We have often spoken of kindness as the over-arching theme of Call the Midwife. That, as well as Nonnatus House’s freely offered no-judgement zone, was needed more than ever in Episode 5 when an ill stranger, desperate and all alone, was (essentially) being hunted, simply out of the ignorance of a mob. Luckily, he was found by our Nonnatuns, who offered him shelter and compassion, saving his life while enriching their own. There’s a message in there, I think.Here now are the freely offered Ten Essentials of Call the Midwife, Season 7, Episode 5.
10. Bon Voyage Trixie
Trixie tries to quietly exit stage left, tip toeing out of Nonnatus House at dawn as everyone is asleep. She finds Christopher waiting outside, a surprise taxi to take her to the airport. Hang on though, we assumed she was going to a treatment facility, but she mentions Portofino and her godmother. Hmmm… is this just her usual face-saving denial? Or is she really going on an extended holiday instead of getting professional help for her alcohol addiction? On the plus side, she was very detailed about all the winter clothes she left behind in her room. That’s promising. Christopher looks surprised to hear her say she will be away for months, but asks her to let him know when she’ll be back so he can come collect her from the airport upon her return – just as a friendly taxi service. Might this be promising, too? We hope so. And just when she thought she was going to make a clean getaway, Val and Nurse Crane come running out in their jammies and curlers to say goodbye.
9. Forceps, but not Forewarned
We meet the very pregnant Eunice Dobson who, at first glance, is rather blasé about her impending arrival. Her hubby asks when her next clinic appointment is. She gives him a date, not thinking he’ll turn up, but he does and finds out she hasn’t been there – at all. Shelagh tells him his wife hasn’t been there her entire pregnancy. At home, he asks her how clinic went and catches her in a lie. He wants to know why she is being this way when, during her first pregnancy, she was so excited, skipping through the sunny fields of Poplar. She says back then she had something to look forward to and didn’t see the horrors ahead. It turns out she is not blasé at all; she is actually so traumatized from her first delivery she is refusing all medical care for this one.
Thankfully, Nurse Anderson is on the case. She makes a home visit, but Eunice won’t even allow her to take her blood pressure. Not only that, she is refusing the have baby at all. And it doesn’t help that she has an interfering mother-in-law who insists she’s just making a fuss about nothing. Nurse Anderson doesn’t give up. On a return visit Eunice’s starts to open up. She says she didn’t want another baby – they suffered a birth control blowout. This left her visiting the “dentist” to try and get rid of the resulting accident, but she was too traumatized to do even go through with that. Now here she is about to pop and refusing to give birth – or, at least, trying to.
8. Tug of War
Nurse Anderson brings in reinforcements: Dr. Turner. She gives Dr. Turner more details about Eunice’s first delivery: the baby was stuck, so the doctors strung her up and forced forceps in her and they kept pulling and pulling despite her screaming for them to stop. That’s why she can’t have this baby. He tries to reassure Eunice it won’t be like that but she bolts. Her husband says he heard guys at work talking about something called a Ceasar section, (or maybe it was a ceasar salad) and he wants that for his wife. But Dr. Turner says no, because her problems are mental, not physical.
7. Small-minded Pox
White sailors with pitchforks and torches poke and pull and chase an African man off their ship as the Captain eggs them on. The target has to run for his life to get away. His head is covered, like the Elephant Man, but from small glimpses reveal what look like disfiguring blisters all over his face. The mob is chasing him like an animal because they think he’s showing signs of smallpox. Once on shore, he wanders the streets, asking for help to find the Seaman’s Mission, but receives nothing but horrified, dismissive stares. Finally he does find the mission, which looks like a flop house for drunks, but it has a dormitory bed for him. He climbs in, pulls the covers over his head and quietly prays for help, and to be left alone by an angry drunk roommate, until said harassing roommate finally pulls the covers off him and points and screams, “POX!” He runs again, finding refuge in open cellars under the street.
