The toddler was up just after 6am, which would have been great anyway, but mum had already offered to take the toddler first thing in the morning, to give me another lie in. Of course, she didn’t have to ask me twice, so I had that lovely feeling of turning off the monitor and rolling back over to sleep again. I managed to sleep until around 8am, which felt incredible. Probably sensing I was awake, the toddler wandered in and climbed into bed with me for a quick morning feed. I was feeling full of energy, with a spring in my step after a lovely full nights sleep, which I knew I would need as we were travelling back to London today so I knew it would be a long one. I made the toddler and myself some porridge with cinnamon and blueberries for breakfast, in an attempt to fill myself up and make sure my energy levels stayed up today.
I decided to get on with packing our hand luggage as I had a hair appointment in a couple of hours. After getting myself and the toddler ready, I shoved everything I possibly could into the tiny case, surprisingly fitting in everything I needed. My littlest niece had been dropped off with us first thing as we were looking after her until this afternoon when we would be leaving. My mum was also heading to the airport, just not the same one as us. We were heading to Belfast International airport and my mum and her friend were flying off for a holiday with friends in France, although we were all getting the train to Belfast anyway, with the toddler and I departing a few stops early to get a bus to the airport. It had all been arranged with military precision, hence why I wanted to get the packing done now, so I wasn’t in a panic later. Luggage sorted, mum suggested I went into town a little early to have some time to myself and pick up a few last minute items for the toddler I had spotted in the last few days. Again, I didn’t have to be asked twice. I drove into town and had a lovely leisurely stroll around the shops, popping in to the toy shop and deciding to pick up some unbelievably cheap twistable crayons, a tiny travel magna doodle type toy and what was basically a small double sided black and white board which you could doodle on with bright crayons. Pretty good finds to occupy the toddler whilst travelling in a couple of weeks.
I arrived a little early for my appointment, so flicked through Pinterest looking at mid length hairstyles for inspiration. It was that difficult thing of being so close to going on holiday that I didn’t want anything too dramatic and also given that I was happy with the rough length and style (or lack thereof) I was currently sporting, but just really wanted it neatened up and to look a little more polished. In the end I had a small bit of length taken off, some subtle layers added and a little more shaping around my face. In a way, it was all so subtle, no-one but me would probably have noticed I had even had a haircut, which I guess was what I was looking for actually. Looking in the mirror and around at the other clients in the salon, I always wondered if I should be a little more daring sometime and add some highlights or colour to my hair. Most people find it bizarre that at 32 years old, I have completely virgin hair, never ever been highlighted or dyed, not even one of those temporary wash out ones. Growing up, I absolutely hated the colour of my hair, but I always remember my hairdresser at the time telling me that people spent a fortune trying to get hair my colour, so I should never ever dye it, as I would never be able to get it back. How true this was, I have absolutely no idea, but listen to her, I did. From then on, I still longed for my hair to be a different colour, but gradually over many many years, I started to grow to like my colour and embrace my strawberry blonde tresses. Of course, growing up wasn’t easy, as children and even once a teacher used to make derogatory comments about the colour all the time. Maybe it helped to thicken my skin a little and maybe it helped encourage me to embrace the fact I was different. The older I got the more my confidence grew and I really did love my long flowing blonde red hair. I remember at university a Finnish friend once told me he had never seen anyone with my colour of hair and how beautiful it was, I felt so special and unique. So looking back at the girl in the mirror, I think I’ll stick with my natural colour, at least for now. I went to pay and was informed my haircut had already been paid for, an early birthday gift from my mum, how sweet.
I scooted into the supermarket, grabbing a few essentials and hot footed it back to the house. I made some tomato and roasted red pepper soup with vegetable focaccia for lunch, which was quick and tasty. My mum’s friend arrived, shortly followed by my brother, here to collect my niece. I was busy doing some last minute organisation of the bags, shoving in the newly purchased items and checking everything else was packed. Finally I was happy everything was sorted, so sat down with a cup of tea and a final small slice of birthday cake. I knew I needed to enjoy this cake, as with hubby being diabetic, he would never dream of buying or making me a birthday cake, so this would be my only one. Time was moving on, so we said our goodbyes to my brother and niece and headed off to the train station, lumbered with bags. We were in perfect time to catch the train to Belfast and thankfully, the toddler had fallen asleep as soon as I had put him into the buggy. I had purposely told mum not to worry about trying to get him to nap at his usual time whilst I was out, as I had hoped he would sleep like this on the train, making the journey a lot easier for the rest of us.
Less than an hour into the journey, the toddler and I bid our farewells (well I did enough for the both of us, as he was still sleeping soundly, thank goodness), and got off the train. There was no lift over the footbridge, just a very steep slope with staggered barriers to stop people cycling. This made it an absolute nightmare to push the buggy one handed, whilst trailing the suitcase and trying to slalom around the barriers. Coming down the other side, was even worse, as the buggy was trying to escape my grip, so it took all my strength to keep it under control. Finally outside at the bus stop, the toddler woke up, with his usual perfect timing and started screaming as we boarded the bus. He relentlessly screamed for the vast majority of the 10 minute journey, so I was beyond relieved as we pulled in to the drop off area. Inside, I could already see that the security queue was massive, so when I scanned my boarding pass and was asked if I was travelling alone, making myself look miserable and nodding, I was beckoned to the priority security queue, success. The funny thing was, the queue was so short that I didn’t actually have enough time to get myself organised, take the toddler out, collapse the buggy and take out my liquids and electronic devices, so ended up waving each person that arrived behind me, to go ahead. Some were in a massive hurry, so were glad of the reprieve, but then one nice man, said he was in absolutely no hurry and that for once he was travelling alone, without his little ones, so it was nice not to be in a flurry himself. We made it through security unscathed this time, I did check and double check I hadn’t left any bottles of water in the nappy bag again.
