Come driving with me – it’s a long way from Tumbarumba to Southmead’s NICU!

Hello to you all! I’m still officially on my blogging break but I just wanted to pop in and say hello. I’ve missed you 🙂

How I got here

As you may have seen from my last post at the end of August, I flew alone from Canberra to Sydney, then onto Doha with London’s Heathrow airport as my final destination. Flight legs were 1 hour, 15 hours, 7 hours plus time on the ground – I gave up counting how many hours it took me to get here.

I just know it’s a long way from Tumbarumba to Bristol’s NICU – Neonatal Intensive Care Unit – at Southmead Hospital.

You can imagine how desperate I was to see my daughter and her partner, and of course to meet my newest granddaughter, who had arrived very early, at just days over 25 weeks gestation.

Three generations of girls
Three generations

I’m happy to report that little Dottie is holding her own and has a reputation already. She is a feisty little thing, and I mean little, although thankfully she is growing every day. She’s 4 weeks old now and it’s been an up and down rollercoaster so far, I can tell you!

Mummy with baby Dottie having skin to skin cuddles -
Mummy with baby Dottie having skin to skin cuddles – appropriately called kangaroo cuddles.

The last few weeks have been a real education in lots of ways, mainly in the care of premature babies, but today I want to tell you about my (almost) daily commute from Cheddar to Bristol’s Southmead Hospital.

Just to keep it light, as I ease myself back into blogging.

Some background

For someone who lives in a small rural Australian town of approximately 2000 people, where the daily commute to pick up supplies/mail is about 5 minutes on a busy day – no roundabouts, no traffic lights, speed cameras, or even a stop sign to navigate – I’m sure you can imagine that hitting the road in England has been a real shock to the system!

I’m also used to kilometres per hour, not miles per hour, and the sat nav giving me how many yards or miles to the next turn has not been very useful!

I was the passenger on a few occasions with my daughter, her partner and Nanny Angie, and I tried to take note of landmarks along the way. The scenery was a bit distracting at times but I tried hard to concentrate to take it all in. This is my way of working out where I’m going.

So, this is the internal dialogue, my very own sat-nav instructions, something like a mantra telling me where to go. It has certainly helped me navigate the busy drive through the city of Bristol.

It may only be a distance of 22 miles (35km) door to door, but depending on traffic, it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to well over an hour to drive.

Cheddar to Bristol map
Cheddar to Bristol map

My instructions to myself are as follows:

Leave Cheddar, on a relatively narrow road, with high hedges both sides.

Head towards the village of Shipham through a delightfully wooded area where the trees meet over the road, so it’s like driving through a tunnel of green.

Turn right onto the A38, at the service station at the bottom of Shipham hill. This is a busy road so be careful!

Through the pretty village of Churchill and a pretty rural outlook.

Head towards Bristol Airport with 2 big and busy roundabouts, remembering to stay in the correct lane to continue on the A38.

Watch for the speed signs of 20, 30, 40 or 50 miles per hour and speed cameras too. We go past the Fox and Goose pub and lots of parked cars waiting for the call from passengers arriving at Bristol Airport.

The countryside is green, rural and beautiful in places and dingy, crammed in and ugly in other places.

We pass a selection of food vans in laybys along the side of the road – Breakfast at Timothy’s, the Bus Cafe and Chris’s – they always seem to have customers.

At the Lime Kiln roundabout take the Bristol link road exit.

Now we’re heading towards the Bristol Zoo with more roundabouts and traffic lights to negotiate, plus lots of merging traffic.

Look for the heavily pruned tree on the left, go under the majestic Clifton suspension bridge and turn right up the hill towards the zoo – taking note of the queues as you drive by.

Clifton Suspension Bridge
Clifton Suspension Bridge

Now it’s time to suck everything in as you drive through parked cars on the street and traffic – it really helps to get through 🙂

Past the Downs, a large expanse of green space. There are always people walking, running, cycling, walking their dogs, then more lights, pedestrian crossings and roundabouts.

Turn right onto Henleaze Road, past the skip on the side of the road then left onto the High Street of Henleaze, noticing the bright colourful flower baskets hanging out and the bustling shops. There’s a beautiful thatched building on the right which you can look at while stopping for pedestrian crossings and at only 20 mph it’s not as if you’re going at a fast pace.

