Here are some of the contributions to puzzlement: Trixie and the great Leotard Controversy; Patsy and the love that dare not speak its name; the vanishing characters of Nurse Lee, Chummy and Sister Evangelina (no doubt to cater for the changing career paths of the actors playing them); or the unfathomable (to me anyway) poser of why the curate has no training incumbent, colleagues, and seems to dress as a country parson rather than wear a cassock, which would have been expected in an Anglo-Catholic parish at the time. And why does no-one call him Father?
All of which may lead to the attendant worry that Call the Midwife is moving in a similar drift to The Bill from a focussed, original series of hand held cinema verité by Geoff McQueen to the predictable PC Plod Eastenders it became. Don’t fear CTM fans – no signs of that just yet.
None of that may worry devoted viewers, the majority of whom, we are told, are women. I have a friend who takes his son out of the sitting room to do ‘men’s things’ elsewhere in the house while his wife and daughters follow the family fortunes which culminate in that last big push each episode on television.
My concern is strictly humanitarian. In many episodes viewers will have seen the nuns go to the house chapel for their devotions, which one assumes is usually Compline as they sing the hymn Before the Ending of the Day. Which is at it should be. As Sister Julienne was heard to say in episode one of series five, prayer is their real labour and in Holy Week it takes up a lot of their working day.
When the admittedly beautiful voices of the professed hard-pressed midwives are raised in praise of the Lord, their numbers mysteriously swell. And yet, in all other parts of the show, signs of the existence of these gilded corded women are none. They appear to have no bedrooms and no duties outside the chapel in Nonnatus House. They are seen neither on foot nor bicycle on the streets of Poplar. More worryingly, they never eat with their sisters in habit or uniform. All that cake and none for the singers.
What is going on? Is there some kind of secret life within the hallowed halls? Should Sergeant Noakes be called in to investigate? Or should we call on Doctor Turner, whose tweedy exterior seems to hide a Superman suit, not to mention his almost rivalling powers of the bilocating Saint Anthony of Padua, to use his inexhaustible bedside manner and encyclopaedic knowledge?
Whoever gets the job, they will have to put on the whole armour of their trade. Who they gonna call?