Jack Smith


This morning Gretchen gave birth to this handsome young man. All are well.

We hope to talk to him on line tomorrow!



I’m learning the process slowly. A lovely doctor rang today with a detailed explanation. Most of it I didn’t understand but she promised to let me have a written report.

What I did understand is that they want some more of my bone marrow. The last lot looked ok to me, but apparently it was lacking something.

I think that it will be extracted next week. Then it will be sent for analysis and it could be 6/8 weeks before a conclusion is reached and treatment is decided upon.

In the meantime it will be weekly blood tests and, if necessary, blood transfusions.



The hell hole!

It was my first trip in an ambulance. It was old and rattled a lot. After about 15 minutes we arrived at the De Sao Jose Hospital. A very old building. The ambulance crew checked me in and handed over the papers the ships medical team had quickly put together. The ambulance pair departed leaving me on a trolley.

I found myself in a waiting area which had about 40 trollies lined up alongside each other. They had found a slot for me. After some time I was wheeled away and lined up for a couple of bags of Portuguese blood to be dripped into me.

I was still on my trolley for the 2 days in the place. No question of me being offered a bed! It was almost impossible to sleep. I asked whether or not I could have a pillow. No they didn’t have pillows in Lisbon hospitals. And the noise was horrific at night. People were shouting and fighting. Nurses were shouting instructions to each other.

After two days I was moved to a nearby public hospital which had a haematology department – the Dos Capuchos. The doctor in charge spoke English which helped. By this time the Smith family (Louise and Mike) had swung into dictatorial and organisational mode and were talking to and chasing the travel insurers Allianz, about getting me home. Mike flew out to Lisbon from his home in Dubai. He persuaded the insurers and the hospital that we should stay in a hotel and go into the hospital as an outpatient.

That worked well. There was a room in the hospital with 12 chairs where patients sat with drips attached. Some people appeared daily, some weekly.

Some days I sat there for 13 hours. 9.00am start, then some blood taken to be tested. Hours later after testing, bags of matching blood were ordered. They might not arrive until late afternoon. Then the slow process of dripping it into me began. On the last day in Lisbon the process didn’t finish until 10.30pm. Sudukos, Wordle and John Grisham helped to pass the time.

Halfway through my stay in Lisbon, Mike flew back to Dubai to be with Gretchen, who is shortly to give birth, and Archie. He had been able to work on line during his time in Lisbon. On the day he left Louise arrived from London. She worked on line in cafes near the hospital and I sat in the dreaded room attached to a drip.

Plans for getting me back to Southampton General Hospital were being sorted by Allianz. They wanted a doctor to accompany me on the flight and they also needed to be sure that a bed would be available in the SGH when we arrived there.

Doctor Veronique arrived from Belgium and we (Doctor, Louise and me) set off from Lisbon on 16 May on an EasyJet flight to Gatwick. On arrival we were transferred to an Ambulance which drove at high speed to Southampton arriving at the hospital at 10.30pm.

SGH had a bed for me (with a pillow!) but before that they carried out a number of tests. The next day after more medics had seen me, I was moved to a new single room with en suite shower and WC and a TV. I thought I was being treated regally but I later discovered the only reason I was in a single room was because I had returned from Portugal and might have brought with me some Portuguese bugs!

After more tests I was told I could go home and that was on the 20 May – a fortnight after being dumped ashore in Lisbon.

After I had left the ship Jane and Kim remained on Queen Anne until she arrived back in Southampton 3 days later. Kim had to cope with all the packing for the 3 of us and getting all the luggage home and then she looked after Jane until she, Kim was able to go home on 25 May.

It was sad that the 3 of us missed the 14 days to the Canaries, more so because my sister Liz and her husband Tim were on that voyage. It would have been the first voyage that my sister and I would have enjoyed at the same time.

Now it’s a matter of waiting to hear the results of the tests carried out last week in Southampton and the suggested treatment.

The only reason for putting this on the blog is that it saves me explaining it in separate emails!

