Okay, I’m going to admit to a guilty pleasure and one that I think I might share with a lot of others. I am addicted to the Sunday night drama on BBC One, Call the Midwife.
I have no idea why this programme appeals so much. I have never been a fan of hospital dramas such as Holby City or Casualty; I never yearned to be a nurse – I didn’t ever play ‘doctors and nurses’ as a kid; I don’t even like babies very much! And yet, here I am, the nursing and nuns drama has become my Sunday religion.
It might be the nostalgia: vibrant local communities, problem solving cups of tea, everyone knowing everyone’s name, bicycles that don’t need to be chained up, guilt-free smoking, doctors’ surgeries without queues… (a Brexit-voting vision?). What’s not to like?
Or could it be the characters that I warm to. The fair-minded and moralistic mother superior, the harassed but well-meaning community doctor, the vicar who constantly struggles with his pent up desire to ravage his fiancé before the wedding night, dear old Minty from Eastenders mending bicycles and growing cabbages, the tough-loving Nurse Crane or closet lesbian Patsy and fun-loving alcoholic Trixie. The cross section of society is there for all to see, love and identify with.
For those who don’t tune in to Call the Midwife, this is a story about a convent that served as a nursing order in the East End of London in the years following the Second World War.
Now in its sixth series, the drama has moved to the start of the 1960s and the nuns and nurses are confronted by issues such as abortion, birth defects, poverty, racism, unwanted pregnancies, incest, religion and a heap of other social issues.
Each episode starts and ends with the words of the author of the original memoirs, Jennifer Worth, as spoken by Vanessa Redgrave.
This always contains a warning of what was to come in the months and years ahead, followed by wise words on how to counter such dark days.
The most recent episode dealt with the proposed closure of the local maternity ward, and the subsequent farming out of all patients to the nearest large hospital.
Previous episodes focused on domestic violence and the difficulty of settling into society when you arrive as an immigrant.
These are tough issues but dealt with in a sensitive and sensible way.
It might be cosy, rose-tinted, but in these, quite frankly, worrying times, a weekly dose of nuns and nurses could be just the doctor’s orders.