There’s a slight dingy tone to the next section of shops and buildings as we move onto Southmead Road, past The Bear and Rugged Staff pub and soon after turn right into the Southmead Hospital grounds. It’s a busy place, more like an airport than a hospital, with various sections as numbered ‘gates’ and on-screen check-ins.

Find your way to the maternity section and park the car. The hospital has set visiting hours, no flowers are allowed and only 2 visitors at a time are permitted. You need to be signed in at reception and are given a lanyard with your visitor status. Because I was visiting from afar and for a relatively short time, I was allowed to visit outside of set hours, something for which I’m grateful and didn’t take too much advantage of.

NICU Grandparent
NICU Grandparent – I have doctored this!

In NICU all outerwear, like coats and backpacks have to be left in the designated area, to reduce the risk of someone smuggling out a baby!

Then you have to wash and dry your hands before entering the quiet yet hectic world of the NICU ward. (This will be covered in more detail in a future post).

Welcome to NICU
Welcome to NICU

After the visit has finished retrace all steps above and breath a sigh of relief that you’ve successfully accomplished the commute once again!

Not known for my sense of direction

It’s been fun sharing my driving adventures with you. It may surprise you that I’m not known for my sense of direction or my parking skills!

The last time I travelled on my own to England I had a big adventure involving getting lost on my first day, shortly after arriving and being saved by the kindness of strangers, so you may understand now why this driving caper has been such a big thing for me.

Are you brave when you travel? Sometimes we have no choice but to be brave and take on these challenges.

Road Rage incident (updated)

Up until a few days ago I would have said the drivers here are all polite, considerate and friendly. They pull over and wait, they let you in, they wave their thanks, they don’t tailgate, they drive politely and I’ve very much appreciated this.

But just yesterday I was subjected to a road rage incident and I still have no real idea of what I did wrong.

I became aware of a car sitting very close to me for some distance and driving quite aggressively, compared to what I’ve been used to anyway. Then as I pulled up at a roundabout she moved out from behind me and pulled up next to me to verbally abuse me over the head of her child sitting in a car seat in the front seat of her car. She accused me of putting her child in danger and was raining a torrent of foul-mouthed abuse at me.

I was shocked and completely taken aback as I have no idea what I had done to her. There wasn’t any horn blowing or lights flashing to alert me that I had maybe cut in on her when changing lanes, or was driving too slowly…just the tailgating me for some distance and then her attack. She threatened to report me, saying she had my number plate details, and then thankfully the traffic moved on and I had to finish my drive trying to hold myself together.

Once I arrived at the hospital I tried to compose myself and rang a few friends to see what I should do. I had to tell my daughter just in case the woman had made a report.

I then had to drive back again and I still have a few more drives ahead of me before I return to Australia, so I have to keep my head together. Thankfully this has been the only incident and I’m trying to think that it says more about her than me. It did shake me up though.

Thank you

Thanks for everyone’s positive thoughts for our family over the past few weeks, we all truly appreciate it and we know we still have a long road ahead of us. I am returning home in a week’s time and it will be hard to leave my daughter and Dottie but I will be back in about 7 weeks, this time with my husband.

Granny Debs meeting Dottie
Granny Debs meeting Dottie

It’s nice to be back with you!

Deb x

NOTE: My daughter has given permission for me to use these photos and information about Dottie’s early arrival.

I am walking in the event Walk for Prems on 27 October 2019 in Canberra and have set up a fundraising page if anyone is keen to support this great cause, through Lifes Little Treasures. They were fantastic when I first made contact with them and have given me support since. They also sent out a free Prem pack full of useful information and knitted items for Dottie, which my husband sent over to us in England. Very caring and thoughtful! You can click on the link below for more information and thanks again:

Team Tiny Dottie

You can also find Deb’s World in lots of other places – stay in touch by clicking any of the buttons below.

67 Replies to “Come driving with me – it’s a long way from Tumbarumba to Southmead’s NICU!”

    1. Hi Deb I’m so pleased you decided to give us an update on your adventures to visit your new granddaughter. I’m pleased she’s doing well. I loved your driving directions. I have a dreadful sense of directions and when bushwalking often leave sticks shaped into arrows to indicate the way to turn. Enjoy your last week

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi Jennifer, it’s lovely of you to take an interest in how Dottie is going. It’s an adventure of a very different sort I can tell you!i laughed at your comment about leaving sticks in arrow shapes I do that too!! I’ll be home soon and will enjoy a walk on my bush tracks.


