Stembridge is a hill more easily descended than climbed, and, on a bicycle, even the descent is one approached with caution. Windmill Road runs flat and straight past the mill, and the starts to fall away sharply. A slight bend a third of the way down conceals the slope where one might gather speed too quickly before approaching the bends at the bottom. Oddly, it was climbing Stembridge during childhood that caused injury.
Taken for a walk, in times before our youngest sister was born, my middle sister and I were walking beside our mother. For a reason only comprehensible to a small boy, I had taken by bicycle, an machine with solid tyres and only a front brake. Perhaps there was a distraction, or more likely it was the customary clumsiness that has not gone away, either way, something caused the handlebars of the bicycle to twist to the side and the bicycle to fall causing its owner to stumble and trip over it. The single brake lever cut through the skin to the lower right hand side of my mouth with such ferocity that there was a tear on the inside as well as on the out. It was good fortune that a lady in a motor car passed and picked up the three of us, driving us to the doctor’s surgery at Langport, the place one went in an emergency. Whilst I sat on my mother’s lap, the doctor injected an anaesthetic and stitched the external and internal wounds. Pushing my tongue against my cheek, I can still feel the scar that remains from that day.
It being my youngest sister’s fiftieth birthday today, it is more than fifty years since that stumbling ascent. I decided to walk down Long Street and across to the foot of Stembridge Hill before walking up its steep gradient. Having travelled the road by car on countless occasions, walking up the hill has been a rare experience in the past fifty years. Turning to look down the hill, the approach of a motor car meant the opportunity to stop to stand to the side of the road and to draw breath.
Cresting the hill and passing the windmill, which looks forlorn after losing a sail in one of last winter’s storms, our house drew in view. Blue light from the nephews’ bedroom suggested something was being watched online; their bicycles are parked in the back garden, they avoid Stembridge.