Thank goodness I arrived back in time to see the Saints victory yesterday. Louise and Red had my tickets and David D’Arcy Hughes and his grandson had Carole Gordon’s tickets and Mike flew in with his Dubai Saints friends and they all had a really great day at Wembley and surrounding hostelries.

Louise and Mike at Wembley


Queen Anne

I apologise for bowing out before I had said anything interesting about the new ship. After 2/3 days I was finding it difficult to walk any distances on the ship. If I tried to explore I had to sit down regularly to get my breath.

There was no option but for me to make a visit to the Medical Centre. That was on day 3 of the Maiden Voyage. I talked to the Medical Officer, Doctor Chanel. She decided to carry out some blood tests which were poor and threw up very low readings.

I have to say that to some extent I have lost track of the days, but on the Lisbon port day, Dr Chanel, on looking at further test results, worried that there would be a major problem, if I was even weaker during the following two sea days and needed a blood transfusion. There would not be a suitable supply aboard. During the early afternoon Jane and I had to make a decision.

On balance the less risky option was for me to leave the ship, Jane remaining aboard with Kim, who would look after her until Southampton, 3 days ahead.

That was the option we settled on. We threw some clothes into a small bag and returned to the Medical Centre. The ship was due to sail soon after 5.30pm and I was quickly transferred to an old ambulance which was to take me to hospital.

The hospital I was taken to was the De Sao Jose – a public hospital – a free hospital. It was a hell hole!

End of Part 1


Queen Anne

A new Cunarder. It’s nearly 14 years since the maiden voyage of the last one, Queen Elizabeth, so for us this is something memorable. The first voyage that Jane and I took together was the maiden voyage of Queen Mary 2 in 2004. We also managed to get cabins aboard the maiden voyages of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth but we knew this new ship would be different – this was designed for a new generation.

We found our cabin very easily. An adapted wheelchair cabin on deck 5 on the starboard side of the ship. It is just round a corner from Kim’s cabin so it is perfect.

I’m afraid that the blog and the blogger are having problems at the moment. The computer systems on the ship are highly sophisticated and it may be a few days before the blogger can resume normal service.

Be patient! He will be back!


QUEEN ANNE – her Maiden Voyage

She had arrived at last!

The latest Cunard liner Queen Anne sails up Southampton Water on her first visit to her home port

The transport arrived on time. Jane Strother to drive the adapted Peugeot and Shaun of Radio Taxis with his massive van to carry me and all the equipment.

We were soon on our way. The two drivers chose completely different routes but arrived at the Mayflower Terminal at exactly the same time.

There were hoards of people queuing to get into the terminal. The wheelchair helps to get you to the front, and after some cross examination about whether we had completed the wheelchair forms correctly, we were through to security.

You know the form – laptops out the bags, Rolexes off and disappearing into boxes worryingly going in different directions to you and your trousers round your ankles because the belt has been removed. And then the hassle of recovering them all and getting dressed while others behind want you out the way.

But the whole process was almost painless, even for an irritable old man who thinks he ought to be first on board.

Then the young man greets you as you step aboard Cunard’s latest ship Queen Anne

More tomorrow!


Cunard’s SS China in 1871

My good friend Christopher Green emailed me tonight. He is reading a book by a Mr WF Rae published in 1871. Mr Rae was intending to travel by train from New York to San Francisco. To get from Liverpool to New York, Mr Rae sailed on Cunard’s SS China.

Chris only sent me a copy of Page 3 of the book but Mr Rae’s thoughts about deckchairs, seating in the saloon for dinner and the costs of Cunard’s Atlantic voyages are intriguing!


Maiden Voyages of Cunard Queens

The new Cunarder Queen Anne will sail from Southampton on her Maiden voyage on 3 May 2024. She is undergoing sea trials at the moment and subject to those trials being successful and the final fitting out being completed, I anticipate Queen Anne will be sailing up Southampton Water towards the end of April.

