13. Missed Congeniality
Au Pair Magda is settling in at Chez Turner. Gone are Shelagh’s hottie-in-the-house worries of last week. She even wants Magda to feel more at home, so far away from her own (or maybe she just wants to get her out of the house), so she arranges a play date for her with Valerie, who suggests she come along to Trixie’s Keep Fit class at the community center.
12. There She Is…
Violet wants to organize a jumble sale (that’s British for flea market) to benefit the WVS, but Fred has a better idea – Why not a beauty pageant, a Miss Poplar 1963? They could work on it together! Violet needs convincing, but when she realizes she can add a homemade dress category to swimsuits and event gowns (which will boost sales in her shop), she becomes inspired. It’s on! While Fred pub crawls to sell tickets, Violet recruits for contestants at the Keep Fit meeting. Trixie demurs because of her now serious relationship with Christopher (the show wouldn’t have been able to hide actress Helen George’s baby bump in a bathing suit, unless she stood behind a beach ball). Both Val and Magda agree to enter. The lucky lady who snags the crown will win a £5 prize.
When news of the pageant reaches Nonnatus House, Sister Monica Joan insists the contestants are offerings to the fertility gods, while Nurse Crane compares them to prize heifers. After hearing the chatter around the dinner table, Val is a bit sheepish about her involvement but tells Sister Julienne she’d like to represent Nonnatus House. The Sister, however, diplomatically suggests that maybe representing the BlackSail Public House would be better. Sounds like a plan. Now she just needs to learn to walk a little more gracefully than a Clydesdale pulling a beer truck.
True History: Diane Westbury was in that picture Fred pointed to in the newspaper. She was pictured in the papers a lot back then. It seems she was a professional pageant contestant. After winning Miss United Kingdom 1963, she went on to become 5th Runner Up in Miss World, 1st Runner Up in Miss International 1963, and 1st Runner Up in Miss Nations 1964. She later became Miss Great Britain in 1965, for which she won £1000 and a poodle. After that she seems to have appeared in lots of paparazzi photos, made a couple of B movies and dropped off the map.
FYI: The WVS. The Women’s Voluntary Services (also known as the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service after Queen Elizabeth became a patron in 1966), was founded as a voluntary civil defense organization, to make sure the home front was prepared for anything. The original founder, Lady Reading, had envisioned it as a class-free organization, where upstairs and downstairs would work equally, side by side. Eventually though, even though class was out, ranks were added. Women were recruited for all sorts of duties, from knitting to driving ambulances. In WWII the WVS was key to evacuating urban areas; they moved over 1.5 million people, mostly children to the countryside. During each night of the Blitz, WVS provided more than 10,000 people with food and shelter (and 241 members were killed). When the troops returned from Dunkirk it was the WVS who greeted them with food and warm clothing. Today it functions as a Meals on Wheels and ride service for the elderly.
11. Baby On Board
We’re not sure who Magda sees on the dating horizon that she’s getting prepared for (maybe a certain doctor??), but she goes to see a gynecologist for a Dutch Thingamajig or The Pill, but is told they only prescribe them for married women (talk about another time!), so she lies and says she’s about to get married. The doctor says, well that’s a horse of a different color then; come on in and get in the stirrups! Magda does and gets the shock of her life: she’s two months pregnant. She panics, has to admit there is no fiancé, and asks for help. The doctor can offer free healthcare on the NHS, but she is told this is not a Communist country and what she wants is not legal.
10. If You’re Ever In a Jam, Here I Am
Magda and Val are becoming fast friends. After pageant practice one night, Magda steers the talk to boyfriends and asks Val for her advice on…precautions. If she got into trouble, is there “a lady who would help you?” After a beat, Val realizes what she’s talking about and makes her promise not to go down that dangerous road, that if she’d seen what she has, she wouldn’t. Val tells her she should tell the Turners, that they can help. Instead, Magda pretends she wants to become a nurse so she can borrow Shelagh’s old nursing text book: she wants to figure out how to do a DIY abortion. After she finds the info she thinks she needs, she raids Dr. Turner’s clinic stash of Ergometrine pills and starts taking them, eventually chugging them from the bottle. She gets bad cramps, but no end results…yet.
