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Career

'I loved the fish and chips': Call The Midwife Jenny Agutter's trip of a lifetime to New Zealand

The star has happy memories from her trip down under!

Call the Midwife is one of the BBC's most beloved dramas, watched by millions worldwide, in nearly 240 countries.
For one of the show's stalwarts, Jenny Agutter – who's portrayed Sister Julienne from the outset – the enduring appeal of the show means she's often approached by fans for a chat or a selfie, sometimes in the most surprising of settings.
"There are some places where you just wouldn't expect it, like when I was in Nepal, in the middle of nowhere," she recalls incredulously.
"Another time, I was visiting the Greenwich Maritime Museum in London when I was recognised by a group of Chinese tourists. I've even been on trains, sitting directly behind someone watching me in an episode. That was quite surreal!
"Sometimes, you'll see someone looking at you, rather peculiarly, and you'll think, 'What have I done?' Then you realise they're fans of the show and they just want to talk," she smiles.
"It's a constant surprise just how popular the show is and how you meet fans in the strangest of places."
It's Jenny's ninth season as Sister-in-Charge Julienne in Call the Midwife – and she wouldn't have it any other way. "
One place Jenny never expected to be spotted by fans, though, was here in Aotearoa, where she recently holidayed.
"I was approached by so many people in New Zealand, which came as a complete surprise because I was on the other side of the world and I thought, 'Nobody's going to recognise me here.' But, of course, they did because Call the Midwife plays there too!"
Another trip that Jenny has recently taken was to the Outer Hebrides, for the Call the Midwife Christmas Special.
She admits that the jaunt, with her co-stars, to one of Scotland's most remote isles was an eye-opening experience.
"I'd never been there before and I was completely taken with the place," she says.
"It's the most extraordinary, utterly beautiful place with the most amazing people. The Harris tweed, which they still craft there by hand, is amazing too. It's so vibrant and colourful − I came away with a lot of lovely tweed clothes!"
Filming the Call the Midwife Christmas Special in Scotland's most remote isles was an eye-opening experience.
Despite its unspoilt beauty, Jenny admits that it was a challenge to film in such an isolated and desolate place – especially at the tail-end of a bitter British winter.
"It was March and it was unbelievably cold. When we arrived, Laura [Main, who plays Shelagh Turner] – who's from Scotland – had to repack her bag at the airport. When she did, I spotted several hot water bottles in there and I quizzed her about whether we 'really needed those?' She just looked at me and nodded," recounts Jenny.
"She was right too, because the church, where we filmed, was freezing cold and damp!
"It didn't look half as cold on-screen as it was," adds Jenny, shivering unintentionally.
"I don't understand modern cameras because when we did one scene amongst these ancient Standing Stones, you could hardly see in front of your face and couldn't hear each other's lines because it was so wet and windy!"
She admits that standing there, on the rugged hilltops, overlooking the sea, brought back memories of her month-long trip traversing our nation.
"My husband and I went out there for four weeks because we wanted to really explore the country," explains Jenny.
"We literally travelled from the very north down to Christchurch and onto Banks Peninsula, which was just so beautiful. Then we took the TranzAlpine Express and went down the West Coast.
"What was extraordinary about the place, for me, was how the landscapes changed so dramatically and so quickly.
"If you're in Australia or America, the landscape stays the same for hours, but you'd turn a corner in New Zealand and suddenly something extraordinary would appear that was quite different from anything you'd seen before," she enthuses.
"Its volcanoes, majestic mountains, stunning lakes and beautiful fields of lupines were breathtaking."
Jenny and husband Johan spent a whole month travelling the length of New Zealand.
It wasn't just the sights that bedazzled her though, it was also our culture, cuisine, laid-back lifestyle and the occasional bottle of chilled wine.
"The food was great. The fish and chips were amazing. I remember going to a fish and chip shop, just south of Greymouth, which we'd looked up. It wasn't just any old fish and chips, but turbot and chips with a glass of really good New Zealand wine. I loved it!
"We went to the Amisfield vineyard, outside Queenstown, which was extraordinary. It has an exceptional restaurant and a very inventive chef, creating amazing dishes.
"The people are just so warm and hospitable," adds Jenny fondly.
"They wanted you to see the best of the country, so they'd quite happily show you things. The whole experience − every moment − was a surprise and quite, quite stunning. It's left me with a lot of great memories."
Jenny admits that it was hard to drag herself away from the holiday of a lifetime and back to the realities of work and life in London.
But she's been buoyed by the show's Christmas special and the myriad changes afoot next year for its ninth series.
"I can't believe it's series nine! It's just flown by," she gasps.
"It's almost a decade of my life, which is just amazing.
"Think of all the changes in our own lives in that time! But it's been a pleasure because it's such a wonderful show to be part of and everyone in it – although it's quite an eclectic group – is like a family.
"I love doing it and love how many people enjoy watching it. But what's really special for me is the number of midwives who come up to me and say how much they love it and respect what we're doing. That means so much to me because they're the ones who know the job and are doing it. It means we must be doing something right."

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