I’ve always found Sunday evening to feel to be a bit bluurrghh and am always on the quest to find things that make it feel more Saturday. Whether that be a sunny afternoon in a local pub garden, a big fat roast with family and friends, a nice relaxing soak in the bath or a feel-good programme on the TV. Kicking-off on Christmas Day, ‘Call the Midwife’ hits the spot perfectly through those long dark winter months, it’s a programme that although often touches on sensitive subjects, still manages to feel warm and cosy.
I was invested in the series from the first airing when a friend kindly lent me the book by, the then relatively unknown, author Jennifer Worth.
Come January 2022, my now secondary school aged daughter very convincingly told me that she was now old enough to stay up later and would like to watch ‘Call the Midwife’ downstairs with me. It’s not very often that this happens, it’s usually a struggle to prise her away from YouTube, TikTok and Netfix.
Sunday evening soon became something to look forward to. It may not quite be Friday or Saturday but it definitely felt a lot less blurrgghhhh.
I have been to the Historic Dockyard Chatham on many occasions and have a long family history of dock workers through our generations. (My late father was one of the engineers who built and launched ‘HMS Ocelot’ submarine I’ll have you know!). However, I have never ‘done’ the Call the Midwife’ tour. Mother’s Day was looming and thought what a perfect gift covering the generations of women in our family from daughter and sister, to mum and mother-in-law.
I was delighted to discover that our tickets also covered entrance to the Dockyard galleries and attractions for the day, so my daughter and I got up and headed down to the Dockyard before meeting the grandmothers for lunch.
Our first stop was to the Steam, Steel and Submarines Exhibition, looking for any family relics. We were delighted to discover a large image of HMS Ocelot ready and waiting for its maiden voyage alongside all its workers, and right there in the middle of the photograph was my late father. A proud moment for me and his doting granddaughter.
We continued to The Smithery before realising it was time for lunch. The welcoming smell of fish and cps lured us into the restaurant where there was a large variety of food choices. We went for a lighter option of a sandwich (and some naughty cheesy chips).
We met our dedicated Call the Midwife guide outside the impressive looking HMS Cavalier. We knew exactly who she was from the very distinctive red cardigan and beret that has become synonymous with the hit BBC TV series.
Following a short safety briefing, we were immersed into the world of 1950’s midwifery and TV production. Our guide is one of many who work for Neal Street Productions and not only has extensive knowledge of the TV series, but also of the Dockyard itself, so therefore being a two-for-one tour experience.
Many of the locations were instantly recognisable from the TV show such as ‘Chummy’s Hill’ (if you know, you know), Poplar Docks and the tenement buildings, others not so much such as HMS Cavalier, The Ropery and Commissioner’s House Gardens.
Our tour gave away many tricks of the trade, such as how the production company turned Chatham Dockyard in mid-summer, into Poplar London during the big freeze of 1963 for their Christmas Special in 2017.
The tour finished with a secret location, only accessible for people on the tour, where we were taken through a padlocked black painted door. Behind the door was an exclusive exhibition of many original artefacts and props from the show such as Trixie’s gramophone, costumes and the infamous Nonnatus House dining table. This area is selfie heaven for all fans.
Our tour did a fantastic job of moving us along and keeping us entertained throughout with behind-the-scenes stories, production gossip and trade secrets. I don’t want to give too much away but … production has been confirmed for season 12 shhhhhhhh!
Of course we exited through the gift shop where there was the opportunity to purchase Call the Midwife memorabilia galore, from biscuits and pens to the books where it all began.
So if you’ve been missing the soothing voice of Vanessa Redgrave CBE on a Sunday evening, then get your feel-good fix with this tour.
The Official Location Tour at the Historic Dockyard runs until 30 October 2022.
Tickets are £27for adults and £22 for children. Add a cream tea for £6.25 or a Prosecco cream team for £13.50.