Last week was one of my most challenging adventures as an internationally acclaimed artist that I have ever had to undertake. I was anticipating a mild storm, but what I got was a Tsunami. “Why?” I hear you asking, “are you not a pro at all this?”. “Yes”, is my response, but that doesn’t make it any less exhausting. Anyway please allow me to explain. My trip got off to a bad start; I was meant to be on the 11.25 flight to Istanbul and then on to Ercan, Cyprus, but James my hubby (who manages me and usually never makes a mistake) didn’t realise that until it was time to pick my son up from school at 15.20, so I collected him, then rushed back. James was full of apologies and informed me that I needed to be on the 23:55 flight to Ercan that night from London Stansted. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Stansted airport except for the fact that it is like going to the North Pole from where I live in Epsom Downs, Surrey, whereas London Gatwick is only twenty minutes away. I was not a happy bunny. Anyway my boys took me up there and as it was the last flight on the board, there was a minor queue at the check-in desk and I went through passport control and security relatively easily, although they had to pull my bag to one side because of a Capri Sun 🙂 When I got through to the departures area I couldn’t find the Business lounge and so I just sat down, bought the book How to shine and gassed on the phone with my sister until my flight was called two and a half hours later!! The flight was fine except that it arrived in the early hours of the morning, and I thought I needed to get off at Istanbul. I got off, went to the transit desk, explained and was sent to the ticket desk. The attendant then informed me that I should have remained on that plane. I had been so knackered that I hadn’t realised!! I asked him feebly, “so what do I do now?” He sent me back to the other group of people and I had to wait whilst they stood around chatting to each other with no sense of urgency, I was then told that it was OK, and that I’d be on that plane shortly. I went through security again and then they hurried me back to the plane which was only staying there for 40mins. I got back and a few of the other passengers had a laugh at my expense….Fair enough :). The next stop was Ercan, so I collected my large bag and headed for Arrivals. Alex, the promoter, was there to meet me. He took to one of the most amazing hotels I had ever seen called Noah’s Ark, with a view from my bedroom window that looked like Paradise. Also it was boiling hot. Little did I know that the rest of the journey would not be so luxurious. The PA went well; Haddaway performed before me as he had to shoot off to another PA. The crowd loved him and he warmed them up good and proper. Alex and James had been on the phone for many hours rearranging my flights to Istanbul as the last one had been cancelled by Turkish Airlines because I had missed the incoming flight. However it got sorted and I had a few hours sleep before I was on an early flight to Istanbul. Once there I intended to relax, have a shower and have a rest in a cheap hotel not-too-far from the airport. What actually happened was that I got to arrivals, joined the long queue and when I finally got to passport control at Istanbul, the attendant asked if I was spending anytime in Turkey at all. I told him only briefly in a hotel. He said, “well you need a visa then and that means you have to go over there and join that other long queue, then come back”. I was mortified. It wasn’t as bad as it looked, though, and for £10 and about six minutes I was able to get my visa stamped in my passport. When I eventually got through to Passport Control again and then to Baggage Reclaim, my bag was just sitting there waiting for me, so I picked it up and walked straight out of Arrivals. I decided to then go to Tourist Information to try and not be ripped off by an unauthorised taxi driver. I didn’t have to look long as a shuttle company asked me what I was looking for and before I knew it I had arranged a return taxi service to and from the hotel. Anyway, to cut a long story short I had to wait whilst my room was being cleaned at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, I finally got in, the room was at best a 1-star, but I didn’t care as I was too knackered. So I took a shower then headed out for some lunch. Now I’m used to a few people staring at me when I travel but this was ridiculous. I guess because I was the only black in the village!! Also I was wearing a black biker’s jacket and ripped jeans which did me no favours. I had lunch at a quaint little Turkish restaurant where the woman spoke extremely good English. It was lovely. When I was done, I paid up, left a tip, said my thank you’s and headed back to base. Once back, I slept like a baby for roughly three hours before my driver returned in plenty of time to take me back to the airport, which he did. My flight to Astana, Kazakhstan was due to depart around 22.50, so queued up to check-in. One of the ladies came up to me to check my