It is easy to lose count of time. It is perhaps a month since my Dad was reluctantly taken into hospital, the gentle paramedic explaining that only in-patient treatment could provide what was needed. Had I been him, I would have shown a similar lack of enthusiasm to go in the ambulance car to Taunton. Hospitals, like public transport, fat free diets, and cycling to work, are alright for other people. The care he has received has been exemplary, those who complain about the National Health Service should try living in a country where everything comes with a bill. Restored to health, he hopes to be home for Christmas.
Setting off to visit him, the journey from the last house in the row of council houses where we moved in 1967 goes through single track lanes. Passing the village cemetery, a rider on a large white horse occupied the centre of the road.
Knowing less about horses than about the thorns and flora of the hedgerows, the one thing noticeable about the horse was its wide feet around which the hair grew long: was it a shire horse? I had no idea.
I slowed the car from the 20 mph at which I roll through the village, the speed to which I was used when I was a child, to the walking pace of the horse ahead of me. “Keep back from it,” I heard my Dad say, “wait until she finds somewhere to let you past.”
The horse moved very sedately until reaching a fork in the road. The left fork being a road to the rifle range, the rider moved the horse to the left and shortened the reins. “Wait until she has turned,” my Dad said, “you don’t want to frighten the horse.”
As I slowed almost to a stop, the rider turned and smiled and waved. I took the fork to the right, accelerating to the 20 mph appropriate for a road barely wide enough to carry the traffic that passes along it each day.
At the top of Turn Hill, there is a temptation stop the car and to get out and to absorb the view. The Levels have become a vast lakeland, roads becoming causeways between expanses of water. “If it’s like this in December, what will it be like when the winter really comes?” asked my Dad.
Descending Turn Hill, not only is the road narrow, it is also precipitously steep. Halfway down, a 180 degree bend has to be negotiated. Dad would ease an old Austin Cambridge down the hill, sounding its deep bass horn as a warning to anyone who might be coming up. On a bright December morning, there didn’t seem a need for a car horn.