Five Episodes In To John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, Series 9

Well, since you ask me for some kind of update on last week's stab at drawing together all the events of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, Series 9 so far... over five episodes, we now have had a hundred and twenty-two years of family history. The Noones, the Nightingales, the Wilkinsons, the Goldings, the Goldfarbs – here's my best stab at creating a chronology so far. 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 first five episodes are available free, globally streaming right now. But when you have listened, come back, tell me all the things I missed, then we can listen to the final episode next  Thursday, together. And sing "woof woof woof, goes the wolfhound" and rip up our party hats.

Five Episodes In To John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, Series 9
John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, BBC PR
  • 1899 – Spetwith, Christmas, Mr and Mrs (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 – 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. Did Newt "fill in" as Vanessa's biological father for Gallie and Susannah as well?
  • 1911 – Leeds – Midnight And Noone performs Samuel and Albert Small's bird imitation song. This time sung by Newt, playing the cello, and Susannah.
  • 1921 – Near Spetwith – Newt has the cello/flute music background but has no stories for Vanessa Noone. He lives with her mother Susannah Noone and Susannah's "companion," Gallie Nightingale, and dog Monty – named after Montgomery James. Newt is not Vanessa's real uncle. Is he her "real" father?
  • 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, Susannah's daughter, preparing for Midnight And Noone's performance.
  • 1929 – Whitley Bay, Midnight And Noone, with Vanessa Noone 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 – 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. Is Jerry, Newt's biological grandson?
  • 1940 – Leeds, Vanessa gets medically diagnosed while applying to join the Ministry. Is she a spy?
  • 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.
  • 1942 – Grand Union Canal, Vanessa, and companion, on the boats.
  • 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". Has she? 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.
  • 1951 – March – Cliff Golding born, with mole.
  • 1951 – York to London train – Newt trying to get his father onto Desert Island Discs.
  • 1954 – Badenhausen – Jerry meets Hella. Jerry in 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.
  • 1962 – Reading. Uncle Newt, tells Deborah and sister Myra a bedtime story.
  • 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.
  • 1966 – Reading, Jerry, and Hella. Pancakes with family, everyone performative.
  • 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 on Soho Square.
  • 1969 – Great Rollwright – Newt watching the moon landing.
  • 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. 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.
  • 1980 – Dover – Deborah and Cliff Golding, getting Cliff a passport.
  • 1982 – Long Buckby – Vanessa helping Walter watch movies, he may be blind, mentions Edna's lemon curd.
  • 1984 – Dover – Deborah sings "Woof woof woof, goes the wolfhound" to baby Russ Golding.
  • 1985 – Reading – Jerry's birthday, Hella, they have seen Deborah. Mentions of "Sack the juggler" and "Sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite"
  • 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. Although is Russ Newt's biological great-great-grandson? Newt then 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".
  • 1994 – Hastings – booking holiday. For Jersey?
  • 1997 – Reading – Deborah, with her father Jerry, who is recovering from a stroke. Her sister, Myra, is in Torremolinos. "Backwards and forwards"
  • 2001 – Hastings – Russ comes out to Deborah. Mentions Alan.
  • 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.
  • 2012 – Banbury – Deborah giving fencing instruction.
  • 2018 – Hastings – Russ Golding, member of Pier Pressure – 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. Mentioned 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 son Toby, "Toby, let Oswald out". "Cockers" has become "spaniels" as an acceptable term of abuse.
  • 2021 – Aylesbury – Jerry Wilkinson gets vaccinated, he is 86. And very happy.

Questions still to ask – is Vanessa Noone the biological daughter of Susannah Noone and Oswald Nightingale, raised by Gallie and Susannah as the child of Susannah and the fictitious Captain Noone? Does Gallie's profession as a male impersonator suggest she is trans in a world without the concept? Was Vanessa a spy, working on the boats in Europe during the war, and that's how she sustained her injury? Was she recruited because of Newt's involvement with the SOE? Was it Gallie's death that spurred her into action? Was the song "A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square" written in 1939, stolen from Gallie Nightingale of Midnight At Noone, or composed in tribute to her death in the same year?  Did Jerry have a stroke? When did Walter go blind? What happened with Deborah and Cliff? And how come "Woof Woof Woof" was not a major hit for Pier Pressure, or is the song cursed?

John Finnemore had tweeted a reply to the previous version, "This is wonderful- great work! Thank you for caring so much about the show. Some of your questions at the end will be answered in the next 2 weeks; some I know the answers to, but aren't answered in the show…. and some have no answers!" He also added on Twitter " Jerry's job is in Soho, but in 1959, with 2 kids and a third on the way, he and Hilla need more space than their Kentish Town flat, and Reading is commutable, affordable, and in the direction of his parents in Long Buckby, and Newt in Hook Norton. If you know Long Buckby, you'll be able to work out how Vanessa came to know it, and what it was that made it attractive to her when she and Walter were deciding where to buy a house after the war…"


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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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