Jinnie woke early on Tuesday morning and when she moved she realised she had a slight headache, a disadvantage of working behind a bar and being bought a few drinks. Right she thought, it was nothing a run before breakfast wouldn’t cure and in any case, she had to get fitter and build up her stamina if she wanted to get anywhere with the OTC. Coming out of her bedroom she bumped into Carol who was coming out of Jason’s room and looked at Jinnie sheepishly. Jinnie just said “Good morning” and went off for her run.
When she got out of the shower, Jinnie’s head was quite clear and she was ready for breakfast. Her flatmates were in the kitchen/diner when Jinnie entered and they all stopped talking and looked at her. Then they all started talking at once. Jinnie started laughing, held up her hands to tell them to stop and asked if they had told Nigel of their decision to invite Camilla to stay in the apartment. When they said “yes”, Jinnie asked if they had also told Nigel that they were now a couple, to which they said, “no.” Nigel said that he had suspected something but didn’t know how to bring the subject up. Jinnie then asked if they intended to move into one room, but they said, “No, separate rooms would be better when they needed to study.” Jinnie commented that she had slept better last night as it was less noisy with them in Jason’s room. Nigel said, “Well that might be OK for you.”
The four of them set off together for lectures, splitting up when they got to the college. Jinnie headed for Cate’s study and was immediately immersed in Italian language and culture. Cate had her learning new words and trying to get Jinnie to put them together so she was soon onto “red pencil”, “grey carpet” and “cold beer”. Jinnie felt she had now progressed to how a three-year-old felt when their parents were trying to teach them a decent vocabulary. By the time she headed to meet Carol for lunch in the refectory, she felt she was making good progress.
Tuesday evening was work in the student bar but this time Jinnie decided to stick with soft drinks and to follow her own advice to Carol and pocket the tip money. Steve was happy, his new beer had arrived and was in the “cellar” settling from its journey. He had already had numerous customers asking when it was going to be ready and he said he felt it was going to be a great success. Midway through the session, Jinnie served Nigel who was sitting on his favourite barstool chatting to his maths friend. He pointed out Carol and Jason on the other side of the room, holding hands, deep in conversation with half pints in front of them. Nigel told her they had all agreed to wait for her at closing time so they could walk home together.
Wednesday morning was one French and one German (Italian) lesson. French was getting a bit easier, her GCSE stuff and conversations with Simone were slowly coming back and her lecturer asked her how come her accent had distinct leanings to the South of France. Jinnie simply explained that she had a good friend who had been born in Nice. However, she felt she was going backwards in Italian. Cate gave her a Biro and got her to write a number of words she chucked at her. Jinnie was lost, she now recognised most of the spoken words but had no idea how to spell them. It really was back to infant school but with the advantage that she at least knew the alphabet and how to write it. At the end of the lecture, she was wondering if she was ever going to be able to speak Italian, let alone read and write it.
Jinnie was having a light lunch in the refectory, it being sports afternoon she was on her own. She intended working out in the gym for a while, so she didn’t want a big lunch. She could see Nigel eating with several of his maths course fellows and she knew Jason had gone off in a college minibus with the rest of his side to his away game. Carol had gone to watch and had managed to cadge a ride with one of the other team members girlfriends. As she tucked into her tuna salad, the chair next to her was pulled out and Dirk joined her.
Speaking in German, Dirk asked her how she thought her Italian was going. For a moment Jinnie considered saying “OK” but she decided to tell the truth and instead said “Awful”. Dirk laughed and explained he had just been talking to Cate. She had told him she thought Jinnie had left today’s session a bit dispirited. He went on to say that in fact Cate was delighted with her progress and that Jinnie was picking up the language much more quickly than she thought possible. He then asked about her French and Jinnie replied she was happier with that. To which he replied, “Good because I might have a little job planned for you later this year.” With that, he did his normal thing of getting up and going before she had a chance to process what he had said and ask a question. However, as he moved away, she did notice he was walking a little better.
Jinnie parked her Mini in almost the same spot in the supermarket car park. Before she could get out Maureen pulled up next to her in her old banger. Here come the questions thought Jinnie. Sure enough, as they walked together to the barracks Maureen started to probe. Jinnie had decided to stick with the same story she had told her flatmates, if she told different stories to different people she was sure to mess up somewhere and if she invited any of her flatmates to a military social event it might get awkward. Maureen seemed to accept the tale of an inheritance from a wealthy relative, which was in reality nearly true if not the whole truth.
A quick consultation of the notice board told them that they were in for drill to start the evening, followed by kit instruction and finally an introduction to small arms. While getting changed into their uniforms Lucy started asking questions about Jinnie’s shooting abilities. She said that the word going around the barracks was that last Saturday, Jinnie had outshot the firearms instructor. Jinnie explained that she had shot a few rounds on the range, it had gone quite well, the instructor had been there but it had not been a competition and he had not shot.
