My Dearest Mother
I fear it is some time since I wrote which is very naughty of me. But it has been so fearfully hot that I have felt too slack to write. However it is cooler today, after a little rain. It has really been quite hot for a week: the mid-day temperature has been between 82-85 and with the lack of breeze and air it makes it feel much hotter. You see the town is at the bottom of a basin and the streets are very narrow with high houses, and the general effect is somewhat stuffy. Thank you ever so much for your lovely long letter of to-day: you are a dear to write such ripping fat interesting letters, and I simply revelled in my walk around the garden with you.
I am sorry to hear that you are having a rotten time trying to get servants. It is simply sickening.
I had a charming letter from B today, full of knits and some tobacco for the hospital and enclosing some for several of us with it, as all tobacco is very expensive out here especially English brands of cigarettes. Caporal the state tobacco is not very dear, but it is filth!
As for our work, we do not get men straight from the trenches: in fact the majority of them come with healed wounds. It is a special hospital, almost an orthopaedic, soon to be entirely so. All men who’s wounds when healed leave complications, such as atrophy, neuritis, stiff muscles, or joints, contracted muscles or cut nerves, and other things like that come here and often have to have minor operations and special treatments, such as machines, electric baths, galvanic battery, hot air baths, massage, high frequency electric treatment. I work in the group of nurses who manage the machines, the electric baths, the galvanic battery, the hot air baths and the high frequency treatment. I do not yet know how to do the last, and am this week in the machine room, learning them. They are mechanical contrivances for moving stiff joints. They remind me forcibly of medieval instruments of torture, though they are not at all torturing. One screws or straps the stiff joint into which ever machine is necessary, there are ones for the fingers, wrist, elbow, shoulder, knee and foot. They are worked by a system of weights, which I do not feel equal to explaining on paper, as it is rather technical.
One has to push the carbon very gently and gradually into the water watching the gauge all the time, and the same when the bath is finished, as if done jerkily, it gives the patient a shock, only a small one it is true, but in the case of rheumatism or neuritis enough to cause considerable pain and malaise for an hour or two. The sensation is one of pins and needles, not painful nor really uncomfortable but rather trying for half an hour. They generally look like beetroots or shrimps when they take out the foot or hand which has been treated. I was given a bath nyself before I touched a patient at all, so that I should know what it was like. I forgot to mention that the plaque has to be moist before it is placed against the back, or the felt would not conduct. Hence much mirth and wriggling when on a chilly day the unfortunate men have a cold damp clammy plaque laid firmly against the small of their backs. So you see I neither make beds nor wash the patients. I am at present doing duty in the operation ward. All the men in it are either going to have an operation the next day, or have recently had one. There is a poor little boy close to me who is suffering dreadfully. He has acute neuritis, and I have been giving him electric baths for it, and he has just been operated on, two days ago.They discovered that one of the big nerves in his arm was sticking to the muscle round the scar of his wound, so they have detached the nerve. Only quite a tiny operation but he was in such a nervous and pain racked state before that all the pain he suffers is doubled. I am awfully sorry for him, poor little thing.
Father really ought to pay for the Hockey nets; as it was his friends of heifers who did it, but as the hockey club has a favourable balance we’ll let him off!!!
I’m glad you liked the photos: I have some better snapshots, but I’m not allowed to send them home. What a good thing Mr W Rawnsley has come to his senses: he will be more useful at home. The little yellow rock plant must have been a sedum, not a saxifrage, as I haven’t a yellow saxifrage anywhere; oh it might be that little golden saxifrage which seeds itself everywhere. I had forgotten it.
I have been on one or two awfully pretty motor drives lately. One down to Moulineaux which is on the Seine, nearer Le Havre: we went through a glorious big forest on a slope, on the left bank of the river the country is fairly flat for a space varying from half to two kilometres in width, and then it rises fairly steeply, and a great deal of the slope is wooded, and absolutely lovely. This particular part was a huge forest where we were, all winding roads and with bunnies and deer in it. We rolled through it for miles and then came to the chateau of Robert Le Diable a magnificent old ruin on a height all among apple trees, and overlooking the Seine. Below is the village of Moulineaux. It is such a ripping car and will do a good 55 miles an hour. All the main roads here are top hole for speed. Wide with great long straight reaches of two or so miles.
