The day before yesterday I had a long chat with Nick about epidemiology, academic fellowships and the nature of vast bureaucracies (the UN, the European Union, or the Medical Research Council, say ;-).

While we were talking he had to answer the door to carol singers and try to persuade Maryam not to remove all of the household’s saucepans from storage.

Yesterday Judith pointed out, completely independently, that, as a mother, she was sensitive to the irritation mothers cause their telephone correspondents when they alternately exchange paragraphs with their children and sentences with their friends.

Ironically, one of the things Nick and I were discussing was how poorly we men coped with multitasking. Apparently the worst simultaneous translator he’d ever worked with was one of the few males employed in that job at, ahem, a large international organisation based in New York.

I looked in PubMed and did a Web search to see if I could find just one solid piece of evidence for the men-can’t-multitask-well belief (one I have happily propagated myself) and found nothing. Could it just be another one of our cunning ploys for avoiding housework? Or one women devised so that they could continue to talk on their mobiles while running small children over outside the school gates?