Yesterday a middle-aged lady with blondish-reddish hair went shopping. She wore snazzy blue boots and a denim skirt that fell above her knees and a blue beret studded with glass beads. She walked alone down a busy stretch of road, and then between the road and a wooded area, and under a bridge, and thought of this and that.
She walked all the way to the supermarket and noticed other middle-aged ladies by themselves, and some with their husbands, and some young men and women, too. She then got £80 out of the bank machine and took a trolley into the supermarket. It was a very big supermarket, seemingly filled with all the goods of the world except dry Puy lentils, an oversight the lady found disappointing. However, she filled up her trolley with other things, and moved when someone said "Excuse me", and went to a check-out queue. The young man at the cash register rang through all her purchases and asked her for £79.12. He wished her a nice day, and she wished him a nice day. Then she called a cab and took out another £10 from the bank machine.
A man of forty or so came along with the cab. Like the cashier, he was Scottish.
"I saw your good lady," said the middle-aged lady with blondish-reddish hair.
"Oh, aye?" said the cab driver, confused. He started to put the groceries in the back of the cab.
"Yes, she came with her cab and got someone else. Oh, wait. Perhaps I am thinking of someone else's wife."
"You're thinking of George," said the driver dismally. "Please don't confuse me with George."
"Oh dear," said the lady, climbing into the cab. "I'm terrible with faces. What's your name then?"
"Stewart," said the driver. "Are you having another dinner party?"
"Not this week," said the lady, who loves talking to Scottish cab drivers. "We had one last week. I was feeling magnanimous, so we had roast beef. My husband cooked it. My husband always cooks the meat, as he is very good at it."
"Oh, aye?" said Stewart, vaguely interested.
Stewart drove the lady through the gates of the park around her house and, after a brief stop so the lady could undo the chain marked "Residents Only", drove up to the house. Then he got out of the cab and carried the groceries to the door. The lady gave him the £10 note and said "Just £4 back, please". "Thanks," said Stewart and gave her the change. "I'll do up the chain again on my way out, shall I?"
"Oh, thank you. That would be very nice," said the lady. "Have a nice day!" She unlocked the door, lugged the bags over the threshold, and turned around and waved to Stewart. Then she carried the bag of bottles and cartons (including one bottle of beer and one bottle of wine) up the stairs before returning for the others.
And she thought, "In Scotland women can wear short skirts and walk alone to the grocery store without being touched, propositioned or pestered. We can daydream as we wander along. We can go to the bank machine without fear of being robbed, and we can walk up and down the aisles of the supermarket completely unmolested. Young male check-out cashiers speak to us professionally and respectfully, and I can get into a cab with a local cabbie without a qualm. I can speak to him in a friendly fashion, and he speaks to me in a friendly fashion."
Normally she wouldn't have given all this a second thought, but she had read quite a lot that morning about attacks on women in Cologne, other German cities, Sweden and in Cairo's Tahrir Square.