passport, she asked my where I was going, I told her to Novosibirsk (Siberia in Russia) via Astana. She then pulled me to one side and said that that my annual Russian already had three strikes and I was now on the fourth, which wouldn’t be allowed and I would be sent home and she would be fined. I replied, ‘listen I have travelled to Russia many, many times on annual visas, with a lot of the old ones in my passport to prove it, so why was there a problem now. She said, ‘ that there was and I would not be allowed to take that flight until it was sorted’. I thought I need to get on that flight and if I have to kick off and get Diva in this airport, then I will. I called James, then after a short while got a call from the Russian consulate who supplied me with my annual visa. And they both agreed that I needed to explain to this woman that it was a Multi Visa and I could use it up to about 15 times before it created a problem. Failing that I needed to get Diva on her arse. I showed her the ‘M’ for multi at the top and told her the Russians would not have a problem with it. She then went backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards speaking to other members on her team. Meanwhile the clock was ticking and my heart was racing. Eventually, she passed me to the Business class desk and I was able to get my flight. When I arrived at Astana airport, the attendant did a similar thing with the last woman and I ended up being one of the last ones standing at Passport Control because of my visa again. I had to go with a security guard, collect my bag, then come back, and wait nervously whilst they decided my fate. There was another blonde Russian lady with two kids held at Passport Control, who looked equally stressed out. At last they informed me that I had to be taken to a VIP area in another part of the airport, where I had to wait for about six hours for my connecting flight to Novosibirsk. A male security guard took me there. It was freezing -1 degrees, with only a glass window separating us from the planes outside. I ended up sleeping in the nice, exclusive, warm VIP lounge for approx 5 hours then I found out my flight was delayed, so I went back to sleep for an hour. On the flight in was a petit plane and the girl sitting next to me had a huge bag that overlapped into my legroom area and should really have been checked in. I asked her to move it. She was actually ok though and spoke excellent English. She was travelling and needed the entire extra luggage she was carrying around with her. Once I got to Uzbekistan another promoter called Alexander was there to collect me. He spoke really good English and took me to a lovely restaurant with his colleagues. The hotel was fab and so was the gig, which went down a storm with my Russian fans. I partied ‘til all hours of the morning.

me performing at Kilev Bar in Novosibirsk, Russia

At approx 18.30 that day, I was picked up and told I had a two-hour car journey with two other drivers to Tomsk, also in Siberia. The journey tured out to be nearly four hours long, with severe road works and NO SERVICE STATIONS along the way. All there was was dark woods. I was so desperate that I thought I would have no choice but to wet myself, but luckily we got to the venue just in time. No-one spoke particularly good English here, but I had my usual Borsht soup, and salad. When I got back to the hotel it was a dive, 1-star at best, but as I wasn’t going to be there for long I didn’t make a fuss. The gig was great and went down well once again, but as I was expected to sing a little more time than planned, by the end of it I could hardly talk. Approx 3 hours later at the airport, I was told that my flight back to Moscow was delayed due to bad weather, at this point was deeply concerned. No-one could speak good enough English to me to explain to me what was going on, but I could work most of it out. I had to come back to the check-in desk with my two promoter guys in an hour, transfer my bag manually onto the new flight and then fly to Moscow. Four and a half hours and a very sore back later, I arrived at Moscow airport. I had a long wait, but I had a lovely lunch and took advantage of the airport’s free Wi-Fi all afternoon. The queue past Security, then Passport Control was a lot longer than usual, so yet again I waited and waited. Once through them both I found a comfortable spot near my exit gate and set the alarm on my IPhone to wake me up about 35mins before my gate closed. When I awoke I realised that my gate had been changed (as it usually does) and if I didn’t get to the new gate fast, then I was going to miss my flight. I got there by the skin of my teeth alongside a few others! I arrived back in Heathrow Terminal three late afternoon and my little boy ran like a bullet to greet me in Arrivals, with Daddy by the side. It was the most welcome experience of my entire five-day tour. Some of the other Mums cooed as I picked him up and hugged him. I was going home with my family and I was bloody happy about that!! It took me roughly a week to get my voice back on track.