I believe I do have a timeline of events that you might find educational.
While playing a round of charades, Deborah calls the rest of the family “spaniels” for deliberately avoiding the correct guess, even though she had already revealed the answer accidentally.
The family each rip up the hat that they get from their cracker, although Alex has to first be reminded to do so.
Instead of Christmas pudding, Deborah has half a scotch egg.
At one point during the call, Alex tells Toby to let their dog, Oswald, out.
Russ informs him that they cannot perform Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead and that they have to stick to the original lyrics for Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, but can otherwise accommodate his (largely witch-themed) requests.
He explains that a crocodile has strong muscles for closing its jaw but only weak ones for opening it. He claims that the tattoo is to remind him that strength depends on how you measure it.
The song is introduced as being “from the diseased mind of the drummer” and features various dog impressions.
In a band meeting, one of the members of Pier Pressure suggests they do a cover of A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. Russ insists that they should do “the famous bit” and gives a short rendition of Woof, Woof, Woof.
After an initial stunned silence, the rest of the band start to laugh at Russ’ insistence that this is how the song goes. Their hilarity grows as Russ sings in a high-pitched voice and explains that it is the nightingale doing dog impressions.
The lead singer resolves that they are doing the song. He dismisses the rest of the band except for Russ, to whom he says: “You and me are writing a song, Jawbone.”
When asked, Russ admits that he is only getting the tattoo because of peer pressure from his band. In fact, he tells her, that is literally the name of the band (although they spell it ‘Pier Pressure’ because of Hastings Pier).
The tattoo artist lets him change this answer so that she is allowed to give him the tattoo, but tells him that she can stop anytime he wants.
On his way out for the evening, Russ is quibbling with his mum, Deborah, about the time he needs to be home. Russ tries to argue for midnight, then 11pm, but Deborah insists on 10pm, after invoking the threat of 9pm.
Then, on his way out the door, Russ comes out to Deborah with a forced casualness, saying: “Not a big deal or anything, but, as it goes, I’m gay.”
Deborah stops him from leaving so that she can express her support for him. She also insists that she is totally surprised by the news.
Russ sees through her fake surprise, since his mum specialises in reading people. Deborah admits that she already knew and Russ tells her that he already knew she already knew.
Russ then attempts to change his curfew to 11pm again, but is told that being gay does not get him an extra hour.
Craig then takes Russ’ guitar, but loses interest when Russ refuses to fight him for it, so he returns it.
Russ, realising he will be late home, asks Craig for 20p to call his parents. Although the sum is revised to 10p, Craig does give him the money under the instruction that he tells no-one.
Russ learns Newt’s name, which leads to a discussion of amphibians and, in particular, why turtles are not amphibians. Newt gives him a brief scientific explanation of the difference between reptiles and amphibians, but Russ does not want to hear more.
Instead, Russ asks Newt for a story about Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. Having been informed that the turtles names are Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello and Leonardo, Newt tells Russ a story about turtles in Renaissance Florence.
They both admit that they are secretly enjoying the lockdown. Deborah enjoys the community spirit and her increased communication with people via Zoom. Conversely, Russ is glad to have the excuse not to socialise with others, but instead spend more time with his family.
Despite this, they make each other promise to keep up the pretence that they are both having a terrible time.
Deborah arrives late to give a fencing lesson. She easily fends off her student while giving him instructions, despite the fact that she hasn’t yet had time to change out of her heels.
During the lesson, she deduces that her student’s partner is away at the moment. This comes from her observation that he has his phone in his shirt pocket, which is what he does when his mother is babysitting.
Deborah is visiting her father, Jerry. Jerry’s ability to express himself is affected by aphasia. Deborah is supportive in helping him to communicate, but can’t quite suppress a giggle when he says “backwards and forwards” instead of his usual “onwards and upwards”.
The two are attempting to play Scrabble. However, after Jerry plays HVRAST (which he pronounces “hockets”), Deborah is able to convince him that he is not yet recovered enough for the game.
