Asked to write a diary for The Spectator, my first reaction was: ‘Why me?’ To sit down at my laptop and write — rather than read a script — feels a bit strange. I am still getting used to people wanting to know about me. A mere nine weeks ago I was anonymous, now I can’t move for those bloody paps. er, well, not quite, although I sometimes get a bit stared at, and a surprising lot of men express how much they enjoyed Call the Midwife. I even got a free biscuit from the man in the buffet car on the train to Hereford. My dream, however, is to play wildly different characters, so here’s hoping. (Fast forward to Series 15: a haggardlooking Jenny cleaning her glass enema tube. Yeuch. . . . )
In the theatre, unlike TV, you know instantly (boy do you know) whether the audience is bored out of their brain or wide-eyed and in awe. So I was lucky to be playing BeatriceJoanna in The Changeling at the Young Vic while Call the Midwife was being aired. My character could not have been further removed from the observant and reserved Jenny; a lusty, murderous, front-footed woman completely overtaken by passion… and if I tell you that in this production passion is expressed through jelly, trifle and strawberry jam — well, you can imagine what a sticky end I came to. You’ve got to love those Jacobeans.
I am utterly opposed to the plans for the NHS. It feels like a complete dismantling of everything the system first stood for. Call the Midwife really championed the NHS and that’s one of the things I loved about it. Our free health service is the very backbone of our country, and I feel now like that backbone is being snapped. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any good come from privatisation — just look at the ridiculously complicated system that has now become our ‘public’ transport. My mother was a nurse and my father a farmer and I’ve seen the effect that the extra bureaucracy and paperwork has on their lives. During their lifetimes,
their job descriptions have changed in a depressing way.
If it was up to me to fix the NHS, I’d give more power to the nurses, pay them properly and remove the glut of middle management. I do know it’s a smidge more tricky than this, but it seems like a sensible start. Truth be told, I would also install a
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London Paris New York small litter of kittens on every ward. I have just rescued two from Battersea Dogs’ and Cats’ Home and I can testify to the great joy they bring. Dog-lovers may disagree, but I think kittens would be a very cost-efficient cure.
Ilove London, but recently I’ve been working so hard that events have been passing me by, and I feel I’m missing everything. Filming for a second series starts later this year and, before the hectic schedule begins, I’m determined to visit all the fantastic exhibitions in London at the moment, including Picasso at the Tate, and the Freud and Hockney shows, and lots of little ones in between. I also love visiting the V&A on a Friday evening when it’s open late. There is nothing more magical than walking around that building at dusk. So I am going to be a culture vulture while I still can — oh, and I’m looking forward to seeing The English National Ballet’s Beyond Ballet Russes.
I’m also dying simply to go out dancing myself. Not ballet, you understand, just your normal flinging of limbs to some cracking tunes. It’s an embarrassing sight but I do love it. I’ll also be doing anything I can over the next few weeks to get my hands on Series 3 of Breaking Bad. I’m an addict. If you’ve not seen it, go get the box set. Life will not be the same again.
F inally, a word for Taki, The Spectator’s High Life correspondent. I was somewhat perturbed when a few weeks ago an amused friend texted a paragraph of Taki’s article in which he mentioned me. I think it’s my duty to bring him back down to earth. Jenny Lee is a pretty cool lady if you ask me, but she ain’t perfect, and I’m afraid, Taki, neither am I. For an insight into what we imperfect women are really like, may I suggest Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman? It’s a great read, and she puts it all so much better than I ever could.
Jessica Raine plays Jenny Lee in Call the Midwife, and also appears in the film The Woman in Black.
the spectator | 24 march 2012 | www.spectator.co.uk