Drama about midwives in 1960s London. The team must rally to prepare for Sister Monica Joan's birthday. The closing of a maternity home brings an influx of expectant mothers.
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We speak of the dawn of a new day
as though it is a wholly welcome thing.
But there are times when dawn breaks into darkness...
..forcing us to face the things we never knew we'd see.
Cup of tea for you.
Drink it while it's hot.
This time last year there was a wedding dress
hanging from that picture rail.
What I said to you when we arrived in South Africa still holds good.
There are three things you need when you arrive in a foreign
country - a scrub-up, a shave and a visit to the khazi.
I'm not in a foreign country, Fred.
I'm in my own home.
In a place where I've lived for years.
-It just, er...
-It feels like somewhere
where you've never been before.
Now, you're big enough and ugly enough to make your own khazi
and scrub-up arrangements.
The shave you need to leave to me.
We recount old beats of other stories.
We retrace our steps, take refuge in echoes of that which is familiar.
We follow custom and ritual because we have no map.
We reach out blindly.
We cannot see the path and, far from home,
we cling to the way these things are always done.
# Be still my soul
# When change and tears are past
# All safe and blessed
# And we shall meet at last. #
Please be seated.
Before we move out into the churchyard for the committal
proceedings, Barbara's great friend and colleague Phyllis Crane
will read a short poem to help us to gather our thoughts.
-Oh. Please don't take the little one out.
None of us objects to the sound of a crying child.
"If I should die and leave you here awhile,
"be not like others sore undone, who keep
"long vigils by the silent dust, and weep."
"For my sake - turn again to life
"..nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do
"something to comfort weaker hearts than thine."
"Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine
"and I, perchance may therein comfort you."
-No, thank you.
What's happened to Phyllis?
She said she was going upstairs to get changed.
Off you pop.
I've been called out to a Mrs Olive Mawson.
Nine months along, staying with family in the district.
Are you going to go downstairs, Phyllis?
I've never found grief and a cold spread to be an easy combination.
The service itself is trial enough.
Your reading gave people a great deal of comfort.
Tom chose it.
It seemed apt.
We've got work to do, haven't we?
The world doesn't stop.
Has it started?
Your daughter's fine for now, Mr Hodgkiss.
You can go to work.
-They're what we call Braxton Hicks contractions, precious.
You have to think of it as Mother Nature tuning up her orchestra.
Try to relax a little.
I thought I'd feel calmer when I moved back in with my dad.
How about I make a cup of tea and you tell me why you did that?
-We're lucky the funeral didn't clash
with Angela's birthday party,
but I've still got my work cut out to get everything done by tomorrow.
Can't you just buy it all from a shop?
We have to get back to the business of life, Patrick.
And everything else, it's the opposite of the pain and the grief
and the loss we saw today.
I feel as though I'll drown if I don't do something positive.
Can I help?
You can pass me things down off the high shelves.
Starting with the bunny blancmange mould and my piping nozzles.
Then go and change your tie before you head back to the surgery.
was seeing another woman.
I turned a blind eye.
It was easy enough, as long as I ignored it.
But then I couldn't ignore it... BELL RINGS
Oh, hello, Uncle Donald.
Dad's already gone to work. You done his shirt for today.
Well, he...he'll need a clean one tomorrow.
The laundry basket's on the draining board.
Uncle Donald was in the Navy.
Makes men quite handy, life at sea.
Your parents say they're ready to leave when you are.
I'm not sure I want to go with them now.
I think it might be preferable to spending time alone.
I've got years to do that, haven't I?
Did you know that Barbara's name is still on the call
board in the clinical room?
Chalk doesn't rub out as completely as you think.
I'll go with my parents.
And next week I will come back...
..and I will start again.
I cannot obtain access to the television news.
Have the angels abandoned us completely?
And wait for Daddy to say when.
-..three - NOW!
Come on, everyone! Let's try that again.
Dad, can I have a go?
Indeed! My response would be to say that I find your attitude
And that you won't receive an answer from this practice
until the matter's been discussed with Dr Turner.
Have I been called out?
No. That was the Officer for Health,
needing to speak urgently, and informing us
that Warkworth Street maternity home is to be closed down.