After Jerry is able to sing the first line of We Plough the Fields and Scatter, Deborah realises that the word he was trying to play was HARVEST.
While working as a travel agent, Deborah uses her talent for understanding people to suggest that a couple book a holiday in Jersey. The destination perfectly matches their opposing needs, such as liking France but not French food.
She tells them that one option for travelling there would be to go by ferry. She describes it as a “proper ferry … not a silly one like the Isle of Wight”.
Cliff has never been abroad. Even though he works on a ferry and goes to France four times a day, he has never disembarked from the boat.
The two bicker about Cliff’s unhelpful answers and about what counts as a ‘distinguishing mark’.
Deborah explains that she met her fiancé on a ferry crossing to France. He was working onboard and looked after her during a storm.
Jerry is amused to discover that the man comes from Dover and is named Cliff.
Although impressed with her grandmother’s skill, Deborah laments that the conclusions are never something more exciting, like the subjects being Russian spies.
Upon arriving at the restaurant, Jerry realises that it is a posher venue than they were expecting. He reluctantly enforces “Gale Force 5 table manners” on the children.
As compensation, Jerry promises that they will keep the meal to a short two courses and declares open season on the pudding menu. Since Deborah doesn’t like pudding, she is offered the option to have a starter for pudding instead.
Jerry counts them all down to the start of the enforcement of manners. During the five second countdown, the family make wild and rude noises. They stop immediately when he reaches zero and all commence best behaviour.
Deborah wants a story about ghosts, while Myra wants a story about gardens. Uncle Newt compromises by telling them a story about a haunted garden.
He is extremely buoyant to be seeing people in the real world. In his excitement, he repeatedly extends his arm to shake hands, despite reminders of the social distancing rules. He can’t stop himself from giving verbose and eloquent answers to simple yes-no questions.
Jerry becomes unexpectedly upset when he realises that they have deflated his lilo. In his shock, he shouts: “What have you done? Oh, you cockers!”
He quickly regains his composure and apologises to them all. He explains that he was keeping the lilo blown up because his wife, Hilla, had been the one who inflated it before she died.
He consoles himself and the others with hugs and his refrain of “half a glass”.
He apologises again for swearing at them. However, they are able to reassure him that his lingering aphasia has actually saved him from doing so. They comfort him by joking that “cockers” was at worst akin to “spaniels”, and agreeing that they had indeed behaved like “complete spaniels”.
In the poem, Jerry tells the audience of the years he spent living with Newt during the war. It was there that Jerry first started writing rhymes, for which Newt would pay him a ha’penny each (on condition that they scan).
Well, since you ask me for a toast…
O Nightingale! O Uncle Newt!
Although he enjoyed the day, Jerry feels a tinge of melancholy. His feelings were unintentionally hurt by a ‘What would Dad say?’ round in a quiz that Deborah had composed. He worries that the high scores in the round indicate that he has become a “predictable old fart”.
Hilla comforts him by saying that, although they may know what he might say, they could never predict what he will do next. She cites, as an example, him training crows to fetch batteries.
Feeling better, Jerry bids her goodnight. As he does so, she intones “don’t let the bed bugs bite” along with him, but he protests that that doesn’t count.
In a meeting with the Soho Systems Sound Design, Jerry performs a song that he has written to be used in one of their adverts.
The song is a variation of Woof, Woof, Woof. In this version, a nightingale visits Soho Systems Sound Design to achieve the low notes she needs to do impressions of dogs.
The company express some concern over copyright because of an allusion to A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square at the end of the song. Hearing this, Jerry has to confess that the whole thing is based on an old Midnight & Noone song.
Before she realises what she has done, Jerry retrieves and blows a kazoo to initiate a family ritual. Hilla tries to change her meal choice to omelette, but the children are already rushing into the room and it is too late.
