A Final Timeline For John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme Series 9

Well, since you ask me for a final timeline for the events of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, Series 9, we now have had a hundred and twenty-two years of family history of the Noones, the Nightingales, the Wilkinsons, the Goldings and the Goldfarbs, from John Finnemore and his troop, here's my best stab at creating a chronology, with advice, corrections, and additions from many. Don't read if you haven't listened to the show, it really is the best thing the BBC has put out all year, probably the corporation's best since I May Destroy You, and the full six episodes are available free, globally streaming right now. But when you have listened, come back, tell me all the things I missed, then rip up our party hats. Oh and read this John Finnemore Big Issue interview as well.

Five Episodes In To John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, Series 9
John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, BBC PR
  • John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme Series 9 Timeline:
  • 1899 – Spetwith, Christmas. Patrick and Lettie Nightingale, Monty James, brother and sister, Gallie and Oswald Nightingale (Newt) – named after Galileo and Newton? Ripping up party hats. Newt gets a kazoo. Dog called Toby, "Oswald let Toby out", a Ghost story from their guest, Monty James. M.R. James (for it is he) was an English author, medievalist scholar, and provost of King's College, Cambridge, Eton College, and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. He is best remembered for his ghost stories, abandoning many of the formal Gothic clichés of his predecessors and using more realistic contemporary settings. The first use of the story cello/flute story music background but it drowns out the story.
  • 1903 – 12-year-old Newt learns of the Wright Brothers' Flyer and is very excited.
  • 1904 – Spetwith, Yorshire. Mr and Mrs Nightingale, as Gallie Nightingale and Susannah Clarke, now Susannah Noone, on music hall performance tour, planning to be Midnight And Noone. Gallie Nightingale is a "male impersonator" and plays a cello. Susannah has a fake marriage to Captain Noone. Newt sees through wordplay.
  • 1911 – York. Gallie gets Newt to fill in as male impersonator in Leeds, playing the cello. Told to buy a top hat that will last a lifetime.
  • 1911 – Leeds. Midnight And Noone performs Samuel and Albert Small's bird imitation song. This time sung by Newt, filling in for Gallie, playing the cello, alongside Susannah Noone.
  • 1915 – York. Fictitious Captain Noone called up. Gallie Nightingale asks Oswald Nightingale to "fill in".
  • 1915 – Crewe. Susannah Noone and Oswald Nightingale, Oswald "filling in".
  • 1921 – Near Spetwith. Newt has the cello/flute music background but has no stories for his "niece" Vanessa Noone. He lives with her mother Susannah Noone, Gallie Nightingale, and dog Monty – named after Montgomery James. Newt is not Vanessa's real uncle. Indeed.
  • 1924 – York. Newt teaching science to Spencer Minor –  or not. Spencer gets two demerits. Newt uses rhyme wordplay to help teach.
  • 1927 – Scarborough. Vanessa Noone preparing for Midnight And Noone's performance.
  • 1929 – Whitley Bay. Midnight And Noone, with Vanessa Noone assisting, performing "Cello fellow" with "Susannah on piano".
  • 1934 – Paris to Lyon. Vanessa and Walter Wilkinson have married, on honeymoon, deducing observations about other passengers. Meets Mr Cleary on the train.
  • 1935, 8th October. Jeremy Wilkinson is born to Vanessa and Walter Wilkinson.
  • 1936 – Susannah Noone dies.
  • 1939 – Spetwith. Vanessa Noone joins a sewing circle. Gallie Nightingale has just died, bombed in Leeds. Vanessa looks like Gallie Nightingale – but could she look like Newt instead?
  • 1939 – Spetwith. Vanessa back from the sewing circle, sees Newt. Agreed that Jeremy – now Jerry – can stay with Newt while Vanessa goes off to do something in the war with autonomy.
  • 1940 – Leeds. Vanessa gets medically diagnosed while applying to join the Ministry.
  • 1940, post-July – Marylebone. Newt being hired by a Spencer, now at the SOE to create memorable wordplay poems for wartime espionage. The Special Operations Executive was a secret British World War II organisation formed in 1940 to conduct espionage, sabotage, and reconnaissance in occupied Europe and later, also in occupied Southeast Asia. Known as the Baker Street Irregulars, after the location of its London headquarters. Jerry is unknowingly recruited and is checked out as well. Poem codes were a real thing, and were used for the reasons expressed here.