Still, Dr Gillies should have been put out to pasture years ago.
He's apparently moving to a modernised group practice
in Lewisham and most of his patients, including his
mothers-to-be, are being referred to us with immediate effect.
Shelagh, our maternity home has only got four beds.
The children are going to finish their jelly and cream
and have a lovely game of oranges and lemons,
then we'll come up with a plan.
Something the matter, Phyllis?
I thought I felt something go
when I bent down to pick up some soil beside the grave.
If we were to take on this caseload, it means that there would be
more than 30 extra babies due in the next month alone.
Dare I ask whether Warkworth Street have
passed on details of all their discarded patients?
But we do have this.
Ooh, would you like me to fetch you some embrocation, Nurse Crane?
No, I would not!
I would like you and your colleagues
to put together as many additional home-delivery packs as we may
now require and await further instructions.
Yes, Nurse Crane.
Hello, er, television repairs.
I've had reports of ghosting and a very loud whistle.
I take it you've tried wiggling the aerial?
I haven't tried any remedy at all.
Your mind has been fixed on matters of great sadness.
But our young friend has passed to a better place than this
and leaves behind a world more in need of prayer than ever.
That is why I require untrammelled
access to the television news,
so that we know who to pray for.
I wish you luck with that.
Your cathode ray tube's gone.
HE CLEARS THROAT
I'm afraid you're slightly early, madam.
Has anyone taken your ticket?
I surmise you're what is known as the commissionaire.
No, I'm the projectionist.
Please be advised that my interest is entirely
confined to the news reel,
which is surely a public service
and therefore complimentary?
It's generally considered complimentary,
as long as you've paid to see the main attraction.
What is that?
It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
A philosophical treatise, perhaps.
I'm sure my order will pose no objection.
My daughter Olive's under your midwives at the moment.
-Hm! I'll see you're provided with refreshments.
Perfect! This is just the right time of year for planting tulips.
You see, the soil's cold,
so the bulbs don't get bothered by the fungus
and all them creepy-crawlies in the soil.
Your mum's going to love these.
Nurse Barbara looks lonely.
No. She's got your mum to keep her company, hasn't she?
But my mum was old.
The latest fashion, that's what Kathy Victoria's looking for,
but quite frankly that speckled toffee and cream ensemble
doesn't seem to make it.
It's too thick to lie flat enough with a double fold.
And here's where the newest fashion trick...
Good afternoon, ladies.
We'll be running things slightly differently today.
Everyone who normally attends this clinic should go to Sister Julienne
at the table on the right, and if you were previously looked after at
Warkworth Street, you are to see me, so that you can be re-registered.
Please have your co-op card ready.
Doctor will need to see anyone who's new.
Can I smuggle a cup of tea in for you, Nurse Crane?
Or would you rather have a gratis selection of functional
Another one with more sugar than Shirley Temple.
I don't think one of these women from Warkworth Street has been
My mum said you'd want to see my wee.
Ooh, crunchy peanut butter.
I prefer the smooth myself.
I hope you've washed that jar out.
Or else your urine will be chock-full of protein before
we even start.
You're lovely and perky for a first-time visitor.
Some people find it all a bit daunting.
I've had long enough to get used to the idea.
I kept hoping it would go away.
Hmm. Hope doesn't really help in these cases.
How long have you been married?
I'm not. My mum lent me her ring for coming here.
And where is she today?
On a shift at the sugar works.
We made up our minds, I'm not keeping the baby.
I'll talk to the social worker.
PASSERS-BY GASP AND MUTTER
..how long does it take to get a council flat?
There are waiting lists.
But I can get you the forms.
-You aren't thinking of going back to your husband, then?
-Oh, no. No.
I'm just not sure this is going to be a very good house for a baby to
-I am not my mother, Uncle Donald!
Your father really loves her.
Where are your trousers?
You will catch your death going around like that, sir.
-I think you're forgetting
Let me get this gentleman organised, then we can find a way ahead.
Ow, ow, ow! Ow! Ow!
That will be just another one of those practice contractions.
The gentleman's name is Donald Chapman
and, as I said,
neatly dressed in a short raincoat, shirt and tie.
Neatly dressed, but wearing nothing below the waist?
