Jinnie walked down the slope from the northbound platform to the tunnel under the lines at Potters Bar Station. At the bottom, she turned right to the car park where her dad had said he would be waiting and was delighted to see that her sister Penny was with him on the other side of the ticket barrier. Her dad hugged her and plonked a big sloppy kiss on her forehead. While her dad heaved her suitcase into the car boot, Penny hugged her and both of them whispered at the same time “I missed you” and collapsed into a fit of giggles.
Jinnie’s mum must have been watching out of the window waiting for them, because as they walked over the green in front of the house she flew out of the front door. She met them at the garden gate, threw her arms around Jinnie and squeezed her so hard she could hardly breath. Before going to her bedroom to unpack Mum insisted that they all sit down, have a cuppa and have Jinnie tell them about Berlin.
An hour later, having unpacked and dumped her dirty washing in the Ali Baba wicker basket in the bathroom. Jinnie lent on the her bedroom window sill gazing out at the back garden and the darkening view over the field at the bottom of the garden. The garden was her father’s pride and joy. From the manicured grass punctuated by apple trees near the house, to the huge vegetable plot and greenhouse he spent so much time in next to the field. She could see that dad had got everything ready for winter. The adjoining field ran down into a valley with a wood and stream at the bottom.
The other side of the wood, the land rose up to the M25, the noise from which could only occasionally be heard when the wind was in a particular direction and not at all indoors when the double glazed windows were shut. The horses were in the field as usual and she looked for the little skewbald mare and the foal she had in the spring. She remembered when the foal was newly born and the mare had brought him to the fence to meet the family. When she spotted the mare she suddenly realised that the foal was now almost as big as his mother. He had really grown while she had been away, she wondered if they would still come to the fence for an apple or a carrot.
A gentle knock on her bedroom door sharply brought Jinnie back to her bedroom. She called “Come in” and Penny entered. Penny joined her in staring out on the south-facing garden and the bucolic scene beyond it. After a few minutes, Penny said “I know you always loved this view”. Then, “I have a message for you. Ethel wants to see you”. All sorts of things went through Jinnie’s mind but she blurted out, “How do you know Ethel”. Penny explained that at the start of the autumn term her headteacher had asked for volunteers to work in the retirement home to replace Jinnie and two others who had gone off to university. Penny had thought about it and realised that it had been good for Jinnie, helping her escape the worst of the dreaded Band of Deutscher Maidens. She had been allocated Ethel as one of the residents she helped with.
Penny continued, saying that once Ethel had learned she was Jinnie’s sister she had started telling her tales of the ‘old days’ and she had got more and more interested. She had been introduced to the whist club and heard their life stories. She had even met Ethel’s ‘goddaughter’ Pandora and heard her stories. Jinnie realised that Penny had been drawn into the Resistance just as she had been, but being a couple of years younger she hoped she was still not fully involved and was only on the periphery. When she had told Ethel that her sister would be home for Christmas and the New Year, Ethel had asked her to get Jinnie to come to the residential home and visit her.
That evening they had a family dinner. Mum had pushed the boat out and done a full-blown roast beef dinner, with her beautiful roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, peas, carrots and cabbage. Dad produced a bottle of Riesling and even allowed Penny a glass. Mum followed up with one of Jinnie’s favourites, homemade lemon meringue pie. After dinner, they retired to the lounge for a cup of tea and more chat.
The next day was Friday and the sisters surprised their mother by telling her they were going into the town centre together Christmas shopping. Mrs Walsh had never seen the two girls this close before and was delighted. The girls caught the mini bus that ran to the station every 30 minutes from the other side of the green. Jinnie bought all her presents using some of the money that Dirk had given her and still had quite a lot left. Penny was volunteering that evening and Jinnie said she would join her.
The girls had an early fish and chip tea (dad had been sent to the chippy), then got the mini bus into town and walked the rest of the way to the home. While Penny went off to deal with other residents Jinnie headed up to Ethel’s flat. Ethel was sat in her favourite armchair and a smile lit her wrinkled face when Jinnie knocked and walked in. Jinnie was told to sit down close to Ethel and why she wanted to see her was quickly revealed.
There were several reasons, firstly Jinnie was given a small cheap pay as you go phone. Ethel called it a burner phone and told her that the only person who had it’s number was her new controller and that when told to she was to remove the sim card break it up with a hammer and dispose of the phone down a drain away from her house. If this happened she could get a replacement burner phone from Ethel. She went on to explain that she wouldn’t be seeing Mike again, he had been badly hurt in a raid on some train stabling yards and had been smuggled out of the country over the border into the British part of North Wales and then over the Irish Sea for hospital treatment. She had no news of him and speculated that he could be anywhere in the British Commonwealth of Nations or even in the United States.