  • 1942 – Grand Union Canal. Vanessa, and Queenie, on the boats, walking through a blindfolded horse. They appear to be Idle Women. The boatwomen's training scheme was an initiative in the United Kingdom during the Second world war to attract women to work on Britain's canal network. Initiated by the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company (GUCCC) in 1942 the scheme was taken over by the Ministry of War Transport in 1944 and closed after the end of hostilities in 1945. Nicknamed the Idle Women due to the Inland Waterways badge they wore in lieu of a uniform, it is estimated that approximately 100 women joined the scheme but only about 45 completed the training and only six are recorded as having participated throughout the length of the scheme. Vanessa is clearly one of them.
  • 1942 – Grand Union Canal. Vanessa, and Queenie, on the boats, not washing.
  • 1943 – Spetwith. Jerry living with Uncle Newt. Newt promises a paean for Jerry's birthday. "Sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite" first use.
  • 1943, 8th October – Spetwith. Jerry living with Uncle Newt. Learning poetry. Newt delivers a paean of praise to Jeremy Wilkinson, who turns 8. Gives a kazoo. Vanessa, home from the boats.
  • 1944 – Spetwith. Jerry has a poem about an Aardvark.
  • 1945 – Coventry. Jerry talks to Vanessa in hospital. She has been "hit by a bridge". That does make Vanessa one of the six. Jerry is going to be a poet.
  • 1948 – Long Buckby. Jerry, Vanessa and Walter as Jerry goes to school. Origin of "half a glass" phrase. Long Buckby is located along the Grand Union Canal, walking through a blindfolded husband?
  • 1951 – March. Cliff Golding born, with mole.
  • 1951 – York to London train. Newt trying to get his father onto Desert Island Discs. He is not an owl, he is a nightingale.
  • 1951 – London. Patrick Nightingale on Desert Island Discs. Takes it all rather literally.
  • 1954 – Bad Oeynhausen. Jerry meets Hella. Jerry in the British army, Hella working for her father, Solomon Goldfarb.
  • 1957 – Kentish Town. Hella, Jerry, and baby Deborah Wilkinson.
  • 1960 – Long Buckby. Jerry talks to Vanessa about Midnight And Noone songs. "Fellow with the cello", "Woof woof woof goes the wolfhound" with a nightingale singing.
  • 1961 – Shepherds Bush. Jerry auditioning for That Was The Week That Was.
  • 1962 – Reading. Uncle Newt, tells Deborah and sister Myra a bedtime story, modelled on MJ James' The Rose Garden.
  • 1963 – Reading. Christmas, Vanessa and Walter, Newt, Hella (now Mutti) and Jerry, Deborah, Benjamin, and Myra, "Onwards and upwards". Ripping up party hats came from Auntie Gallie and Uncle Newt knows why they did it.
  • 1965 – Long Buckby. Walter and Deborah, working out he's blind, Vanessa covering it up.
  • 1966 – Reading. Jerry, and Hella. Pancakes with family, everyone performative. Newt/Jerry's kazoo returns, still in use.
  • 1967 – Leamington Spa. Posh restaurant. The Wilkinson family. Deborah, Benjamin, Myra, Vanessa, Jerry, and Hella. Force 5 table manners.
  • 1969 – Soho, London. "A Nightingale Barked In Soho Square" ad pitch by Jerry. "Woof woof woof goes the wolfhound" for Soho Sound Systems. Based on Midnight At Noone song. Bark Sound Studios does exist in real life, just off Soho Square.
  • 1969 – Great Rollwright. Newt watching the moon landing with schoolchildren.
  • 1972 – Bradford On Avon. Spying and deducing, Deborah and Vanessa, like Vanessa and Walter used to.
  • 1974 – Colchester. Vanessa badly parked.
  • 1975 – Hook Norton. Newt meets a former agent who learned his poems of animals and kings.
  • 1976 – Ferry from France to Dover.  Deborah meets Cliff Golding, working on the ferry.
  • 1976 – Reading.  Deborah aged 18, engaged to Cliff, tells her parents, Jerry and Hella.
  • 1978 – Long Buckby. Vanessa asks Newt about her true lineage.
  • 1980 – Dover. Deborah and Cliff Golding, getting Cliff a passport.