Nothing that I could see, Sergeant,
or had the inclination to enquire about.
Hello, Nurse Crane. Hello, Mum.
What have you brought home this time?
Spoons for you.
Spoons? How lovely, Reggie.
You can never have too many spoons.
Three and nine.
Trouble is he's getting more and more bored every minute.
They were doing shopping in independence training
before he went away.
Now every time I turn my back, he's down Chrisp Street buying tat.
I hope no-one is taking advantage.
He's too trusting.
Ooh. Your poor back.
There you go!
Could I have a go, Mr Hodgkiss?
Erm... Oh, go on.
Once it's in the splicer,
make sure you scrape off every trace of emulsion.
And, yes, that's the side you'll be sticking to the acetate.
Telephone call for you, Mr Hodgkiss.
KNOCK AT DOOR
Nurse Dyer. What can I do for you?
Oh, there's nothing amiss.
I'm glad to hear it.
We are sorely tried at the present time
and your good humour has not gone unnoticed.
Smiling isn't hard work.
Even when it's hard, you just make the shape with your face
and the rest takes care of itself.
I don't know what the rules are but
I'd like to understand how your faith helps you
in difficult times.
Would it be all right if I came and sat in on prayers?
Once in a while.
You are completely welcome to attend chapel whenever you wish.
Why not join us tomorrow morning?
You my doctor?
I'm duty physician for the police this week, which is
why they sent for me when they found you by the river.
You do have a bit of a fever,
which might have worsened any symptoms you already have.
Made you a bit confused, perhaps.
Weather's turned a bit nippy.
Antibiotics will get any infection on the run.
Have you someone who can tuck you up with a hot water bottle?
I'm a very lucky man.
Is your wife in good health?
I don't have one of those.
-That's not her knitting then?
I was in the Navy.
I'll drop him safely at home.
It's on my way.
Begging your pardon, doctor, but, er, whilst
the gentleman was missing, we investigated our records...
-He was in front of the magistrates for gross indecency some
15 years ago, after being arrested in Limehouse.
There was an earlier offence before the war.
If he is homosexual, he is homosexual.
It makes no difference to his current plight.
With respect, doctor, it makes a difference
when he's running round my district minus his nether garments.
Erm, I've come to enquire after a Mr Chapman.
He's my neighbour.
Oh, Lord, our heavenly Father,
we pray for Elizabeth our Queen, for Michael, our Archbishop
and Robert, our Bishop.
We also pray today for the people involved in the factory
explosion in Japan.
May the Lord help and sustain us.
Lord have mercy.
For those preparing for the by-election in Dumfriesshire
and for all those called upon to participate
in the Royal Variety Performance.
May the Lord sustain and help them.
Lord have mercy.
For the British nylon industry,
most notably those workers engaged in the manufacture of beachwear,
lingerie, novelty embroidered hose and concealed zip fasteners.
May the Lord sustain and help them.
Lord have mercy.
For Mr Spencer Tracy,
so selflessly engaged in the pursuit of the missing fortune, and for
all those professionally engaged in It's A Mad, Mad, Mad...Mad World.
Sister, might we move on to the prayers for the sick and needy?
I'm glad we drew matters to a close before we asked the Lord to help
and sustain the showgirls of Ricardo's Revuebar.
These are the events
and personalities the Almighty himself imposed upon our world.
And I am imposing a ban upon any more visits to the Palazzo Cinema.
You may draw the content for our prayers
from the BBC Home Service until the television is repaired.
Is that a butterfly cake?
Yes. Mrs Turner sent some after Angela's party.
I had thought to save it for the anniversary of my own birth,
which will otherwise doubtless go unmarked since joy now sits
so ill within these walls.
I really don't think that this is the proper time for any
sort of levity.
Perfume! For you.
Aw, that's thoughtful, Reggie.
How much money did they take off him for that?
There's hardly any left.
It lowers my opinion of people, Fred.
Well, what if it raises Reggie's opinion of himself?
Lots of people get pleasure from giving presents, Vi.
SHE CLICKS TONGUE
So, you haven't brought a urine sample,
you haven't brought your co-op card
and you tried the iron tablets but you didn't like them.
I'm sorry, nurse, but they made my jobs go black.
