Call the Midwife

As regular as birdsong in spring, each New Year is now heralded by the distinctive cry of the lesser-spotted Redgrave – those achingly wise homespun homilies delivered in Vanessa R’s gravel-dropped-in-honey tones at the top and tail of every episode of Call the Midwife.

This week, she went a bit Johnny Mathis: ‘When a child is born,’ Vanessa told us, ‘the world is altered in an instant. When a voice is heard, new love comes into being.’

Want more? She had more. ‘Birth is the smallest of magnificent things, and the greatest of little ones. For the midwives of Nonnatus House, each one was as ordinary and as magical as the sunrise.’ Expect to see this Photoshopped over some clouds in your Facebook feed soon.

It’s not actually clear how Vanessa knows what’s going on, now that her younger self – Jessica Raine’s Jenny – has departed. Maybe she keeps up with her old colleagues on Snapchat? Anyway, that absence aside, it was business as usual in this fourth series opener, which started with nyloned blonde bombshell Trixie (Helen George), arriving in a milk float to make a – ahem – special delivery in the back of a car. ‘Bottoms up, sweetie,’ she said brightly, while kneeling in a pile of sick.

Next we met Gary, a smudge-faced street urchin straight out of Oliver Twist, who had been left holding the baby (plus two other sisters) by his negligent mother. They were so hungry, they’d been reduced to eating Bisto granules, but it took a lot to grind Gary down: when he told Trixie ‘our mum says a pretty name costs nothin’!’ I felt sure he was going to put his thumbs in his braces and do a little cockney dance.

The big arrival of the week – at least the one that didn’t come out mewling and covered in slop – was Charlotte Ritchie as newbie Nurse Barbara. As she stood on the doorstep of Nonnatus House, her suitcase fell open and a dog stole her bra. That’s what passes for comedy on Call the Midwife.

‘It sometimes happens that new beginnings come not at once, but at last,’ said Vanessa, signing off.

No, I don’t know what she was on about, either.

TV extra: 

Wolf Hall 

After the Jamaica Inn mumbling saga, could the BBC’s latest period drama give rise to Gloomgate? The much-anticipated adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is frankly brilliant, anchored by a mesmerising performance from Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell (the scene where he locked antlers with Damian Lewis’ Henry VIII was electric). But, in a noble bid for authenticity, some night scenes in this week’s first installment were so dark, I thought our telly had packed up (as opposed to The Tudors, where you just hoped it might).

Catastrophe 

This new comedy, about a woman who gets pregnant during a fling with a visiting American, is full of the salty sarcasm and excruciating awkwardness we’ve come to expect from the fabulous Sharon Horgan (who also gave us the much-missed Pulling). ‘What do you want to do?’ asked the bewildered father-to-be (co-writer Rob Delaney) on hearing the news. ‘I want to build a time machine out of your carcass and go back in time and make it unhappen,’ growled Horgan. So, er, anyway – congratulations!

Published in Waitrose Weekend, January 22, 2015

(c) Waitrose Weekend