The other day my car broke down. Well, twice really. First my own car sat in the portico on the last day of school and wouldn't budge. And then my mechanic's car died on the ski slopes. I killed the battery.
I have had breakdowns countless times. Holding feverish babies on the roadside in Ghana, trying not to cry. Or on the autostrada in the Dolomites: a flicker on the dashboard and then blackness in the night. In fact I am always grateful when my car decides to start. It's a miracle! My son says I am cursed. If we lived in an age where women were branded witches, I would be The Car Witch.
The other day my good friend couldn't find his jumper leads so a bloke I know offered to pull out his portable battery and kickstart my car. Wonderful! Having grown up in a household of extremely practical men I've never had qualms about handing over the baton and letting them do what I know so little about. Go guys, I'm grateful.
So we hike off over the snow in the dark to the car park where my vehicle sits like a forlorn washing machine. He attaches the battery clamps and the engine rolls over. Brilliant! My life can pick up again and I don't have to drag our gear down the hill. Only when I give him a big thrilled hug by the tinny Fiat Panda, his hand travels south and squeezes my ski-tightened butt.
I was too stunned to react. It was nothing, but it was still something. And for goodness sake's what a silly way to come onto a woman. Anybody remember Benny Hill and all those pillow-chested nurses?
But later, it went deeper. I began to think about other times I've been shocked to have hands roving over me. Don't get me wrong - I love men, I love bodies entwined and sizzling skin and the powerful act of sex - but there is a type of invasion going on here.
I'm sure some of it had to do with what happened in India last week. The outrage. The incomprehension. That a woman could be abused so brutally and tossed into the street. A vibrant, hopeful woman with plans. Giggly, soft, striving. I guess I was already on Outrage Alert.
As this story came to light I'm sure every woman the world over felt a clench, a pang of fear, before the outrage set in. Why did this thing (and all the hidden cases of rape in Congo, the Sudan, Rwanda) have to happen? What is it that made these men think that they could even contemplate this act? And what of the women who raised them, their sisters, aunts and mothers?
To think that a woman raised each one of these men is truly shocking. I wonder what punishment they would choose for these beasts.