Every time I went to the lav it was like an explosion
in a charcoal factory.
A factual account of your experience would suffice.
Drawers off, please, and up on the couch.
You don't take any prisoners, do you?
Can you give us a hand up?
I'm incommoded by my lumbago, I'm afraid.
Do you reckon you might be a bit old to be doing this?
Do you reckon you might be too young?
I hope I don't get you when the big day comes.
Go on, shuffle back.
Pen, leaf, comb,
..book of matches.
This'll be a breeze.
Those antibiotics have been just the ticket.
I want you to study them at your leisure.
Then I'm going to take the tray away,
remove some of the objects and ask you to tell me what's missing.
You...you just want me to look at them?
Take your time.
Have a good look and tell me what you think has gone.
It was the coin, it was a white...
I want to go home now.
Hey, come on, pal.
-There's no point running.
We'll face up to this together.
Don't mind us, Mrs Chowdury, we're just doing a few home improvements.
Halfway along that wall, if you'd be so kind, Nurse Anderson.
This is all going to get a bit cosy, Mrs Turner.
It'll get even cosier if central supplies can find us another bed.
Five will scarcely be enough.
The double order's just arrived from the laundry.
Let's make up this bed and then put the next new one in the side ward.
It will be doing duty as a second delivery room.
Will we still only have one gas and air machine?
We can use the portable devices from Nonnatus House.
But if the roster I've drawn up works,
we should have plenty of midwives.
Sister Evangelina used to say that the best medicine for pain
was the presence of another person.
-We've had some nice walks down here, haven't we?
Over the years.
One day we might see it in daylight.
What was it the doctor called it?
Is that like old age?
..there's no cure for it.
Won't string together, Stan.
What won't, pal?
What's in my head.
It's like those times when you used to take me to the...
Yeah, and you used to show me all those bits of film, all broken up,
you know, snipped up and separate.
And then you used to stick them all altogether again
and then you'd put them on a wheel and you'd
shine a light through it
and they'd all go round so smooth and easy and...
..it all made perfect sense.
Now, that's why they call it the magic of the movies.
I can't stitch them together, Stan.
The pictures in my head.
I can't make them go round smooth.
What am I going to do with you, pal?
Take you to work with me and sit you in the two and nines?
..buy me a choc ice, you never know your luck.
Mr Hereward. You're just in time for morning coffee and a ginger nut.
I brought you these.
I think that if a parishioner who had just lost their wife
came to you two weeks later and said that they wanted to give away
her clothes, you would tell them it was far too soon.
But I always tell bereaved people to think of one gesture -
one little thing - that will help them to start moving forward again.
I thought this might be it.
Barbara lived to help others.
The person Barbara would most want to help right now is you.
And she can't, so I'm going to do it for her.
I will take these for safekeeping
until you're more sure of your own mind.
Her father wants me to go out to New Guinea.
He suggested I stay on to do mission work with him.
I've been offered a leave of absence by the Bishop but, er...
Will you take it?
How can I? How can I go anywhere if I can't take Barbara?
And I can't leave her behind.
You will find a way.
Or you will be shown.
I promise you.
You can't just move Uncle Donald into this house, Dad, you can't!
I'm about to have a baby,
A baby doesn't take up much room.
You said that yourself when you moved in!
Well, in case you hadn't noticed, Dad, Uncle Donald is a grown man!
What will people think?
-They'll think he's the lodger.
Why don't you go and make us all a cuppa, Donald?
Tea's in the caddy with the Queen on.
Sugar's in Princess Margaret.
No sugar, she's sweet enough.
When Mum was dying, she told me and you to look after each other.
And she said much the same to me and Donald.
Why would she say that?
Well, you can draw your own conclusions.
Or settle for least said, soonest mended.
Your mother and I set a lot of store by that.
Was it least said, soonest mended when he was had up in court?
Was it least said, soonest mended
when his filthy behaviour was all over the Poplar News?
-I never knew you knew.
-I don't know what I knew,
but I knew about that.
I just, I thought that you were just friends.
He was my friend.
Until your mother died.
And he's been more than that ever since.
Why did she tell you to look after each other?
Because of things, erm...we didn't need to discuss.
I was married to her.