Queen Anne

The very first Cunard Queen was RMS Queen Mary. Work began on her construction at the end of 1930 but there were numerous delays in her build because of the Depression. She was eventually named by King George V’s wife Queen Mary at the launch on 26 September 1934.

You may have heard the story about the name. Cunard wanted to call her Queen Victoria and when the Chairman of Cunard asked the King for his permission to name the new ship “after Britain’s greatest Queen” the King instantly replied “my wife, Queen Mary, would be delighted”. Cunard had no alternative but to name her Queen Mary!

Queen Mary

RMS Queen Mary sailed on her maiden voyage on 27 May 1936.

I can’t claim a family connection to Queen Mary’s Maiden voyage because father George Edward Smith didn’t join Cunard until June 1940, after he had gained his Master’s ticket. He served as a Junior deck officer on various Cunard ships throughout the war and joined Queen Mary for the first time on 19 December 1944.

But there is a Smith family connection with the Maiden voyage of every Cunard Queen thereafter.

Queen Elizabeth was built and ready for sea by March 1940. On 3 March 1940 she set off on a secret Maiden voyage. She was painted in camouflage grey and it was expected that she would sail to Southampton, but soon after she had set sail, secret orders were handed to the Captain.

The new Queen Elizabeth in wartime grey

He was ordered to take the ship straight to New York. This was a brand new untried and untested ship, but she zigzagged across the Atlantic, avoiding U-boats and reached New York in one piece. She docked alongside Queen Mary.

Both the Queens then embarked on trooping duties. By May 1945 Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth had, between them, carried 2,473,040 troops and personnel around the world.

After Queen Elizabeth was handed back to Cunard in March 1946 she had a massive refit and father was assigned to her as Junior First Officer and he was aboard QE on the Maiden voyage in October 1946. He remained with that ship until 1950.

Queen Mary
Queen Elizabeth

It was a long time before Cunard’s fortunes had improved enough for them to contemplate a new Queen. In September 1967 Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) was launched by Queen Elizabeth. Captain William Warwick was appointed her Captain and father was appointed Staff (now called Deputy) Captain and Relief Master.

The Queen at the launch of Queen Elizabeth 2

It was November 1968 before the ship was ready to leave the fitting out berth and later that month technical sea trials began.

My father Captain George Smith greeting Prince Charles when he boarded QE2 for her first yoyage along the Clyde

Sadly there were problems with the turbines. Cunard would not accept the ship. It was March 1969 before the problem was fixed. A shakedown cruise to the Canaries was organised. I call it the Mini Maiden voyage because I managed to get a free trip. I was a trainee solicitor earning less than £10 a week and was therefore a dependant child! It was a 10 day voyage to the Canaries and back. The problems with the turbines were resolved and Cunard accepted the ship and paid for her.

QE2 in the early days. The shape of the funnel was later changed and it was painted in Cunard colours

Father was aboard of course for my Mini Maiden voyage as was my mother. The real Maiden voyage left Southampton on 2 May 1969 – a transatlantic to New York with father as Staff Captain.

This was father greeting the Queen when she boarded QE2

Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2

It was probably in 2002 that I heard that a new Queen was being built. The Queen Mary 2. Father had retired in 1972 and had died in 1984.

Jane and I had not cruised at all while the children were growing up. Our holidays, in the main, were dinghy sailing and windsurfing in the Mediterranean in the summers and skiing in France in the winters, often with Mark Warner holidays or Club Med.


In 2002 we felt that the time was right for us to resume the Cunard connection. The Maiden voyage of Queen Mary 2 was nearly sold out, but I managed to secure a cabin very near the bow! An outside cabin with a porthole!

Then, by chance, at a Paris Smith marketing event at the Mayflower Theatre, I met a senior Cunard executive. When she learned that Jane and I were booked on the Maiden and heard about my father’s career, she arranged an invitation for us to the Naming Ceremony and to lunch on QM2 beforehand. As we explored the ship before the Ceremony we nearly bumped into the Queen who was to name the ship.