    2. Thanks Hayley, we’re managing but it has been very stressful at times. Just today I was the victim of a road rage incident and I still don’t know what I did wrong!! I then had to drive back, so couldn’t fall apart like I wanted to!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. As I don’t drive I think this is very brave, I would be sure to get lost. Premature baby care I don’t know much about, but I think it has changed a lot. Kangaroo cuddles must at least make the mother feel like it’s her baby, not some creature that belongs to the nurses!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a lovely and fun way to ease back into blogging Deb. You’ve certainly lost none of your finesse. In fact as I read your sat nav description I felt as though I was with you navigating through those streets. Well done you! So glad to hear that Dottie is doing well and that she’s a little fighter. Hugs, love and best wishes to you all. xx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Deb. Great post about the navigation. Love al the pub names peppered through the post. I hope that the skip is not on wheels or they move it any time soon, or might get lost! Drive carefully. Not a fan of lots of traffic either.I hate Melbourne’s traffic it is getting worse by the day.
    Glad to hear that Dottie continues to grow. it so good you can drop everything and be there and return again soon. Look after yourself too. Louise

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Louise, thanks for your comment. I love seeing the pub names and different sights along the way too so thought I’d share them. I don’t like city driving at the best of times but I have to do it!! Today I was subjected to road rage for the first time ever and it really floored me as everyone has been so polite on the roads here compared to at home. I’m very lucky I could just drop everything and go. Dottie is improving and growing every day and it’s a whole new world to me. x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful to get an update Deb Here in the blog. So glad Dottie is holding her own and I can imagine to do so she has had to be feisty indeed. Loved driving with you and good for you to just do what has to be done. That’s what we Mothers do right? I’m sure it will be very hard to leave but wonderful you and your husband can return soon. Xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sue, I’m glad you appreciated my brief update, it’s been on my mind to get some news out and this seemed like an easy way to do it in a light hearted manner. Yes us mothers just do what we have to do, whether it’s in our comfort zone or not. It will be good to come back in November with Grant, he’s missing all the sights and sounds of the hospital. Thanks for your love and good wishes to us all xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Donna, I’m glad you enjoyed hearing from me again! I’ve missed everyone so much but know they all understand the reason for my absence. The tight streets are a definite challenge. I must say all the drivers are polite and courteous over here.


  5. What a hell of a journey, Deb. And there’s me, getting stressed over a 4 hour trip to London a few days ago. I’m so glad you’ve made it there & that little Dottie is doing okay all things considered, she’s one tough cookie & a little warrior baby!  ♥
    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How lovely to read that baby Dottie is continuing to make progress – what amazing places those NICU wards are. I bet you couldn’t wait to see her for yourself and for that first ‘Nanny cuddle’.
    Deb, you and I are so alike regarding travelling – I have no sense of direction whatsoever and I would have to make sure I had a similar journey plan with lots of landmarks to get somewhere new – I’m not sure I totally trust satnavs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deb, I haven’t been able to have a cuddle yet as it’s only parents at the moment. When we come back in November but I’ll hopefully be able to have a cuddle with her. My mind is like a picture sat nav, and I use it to help me get where I have to go now, so I’m glad it works!! So much in common with you!!


  7. What a challenge for you in so many ways – for me the hardest part would be keeping myself together for my daughter’s sake as I tend to be a worrier, often more for others than for myself. I am the family driver and love navigating and negotiating traffic and all kinds of craziness, so I wish I could come and help you through that part! Very happy to hear baby Dottie is doing OK; it’s truly amazing how well so many preemies do these days. I will keep her (and you and your daughter and family) in my thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! Up until today I’ve done ok with the diving and I concentrate really hard to stay in the right lanes etc but I was subject to a road rage incident today and I don’t even know what I did wrong!! I’m a worrier too so it’s been very hard holding myself together for my daughter and her husband. I am in awe of the NICU nurses and doctors they are amazing and so much can be done for little ones now, as you say. Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes indeed Ally, it’s been a fairly scary and tumultuous trip but I’m so glad I could come over so quickly. We’ll both be back in a few months so that might be a bit less stressful. Dottie is doing well thank goodness. Thanks!


