For some reason, when I came round I found myself in the big W.A.A.C.s’ ward, and never returned to my little room again. I did not mind the change so much except for the noise and the way the whole room vibrated whenever anyone walked or ran past my bed. They nearly always did the latter, for they were none of them very ill. The building was an old workhouse which had been condemned just before the war, and the floor bent and shook at the least step. I found this particularly trying as the incision a good six inches long had been made just behind my knee, and naturally, as it rested on a pillow, I felt each vibration.
The sheets were hard to the touch and grey in colour even when clean, and the rows of scarlet blankets were peculiarly blinding. I realised the meaning of the saying: “A red rag to a bull,” and had every sympathy with the animal! (It was so humorous to look at things from a patient’s point of view.) It had always been our ambition at Lamarck to have red top blankets on every bed in our wards. “They make the place look so bright and cheerful!” I daresay these details would have passed unnoticed in the ordinary way, but I had already had eight months of hospitals, during which time I had hardly ever been out of pain, and all I craved was quiet and rest. Some of the women doctors were terribly sarcastic.
We were awakened at 5 a.m. as per hospital routine (how often I had been loth to waken the patients at Lamarck), and most of the W.A.A.C.s got up and dressed, the ones who were not well enough remaining in bed. At six o’clock we had breakfast, and one of them pushed a trolly containing slices of bread and mugs of tea from bed to bed. It rattled like a pantechnicon and shook the whole place, and I hated it out of all proportion. The ward was swept as soon as breakfast was over. How I dreaded that performance! I lay clenching the sides of the bed in expectation; for as surely as fate the sweeping W.A.A.C. caught her brush firmly in one of the legs. “Sorry, miss, did it ketch you?” she would exclaim, “there, I done it agin; drat this broom!”
There were two other patients in the room who relished the quiet in the afternoons when most of the W.A.A.C.s went out on pass. One of them was a sister from the hospital, and the other a girl suffering from cancer, both curtained off in distant corners. “Now for a sleep, sister,” I would call, as the last one departed, but as often as not just as we were dropping off a voice would rouse us, saying: “Good afternoon, I’ve just come in to play the piano to you for a little,” and without waiting for a reply a cheerful lady would sit down forthwith and bang away virtuously for an hour!