Recently I was telling you about my experiences as a nurse and how I had to work on the cardio thoracic ward run by a woman with little tolerance for student nurses. While there were people at the hospital who opportunistically tried to make life miserable for student nurses, we didn’t let them stop us from having a mountain of fun.
For the three years of our training we moved between study block and time ‘on the wards’. While in study block we had lectures from Monday to Friday, 8am until 5pm for a period of four weeks. We had a 15-minute recess and a 45-minute lunch break and the rest of the time was face-to-face teaching.
So with all that teaching-time combined with evening study and assignments, we were looking for relief from our books. One day I was with my two friends, Kath and Cath and it was lunch time and we wandered up the hill to ‘the blue carpet area’. The blue carpet area was the entry foyer of the ugly hospital and yes, it had blue carpet.
This is where there was an admission’s desk, a post office, a hairdressing salon and a bank. But there was also a takeaway shop and it had a counter of mixed lollies. We headed over to the lolly counter because lollies are necessary to get through ENT lectures and that’s what we had coming up after lunch.
But as we stood at the counter we saw the very good-looking helicopter pilots come in for a takeaway coffee. (Helicopter pilots are always good looking). These genetically-blessed males with uniforms that added to their aura flew the rescue helicopters and to a student nurse, confined within the walls of a demountable classroom day after day after day, these pilots with their search-and-rescue jobs seemed like demigods.
And we wanted to get to know them.
And we wondered what it would be like to fly in a helicopter.
As we watched them head back to their prestigious offices beside the helipad we wondered if they liked lollies as much as we did. We pulled our resources and bought two of the largest bags of mixed lollies possible and headed over to their sacred site on the hospital’s grounds. We knocked on the door of the very special offices and one of the pilots opened the door.
‘Hello’, we said, ‘We just wanted to bring you a special treat’. And we handed the pilots the lollies. They were a bit stunned and I’m not sure they were used to student nurses knocking on their door bearing gifts but they smiled and invited us in.
Kath said, ‘In exchange, how about a ride in the helicopter?’
And one of the pilots said, ‘Oh, no, we can’t do that’.
And Cath said, ‘But look at all the lollies we gave you’. And the things is; timing is everything; the pilots were just about to take the helicopter on a trip around the harbour as part of its maintenance requirements and here we were, ready to climb into the spare back seat.
‘Are you sure you nurses are allowed to come with us?’
‘Of course’, I said, ‘We’re on a lunch break’.
After some hesitation on their part and us reminding them how many lollies we bought them, they said, ‘Let’s go’. And we tried hard to conceal our excitement and disbelief that we actually were leaving the hospital in a helicopter.
We climbed aboard and did up our seat-belts and were given some headphones and then the whirring began and we were up, up, up and away and we couldn’t stop looking at each other and giggling.
We flew right above those demountable classrooms and headed to the city where we went over the harbour bridge and the opera house and then took a left and headed through the heads and out to Manly. Our eyes were fixed on the beautiful view and the pilots gave us a great tour, pointing out the landmarks and places of interest.
Meanwhile, back in the demountable, the Education Sister was marking the role and wondering why Nr Stewart-Cooper, Nr Cunningham and Nr Letts weren’t in class, ready for that ENT lecture. ‘Where are they?’ she demanded.
The room was silent but then a shaky voice nervously replied, ‘Someone said the rescue pilots took them for a flight in the helicopter’.
‘Don’t be silly, Nurse’, came the dismissive reply, ‘Nurses do not fly around in helicopters’.
The view from the helicopter of Sydney Harbour was amazing and we didn’t want the flight to end. But the pilots did have to head back and as we again approached the harbour bridge we asked if he could fly under it but that apparently, is against the law.
Back on land, we thanked the pilots ever so much and as we sprinted down the hill towards the demountable the smiles were stripped from our faces. ‘We’re 25-minutes late’, said Cath.
‘What are we going to say?’ I asked.
‘I don’t think it’s in the rules that we can’t go up in a helicopter’, stated Kath.
And then we had to walk in. We slowly turned the door handle and the door creaked open. The room went silent. The Education Sister was glaring at us. ‘Nr Stewart-Cooper, Nr Cunningham and Nr Letts; you are more than half an hour late and the Health Department pays you to be here; where have you been?’
‘We didn’t know we’d be this long’.
‘Where have you been?’ she demanded.
‘We went for a ride in the helicopter’. And the Education Sister was furious. And she didn’t know what to do because flying around Sydney Harbour in a helicopter wasn’t in the operating manual of nursing practise. So as we quietly slipped into our seats while stifling the giggles she yelled, ‘Nurses are to have two feet on the ground at all times’.
- Just so you know.
And so we come to the beef cheeks. I found some at the supermarket that were organic as well as well priced and as they were cooking, Nr Cunningham was on facebook communicating with me about our nursing escapades. Back then we ate at the hospital’s cafeteria and the food was bland – definitely nothing interesting like beef cheeks.
- 2 tbspns olive oil
- ½ cup cornflour, seasoned
- 1.5kgs beef cheeks
- ½ cup cornflour, seasoned
- 1 onion, chopped
- Rind of 1 orange
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 knob of garlic, sliced
- 1 cup (250 mls) beef stock
- 1½ cups dry red wine
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbspns soy sauce
- ½ bunch thyme leaves
- ½ tspn Chinese 5-spice powder
- 500gms button mushrooms, sliced
- ½ cup chopped chives
- chopped parsley to garnish
- Heat oil in a large casserole dish.
- Coat beef cheeks in seasoned cornflour and dust off excess.
- Place beef cheeks in a single layer in casserole dish and brown on both sides, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Turn down the heat in the casserole dish and add onion, orange rind, garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant.
- Add beef cheeks then pour in red wine. Bring to the boil.
- Add water, vinegar, soy sauce, thyme, and 5-spice powder and return to the boil.
- Cover with a lid and place in a 140C oven for 4 hours.
- Remove from the oven and add mushrooms.
- Return to the oven for 2 hours.
- Scatter with chives and serve with steamed rice and a green salad.
- Garnish with chopped parsley
I made these on a cold and wet winter’s night – excellent comfort food but you do need to allow six hours of cooking time.
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