10 March 1916
My dear Mother
Just lately we have moved so frequently that I have lost count of time. I remember writing home, but whether it was a few days ago or a fortnight I can’t recollect. I am rather afraid that it was some time ago.
I believe we are stationary at last for a week or so and I hope we shall be able to settle down and get things cleaned and repaired a bit. Luckily the horses are very fit, although they have had a lot of heavy work lately over difficult roads. It is still winter here. The snow melted one day about a week ago, but since then the fresh falls have always been able to keep pace with the thawing that usually goes on to some extent in the middle of the day. Today, however, there has been no fall and it has been appreciably warmer; consequently a good deal of the snow has vanished.
We continue to have good luck in the billets we have found both for men and horses. At the last five places we have quite fallen on our feet, and we shall soon be getting fastidious. The present place is perhaps the worst of the five: that is chiefly on account of the people. The room itself is very convenient. But they have not had English troops before and they are suspicious of the new and unknown animal. They are quite civil; and obliging too, within limits. But they don’t “spread themselves”; are unwilling to make coffee and “Bombardier fritz” at odd house; and do none of the small trifles that help to cement the entente cordiale. Very different from the old Madame at the place where we stayed the night before last. She was a gem: enjoyed cooking endless trifles for hungry hordes who dirtied her kitchen with their incursions; made me up a bed in an outhouse – a bed with sheets (the first I have ever slept in up here); showed the other three the best arrangement of their sleeping places in order to avoid draughts; stuffed packs with hay to make pillows for them, and gave them dust sheets as improvised pillow-slips: and so on and so on – endlessly. As a class I believe nobody on earth can equal the French peasant-women in their untiring unselfishness and energy in ministering to the needs of strangers.
I am pleased to hear of your improved condition of health. I doubt if you have yet had suitable weather for going out. But surely this cannot last much longer. It is too late in the year for winter weather to carry on much further.
I have got a famous black eye to carry about with me at present. Got it while leading my horse up the side of the column when it was halted, a few days ago. One of the heavy draught horses snapped at Neddy, who swerved sharply over towards me and hit me on the cheekbone with his bit, with the full weight of his head behind it. It knocked me dazed for a few seconds, but I soon came to and suffered no worse damage than a pretty bad headache and a black eye. Luckily the skin was broken, so that the bruise did not swell up so very badly.
Love to all from your affectionate son