When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, I was brought up not to swear. If my mum had heard me uttering the ‘f’ word, I’d have been lamped and send to the naughty step.
I once remember using the word ‘prat’ and being roundly chastised, not knowing that it wasn’t just a word for an idiot, but also someone’s arse. Wash my mouth out with soap.
But as society has evolved, the ability of swearwords to cause offence has become far more difficult. My 77-year-old mum went to an adult pantomime this week – I can’t imagine for a second imagine it wasn’t full of cussing.
Without wishing to throw shade on your global knowledge, I’d be hugely surprised if you knew about all three (or possibly any) of those stories, despite the fact they’re big news for the nations concerned.
There are also those (from both sides of the spectrum) who still harbour grudges about the supposedly-biassed news coverage of the December election campaign – understandably frustrated with their own party’s poor performance.
Enter Call The Midwife – a TV show that probably embodies Sunday-evening viewing at its best: seemingly parochial and anachronistic storylines, with a hint of jeopardy, but where everything always turns out OK in the end.
The wife of a cancer patient (played by the excellent Samantha Spiro) is loth to accept help, while she juggles looking after her dementia-suffering mum, plus her daughter with toddler and newborn.
Where’s the subversion, you may ask? Well (plot spoiler!), not only is Sam Spiro’s character a rare example on TV of a woman going through the menopause, while struggling to look after everyone else, but the outcome shines a light on the standard social services that used to exist for someone in her position after surgery (home help, respite care, for example).
In fact, the whole midwife movement is a shining example of something that is now almost non-existent within the NHS, but has been slowly dismantled in the name of centralisation and modernisation.
And this particular plotline is hardly asymptomatic. This series has examined attitudes to race and prostitution, while alcoholism, LGBT rights, cervical cancer, measles vaccinations and many other issues that continue to exist 70 years on, have been covered in previous series.
The topics may be wrapped within the warm embrace of London’s East End community in the 50s/60s, when everyone still had time for each other and we all knew our neighbours, but the parallels are clear.
At a time when the country feels so divided, Call The Midwife is an echo of when life appeared better – as long as you ignore unsanitary living conditions, overlook the fact that ‘differences’ were barely tolerated and forget that the pace and pressures of modern society barely impinged on life.
It may be a stretch to suggest that Call The Midwife – on its own – is enough to overthrow an established order (the dictionary definition of ‘subversion’), but it’s a gentle way for the BBC to demonstrate that looking at the successes and failures of the past is often a sensible way to plan for the future.