Actually, that last bit’s a lie.To start with, there was the matter of what to wear.
I was going to meet an über-glamorous old friend from home. We had arranged to meet on the South Bank outside the Tate Modern. This wasn’t a trip to the park over the road or singing nursery rhymes in a community centre.This was my reintroduction to civilisation.
I’ve got one pair of size 16 stretchy jeans that I’ve been living in since giving birth to my son. I panic my face off when they have to go in the wash as it means either promoting a pair of jogging bottoms I normally wear in bed to ‘day wear’ or hair-drying the jeans to a clammy level of dampness and wearing them straight from the machine.As a consequence they’re totally filthy, as it’s easier to just sponge off sick/milk/pasta sauce than risk catching pneumonia.
And then there’s the double top conundrum.The only way to successfully breastfeed without exposing your entire stretch-marked midriff to anyone within a 10-metre radius is to wear another top underneath the one you’re going to be hoiking up.
Now, that was fine when I was breastfeeding my daughter, as it was a cold autumn and the more layers the better. But this time round we’re in the midst of a near-daily heatwave so wearing an extra layer is like walking around in a bodysuit made of electric blankets.So, having unsuccessfully tried on numerous pre-baby clothes, I had to admit defeat, sponge off the jeans, and shove on two T-shirts. Then we set out in the 26+ degree heat for our trip to London.
The trick is to go to an access-friendly station when travelling in London with a child.That way you just hop in the lift and it’s job done.
Or, you can unknowingly go to an access-friendly station, get some poor woman to help you carry a pram down and up several flights of stairs and only then realise there’s a lift.
That’s an alternative, and one that definitely doesn’t help solve the two-tops/sweat problem.But we got there.
I’d forgotten how beautiful London is. How impressive it is to walk along the river. And what a joy it is to just sit off, have a coffee with an old friend and remember some of the things you enjoy doing as well as being a parent.I’d also forgotten what time rush hour is.
Having been off work for the best part of four months, my brain has now defaulted to key times for children. So at 5.30pm I said my goodbyes, doing the maths that if I caught the 5.40 from Blackfriars I would be home in time for my daughter’s bath.But obviously the rest of London was making their way home after work.
What had, up until that point, felt like a mega success, suddenly fell apart as train after packed train pulled up at the station. People were literally hurling themselves at carriages to get on. I couldn’t really see how they’d feasible manage to squeeze one more person in, let alone me and a pram the size of Fiat Panda.So we waited. And waited. And my son got hungrier and grumpier.
And finally we got on a train. The wrong train. Of course. So had to get off at Gatwick and wait for a connection to Brighton. Then all the trains south were delayed due to signal failure.Two and a half hours later, the train, which normally takes 50 minutes, pulled up in Brighton.
I could have let it defeat me. It was tempting. I felt like the walking dead and by this stage was starting to smell a bit trampy.But instead, I picked up my sleeping son’s hand and made him high-five me.