Hilla, still reading her book, doesn’t join in the chanting in her role as The Flipster. Benji begins to protest, but Jerry (still in character) defends The Flipster’s right to silence.
Although she doesn’t join the chanting this time, Hilla does not want her lines removed from the ritual. She likes it sometimes.
She tells Jerry that the joke behind Woof, Woof, Woof is that it is a nightingale doing the dog impressions.
Hilla is surprised that baby Debbie wants to be fed more. Jerry suggests that it’s because she is ready for her pudding. However, Hilla is heard to ask “Well, don’t you want it?”, suggesting that Debbie ultimately doesn’t want her pudding.
The baby is making raspberry noises as Hilla deals with her. Hilla requesting that Debbie saves her “the raspberries of impatience”. This leads to Jerry composing an impromptu, fruit-themed, nonsense song on the piano.
Hilla helps him to find fruit names that correctly scan within the tune.
Jerry’s original reason for visiting the shop was to purchase a rubber stamp that could replicate a mark that he shows on his hand. This mark is to prove that he has completed a cross-country run, a task which he wishes to avoid in future.
Hilla says that her father could make the stamp, but questions why he should help a British soldier. When Jerry asks if this is because her father is still sore about losing the war, Hilla responds: “No, Solomon Goldfarb is not sorry that Germany lost the war.”
After more back-and-forth between the two, Jerry comes to the suggestion that he should save his money on the rubber stamp and instead buy tickets to the pictures for Hilla and him.
After first hearing Jerry’s latest poem, for which Jerry is paid his standard ha’penny, Uncle Newt gives him his birthday presents.
Jerry opens a gift to find a kazoo, which Uncle Newt admits he had just found at the back of a drawer.
Uncle Newt encourages Jerry to blow the kazoo, which cues Newt to deliver a “paean of praise” that he has written for Jerry. The paean tells of Jerry’s accomplishments and good deeds while living with his uncle.
Unbeknownst to Jerry, his mother, Vanessa, has taken leave from her war service, so that she can visit. She arrives in the room as Uncle Newt is finishing his paean. She delivers the final word: “Surprise!”
When asked by Jerry, Uncle Newt explains that a paean is “a long poem about how wonderful you are”. Jerry asks if he can have one. Uncle Newt tells him that he can maybe have one for his birthday.
They wish each other goodnight, to which Jerry adds: “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”
Vanessa is competing on a TV quiz show.
She gets into an argument with the host over the answer to the question:
In the famous book, which traveller went around the world in 80 days?
She contests that her answer (Michael Palin) was correct and that, in fact, the answer they were looking for (Phileas Fogg) was incorrect. She argues this both on the grounds that Phileas Fogg was fictional, and that he actually took 81 days to go around the world in the novel.
Ultimately, the quiz runners choose to agree with Vanessa.
Once the characters start speaking again, she leaves Walter to watch it alone.
Upon returning to her parked car, Vanessa is confronted by an angry woman. The woman says that her garage has been blocked by Vanessa’s car.
Vanessa accepts her mistake and sincerely apologises, but the woman continues to rant at her.
Vanessa tries to give the woman a life lesson. She tells her that reacting in this way only serves to let the other person off the hook. Rather than feeling bad, Vanessa now just wants to laugh.
She also gets a small plastic cowboy from the cracker, which she gives to her grandson, Benji. Benji is warned not to snatch by his mother, Hilla, who reminds him that “Level 3” behaviour is expected.
Deborah chooses to pull her cracker with her grandfather, Walter. Vanessa indicates to Walter that his cracker is on his side plate. Deborah wins, but questions if she has to rip up her hat. She asks if that tradition comes from them being a bit Jewish.
Hilla tells her that lighting the candles is because they are a bit Jewish, but that the hat ripping comes from the Wilkinson side. It transpires that the tradition dates back at least as far as Uncle Newt’s childhood.
