Hamwick House

At the back of the Southampton General Hospital site there is Hamwick House. I go there for blood tests. Other people go there to see consultants.

I learnt early on, that if you go for a blood test, you find the machine that issues numbered tickets, take one and try to remember the number. Then you put the very small ticket somewhere safe, on the basis of that after waiting for the number to be called you will have forgotten the number.

There are usually 40/50 patients and supporters sitting there in 40/50 chairs so you need to sit in the first one you find that’s free and get out the Wordle, or Suduko or Kindle.

If you are there for a consultation they stand at the front and say your name (usually a mumble) when they are ready to see you. But us blood test people are waiting to hear a number shouted/mumbled so that we can try to guess how many are ahead of us in the queue.

Last Thursday I arrived about 15minutes ahead of the appointed time. I took ticket No 36 and started the day’s Wordle. After 30 minutes no number had been announced so I had no idea how much longer I would have to wait.

After a time I thought someone at the front mumbled ‘Richard Smith’ but I realised it couldn’t be me as I’m a blood test person. I’m a numbers person. I heard Number 35 called out and realised I was next. And then again I heard ‘Richard Smith’ being shouted out. I got up and at the same time another man came out of the WC and said ‘I’m Richard Smith’. That threw the nurse. She looked at me and asked if I was born in 1963. Close I said. 1945. Well it’s not you I want she said. I was devastated!

She didn’t seem surprised that she had 2 Richard Smiths in her clinic at the same time!

Almost immediately No 36 was shouted out and I went off for my blood test. The assembled audience seemed to have enjoyed the Smith show.


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!