Monday 10 February 2014

Leigh Hunt Lives - in Poplar!

You probably don't have me down as the kind of chap who watches Call the Midwife - and you'd be right. However, Mrs N is fond of this warm-hearted BBC drama about midwives and nuns working in Poplar in the Fifties, so I often find myself watching it. It's good to see all those plump, well-fed, two-month-old babies that the ladies of Poplar gave birth to in those hard times, and I must admit the show has a habit of sneaking up on you and tickling the tearducts. It's also capable of springing real surprises - and it did so in spades last night. Never mind the plot - you'll find no spoilers here - the best surprise for me came when Jenny was leaving Nonnatus House in a black cab and Sister Monica Joan came forward to bid her farewell...
A word of explanation: Jenny is the pretty, prissy and rather tiresome midwife with the perfectly permed dark hair, and Sister Monica Joan is the most interesting character in the show, and the one with by far the best lines. Sister MJ is the dotty elderly nun, a woman with a singularly well furnished mind, stocked with lore and learning, quotations and allusions - but, in its failing state, it's more of a disordered lumber room than a salon. The result is that you never know what she'll come out with - and last night, in bidding Jenny a tearful farewell, she reached into the lumber room and came out with... this:

'Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!

Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.' 

These are Leigh Hunt's well known lines memorialising a happy encounter with Jane Welsh Carlyle (of whom, and of which, more here). What a delightful surprise that they should turn up in such an unlikely context. Judy Parfitt, who plays Sister Monica Joan, gave them some wellie too. Meanwhile Jenny - the one with  the perm - just looked bemused.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree with your more! I searched Leigh Hunt when I saw this episode (on Netflix) this afternoon and was thrilled to hear that sweet little poem again after so many years. Sister Monica Joan is by far and away the most enthralling character on that show! I don't think I will miss Jenny Lee nor the actress who played her next season.