9. Miss Understood
On the night of the beauty pageant Magda says she has a headache and pulls out of the contest. Or maybe it’s because she knows everyone at Nonnatus House will be at the pageant and she will be able to break in and steal some injectable Ergometrine – because the pills aren’t quite doing the job, at least, not fast enough. As desperate Magda’s trembling hands try to work the glass viles of Ergometrine and the syringe, Sister Monica Joan hears breakage in the kitchen, goes to investigate, and sends out the bat signal. Magda is already staggering out, bleeding, collapsing in Fred’s allotment across the courtyard. Shelagh and Val arrive, see the mess Magda left and the trail of blood. Shelagh is puzzled as to why she’d want Ergometrine, and Val has to explain. On Sister Monica Joan’s hunch they run to the allotment to find her on the ground and call for an ambulance.
Shelagh feels guilty because it was her nursing books that gave Magda the info she used, but Patrick assures her it wasn’t her fault. Val also feels guilty but Sister Julienne says that all she did was respect a patient’s confidence. Magda survives, and Sister Julienne decides not to report her, or what transpired on convent grounds, to the Mother Ship. But when released, Magda leaves the Turners’ and Poplar unceremoniously — on the Tube (no one to drop her off at the train station the same way she was picked up when she arrived).
8. Family Affair
We meet Doreen and Gordon Lunt when Nurse Crane pays Doreen a pre-natal home visit. The family lives in the kind of impoverished hovel we haven’t seen in a few seasons of Call the Midwife. Just when we thought so much was getting better in the East End, the Lunt’s flat reminds us there is still lots of abject poverty. Doreen’s life is full of “used to’s.” When Nurse Crane compliments the sampler on the wall, Doreen says she made it, and that she used to knit and sew, too. She used to make all the kids’ clothes. With her husband working the night shift, Doreen is nervous and overwhelmed. She relaxes when Nurse Crane offers to help her with a tidy up. She recommends Doreen have her baby at the maternity home, instead of her own home but Doreen says her husband wouldn’t like that. Just then Gordon comes in and when Nurse Crane repeats her recommendation to him, she is surprised and confused when he insists his wife is going nowhere. Doreen puts her head down and acquiesces.
Here, we get another example of how first impressions can be deceiving. I’m guessing that most of you, like me, assumed this was an abuse situation. But it wasn’t. It was, instead, a desperate situation.
7. No Soap or Hope
We next meet the Lunt’s daughter Wendy in school, where Sister Winifred is teaching hygiene class. Wendy is dirty, covered in bruises and nits, and looks checked out. When Sister Winifred says everyone can come up for a free bar of soap, all the kids rush forward, except for Wendy. The teacher explains to Sister Winifred that she’s had trouble concentrating lately. When Wendy finally does stand to come up for her soap, she falls flat. Sister Winifred looks concerned and so do we. From the look of her we assume abuse, and from a 2018 perspective wonder why social services haven’t been called already. Back at Nonnatus House Sister Winifred relays what she’s seen: that either Wendy is the clumsiest child around or there’s something wrong. Nurse Crane says she’s just been to their home and was suspicious of Mr. Lunt, but she’s asked Doreen to come in for a clinic visit.
6. Love (Not) Lost
At the clinic, Nurse Crane tells Doreen her blood pressure is high and asks her to wait while she gets Dr. Turner. Doreen flees, forgetting to take her kids, who (at the end of the day) are still sitting there forlorn, in front of their plates of cookies as if they don’t even understand to eat them. Wendy says their mother left them because she doesn’t love them anymore. Trixie assures her that’s not true, and offers to walk the kids home. When she gets there, Mr. Lunt answers the door. Trixie asks to come in to see Mrs. Lunt, but Mr. Lunt says she is asleep and tries to close the door on her; Trixie, however, has learned from the best. She blocks him and pushes her way in. Once inside, she finds out the story is very different than what the Nonnatuns had feared, though not any better.
Gordon doesn’t want his wife to see a doctor, and is afraid of health visitors, but it is not because of abuse. He explains that Doreen’s father died “in nut house,” and he fears that if any authorities come in, the same thing will happen to Doreen and they’ll break up the family. He is at the end of his rope and begs for help. Trixie says she will do whatever she can. She even turns up later with a basket of cleaning gear to get their apartment ship shape, but first she convinces the couple to see Dr. Turner.