The man was not a stowaway; he was a Nigerian national sailor, named Arde Babayaroo, who was chased because of a panic over smallpox. Dr. Turner delivers the news to Nonnatus House so they can be on the lookout for symptoms in their patients. When rumor spreads of smallpox, people rush the clinic demanding vaccines. Shelagh tries to calm the frayed nerves by giving them information about how smallpox is spread, and explains that they don’t even know yet if it even is smallpox. The police are looking for Arde, and so are vigilantes. The Nonnatuns realize they must find him first.
FYI: Smallpox. Smallpox is a virus spread by direct person to person contact. Thanks to vaccines, it was eradicated worldwide by 1980. When the character in this episode wondered why they couldn’t get a smallpox sugar cube like they got the polio sugar cube the year before, that brought back memories. I can still remember being four or five years old and standing in line to get my polio vaccine sugar cube. Do you remember yours? After that I always wanted every doctor’s shot to be via sugar cube, but no such luck!
6. City Mouse, Country Mouse
Once again Violet is called (or rather drafted) into community service. The local council has given her the task of going through their books to find money for the annual Poplar Picnic, a day when the inner city kids are bused out into the sunny countryside for some fresh air. Fred reminisces about the good times he had at the picnic as a child, remembering Violet in her pigtails. Violet is organizing the picnic with her usual military precision; collecting food. Everyone has their assignments. Coincidentally, Reggie is home on a visit from school and he and Fred help with the picnic plans, plastering the neighborhood with advert posters.
5. Friend in Need, Friend in Deed
Violet sends Reggie on an errand, to run a loaf of bread home to Fred, who’s waiting on it. On his way, Reggie hears coughing from under a sidewalk grate and investigates. He finds the hunted Nigerian sailor, Arde. Reggie introduces himself and offers his hand, but Arde warns him to stay away so he doesn’t catch his smallpox. He insists. He says he’s been chased, and Reggie tells him he has had experience being chased too. The bullying and stares Reggie has experienced because of his Down’s Syndrome gives him both an innocence and an innate understanding. In the chased and tormented Arde, Reggie finds a kindred spirit, and a new friend. Reggie asks him if he’s hungry and leaves him the loaf of bread. Arde admits he does need help but says it must be a secret. Reggie keeps the secret and returns the next day with a tin of Dundee Cake.
At dinner, Violet asks Reggie the $64,000 Question, “where’s the Dundee Cake?” If Reggie had thought faster he could have blamed the missing cake on Sister Monica Joan and everyone would have believed him. Instead he told the truth and said he gave it to a friend but it’s a secret. They want to know what friend and why is it a secret?
FYI: Dundee Cake:. Yes, of course I cannot let a cake pass by un-noticed. That’s just me. Dundee Cake is a Scottish fruit cake made with currants, sultanas (that’s yellow raisins to us Yanks) and almonds with the top decorated with concentric circles of almonds. It was first mass produced and named Dundee by Keiller’s marmalade company in the 19th century, though fruit cake had already existed. There is an apocryphal story that it was first created for Mary Queen of Scots who did not like glace cherries in her cake so this cherry-less fruit cake was invented. In the present day, it is a tea time favorite of another queen, Elizabeth II. Here is a recipe.
4. I Say a Little Prayer
Reggie tells them only enough to send Violet and Fred to Dr. Turner in a panic. He won’t say where Arde is. He asks Dr. Turner if he is in trouble and the good doctor says no, that he was just being kind, and “no one gets in trouble for being kind.” (If only that were true!) Reggie’s not sick, and he has no symptoms, but they are going to keep an eye on him. He is being kept on a shorter leash (according to Fred) so he can’t go back looking for his friend, who has no idea where his lifeline Reggie has gotten to. This leaves Arde abandoned, sobbing, and clutching his cross for comfort while reciting The Lord’s Prayer. He prays for deliverance, and it comes in the form of Nurse Crane who (by asking Reggie gently about helping his friend) gets enough info out of him to find Mr. Needle in a Haystack.
