It is not an easy matter when you are on a slope to start off smoothly without jerking the patients within; and I held my breath as I declutched and took off the brake, accelerating gently the meanwhile. Thank heaven! We were moving slowly forward and there had been no jerk. They were all bad cases and an occasional groan would escape their lips in spite of themselves. I dreaded a certain dip in the road—a sort of open drain known in France as a canivet—but fortunately I had practised crossing it when out one day trying a Napier, and we manoeuvred it pretty fairly. My relief on getting to hospital was tremendous. My back was aching, so was my knee (from constant clutch-slipping over the bumps and cobbles), and my eyes felt as if they were popping out of my head. In fact I had a pretty complete “stretcher face!” I had often ragged the others about their “stretcher faces,” which was a special sort of strained expression I had noticed as I skimmed past them in the little lorry, but now I knew just what it felt like.
The new huts were going apace, and were finished about the end of April, just as the weather was getting warmer. We were each to have one to ourselves, and they led off on each side of a long corridor running down the centre. These huts were built almost in a horse-shoe shape and—joy of joys! there were to be two bathrooms at the end! We also had a telephone fixed up—a great boon. The furniture in the huts consisted of a bed and two shelves, and that was all. There was an immediate slump in car cleaning. The rush on carpentering was tremendous. It was by no means safe for a workman to leave his tools and bag anywhere in the vicinity; his saw the next morning was a thing to weep over if he did. (It’s jolly hard to saw properly, anyway, and it really looks such an easy pastime.)
The wooden cases that the petrol was sent over in from England, large enough to hold two tins, were in great demand. These we made into settees and stools, etc., and when stained and polished they looked quite imposing. The contractor kindly offered to paint the interiors of the huts for us as a present, but we were a little startled to see the brilliant green that appeared. Someone unkindly suggested that he could get rid of it in no other way.
When at last they were finished we received orders to take up our new quarters, but, funnily enough, we had become so attached to our tents by that time that we were very loath to do so. A fatigue party however arrived one day to take the tents down, so there was nothing for it. Many of the workmen were most obliging and did a lot of odd jobs for us. I rescued one of the Red Cross beds instead of the camp one I had had heretofore—the advantage was that it had springs—but there was only the mattress part, and so it had to be supported on two petrol cases for legs! The disadvantage of this was that as often as not one end slipped off in the night and you were propelled on to the floor, or else two opposite corners held and the other two see-sawed in mid-air. Both great aids to nightmares.