  • 1982 – Long Buckby. Vanessa helping Walter watch movies.
  • 1984 – Dover. Deborah sings "Woof woof woof, goes the wolfhound" to baby Russ Golding.
  • 1985 – Reading. Jerry's 50th birthday, home with Hella after Deborah's quiz. Mentions of "Sack the juggler" and "Sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite"
  • 1988 – Nottingham. Newt, Vanessa, Jerry, Deborah. Russ – Myra's wedding? And what happened to that hat. Jerry's poem for Myra. Vanessa and Deborah deduction games. Sings "Woof woof woof…"
  • 1990 – Birmingham. TV quiz with Vanessa. She is wonderful.
  • 1990 – Long Buckby. 5/6-year-old Russ with Deborah at Vanessa's funeral. Level 5 behaviour. Meets great-great Uncle Newt, burying his daughter but no one else knows. Newt tells Russ a story about turtles who are "filling in" while others take the credit. Newt meets Jerry in the same hat as worn for Myra's wedding. Jerry promises a poem for Newt's funeral.
  • 1991 – Hook Norton. Newt's funeral at 99. Poem by Jerry, illustrating the mystery of the man.
  • 1994 – Dover. Russ has guitar stolen by Craig. "Half a glass". Needs to make two separate phone calls for his parents, Deborah and Cliff, now separated.
  • 1994 – Hastings. Booking holiday. For Jersey?
  • 1995 – Reading. Jerry's 60th birthday, after having had a stroke. "Gently, ladybird… heaven in a small pool… to glassware"
  • 1997 – Reading. Deborah, with her father Jerry, recovering from a stroke. Her sister, Myra, is in Torremolinos. "Backwards and forwards". "Hockets" is a divided musical narration, that create harmonies when combined, such as the entire show does.
  • 2001 – Hastings. Russ comes out to Deborah.
  • 2003 – Hastings. Russ gets crocodile jawbone tattoo, he is in the band Pier Pressure. Also the name of John Finnemore's favourite episode of Arrested Development.
  • 2004 – Hastings. Pier Pressure, Russ (nicknamed Jawbone) suggests "Woof woof woof, goes the wolfhound".
  • 2006 – Larmer Tree Festival. Pier Pressure performs their version of "Woof woof woof, woofs the wolfhound", Russ on drums.
  • 2008 – Reading. Jerry's family are sorting his things out, with Deborah, and Russ who empties Hella's lilo. "Half a glass". "Cockers" used as a swear word.
  • 2010 – Lanzarote. Russ and Alex – fake explanation of the lower jawbone of crocodile tattoo. "Cain's Jawbone" is also the fiendishly difficult puzzle that John Finnemore was the third person to solve in a hundred years.
  • 2012 – Banbury. Deborah giving fencing instruction.
  • 2017 – Hastings. Russ Golding, back from going fishing with Cliff, home with Toby and Alex.
  • 2018 – Hastings. Russ, still a member of Pier Pressure – getting a funeral gig for Mr Nogg and possibly Annabelle Nogg.
  • 2020 May – Hastings and Hook Norton. Russ and Deborah on phone. Has Deborah moves in to Newt's old place after leaving Cliff? Toby and Alex are okay. Mention of Deborah's friend Navaneen, and their old Dover dentist.
  • 2020 Christmas – Online. Family Zoom Christmas – Jerry Wilkinson (GGJ), Deborah, Deborah's son Russ, Russ' partner Alex, their daughter Toby, "Toby, let Oswald out". "Cockers" has become "spaniels" as an acceptable term of abuse. They rip up their party hats.
  • 2021 – Aylesbury. Jerry Wilkinson gets vaccinated, he is 86. And very happy.
  • 2021 – Near Hastings. Alex, Russ, Toby – Alex was in a comedy sketch troop. Russ went for Alex because it's in the family? He has a type? And there are some secrets never to be told. Newt's has to be the big one.

Long Buckby runs alongside the Grand Union Canal. It was also home to Stanley Unwin who invented his own "Unwinese" gobbledygook language, not dissimilar to that of Jerry's stroke speech. Was it just Jerry who combined A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square with Woof Woof as an unused jingle that so confused Russ? Or was the song written about Gallie Nightingale? It was composed in 1939, the year of her death, in France. Was it in tribute, John Finnemore? I want to believe so, yes.


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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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