She finds him, hides him in the boot of her car, and sends up the Bat Signal, calling Dr. Turner. But she also has a medical opinion and tells him she doesn’t think he has smallpox after all – and it turns out she was right. Everyone had assumed it was smallpox because of the sailor-induced hysteria, but it’s not. When Dr. Turner tells him it’s not smallpox, he is relieved. That relief is tempered when he tells him it’s leprosy instead. Oy. Arde only knows of leprosy from the Bible, but Dr. Turner says things have moved on since then. It’s now called Hansen’s Disease and there is a cure too. He will be sent to Jordan’s Hospital in Surrey for treatment. Gotta love the NHS!
While Arde waits for a placement at the hospital, they bring him to Nonnatus House, where Sister Julienne offers him a spare room. When Arde hesitantly walks into Nonnatus House and sees the nuns in their habits, he says it is the answer to his prayers.
True History: Jordan’s Hospital in Surrey was an isolation hospital for leprosy patients from 1950 until 1968. By that time treatments were so successful there were no longer enough patients to keep it open.
3. One is the Loneliest Number
Early on in Episode 5, we can see from the look on Sister Monica Joan’s face that she is still troubled about something, but we are not sure what. After Arde’s arrival at Nonnatus House, she walks into the chapel for her daily devotional and finds him sitting there praying, and strikes up a conversation – and just like Reggie found a kindred spirit in Arde, so does she. He talks how he was cast out after oil was found in his village that caused conflict, and being all alone in the world. Sister Monica Joan assures him he is not as alone as he thinks. They become fast friends. All too soon (for her) a bed opens up for him at the hospital. Sister Monica Joan says she is sorry to see him go. She loves their devotional time conversations. As she says goodbye, she presses a small bible into his hand and tells him she will pray for him. He wishes the same blessings to her, and gives her what looks like his most prized (and possibly only) possession, his cross.
2. Labor Strike
Eunice goes into labor in the middle of the night and locks herself in the bathroom, refusing to come out – and refusing to let the baby come out (of her) as well. With her husband outside the door pleading, she is pressed up against the inside of the door, squeezing their legs together to prevent the inevitable. She tells him they’ll be better off without her. Her husband is in a panic when Nurse Anderson arrives. He wants to break down the door, but Nurse Anderson recommends calm assurances to coax her out – but we fear the hourglass is almost empty as (unseen) Eunice contemplates the razor blades over the sink. She is just about to reach for them when a another big contraction makes her keel over. Nurse Anderson asks Mr. Dobson to call for Dr. Turner as she stays outside the door trying to talk Eunice down. With it just the two of them, Nurse Anderson is able to reason with her. Eunice finally opens door and falls into Nurse Anderson’s arms.
By the time Dr. Turner arrives, Nurse Anderson has got Eunice in bed and labor is proceeding. Dr. Turner thinks it best that he stay out of the delivery bedroom, so Shelagh (who came along just in case) goes in to assist at the bottom end, while Nurse Anderson stays at the top end coaching Eunice through it. And it’s a girl! No forceps needed. We are told that what Eunice had is now known as Tokophobia, (not to be confused with Topo Gigio), and there are treatments for it.
FYI: Tokophobia. Tokophobia is an extreme fear of pregnancy and childbirth. There are many causes including lack of trust in the doctors, fear of the unknown or the pain, fear for the baby’s life, general uncertainty of the birth process; and it could be from childbirth triggering flashbacks in a woman who has experienced trauma. The term Tokophobia wasn’t introduced into medical literature until 2000, when it was described in the British Journal of Psychiatry as a specific psychological disorder that may be overlooked due to lack of attention to it.
1. Knock, Knock
Newlyweds Barbara and Tom return to Nonnatus House, knock on the door and find no one home (unknown to them, everyone is at the picnic having a grand old time!) Barbara is a tad disappointed that there is no welcoming committee to greet them, but Tom reminds her that it was she who didn’t want to let anyone know of their plans. Had they given advance warning, no doubt the Nonnatuns would have hung out the flag bunting. Just then Sister Winifred comes running out on her way to a water break, and lets them know about the picnic in Epping Forest. They hitch a ride with the Turners and show up bearing cream cakes, and the news that this is not just a fly in visit. Their mission has been deemed successful and complete, so now they are back in Poplar for good. Huzzah!
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