I believe I do have a timeline of events that you might find enlightening.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Deborah and Jerry coordinate to virtually pull a Christmas cracker on a family video call. They are helped in their attempt by Toby and Alex, and lightly teased by Russ.
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.
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.
Deborah tells her parents, Jerry and Hilla, that she got engaged during a trip away. Her father is delighted at the news, but her mother is more sceptical.
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.
The Wilkinson family – Jerry, Hilla, Myra, Deborah and Benji – are meeting Jerry’s parents for dinner.
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.
Jerry is checking in for his COVID-19 vaccination.
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.
Myra, Deborah, Benji and Russ are helping Jerry to sort out his things and clear space.
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”.
At Uncle Newt’s funeral, Jerry gives a eulogy in the form of a poem that he has composed about Newt.
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).
He praises Newt as a teacher, storyteller and friend, before concluding with the lines:
Well, since you ask me for a toast…
O Nightingale! O Uncle Newt!
On the evening of Jerry’s 50th birthday, he and his wife, Hilla, reflect on the events of the day.
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.
Because of a need to finish some eggs they had, Jerry suggests that they have pancakes. Hilla is reading a book and absent-mindedly agrees.
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.
Jerry and the children play out a rehearsed chant in which he acts as The Keeper of the Cakes of Pan. Myra is The Flour Sifter, Benji is The Egg Man and Deborah is The Tosh Chronicler.
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.
Jerry asks his mum, Vanessa, if Midnight & Noone ever made any records. She tells him that they had not.
Jerry asks if she remembers any of the pair’s songs. She tells him about The Fellow with the Cello and Woof, Woof, Woof, attempting a short rendition of each.
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.
During his National Service with the British Army, Jerry visits a shop near to where he is posted in Germany. He meets Hilla, who is working in the shop.
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.
Jerry visits his mother, Vanessa, in hospital. She is wrapped in bandages. She informs Jerry that she sustained her injuries when she was hit by a bridge.
Vanessa tells Jerry that, once she is discharged from hospital, she will be returning home from her service on the narrowboat.
Jerry is partly disappointed by this news. This means he will stop living with Uncle Newt, who has been teaching him to write poetry.
Jerry is celebrating his “unofficial” 8th birthday with Uncle Newt, with whom he is living during the war. His “official” birthday will be in December, when his parents are home on leave.
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!”
Uncle Newt is telling Jerry a bedtime story. The final line says that the villagers sang “paeans of praise” to their returning hero.
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.”
The Wilkinson family pull Christmas crackers around the table, starting with Vanessa and Uncle Newt. Vanessa wins and immediately takes the hat from inside and rips it up.
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.
Jerry says “onwards and upwards” and nominates Deborah to pull the next cracker.
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.
Uncle Newt prepares to tell the story of why the family rip the hats, but he is interrupted by a kitchen timer. Hilla bustles out of the room to fetch the pudding, enlisting help from Myra.
Vanessa and Walter are saying goodbye to their son, Jerry, as he prepares to take the train to boarding school.
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.
At Vanessa’s funeral, Jerry is surprised to find that Uncle Newt is wearing the same hat as he wore to Myra’s wedding. Newt remarks that it is an awfully resilient thing.
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.
A stranger with a foreign accent approaches Newt and addresses him as Mr. Nightingale. Newt asks if he had taught the man years ago.
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”.
Jerry approaches Uncle Newt with a new poem for the ditty box. It relies on a play on words about an aardvark having two eyes and two ‘A’s.
Newt deems the verse worthy of the standard ha’penny fee, but also offers some advice for improvement.
Newt is approached by a former student of his, Spencer, who is now working for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) – a secretive World War II organisation.
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 is amused and honoured by the idea that his nonsense poems could help with the war effort. He agrees to help and adds that he will also enlist the help of his nephew, Jerry.
Vanessa is staying with Uncle Newt during the war. She returns home from her sewing circle and expresses her frustration at not being able to do something she considers more useful.
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.
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.
On Jerry’s 60th birthday, Deborah introduces him to give a speech.
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!”.
On the way to the reception of Myra’s wedding, Uncle Newt, Vanessa, Jerry, Deborah and Russ share a car. They represent five generations of the family.
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.”