Vanessa insists that Walter offers Jerry some fatherly words of wisdom. Walter tells Jerry an old trick of his – when you are feeling sad, saying “half a glass” to yourself will set your face in a natural smile.
They debate whether or not to wash beforehand, knowing that they haven’t washed for some time. Vanessa claims that it has got to the stage that she can pick out Queenie’s “note” from the other end of the boat.
Queenie asks what sort of note she means, but Vanessa points out that no possible answer to the question would not cause offence. Queenie suggests that “violets” would be an acceptable answer and Vanessa scoffs at her friend’s optimism.
They resolve to wash.
While the doctor is checking her for fluid on the lungs, Vanessa advises him on improvements to his diagnostic technique.
The doctor refuses to give Vanessa the results of the examination, since they must come from the Ministry. To bypass this, Vanessa immediately requests a second examination as a private patient.
Vanessa is speaking to members of her new sewing circle. They offer her their condolences on the death of her mother.
It transpires that there is some confusion in the group about the identity of Vanessa’s mother.
Vanessa tells them that her mother was Susanna Noone, who had died three years previous from a long illness.
Vanessa explains that Aunt Gally, as she calls her, was her mother’s companion. She tells them that, although Gally was like a second mother to her, they were not related.
The group are surprised to learn this, given Vanessa’s resemblance to Gally.
On a train journey to Lyon, Vanessa points out another traveller. She presents a number of theories about him based on what she has observed in his appearance and behaviour.
They exchange some ideas about the man, until Walter proposes a wager – whoever can tell the other most about the man after three minutes will win a piece of crystalised ginger.
After Vanessa accepts, Walter simply walks over to the man and introduces himself. He invites the man back to their table and relays what he has learned about him to Vanessa. He then eats the ginger.
Gally sings the part of “the fellow on the cello”, while Susanna sings as “Susanna on piano” (pronounced “pian-ah”). The two characters are in love with each other, but both are under the impression that the other does not love them.
Vanessa is acting as stage manager for them.
She tells them that the act do not have tab music and that Miss Midnight (Gally’s stage name) would walk off stage if tab music was played.
They protest and ask to speak to Vanessa’s mother, but Susanna shouts from the wings that they are just to deal with Vanessa.
Vanessa approaches him and asks that he tell her a story. Uncle Newt replies that he does not know any stories. Vanessa is incredulous, believing that all uncles should know stories. Uncle Newt reminds her that he is not truly an uncle, but just poses as one to get free pipe racks at Christmas.
Instead, Vanessa tells Newt the story of Cinderella. He repeatedly interrupts to question elements of the story, such as the priorities of the Fairy Godmother and the practicality of glass slippers.
When Vanessa has finished, she repeats her insistence that Uncle Newt should learn some stories. He agrees to attend to the matter.
Jerry’s daughter has just spoken to him to ensure that he will not do a poem at the funeral. When Uncle Newt hears this, he suggests that Jerry should do one for Newt’s own funeral, when the day comes.
Uncle Newt says that he would pay Jerry his fee for the poem in advance, except that ha’pennies are no longer produced. He reacts with mock outrage when Jerry suggests that he pay him a whole penny instead.
The man tells him they have never met, but that he had always wanted to meet him. He then recites this short poem:
I had a walrus for a pet.
Why I bought it, I forget.
I fed it kedgeree and rusks,
And used best Blanco on his tusks.
From the style of the rhyme, Newt recognises it as something written by himself or Jerry. He remarks that animals and kings were their speciality.
Newt is gratified to hear that the man had remembered the verse for all these years and that it had “worked”.
They are watching coverage of the moon landing, which is due to take place within the next half hour, when they are discovered by an irate senior teacher, Mrs. Mill.
Newt asks to speak to Mrs. Mill outside the room. Once outside, she insists that they stop watching and asks Newt if he plans to defy her authority in front of the students. He says that he would not do that, but he thought he might very quietly defy it out here.