    1. Yes Jono, it’s been a very different sort of trip this time but I’m really glad I made it over. I’ve been very impressed with the drivers over here as they’re polite and considerate, until today when I had a road rage incident and was verbally abused for I don’t know what! It really shook me up I must say.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Deb,
    Didn’t expect to hear from you quite yet, but glad you checked in let us know that all is well with Dottie thus far. Little ones are big fighters, and it seems Dottie is no exception.
    Thinking of you often and sending warm thoughts to you, your daughter, and Tiny Dottie, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dottie sounds like a little fighter. Brilliant. I loved reading this as I know those streets like the back of my hand having been born next to the Downs and living in South Bristol for the first 26 years of my life. I have also just retired from Southmead Hospital!! Small world. Hope to meet you next time you are over. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great to hear you recognised where I was from my descriptions Ann. I was getting confident with it all until today when I was the victim of road rage and I still don’t know what I did wrong! This woman tailgated me for ages then pulled up alongside me at a roundabout and gave me a torrent of vile abuse over the head of her child in the front seat of her car, accusing me of endangering her child! I honestly don’t know what I did to deserve it as I’m very careful to obey all the road rules. I was very shaken when I got to Southmead then I had to turn around and drive back a few hours later. I’m more settled now but still very worried as she said she was going to report me based on the car’s number plate. Up until now all drivers have been polite and considerate especially compared to those at home. I hope we can catch up too, I’d love to meet you! Very small word at times. 👋

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Just ignore her Debbie. There are some strange folk about! Don’t think she will bother reporting you for whatever terrible thing you did!!! You probably just went too slow for her in her manic life! Don’t worry about it. xx

        Liked by 1 person

  10. HI Deb. Lovely to hear from you, to know that all is going well and to see your fabulous photos. I’ve enjoyed the ones you’ve posted on Instagram too! As for that driver, please don’t take it to heart: we Brits aren’t all idiots, and you must have been unlucky to meet one who was. Enjoy the rest of your stay and have a safe trip home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much Clive, I appreciate your kind words. It was a bit hard driving today after the incident but I had to do it so I did. I’m enjoying some downtime when I can get it, like this mornings walk. I’ll be back before I know it 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You did the right thing in driving again. Try to put it behind you: whatever she thought you did is probably all in her mind, rather than reality. Hope you’ll be doing some more posts on your stay here – you’ve taken lots of photos that would be good source material!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Debbie – It’s wonderful to hear from you. I’m glad that Dottie is doing well. Driving in a foreign place is stressful and the road rage incident definitely did not help. Wishing you peace in the next few weeks and a safe trip home.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m really glad Dottie’s doing well – not to mention her grandmother, negotiating city life on the other side of the world!

    I’m sure you’ll miss them when you have to come home but I can’t even imagine what a comfort it’s been for your daughter having you there. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Well judging from all the comments, we’re all very happy to have you back Deb. Glad Dottie is doing well and that you’ve managed to cope with all the stress of driving – you’re a braver woman than me! I thought the UK was metric (and that only the US was stuck back in imperial measurements) so that was something new for me. Sorry about the crazy woman abusing you – I never understand road rage – if you’re that upset, yelling at someone doesn’t help at all (IMHO). Enjoy your last few days with the family xx
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Glad to hear that Dottie is a fighter, just like all the other women in her family! That drive sounds like a nightmare on any day and made worse by that obnoxious woman who was probably upset that you didn’t let her cut you off. I find that the people who act this way are usually the people who were in the wrong in the first place. I once had a guy cut me off (I was on a straight entrance to a plaza, he had a stop sign, I did not,) he then stopped in the middle of the intersection to act like a jerk and yell at me because he cut me off. I just laughed at him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jennifer, I feel much better now, so many people have been so supportive of me over road rage incident! Dottie continues to improve and I’m sure she’s been helped by all the positive thoughts from everyone all over the world. I’m so lucky to have this much support . xx


  15. I’m so pleased to hear Dottie is still hanging in there and doing well. Sorry to hear about the road rage incident. And whatever it was you did wasn’t half as wrong as the example she set for the child travelling with her. If I were you Deb, I’d completely ignore that incident with the ignorance it deserves. Don’t give her another thought.

    Liked by 1 person

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