I just revelled in your letter about the garden: you couldn’t have sent anything to give me more pleasure. Is the old rose coloured allium out in my garden yet, and are there any muscari comosum plumosum? Up in my anemone bed by the bees, did the anemone fulgens that Mrs Baron gave us , all come true single ? She dug them up all with single flowers on them, under my eyes, so I am anxious to know if they came single or not ?
The pink flower on the rock garden is saponaria officinalis. I’m glad the lithospermum prostratum is doing well, because the first one I had died.
The pale pink thrift is armeria maritima, and I got it from Anderby Creek. The red valerian that grows in the gooseberry walk, grows like a weed on all the chalk cliffs here. The country round here is all chalk, like the South of England, and one finds many wild flowers here that grow on the Sussex downs and also the lovely little chalk blue butterfly that only lives on the Downs. How is the Alberic Barbier arch doing: I was rather dubious as to the success of my pruning there not that I think it could have been much worse than Fuller’s, but have the laterals on the long shoots come out well ? Don’t let Fuller hack at my sweetbriars: it won’t hurt them to run wild for a bit. I am glad to hear that my tiny Gypsophilia is doing well: if it is still tiny, Fuller ought to put some lime or soot round it, and please will you tell him to keep my slug traps well set with bran above and salty water below. I’m glad the Darwins in the corner are doing well. Have the forget-me-nots done well with them too? I knew that Calystegia would be a handful, if it liked itself, but what matter, and its too pretty to uproot. It’s a pity the tubs didn’t do better; they are most unaccountable things.
I become more enamoured of Normandy every time I go out motoring, which is fairly often. It is a most beautiful country, and with great forests in every direction, all grown on hills which make them even more beautiful. We have been in the Forêt de Lyon to-day it has an extent of 5000 hectares. I don’t know how that works out in acres, but you would probably find out if you looked in the end of the 20th century dictionary. And the valley of the Seine is simply gorgeous. Of course they tell me that this is considered one of the most beautiful parts of France and I can easily believe it.
The DH Evans bill is quite all right it was a pair of shoes I forgot.
There is a lot of my little mauve linaria in the walls and cliffs here.
One of my travelling companions is bringing this over to England on Monday night. She will stay a few days, so I want you to pack me up a few things and send them to
Mrs Garrard , C/o Mrs Hancock, 39 Brook St Mayfair W
And she’ll bring them across for me as I don’t want to wait 3 weeks or more for them. I want my fencing coat white if you can find it: I think it is in my old school trunk. Also my soft collars about half a dozen; please choose the longest ones as they vary in size. Also any of my white shirts ( blouses) ( I put shirts on the last page: you might have mis-read it as skirts) that are respectable: 3 will do. You can send my tussore shirt for one if you like. I think that’s all.
I am getting quite a nice collection of snapshots in spite of the fact that one is not supposed to have a camera here, but it is winked at.
Mrs Garrard is posting you a parcel containing two pairs of stockings and two pairs of knickers which want mending. There is no hurry about them coming back as I have enough to go on with, only I thought I had better get them mended in case any of my others got holes in. Mrs Garrard will be in town till Saturday or Sunday so you will have plenty of time to send the parcel up. I shall want a pair of sleeve-links: they all live in the little round pot with a mauve top. I think I should like the Lincoln Imp pair. Perhaps you’d better send them separately in a registered envelope. If perchance you can’t find my fencing coat don’t worry , as I can make the ones here do quite well.
I can’t write any more as I’ve bruised the ball of my thumb and its somewhat stiff. I think this is the longest letter I’ve ever written I y life : I hope you won’t get awfully bored with it.
My very best love to you both
Ever your loving
Please take great care of my photos as some are irreplaceable.