Patrick is very sceptical of the idea. His view is simply that the book is available for purchase and if people want to read it, they can do so.
Newt deems the verse worthy of the standard ha’penny fee, but also offers some advice for improvement.
Spencer explains that the SOE communicates with field agents using “poem codes”. The message sender and recipient encrypt their messages based on an agreed upon passage of text. For security, this text must be carried in the agent’s head, but not be something well known generally.
The passages need to be intensely memorable, unpredictable and, ideally, consist of twenty-six words.
Spencer recalled the rhymes that Newt used to teach him in class as memory aids, and thought that Newt could help with this. He tells him that suitable passages were in great demand.
Newt tells her that, if she wants to go away to join a different wartime service, her son, Jerry, would be welcome to stay with him.
They discuss work that Vanessa might be able to do, hoping to find something that fits with her desire for autonomy.
He explains that Aristotle was wrong to claim that heavy things fall faster than lighter things. He uses a short poem to remind them of this:
Whether they’re large or whether they’re small,
Has no effect on the rate which things fall.
But whether you choose to accept this or not-le,
Depends on your faith in that fool, Aristotle.
He asks one of his students, Spencer, who it was that proved Aristotle wrong in 1592. Spencer, who had not been listening, incorrectly guesses Plato. The answer was Galileo.
Albert was a renowned bird impressionist as a child. However, when his voice breaks, he can no longer reach the notes needed to imitate birds like the nightingale. So that he can continue to perform, he changes to doing dog impressions instead.
Gally phones Newt to ask him to do her a “colossal” favour by filling in for her at a Midnight & Noone performance in Leeds. She tells him that he will need to play the cello, but will only have one small bit of singing in the Albert Small song.
Despite Newt’s protests, Gally insists that he must do this for her. Gally tells him that he can borrow her clothes, but he will need to buy himself a top hat. (Presumably, this is because his head would be too large for Gally’s top hat.)
Newt is worried that the audience will be disappointed if they are expecting a male impersonator but get an actual man. Gally dismisses this by saying that they will just think he is frightfully good.
Her parents are hesitant, but are somewhat reassured when Gally tells them that Susanna has recently married a Captain Noone and that he will be travelling with them.
Gally’s brother, Newt, has been on the sidelines of the discussion. When their parents withdraw to discuss the matter, Newt asks Gally more questions about Susanna’s supposed husband.
Newt deduces that Captain Noone is a ruse. He tells Gally that the play on words with ‘no-one’ is not as subtle as she might think it is.
Gally tells him that it is too late to change the name from Noone, not least because she and Susanna are planning to rename their act ‘Midnight & Noone’.
The two discuss Gally’s new stage name of Midnight, agreeing that it is better suited than Nightingale given Gally’s low voice. This gives Newt an idea for a song in which Gally would play the part of a man who impersonates birds.
The Nightingale family are celebrating Christmas with a family friend, Monty James.
His son, Oswald, and daughter, Gally, both protest that he should wear the hat. Even his wife, Lettie, points out that Mr. James is wearing the hat that he won from his own cracker. Patrick is unmoved and does not wear his hat.
Gally blames the rip on the large size of Oswald’s head, but suggests that Oswald should take their father’s unused hat. Patrick refutes the idea, saying that Oswald should have taken better care of his hat.
Seeing an opportunity to lighten the mood, Mr. James seizes Patrick’s hat and rips it. The family laughs as Patrick then rips Mr. James’ hat and Gally rips her mother’s one.
Patrick describes this round of hat ripping as “fun in its proper place”.
As the laughter dies down, Gally tells Oswald to let their dog, Toby, out.
At the end of the meal, Patrick reveals to the children that Mr. James is known for his ghost stories, and that he has kindly consented to tell them one now.
His first choice of record is titled Strangers on the Shore, which he chose because it concerns the seashore as you might find on a desert island.