He lived with his grandmother.
-This is turning my stomach!
-Olive, he loved you like a niece.
But what did you love him like, Dad?
In a way that's best left unsaid.
I couldn't put them in the store room.
Barbara belongs in here, with us.
And what's more, we're going to have a sherry in her memory.
-It's the only thing she'd drink, being a vicar's wife.
-SHE CLEARS THROAT
Not on call tonight.
We must raise a glass to Trixie, too,
sunning herself with her godmother in Portofino.
I'd get burnt to a crisp sunning myself in Portofino.
Not that I'd actually ever go there.
Sister, is Sister Julienne really not going to let
Sister Monica Joan have a little birthday celebration?
I'm sure the order would run to a sponge cake with a candle on it.
But she's just not allowed to receive presents.
They'd count as personal possessions.
Er, maybe there's a few snaps of her we could
put on display on the sideboard?
-Between some nicely arranged balloons?
I expect we could come up with something from the order's archive.
But absolutely no balloons.
Did Nurse Barbara like roses?
She carried them on our wedding day.
But did she really like them?
She wasn't really a red roses sort of girl.
But she liked so many things.
It was a lovely wedding.
You had a carousel.
-I think my waters have gone.
They've been dribbling away all night.
Are you moving in, Mrs Mawson?
I can't live in that house any more.
I've referred two twin cases
and one elderly multigravida to St Cuthbert's.
Given all the extra patients we've taken in from Walworth Street, that
still leaves us with 16 mothers at term in the next ten days.
Well, Mrs Lewis had her baby yesterday, so that leaves us four
beds ready, I've ordered in twice the usual amounts of
pethidine and chloral hydrate,
plus an extra lamp for the temporary delivery room.
-Olive Mawson to be admitted.
-There we go.
Hells bells, sister.
I can't believe I'm doing this at my age.
-We'll soon have you on the bed and then you can leave
everything to us. You'll see we run like a well-oiled machine.
I think we'll find that's helped things on a lot. Erm...
-SHE CLEARS THROAT
It's just over here.
Nonnatus House. Midwife speaking.
Hello is that Nurse Crane? It's Mr Chen. My wife's in labour.
Ah, Nurse Crane. I'm going out to Mrs Chen.
As far as I can tell, things are moving very rapidly.
I'm sorry, I can't seem to get going.
It's as if I'm frozen.
Or my back is.
I just don't understand you, Dad.
I don't need you to understand me.
-KNOCK AT DOOR
-Am I hearing raised voices in here?
Maybe I need YOU to understand ME. Maybe I need you to look at me,
on my own,
and try and imagine what that must be like
to spend half your life looking at people like you and Mum who love
each other, regardless.
And then you're standing next to him, regardless!
Come, now. These things will keep.
And then to find that when you need to be loved, when you need to be
stood by, that there is no-one doing anything of the kind.
I...I'd say that was terrible.
-If it was true.
-But it's not true.
-You can tell her that again when she's done.
It isn't true.
Good girl. Good girl.
Where are we going now, then?
-Sometimes back pain is the sign that baby is on its way.
You did absolutely the right thing coming in to see doctor.
This way and we'll pop you on the ward.
Should I come, too?
Oh. Are you in labour, dear?
I reckon so.
Then you better had.
You're doing so well, precious.
I feel like I'm being torn in two.
Try closing your eyes.
Try thinking about a time when you felt really, really safe.
I always felt safe when I was a little girl.
KNOCK AT DOOR
How's Mrs Mawson doing?
Oh, head's descending well.
-We're not far off delivery.
Can you please come to the ward? It's all hands on deck.
How may I assist you?
I need you to get here as quickly as you can
and bring extra gas and air.
I can see baby's head now, Olive,
and unless I'm mistaken, it's got a beautiful head of hair.
That's right, I'll hang onto the gas mask
and you take care of the sick bowl.
-Can I be of some assistance, Nurse Crane?
Maternity home, if you would be so kind, Sergeant Woolf.
And could I prevail upon you to put your foot down?
It's all right, chick.
This is just your body doing lots of really strong work.
So we can get this baby out into the world.
That's it, that's it, keep up that push. Keep it up.
CRYING AND GROANING
We have a head.
