I'm wondering whether anyone else is watching and enjoying Call the Midwife (8pm BBC One, Sunday) as much as we are at the moment??
For those who don't have access to it, the series is set in Nonnatus House, a working convent of midwifing nuns who train student midwives in the East End of London in the 1950s. In the days when, for the working class woman, hospital admission for delivery remained a rarity, when families were huge, all the washing was done by hand, the man's working day if he could get employment was long, the matricarchy ruled the roost as best it could, and within its bounds a high sense of sexual morality verging on prudery prevailed. Meanwhile out on the streets life inevitably told a very different story. It's a bit like a vintage One Born Every Minute meets The Sound of Music.
I'm hearing that lots of men are squeamishly crying off watching the series but Bookhound has stalwartly sat riveted through every episode with me, saying things like 'Tell me that baby doesn't die...'. This resilience might be down to his East End heritage all enhanced with an immunity gained after thirty five years of living with me being professionally connected to the real thing, and thus he's heard it all before.
Sunday nights won't be quite the same once the series has finished. I read Jennifer Worth's book when it was first published by Merton Books in 2002 because I can buy into nursing reminiscence at the first hint of starch and dressings, and this series has portrayed the East End brilliantly. Bookhound was born there in the 1950s before being moved out to a new town, but there is a landscape that seems familiar about childhood visits back to his own extended family.
And is not Miranda Hart quite perfect as the gung-ho though ever-so slightly gauche and accident-prone 'just call me Chummy' Camilla Fortescue-Cholmeley-Browne ...??
Not easy and rarely succesful for those we know as comedians to make the transition into serious drama (I could list a few disasters ...er Lark Rise anyone) but Miranda Hart has taken her comic timing, her body language, innate sensitivity, and the power of the hesitant and rather uncertain 'look' with her into Chummy's character, and it works. Chummy always the odd one out, sent to boarding school at the age of six, finished in Switzerland and then to the Lucy Clayton Charm School to prepare for presentation at Court as a debutante. Thence to Cordon Bleu followed by Needlework school and all was deemed ready for wife-dom until Chummy finds God and decides to be a missionary. It was in nurse training that Chummy finally found her metier, taking top honours at St Thomas's before arriving at Nonnatus House in the heart of the London Docklands for her Midwifery training.
And what about those gorgeous babies, apparently a slew of newborns required for filming, twins very handy and all helped by some extras, a few very lifelike and appropriately weighted dolls for use during delivery scenes. Filming had to revolve around the babies, if they were asleep and needed to be awake the crew would have to go and do something else.
The series is thankfully holding very true to the book too, written when midwife Terri Coates published an article bemoaning the absence of the midwife in literature and the gauntlet was thrown down...
'Maybe there is a midwife somewhere who can do for midwifery what James Herriot did for veterinary practice..'
and Jennifer Worth, who sadly died recently, thankfully rose to the challenge. If you haven't read the book I can heartily recommend it. We might have thought 'kangaroo care' (skin to skin contact for premature babies) had originated in Colombia in the 1970s but it is clear the women of the East End got there first
And talking of babies, I'm going to slip in some congratulations here... to Kirsty from Oxford University Press who has been a faithful friend of dovegreyreader scribbles from the very early days, (if you have ever won an OUP book in a draw here it is thanks to Kirsty that it was given in the first place, and that it then arrived with you)... so huge congratulations to Kirsty and John on the month-early (caught us knitters napping) but safe arrival of a very beautiful daughter Olivia. I've sent the hat but am still working on the boots, one more episode of Call the Midwife should see them almost ready for delivery.