His daughter, Toby is hostile to the idea of fishing and confronts him as he arrives in. Russ explains that he doesn’t actually use a hook, so all he is really doing is “fish feeding”.
After Toby leaves, Russ and Alex talk more about Russ’ pretend fishing. Apparently, Cliff doesn’t know that Russ deliberately doesn’t catch fish. He just thinks that Russ is bad at fishing, which he enjoys teasing him about.
As if to demonstrate, Vanessa enters the room at that moment. She says:
“Ah, Walter. There you are. Oh, and Deborah too. You look very cosy over there, dear, in that window seat.”
Vanessa uses indirect comments like this to help Walter place people and objects in the room.
Jerry is auditioning a satirical song that he has composed about “comfortable men”.
When he finishes, the auditioner points out a major snag regarding the object of his satire – the generation above him served in the war, so can’t be said to have never stood up for anything that mattered.
The auditioner does compliment Jerry’s ability to write lyrics that scan, but still sends him away.
He does go on to say that Gally would have loved to have been Vanessa’s mother, and that, really, she was one of her two mothers in every meaningful sense.
When Vanessa asks what her father looked liked, Newt only says that he never met Major Noone.
Alex recites a version of the rhyme that goes well beyond the traditional seven, culminating in the revolution of the magpies and the beginning of the thousand-year age of magpies.
With mock shame, Russ reveals to Toby that Alex used to be in a sketch group.
Jerry’s ability to express himself is affected by aphasia, but he and the family choose to embrace it. Deborah reminds the audience of how well everyone did on the ‘What would Jerry say next?’ round from his 50th birthday. She jokes that Jerry has now truly turned the tables on that.
Jerry opens by saying “Gently, ladybird, here we come”. Although the speech that follows is very confused and difficult to interpret, it is warmly received by the family.
When he is finished, Jerry raises a toast “To glassware!”, which may be his attempt to say “Half a glass!”.
The horse driver is indignant that there is nothing he can do to move the horse if it doesn’t want to move, but Vanessa is able to get it moving by first blindfolding it.
Susanna thanks Newt for “filling in” and goes on to say: “I’m terribly sorry about breaking your duck.”
Despite not usually drinking, Newt takes a swig from a hip flask that Susanna has brought, since she points out to him that it is “rather a day for doing things you don’t do”.
They exchange awkward, but affectionate, conversation as they mentally prepare themselves for what they came to do.
Newt is reluctant to do so. In his life generally, Newt has no interest in the required activity and never intends to try it. He remarks that there are other ways of achieving the same effect.
At this point, Gally begins to speak more plainly. She had particularly hoped that Newt would do this for them, so that the kid would be the closest possible thing to being Gally’s own child.
This convinces Newt and they agree to the plan. He asks to be part of the child’s life in the role of an uncle.
Gally begins to explain the practicalities of the arrangement by asking if Newt knows Crewe.
He declines to choose a luxury to bring with him, but then surprises the host by choosing The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter as his book.
When asked why, he simply states that it is his favourite with no further elaboration. The host sighs and thanks him.
Deborah is surprised to hear Jerry ask if he should start his speech with a poem, since she had just assumed that he would.
Vanessa and Deborah swap theories about the marital status of the registrar at the service, based on their observations of biro marks and reading glasses.
As they travel, Russ starts to feel unwell. Uncle Newt offers his top hat, should it be needed.
In an attempt to distract Russ, they all start to play a storytelling game by each saying one word at a time, but this fizzles out as Russ feels worse.
Next, they try to think of a song which they all know so that they could sing it to Russ. Uncle Newt is too elderly to know Yellow Submarine and Deborah is too young for Knees Up Mother Brown, but there is one song which spans the generations of the family.
Jerry counts them in and they all sing Woof, Woof, Woof together.
Unfortunately, they cannot prevent the inevitable, and Deborah is forced to apologise to Uncle Newt.
Newt replies: “Oh, not at all my dear. It was a very old hat.”