Buggy assembled and toddler strapped in, I checked the departure board, and we had about 45 minutes until the gate would be called, not bad. I took the opportunity to change the toddler and grab some nibbles for the flight (more like bribes to keep the toddler quiet). We walked around looking at the planes take off and oogling bargains in the duty free, when I caught a glimpse of the board, our flight was delayed half an hour, great. The toddler was getting eager to get out and walk around, so I decided to jump into Starbucks, in the hope we could get a table with a tarmac view, which could occupy the toddler whilst I had a coffee. I didn’t really think through how I would carry my coffee once I had it in my hand, so very tediously nudged my case on with my foot, pushed the buggy with one hand and tried not to burn myself on my decaf latte. Of course there were no tables free anywhere near the windows, and the only one was right in front of me near the till, so I just grabbed it. Squinting at the departures board, I located my flight and saw that it now said it was delayed until 9pm! My flight was meant to leave at 6.25pm. Livid, I spotted a table free up closer to the board, so I quickly grabbed everything and shuffled the bag and buggy towards the table at an awkward snails pace. I sat down, let the toddler out of the buggy and rang hubby to vent about my delayed flight. I was panicking a little as I had given hubby my phone charger for his return flight as he forgot his and I used mums while at her house, but now my battery was draining and I had no backup. I was irate on the phone and was literally seeing red mist, when I glanced at the board again, checking the flight number, I realised I had been looking at the next Gatwick flight, after mine, oops! Mine was still half an hour delayed, but most certainly not two and a half hours delayed, my bad. It meant we only had about 15 minutes to wait until our boarding gate would be called, so I perked up and drank my latte quickly. By the time the gate was called, the toddler was back in the buggy and I was lugging the bag behind me, already on my way to the gates. I thankfully arrived first, so was able to pull up at the start of the queue to do my usual routine of getting the toddler out of the buggy, collapsing the buggy, putting it into the buggy bag and sorting the rest of our luggage all whilst trying to hold on to the toddler. Talk about pressure, doing all this alone, in front of a massive queue of people. We started to board, so I lugged everything down the steps and the toddler, who wanted to get up into my arms (which just wasn’t possible) threw a massive tantrum and lay on the floor. At this point we were halfway down the stairs, so there were dozens of people on the upper stairs looking down at us. I somehow kept my composure and just let him work it out of his system himself, even joking with the lovely people who thought it appropriate to comment (hint – it’s never appropriate to comment).
Finally I managed to get the toddler to stand up again and we boarded the plane. Unfortunately we then sat on the plane for half an hour as there was a passenger who was unwell, apparently his blood sugar was low so he passed out, a fire and rescue member checked him out and he was put on oxygen, but they decided to move him to the front of the plane to keep an eye on him and proceed with the flight rather than take him off, which I was a little surprised about. The crew and passengers seemed very anxious for the whole flight as the man was still on oxygen and passed out again when we were up in the air. Thankfully while all this was going on, the toddler just wanted to breastfeed for most of the flight, which was great, as at least it kept him quiet. There was an ambulance crew waiting for the unwell passenger, but thankfully it seemed like he was ok when we landed.
We finally arrived in London at long last, grabbed the buggy from baggage claim and went to the station to get the Gatwick Express. As I stood on the platform waiting for my train, another train was pulling in to the platform, which was going to Bedford. I had already heard an American girl ask people if the next train was to Victoria, so when I saw her head for this Bedford one, I quickly shouted it wasn’t the Victoria train, thankfully she heard. Although I did see several others run straight past us and onto the train, definitely thinking it was the Gatwick Express. There was even a Spanish family who jumped on, then realising their mistake, the adults rushed off leaving the children to just manage to jump off as the doors were closing, cutting it fine. Safely on the Gatwick Express, which I checked was definitely the right train, I fed the toddler, who promptly fell asleep, so I put him in the buggy just as we were pulling up. Thankfully hubby met me off the train, which was lovely.
We tried to get some dinner at a pub and realised we were’t allowed to eat as we had a child, albeit a sleeping child, but nevertheless a child, which was against the rules apparently. We grabbed some ready meals from M&S and got on the tube home. We managed to get home with the toddler still asleep and even managed to get him into his pyjamas without waking him but of course he woke getting into the cot, typical. I was desperate for some food, as it was literally just before midnight. I had linguine with scallops, pancetta, peas and chilli, which was delicious apart from the ridiculous amount of chilli, my mouth was actually on fire, but I was so hungry, I ate it regardless, not even hesitating to pick out the pieces of chilli I could see. I was completely exhausted, but couldn’t go to bed straight after dinner, so we watched an episode of Suits, until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, gave in and went to bed.