The Queen with the President of Cunard, Pamela Conover

The Naming Ceremony took place in a vast marquee erected on the dockside by the bow of the ship.

The Queen naming Queen Mary 2

The Maiden Voyage of QM2 began on 12 January 2004, four days after the naming ceremony. It was Jane’s first ocean voyage, but she took it in her stride, having spent her childhood in small boats and having spent the summer before we met, working on a Townsend Thoresen cross channel ferry. I had spent my childhood and my days at school and at University and for the Law Society, racing sailing dinghies but it was 39 years since I had last sailed on a ship – on the Queen Mary, returning from a working vacation in the US.

The first Captain of Queen Mary 2 was Ron Warwick, who had been Captain of QE2 for many years. He was the son of Captain William Warwick, the first Captain of QE2. Both of them were promoted to the rank of Commodore.

Commodore Ron Warwick with the Queen on the day of the naming ceremony
Commodore Ron Warwick greeting Jane and me at a Reception on the Maiden voyage of QM2

QM2’s maiden voyage took us to Funchal, Madeira and then to Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Thousands arrived to watch QM2 at all of the ports and there were fireworks to round off each of our visits. Then we crossed the Atlantic to Barbados, followed by St John in the Virgin Islands before we disembarked in Fort Lauderdale.

Jane and I had the cruising bug after that and we had a number of cruises before Cunard announced a new ship to be called Queen Victoria. In fact that hull became P&O’s Arcadia but eventually Queen Victoria was built and we secured a cabin for the Maiden voyage scheduled to start on 11 December 2007.

Queen Victoria

We were invited to the Naming ceremony which took place on 10 December 2007. Camilla, then the Duchess of Cornwall, performed the christening accompanied by Charles, then Duke of Cornwall.

The Maiden voyage was to the Christmas markets – Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo, Hamburg and Zeebrugge. It was possibly not the cleverest itinerary. It was very cold throughout the voyage, but we loved the ship and have sailed on Queen Victoria further and for far longer than on any other ship.

Queen Victoria

Soon after Queen Victoria’s introduction, Cunard announced that another ship, to be known as Queen Elizabeth, was to be built. She was to be similar to Queen Victoria based on an updated version of the Vista Class.

Queen Elizabeth was launched on 5 January 2010 and was ready for a naming ceremony on the 11 October 2010. The naming ceremony was of course performed by the Queen.

Captain Christopher Wells and the Queen

The introduction of Queen Elizabeth brought the Cunard fleet back up to three, QE2 having sailed away to her new home in Dubai on 11 November 2008 after Cunard had sold her.

Jane and I had managed to secure a cabin on QE2’s final voyage. The ship sold out in 30 minutes. The same thing happened with Queen Elizabeth’s Maiden voyage. In March 2009 Cunard announced that bookings could be made from 2 April 2009. On that day the laptops were all at the ready for the appointed hour. We managed to get into the site and secured our cabin for the Maiden voyage to the Canaries.

Queen Elizabeth
On the bridge

Queen Anne

Queen Anne being fitted out

When the Maiden Voyage of Queen Anne was first announced in early 2022, the voyage was to start on 4 January 2024 and it was to be a 7 day voyage. With all the kit that we need to take for Jane (hoist, bath chairs and wheelchairs et al) 7 days is too short, so we tagged on the following 16 day cruise as well.

Then, in the early part of 2023, it apparently became clear that the ship would not be ready for January 2024. The Maiden voyage was moved to 3 May 2024 and remained a 7 day voyage. We added the following voyage – a 14 day trip to the Canaries.

Queen Anne

It has just been announced that Queen Anne’s naming ceremony will not take place prior to the Maiden voyage. It will take place in Liverpool on Monday 3 June 2024 during the British Isles Festival voyage, her 3rd voyage. Sadly we will miss the ceremony as we will have left the ship the week before on the 24 May after her first 2 voyages.