5. The Long Goodbye
Dr. Turner thinks Doreen has a brain tumor, and sends the Lunts to a specialist who gives them the good news: she doesn’t have a brain tumor. He leaves it to Dr. Turner to give them the bad news: it is Huntington’s Chorea, a hereditary neurological disorder that will only continue to get worse. There is nothing that can be done. The early 1960’s were the start of people being able to say, “We can put a man in space, but we can’t…” There is nothing. And it gets worse. There is a 50 percent chance their kids will get it. In fact, one does have it right under their noses: their daughter Wendy, who has been rendered expressionless and barely able to walk.
FYI: Huntington’s Chorea. Huntington’s disease is a horrific hereditary neurological disorder that causes brain cells to die. It affects both the body and the mind. The earliest signs are subtle changes in mood and mental abilities (eventually becoming full blown dementia), followed by poor coordination. It can take up to 20 years from the onset of symptoms for the disease to run its course, all the while getting progressively worse. The typical age of onset is between 30 to 50 years old. It is much more rare in children, though with each generation in a family that gets it, the age of onset comes earlier. Even though it is inherited, about 10 percent of cases are new mutations. Today, while there is genetic testing, there is still no cure for it.
As Gordon is about to leave for his shift, Doreen goes into labor, possibly unaware (?), and is taken to the maternity home where Nurse Crane assists in the birth of a perfect daughter. A moment of joy. Trixie soon notices that Doreen constantly cuddles the baby, but when handed a bottle she doesn’t understand what to do with it. Days later during a home visit, she sees that Doreen doesn’t change diapers and the baby has developed a bad rash. Dr. Turner is called in and it is just as Gordon had feared: she can no longer cope, and neither can he. Their children will need to go into foster care, except for Wendy, who has been diagnosed with a juvenile form of Huntington’s. She will go to a residential home, and it is left to Trixie to take her.
3. There’s No Place Like Home
Wendy is still convinced that what is happening is because her mum doesn’t love her anymore, and it doesn’t help that she gets no hugs goodbye. She doesn’t understand that her mum’s illness has left her unable to fully understand what’s going on. Wendy asks, if her mum loves her, why is she letting her go? Trixie assures her it’s because it’s for the best. Just as Trixie and Wendy get downstairs and start to walk away from the building, Doreen comes running out barefoot to give Wendy her scarf and tell her she loves her. She figured it out.
2. Trix for Kids
There is no joy in Trixtopher-ville. For some reason, little Alexandra is seeing a psychiatrist who says she needs more fixed rules and that Christopher shouldn’t pick her up at school anymore because apparently having your dad (instead of your mum) pick a kid up taints them with the stigma of divorce. (I’m guessing the crazy ex-wife blabbing to the other mummies has more to do with that). Oh, and she shouldn’t have to see Trixie, even though Christopher says Alexandra loves her. Trixie tells Christopher not to say anymore, that she told him right from the get go she never wanted to cause any harm to the little girl.
1. Song of Solomon
After taking Wendy Lunt to the residence home and seeing a sad little girl in the yard, Trixie is inspired make a choice of Solomonic proportions (but the wrong one!): she tells Christopher to go back his (ex) wife, for the sake of their daughter. He is confused. He insists he doesn’t love his ex. Trixie says buck up buddy; do it for your daughter who needs a stable home with two parents who hate each other so she can learn to feel cherished. Naturally, it will be so much better for their daughter to grow up in a home full of resentment than if her dad married Trixie and the kid got to spend at least half her time in a happy home. It’s for the best. I am now trying to remember what we know about Trixie’s background that makes her think this. Anyone know? Anyone? Bueller?
Anyway, in the aftermath of Trixie’s misguided choice, she leaves Christopher sitting on a bench in despair (though he doesn’t run after her), and she returns to guzzling vodka in secret. Trixie is officially off the wagon.
Sigh…and none of them lived happily ever after…
What did you think Nonatuns? Join the conversation in the comments below or tweet using the hashtag #MidwifePBS. Watch Call the Midwife episodes and behind-the-scenes clips.