I'm going to come off the bed, I'm going to come off!
No, you're not. You're all right.
Here we go again.
Aren't you the clever one?
You have a daughter, Olive.
A beautiful boy!
He looks like my grandad Cafferty
and he was a bare-knuckle fighter. THEY CHUCKLE
He'll improve. They always do.
Oh, look at you!
-I was hoping for one of the young ones.
Or the nice ones.
You don't like me.
I'm your midwife.
Our personal feelings for each another are neither here nor there.
Conserve your strength.
Another big push.
Well done. Well done.
-Come on, another big one.
You stick with me, lass.
I'll see you through.
And here come the shoulders.
A perfect little boy.
GROANING Good, Josie.
That's it, lass.
If they were going to give out medals for pushing,
they'd have to mint you one in solid gold.
I've never won a prize.
It must be a nice thing to have.
WHISPERS: Good lass. Good lass.
Don't let go of this contraction.
Look what you've done!
Here he is.
Do they have a hairdresser that comes in?
It's not like in the films, Dad.
Oh. Oh, you're a little corker.
Didn't you do well?
I don't think you really have any idea who I am,
do you, Uncle Donald?
But I know that you're someone we love.
-I reckon we can make a go of that, don't you?
I can't give you much.
But I can show you what a family looks like.
See a pin and pick it up,
and all day long you'll have good luck.
Your lumbago's better.
Oh, so it is.
Some people aren't in your life for very long.
Her father wasn't in mine for more than a minute.
Blink and you'd miss him.
I won't be in hers for more than a few days.
Maybe a fortnight.
You might have as much as six weeks together in a decent mother
and baby place.
Will I be allowed to give her a name?
Of course you will.
It'll be something to remember me by.
Even if the people who she goes to live with pick a different one.
Like a sort of present.
It'll be written down on a piece of paper somewhere, won't it?
Do you have anything in mind?
Yes, I do.
It popped into my head, just before, I don't know why.
Must have been floating round the room like a moth or
a butterfly or something.
Waiting to be caught.
I'll take her and put her in the nursery.
Come along, Barbara.
And the winner is Baby Mawson...
-..tipping the scales at 8lb and 7oz.
-I'm so sorry.
-President Kennedy's been shot.
Mrs Kennedy has now arrived back in Washington,
appearing on the aeroplane steps in the pink suit she was wearing
when the president was shot. She is...
We have mourned enough in recent weeks.
We have shed tears for one we loved
and lived in the hollow she left behind.
We cannot surrender to more tears because of this.
He was the president of the United States of America.
We are leaping into grief as if we had embraced
it as a form of recreation.
We are not what we have lost.
We are not what has been taken from us.
You are all too willing to embrace the void.
If you do not cherish what remains, you will all become as nothing.
You will be nothing.
We are not broken.
We are each as whole as we will ever be again.
And in the end, when we cease to be,
we will all become memories.
I bought you a present.
-Something Nurse Barbara would like.
KNOCK AT DOOR
I went to the archive and look what I found.
I've not been slacking either. I was up at cockcrow!
Go safely, Tim.
There you go!
What have we got here?
The wind won't blow that away.
And it would have made her smile.
She'll be all right now.
REPORTER: A typical mass was celebrated
at St Matthew's Roman Catholic Cathedral.
And then the coffin, draped with the United States flag,
-Abbey Crunch with a saucer.
These images would look far superior on a larger screen.
You like the cinema, don't you, Sister Monica Joan?
It is an art form, suited to the documentation of great lives.
Well, after the President's cortege has gone by, go upstairs
and put your best wimple on.
We're going somewhere nice.
ALL: # Happy birthday to you
# Happy birthday to you
# Happy Birthday, dear Sister Monica Joan
# Happy birthday to you. #
ALL: Three, two, one...
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
She looks so well!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
We flicker on a screen.
We fold and unfold upon the mind's eye.
Brittle as wings, eternal as a heartbeat.
And even when the heart falls silent, we do not
cease to be.
Because, in the end, we all become memories.
The team must rally to prepare for Sister Monica Joan's birthday. Meanwhile, the closing of a nearby maternity home brings an influx of expectant mothers to the Nonnatus midwives.