Finally she told Jinnie that there was a really big action coming, she didn’t know what it was yet or when it was planned for. Jinnie told her that she had already been involved in a couple of incidents, but Ethel poo poo’ed them as minor adding she believed that what was coming was huge in comparison but she didn’t yet know what it was. Jinnie went and made them tea and cut slices of Jamaica ginger cake arranging them on a plate. As she was doing it her mind flipped between how much she had missed “British” things, strong tea, roast beef, lemon meringue pie, ginger cake and what the big action could be.
Ethel and Jinnie were busy drinking tea, eating cake and speculating when Penny arrived. Jinnie shut up but when Ethel continued with her speculation she realised that Penny was in much deeper than she had realised. Ethel favoured that the action was going to be an attack on a major airport, either Heathrow or Manchester, Jinnie favoured the Channel Tunnel, after Dirk talked about her being trapped in England. Penny chipped in with her theory that it would be simultaneous attacks on military camps. They all agreed that it would be in the new year.
On the walk home, Jinnie decided she needed to know just how deeply involved Penny was. At first Penny was extremely reluctant to talk about things but Jinnie let slip a few tales of her recruitment and slowly Penny confirmed that she had been down a very similar path. She had even been to the same gym and East Barnet gun club. Jennie had to laugh when she heard that Penny’s controller went by the obvious nom de plume of Fred Bear. By the time they got home Penny had confirmed she too had a burner phone and she was nervously waiting to be called into action. She wanted to know what it was like and Jinnie had told her about her two experiences carefully not telling her how she had shot two guards in the head.
It was three days later when Jinnie was out walking Bonnie the beagle from next door when her burner phone rang for the first time. Bonnie’s owners were getting old and the dog really needed to be exercised much more then they could manage. Some joker had set the ringtone to the ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ and it suddenly bleared out as she walked through the woods. The voice announced that it was Fred Bear and he knew it was OK to talk as he had seen she was on her own. Fred said he needed to brief her and her sister in person and he would meet them at six in the evening on New Year’s days in Ethel’s flat. With that, he wished her a very merry Christmas and rang off.
Christmas came and went. Jinnie had been invited by Gretel to a party on Christmas Eve, with a number of her old school friends from when they were in the sixth form of Dame Alice Owen school. Nearly all the boys and girls had been at university and had returned home for Christmas. She was very careful about what she said as some of them were dedicated Nazis. However, she was surprised to see Hans with Rita, who had been considered the school bike. Christmas Day was a family day and the routine hadn’t varied for as long as she could remember. Breakfast, opening presents, turkey lunch with all the trimmings, the Fuhrer’s message at three o’clock (which most people considered the best laugh of the day), a film on the TV, turkey sandwiches and Christmas cake, another film and bed. Of course now she was 18 she was allowed to drink as much as she liked, but Mr Walsh was still very protective of his younger daughter and kept an eye on her consumption in case it got out of hand.
When she went up to bed, Jinnie suddenly remembered the little package from Paolo that she had promised to open on Christmas Day. Looking at her Swatch from Mum and Dad she realised she still had 30 minutes to make good her promise. She dug the small parcel out from the back of the drawer where she had put it when unpacking. Tearing off the Christmas paper she uncovered a little jewellery box. Inside lying on a mass of cotton wool was a pretty pendant on a gold chain. Turning over the pendant she saw it was engraved “All my Love, Paolo”. The tears ran down her nose and dripped on her duvet as she slipped the chain round her neck. It was then she realised how she felt about him and knew that somehow she had to find him again.
Boxing Day was sport and traditionally the family took a trip to watch Barnet play football at Underhill. Barnet however, had moved to a new stadium and Mr Walsh had never been there and consequently they very nearly missed the kick-off while he tried to work out where they were on the A to Z. At half-time they had their traditional burger and paper cup of Bovril from the refreshment hut. At full-time Barnet had won 3-1 and the family went home happy.
New Year’s Day arrived and Jinnie and her younger sister were having a celebratory dry sherry with Ethel and the whist circle when Fred Bear arrived. It seemed they had all been asked to gather so they could all be briefed together. Fred sat them all down, while he stood in front of them like a school teacher. He started off by saying what they were about to hear was top secret and not to be discussed with anyone outside that room. At 3am on the 3rd the combined forces of the BCN and the NAA were going to launch a full scale attack across the border from Scotland with the aim of freeing England and Wales and restoring the United Kingdom. At the same time, commandos would be crossing into occupied South Wales from the unoccupied areas. Air raids would be hitting military targets such as barracks, airfields, naval ports and anywhere that reinforcements could be landed from the continent. It would be the resistance’s job to harass German ground movements within England and occupied Wales. But this would have to coordinated with the forward air controllers as it was expected that free-ranging planes would be on the lookout for troop movements. He explained that Ethel and the whist circle would be used as a local control room, while the girls would be contacted the following day with specific orders.
In Chapter 15 – The BCN attacks.
© WorthingGooner 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file