It's the middle of the 20th Century. We're in the East End of London, which still bears the scars of the Second World War, and where poverty and desperation and all-round hardship are the basic facts of everyday life. But there's beauty here too, and kindness, and love. Throughout the first two series we've seen this world through the eyes of Jenny Lee, a newly qualified midwife who cycled into this area expecting to be placed at a private hospital, but instead became a part of the close knit group of nuns and nurses at Nonnatus House.
THE SECRET STAR OF THE SHOW
Jenny Lee may have been the central heroine of the first few series, but it's her fellow midwife Camilla Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne - that's Chummy to you and me - who's really captured our hearts. She may hail from a posh background, but she's an adorably awkward, blunder-prone misfit who's always brimming with the desire to help others. Early in the series she met the love of her life, local policeman Peter Noakes, but her snooty mum thought his lowly station in life meant he wasn't an eligible enough bachelor. Chummy almost called the whole romance off, but luckily decided to follow her heart instead, and the two tied the knot. They're clearly meant for each other - he even pulled out all the stops to accompany her on a missionary odyssey to Africa. And now they have a child together too. Lovely.
SISTER MONICA JOAN
The matriarchs of Nonnatus House include the regal Sister Julienne and acerbic Sister Evangelina. But the one who's caused a bit of trouble is Sister Monica Joan, and not just because of her insatiable appetite for baked goods ("I feel we are prompted to go in search of cake"). Sister Monica Joan is actually one of Britain's first ever midwives, but her advanced years have taken their toll on this delightfully eccentric nun, and the show has chronicled her increasing senility. Most shockingly, her forgetfulness almost got her into serious trouble when she faced the wrath of the law after being implicated in some serious thefts. Of course, she wasn't guilty, but her mental deterioration threatens to cause more problems as time goes on.
JENNY'S LOVE LIFE
Jenny Lee has toiled tirelessly since arriving in London, helping young mothers, old soldiers, desperate immigrants, and many more besides. But, being a beautiful young woman with excessive amounts of charm, she's also had her admirers to handle. There was Gerald, the mysterious and wholly inappropriate married man she had a doomed romance with. And there was Jimmy, a lovely lad who was besotted with Jenny, but failed to win her heart at first. She did seem to come round to the idea, once he'd proven himself to be a man rather than a boy, but by then he'd moved on. Most importantly, there's Alec - a friend of Jimmy's worked his magic on Jenny. But will their delightfully soppy relationship last?
GIVING UP THE HABIT
One of the most engrossing stories in Call the Midwife so far has been the "forbidden" romance between Sister Bernadette and dashing local medic Dr Turner. It was a slow burning thing, all pained glances and unspoken affection, and there was the electric moment when Dr Turner, treating a cut on the nun's hand, dared to kiss her palm. "I'm sorry, that was unforgivable," the gallant doctor said, but it was the tipping point. Sister Bernadette realized she could no longer deny her feelings, and gave up the religious life to become Shelagh: the regular, normal woman she'd long craved to be. The two eventually got married in a beautiful ceremony, surrounded by their friends.
NO MORE NONNATUS?
One more thing you need to know before getting stuck into series three. Nonnatus House is no more. It's true: thanks to the detonation of an unexploded German bomb, leftover from the cataclysm of World War Two, the structure of Nonnatus House was rendered totally unsafe and so the great home of the Call the Midwife family had to be demolished during the festive season. As older Jenny, reminiscing about this moment, put it, "We ate our turkey at separate tables that year. Our community was scattered, but not to the four winds. We were offered refuge, separately and together in temporary lodgings across Poplar." But will there be a new Nonnatus to come?