Things are getting dull, I have travelled at least three times, pumped and dumped, returned home and had no funny stories to share. I must be getting used to it. I am blasé about drunk expressing in the shower. Hotel staff fingering my flanges no longer phases me. Nipping out for a quick tit-squeeze during a coffee break is old hat. Being groped by an airport security guard… now hang on!
There’s a loud beep as I walk through the archway, I think she says “zur Seite ” so I step into the booth. I’m sure there’s no metal on me but the paddle beeps all over. It makes a comedy whizzing sound around my chest region but the guard does not share my amusement. She barks something and she takes my raised eyebrow and nervous half smile to be consent for her to stick her hand up my bra. Over the clothes but still, she hasn’t even asked my name yet!
At this moment I remember that I am wearing breast pads. My mind starts to race, I envisage trying to explain their presence in pidgin German, I work out how best to mime “they’re there to catch the leaking milk”, I expect the sniffer dogs to be so interested in the milky smell that I get detained whilst my innocent breast pads are sent to a lab for drugs testing. I start to panic that I don’t have a spare set and that I packed my pump in my hold luggage but at least if I am leaking whilst detained it might help to prove my innocence.
She shrugs and sends me on my way. I am flustered, red-faced, a little shaken, and my pads are in the wrong place. I’ve not felt this awkward since Corinne Crutchley’s 15th Birthday party. I wonder if BA serve Strawberry Kiwi 20/20.
Moo is now eating Annabel Karmel out of house and home. I expect that my milk supply will have dropped accordingly and am pretty excited about working in Portugal without having to fit in four-hourly pumpings. I also think that I am really clever to have timed flights to get me there, back and job done within 48 hours.
I take hand luggage only, toothbrush, knickers, top, breast-pump, laptop, Kindle, selection of wires and plugs. As I am being frisked at the security check I see the tray with my electrical items roll along the conveyor belt, it is not followed by my handbag. I turn to find out what’s happening and feel my cheeks start to burn as two security guards untangle the knickers from around the handle of my manual pump. Exchanging confused glances they conclude that whatever the strange contraption is, I’m more likely to be a deviant than a terrorist.
Six hours on and I’m in my hotel room. I plan an hour of expressing in bed, feet up, Portuguese music TV and whatever the mini-bar has to offer. Ten minutes in and the phone rings. “We are downstairs. We asked at reception, they said you were here, we’ve booked a table for food, we can’t wait to meet you!”
After a lopsided supper I finish off in the shower.
Work goes well but my hosts are ever present and the bathroom facilities are basic. I decide to hold out until lunch and search for a comfortable loo in the restaurant. I finish my food quickly, I make my excuses, I find the toilets. A unisex bathroom with two cubicles. Cubicles with doors. Cubicles with frosted glass doors. I reason that if i can just do five minutes each side to release the pressure I can probably make it through to 5 o’clock and then, um, continue pumping in the airport. A man is holding open the door between the restaurant and the toilets and having a conversation with a woman washing her hands. I know this because I have just realised that the cubicle doors are low enough to see over whilst you are sitting on the loo.
15 minutes before boarding the plane from Heathrow and the ladies toilets in the business lounge is finally vacant. I close the lid, wash my hands, sit down and begin hand expressing into some tissue. Five minutes in and someone is knocking at the door. I put myself away and looking somewhat dishevelled return to the lounge. The lady waiting looks me up and down but it is nothing compared to the glare she gives me as I head back to the toilet when she vacates it.
Next stop Munich. There are indoor smoking rooms with comfy chairs, ash trays and tropical fish on a video loop. I spot a baby bottle symbol but the signs lead me to the disabled loo. At this point I think I’d rather take up smoking.
Another flight and we finally reach our hotel, 13 hours travelling and 14 and a half hours since I last fed Moo. I retrieve the hand pump from my suitcase and relieve myself all over the hotel bathroom sink. At least I can have a guilt-free beer tonight!