Currently sitting on the train home from London, it is 7.20pm on the 9th May and the lady sitting next to me has no idea of the agony I am in. I am not talking emotional turmoil here with me agonising over the guilt of leaving my two precious beings at home. No. Pure, physical agony. I have lost count of the amount of times my boobs have filled up today and each tingling sensation has served as a reminder that my son might be at home starving as he hasn't been taking a bottle very well. Okay, okay that is over dramatic as I have this little thing called a mobile phone which I used to call the other half. He has assured me that both children have been angels. The girl went to ballet, a party and then saw her cousins at Grandma and Grandad's (which, for her, is the greatest day ever) and the boy hasn't cried once. This is lovely and reassuring news but, for an instant I feel very unneeded. Then I brush my arm up against a boob and wince; the pain reminds me that I am very much needed. By this time, my shirt is sodden. It's a good job that I planned ahead this morning and 'layered up'. Thank God for my body warmer. I doubt when Jack Wills designed them, he (is he a person?) thought his body warmers would also be excellent hiders of leaking boobs as I suspect right now that I smell like a week old carton of Cravendale.
Upon reflection, my day has gone well. In the lead up to it, I had been getting myself into a tizz as I felt that it signified the end of my maternity leave. I also have an irrational fear of the tube. But, I made it.
I arrived at King's Cross at 9.30 and had half an hour to get to Kensington High Street. I had Goggled and Googled (I love that this an acceptable verb these days) the hell out of the tube maps and had my route embedded into my brain and a screen print saved on my phone. I haven't been to King's Cross since the refurd; it's rather nice isn't it? Last time I was there I was sitting on a little travel case next to Upper Crust, hung over, with a copy of Heat magazine and was staring at the display boards begging for my train to Leeds to arrive so that I could go and quietly die on it. I don't have weekends like that anymore.
I jumped off the train and saw platform 9 3/4 and fondly thought of one of my Potter mad friends at home. I noticed that Uppercrust had disappeared and that suddenly I wasn't in Kansas anymore. I didn't panic. I found the entrance to the tube and marched towards the Circle Line. I figured out my platform and waited. A train arrived and I let it leave as I noticed it said 'Piccadilly' on it. Then, as it left I saw it flash the word 'Circle' too. Damn it! Another came. Not kidding. I did the same thing! My meeting started in fifteen minutes. A third train stopped and I stepped on. Gluing my eyes into the line map, I counted down my stops. I made it to Edgeware Road and jumped off. Another train arrived at Edgeware Road and I boarded it; I panicked as the little tube map didn't match the one screen printed onto my phone so I jumped back off before the doors closed and took me to God knows where. I crossed platforms where another train was sitting patiently for me. I couldn't see where it was going so I shouted to a seated woman in my broad Yorkshire accent.
'Does this train go to Kensington High Street?'
She was French and asked me to repeat myself. Great. A chance to practise my multilingual skills. I spoke louder and slower.
'Does. This. Train. Go. To. Kensington. High. Street?'
She nodded. I jumped!
After counting down my stops again, I arrived. By this time the meeting had been going for ten minutes. Swiping my Oyster Card (given to me by the World's Greatest Father in Law) I almost did a little jump and heel click as I passed through the gate onto the high street.
I eventually found the hotel after a ten minute walk making me half an hour late for the meeting. I wrongly assumed that loads of delegates would be late. I arrived at 10.30 and another lady took the utter pi@s by arriving at 11am...! I was directed to my table (13!) which was right at the opposite end of the room.
'It would be wouldn't it?' came my response to the man at the delegates table. He smiled.
'Yes, and the easiest way to get to it is to walk in front of the speaker.'
I met the rest of my marking team and my team leader, who every time I asked a question reasurred me that she would eventually answer it. She'll hate me onTuesday when I start marking and ring her to remind her that I am still waiting for her answers. However, despite this, she was very lovely and I was just happy to be at the right venue.
At lunch time I sat with two English Teachers who were also new to moderation. Both were living in London and one of them brought up the election. The two teachers were very much against Gove and the Tories and a politically charged conversation ensued. I nodded along humming and pretending to understand the political jargon and realised that I needed to contribute somehow.
'It was a shame about Ed Balls losing his seat,' I began. 'Did you know he had a stutter?'
It was safe to say that the politics conversation was over and I went to get some profiteroles.
It was after lunch that I first accidentally brushed a boob and felt pain. I went to the loos in order to ease it. Now, I was in the cubicle a while trying to rid myself of milk (I am trying so hard to not keep typing 'boobs') and I was well aware that there were other women waiting outside. Admit it. If someone is in the loo a while then you think they are having a number two don't you? I didn't want the women to think this, so upon my exit I considered saying:
'I was just emptying my boobs, as I am still breastfeeding. You know how it is.'
I didn't do this, of course, as it would have been more moronic than what I had actually just done so I left with a sheepish look on my face knowing that each woman in there thought I had had the audacity to have a public number two in a London Hilton.
The meeting drew to a close an hour earlier than scheduled. This gave me a whopping two hours to get back to King's Cross, which meant that I miraculously mastered the tube and made it back to King's Cross within half an hour without even needing to switch tubes albeit my screen print on my phone insisting it.
A phone call from my partner and a call to my mum, a Starbucks and some boob squeezing into a toilet at King's Cross (which I paid 30p for the pleasure) and I was boarding my train back up North to my little family.
And here we are now. As I am just passing Doncaster, I reflect briefly that my last trip left me exhausted and in desperate need for my bed. The feelings are the same now apart from knowing that before I can sleep, I will need to feed my boy before I literally explode and my bedtime probably won't be for another few hours.
As it turned out, both children were still awake and I got a lovely cuddle from my girl who asked me to put her to bed. My boy maintained his 'Little Dude' persona and just fed and fed himself to sleep, thus taking away the agony of having boobs the size of a late nineties Victoria Beckham and the guilt I felt at perhaps leaving him when he was still very much in need of me.
So, the moderation will begin on Tuesday with a five month old probably clamped to me and a three year old whizzing round me. Should be fun. I take my hat off to those of you who moderate/mark while working full time too.
Pictures: The tube journey I didn't dare veer from and my boy after drinking himself into a milk filled oblivion. (He then woke less than an hour later..!)