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Misplaced assumptions left me eating humble pie

What did the woman serving the quiche do while her brainy husband was working? Look after the children? Clean the house? Make dinner? I should know better than to make these numbskull assumptions.

What did the woman serving the quiche do while her brainy husband was working? Look after the children? Clean the house? Make dinner? I should know better than to make these numbskull assumptions.

It was at Stuarts party Stuart from the office and I spent the first two hours talking to people I work with. Molly I shall call her that seemed left out until Stuart introduced us. We just live in the village, she smiled. I popped in to help Stuart with the food.

She asked what I did and I asked what her husband did, and she said he was at the research institute up the road, which gave us something to talk about. Then it was kids theirs are grown up and the pros and cons of village life.

Almost as an afterthought, I popped what should have

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What did the woman serving the quiche do while her brainy husband was working? Look after the children? Clean the house? Make dinner? I should know better than to make these numbskull assumptions.

It was at Stuart’s party – Stuart from the office – and I spent the first two hours talking to people I work with. Molly – I shall call her that – seemed left out until Stuart introduced us. ‘We just live in the village,’ she smiled. ‘I popped in to help Stuart with the food.’

She asked what I did and I asked what her husband did, and she said he was at the research institute up the road, which gave us something to talk about. Then it was kids – theirs are grown up – and the pros and cons of village life.

Almost as an afterthought, I popped what should have been my first question. What about her? She was retired, she said. From what? Metallurgy. And I wondered if she had said something that sounded like metallurgy but was actually to do with childcare or maybe catering for parties.

But Molly meant metallurgy. ‘Stainless steel mostly.’ In fact the steel used in the early hip replacements. She came up with a stronger alloy that improved recovery rates by halving the time patients had to wait before getting back on their feet.

After that, she made exotic alloys for nuclear reactors, before switching to IT and developing software for the health service. And now? ‘Now I must fly,’ she said. It was time to serve dessert.

So who was that, I asked Stuart next day. Who was the metallurgist dishing out the lemon meringue? ‘Amazing, isn’t she?’ he replied. ‘Our very own space cadet.’

Space cadet? ‘Sure,’ he said. ‘She was once in line to be an astronaut, but was pipped at the post by a chemist. Did the training and everything. Didn’t she mention it?’

Not really, I said. Not at all, in fact. We mostly talked about what her husband did. Then she had to fly.

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