saxmundham, I've received emails asking me to speak to amalgamated federations. 'Up to five branches - we'll try…
My First Waterstones...a bit like My First Tutu/Tiara/Ballet Slippers
Sunday, 19 November 2017
Hope you're very well. I'm hoping you'll be able to make it this Wednesday, the 22nd, to the Crouch End Waterstones. 7.15 start. Four quid with a glass of wine thrown in. Can't be bad. I'll be in my full-on all dancing, all singing mode; audience questions.
Sleepless with Stoicism
Wednesday, 9 August 2017
So, kind makers of my book, I've done my first festival proper. Wilderness. I had a standing ovation on the second night, sold all my books - including one to Tom 'The Idler' Hodgkinson, who I revere. As for the festival itself, wandering around I overheard one of the security guards say, 'The only thing posher would be a cheese and wine party...'
Except when you borrow a tent sight unseen…
Monday, 26 June 2017
Afternoon to you all - and apologies for a lack of posts. I've been recording the audiobook of Tutu with Mornington Media - including songs - and writing the next book, Found, Found My Tutu Now (working title) having been signed to agent Lisa Eveleigh at Richard Beckford Associates. 'We need to know more about your psychic mother, country and western singer father, the strip-a-gram giraffe…
Remember! Remember! the Fifty Plus Reviews I Need on Amazon: Pen-Power: Reason is: Losing the Plot
Monday, 15 May 2017
Oh, look at that for a punning title. If you've enjoyed Tutu, please let me know via an Amazon review. Did you read the marvelous review it had in the Mail last Friday? I'd quote it, but that would make me blush. Oh, alright then: 'Achingly funny...but also touching...' Why I'm particularly asking now for your nicely reviews is that I want to go to Wilderness and other Festivals - they have the…
Pillow Menus Aren't Me
Tuesday, 25 April 2017
Hello all - how nice. Are we seeing you at Albert's on Thursday? Performing there for Medium Rare. Ooh.
Now, look - here we are - it's about getting my numbers up with your two line reviews on Amazon. Some complete strangers, even, have been posting! Please can you? Algorithms are the new quinoa. Tell you for why...
Declan Forbes worked front of house at Covent Garden when I did…
Stacks's Review - or Looking Scary on the Poop Deck
Wednesday, 29 March 2017
The man himself has just written me an email - he's been reading the Kindle edition onboard a ship that he's protecting from marauders.
'Mate, good on you! It's a proper book now after all the trial and error you've had with it. Made up for you. And it's great, it really is. But I would say that! But I think I'd even be enjoying it even if I wasn't sitting here bored off my bollocks. Even…
Madame Galina...the Movie!
Monday, 27 March 2017
Thank you, Lizzie Roper...
Cynthia's Three Tweaks
Monday, 27 March 2017
Very moved by something that happened on Friday. I was in Aldeburgh High Street, having left some author copies of My Tutu Went AWOL for display at the book shop, when Cynthia called after me. Cynthia used to own the grocer's shop. She said how touched she'd been to read my back page thank you to her mother, Mrs Cooney, as one of the lookers-on and cheerers as I got Madame Galina from church hall…
Politicians and Colonics
Wednesday, 22 March 2017
Good morning pledgers, readers and others - today I'm doing a lot of sighing. Because I asked a politician a direct question...
First, though, something positive. Rink-Dink, the Royal Marine favourite of many in Tutu, rang to say that he had read the book, how much he loved being remembered so comprehensively and, now that these days he was quite the decorated Commando, might he ask me to take…
First Amazon Reviews...
Sunday, 19 March 2017
First, because my mother speaks below, I need to discuss her attitude to mortality. I recently told her that I've got to the death-aware stage of life. She said, 'Even the great and the good have to die, Iestyn. Jane Austen, Maria Callas, Margot Fonteyn...favourites of yours.'
I asked who she might list as favourites of hers that are no longer with us. She answered, 'Oh, very much the usual…
Sell Your Hair to the Doll Factory
Friday, 17 March 2017
Because I need your help, you see, nicely. Namely: reviews to be posted on Amazon now you've, hopefully, enjoyed Tutu. Read on for more...
Have I told you about Rachel, the mezzo-soprano? The one who thought that her most recent public appearance could be classed as a gala because at the tea between rehearsal and performance the scotch eggs were cut into sixteenths? Just saw her, the…
My Tutu Went AWOL event is now Live!
Wednesday, 15 March 2017
That's where you can, please, buy tickets for yourselves, your nearest and dearest - then your family! - and associates, your electrician, plumber, mechanic, daily...even open the door for once and invite some Jehova's Witnesses.
Very looking forward to seeing you there. Iestyn
Thank you and (Let's Have a) Good Night! Matcham Theatre, Hippodrome Casino, April 3rd, 7.30
Monday, 13 March 2017
Thank you all so hugely much. I am chuffed and more chuffed. The book came out on Amazon Kindle on the 3rd and is out in paperback on the 16th. Anyone...what have you been thinking about it? Tell me. I'm randomly telling people it's out on my walks here in Thorpeness. Today, I didn't want to disturb a woman looking out over the marshes to the abandoned railway, but she spoke as I was passing…
The Pudding Provides Proof
Friday, 22 July 2016
I went to my piano lesson the day after the Guildhall Rag Week Revue. I had sung a very straight "The Stately Homes of England" in black tie, and danced Swan Lake Act Two in sequins and feathers glued onto forty-six doilies. Professor Peppin said how she'd enjoyed me singing the Noel Coward, but who on earth had that big fat girl been doing the ballet?
She refused to believe it had been…
Bookless Book Launch in Metrodeco, Brighton
Friday, 3 June 2016
Mendelssohn had his Songs without Words, so I can I have book launches without books - events at which I read from my forthcoming e-book, natch.
The first for My Tutu Went AWOL! was on Thursday at Metrodeco in Brighton. My rider included eats and drinks from the exceptional Metrodeco menu. Nicely! The event was well attended and people…
Thursday, 28 April 2016
View from the disued railyway line between Aldeburgh and Thorpeness
Waiting for the funding to be done and for the editing to start on my Unbound Book. I'm in limbo. Sitting and waiting. Pacing and waiting. Wanting to maim my next door neighbour for yet again - how many more times does he need to be told? - leaving his balcony…
Thank You in Song for my Supporters
Thursday, 31 March 2016
A Home for Rheumatic Sugar Plums
Saturday, 27 February 2016
'Hilarious and touching stories of Iraq...go Tutuboy, you rock!; Joanna Lumley
Xander Cansell, Head of Digital at Unbound Books, is already dealing with emails from friends and enemies asking, before they pre-buy, if they're mentioned in my book.
'I always know it…
These people are helping to fund My Tutu Went AWOL!.