Jinnie found the drill exhausting. Never having marched or drilled before it didn’t come to her naturally. Those who had been in the cadets had a distinct advantage and didn’t get shouted at by the drill sergeant quite as much as the complete novices. Still, at the end of the session, she felt she was at least as good as most of the beginners and better than a couple who didn’t appear to know their left foot from their right. Kit instruction was a bore, one of the third year cadets was drafted in to show them how to present their kit. It was a quick run through which from the polishing of boots and the buttons on the dress uniform, which they would be issued with should the need ever arise, to how to iron a razor-sharp crease into their uniform trousers and exactly how to roll up the sleeves of their No 14 uniform for short sleeve order.
The final lesson of the evening was given by firearms instructor, Sergeant Thompson, and involved breaking down cleaning and reassembling a Glock pistol which he carefully demonstrated to them. This was right up Jinnie’s street. She had done it numerous times before and when it came to her turn to have a go the instructor sat back and watched as she went through all the gun handling procedures, checking that it was safe before breaking it down cleaning it, applying gun oil in all the correct places and reassembling it. The sergeant was purring as she put the gun down at the end of her turn. Turning to the other cadets he said, “Now that’s what I want you all to be able to do and you, Cadet Walsh, I want you to be able to do it blindfolded.”
Back in the female locker room Maureen, Leah and Lucy wanted to know how Jinnie had come to know about the Glock pistol. Again Jinnie told a fraction of the story, explaining how a friend had got her into shooting at a local club and that was where she learnt about the pistol and target shooting. They had agreed to meet the male members of Able Section in the bar once back in their civvies and Jinnie was surprised to find Sergeant Thompson with them nursing a half pint of bitter. It soon became clear that the sergeant wanted Jinnie to join the unit’s shooting team for a competition against the Bedford Unit on Sunday afternoon. The Cambridge University OTC was made up from units from a number of East Anglican colleges, namely Cambridge, University of East Anglia, Cambridge Regional College, Anglia Ruskin, Hertfordshire, Bedford, Essex and Writtle College. These units regularly had internal competitions and also had higher level competitions against other university units such as Exeter, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Of course, Jinnie agreed and was told to be at the barracks for 14.00 hrs on Sunday to meet the team.
His business done the sergeant downed the remains of his beer and left Able Section to enjoy their wind-down drinks and discuss their evening. The section had generally been impressed by Jinnie’s gun handling and invitation to join the shooting team but Freddie, who was the only other member of the section with firearms experience, clearly wasn’t happy. Jinnie quickly realised that he saw her as a rival for promotion to JUO. It was then that Jinnie decided that she was going to impress the training sergeants and beat Freddie to that stripe.
Thursday was more French and more Italian. Cate decided to throw Jinnie in the deep end and see how she got on in a local Italian restaurant at lunchtime. Jinnie was beginning to recognise various Italian words and just hoped that she could order something edible. In the end, she recognised veal on the menu and managed to order a scallopini with morel mushrooms and fried potatoes which turned out to be delicious. She even managed to order ice cream for dessert. Leaving the restaurant, Jinnie was rather pleased with herself and had the thought that if she were dumped in the middle of Rome tomorrow she wouldn’t starve as she felt sure she could survive on a veal and ice cream diet.
Sunday’s shooting match turned out to be a walk in the park for Jinnie. The cadet she was shooting against was not up to her standard and she easily won her match. However, the other members of her team were in their third year at various Cambridge colleges and initially resented one of the regular team members being dropped in her favour. After she had proved herself in her match, Ricky the team captain even came over and congratulated her. He apologised for being a bit aloof initially, but as team captain he usually picked the team members for a competition. He explained that, in this instance, Sgt Thompson had overruled his selection and insisted on Jinnie being included. Not knowing her and her standard the team members had been a little put out that one of their regulars had been stood down. Ricky continued to say that if today had been an example of her normal shooting ability he would be delighted for her to join them in future competitions.
The Michaelmas term moved on, Jinnie found herself looking forward to her Italian lessons with Cate, every time she came away she felt she had picked up a little more. She could now converse, even if only in a basic way, with Cate and had started to read passages from Italian newspapers and had even begun to understand what she was reading. Her French was coming on leaps and bounds and she was itching to try it out on her sister at half term when she would be home for a week for the general election and her medal ceremony. She was even beginning to enjoy her Wednesday drill sessions. She had managed to get her feet sorted out, Able Section were mostly marching together and had progressed to rifle drill although they weren’t yet trusted with a real rifle and had to put up with imitation wooden ones. There had been several PT sessions and she had surprised herself by probably being, much to Freddie’s disgust, the fittest person in the section. They had been informed that on the weekend after the elections their unit had been chosen to take part in a regular army training exercise on Salisbury Plain and they were to play the enemy and be hunted down by a regular army unit.
On the Wednesday before half term, Jinnie was eating her usual pre-gym light lunch in the refectory when Dirk once again appeared beside her. He was obviously keeping a close eye on her as he knew exactly how she was progressing in French, Italian and with the OTU. He chatted generally for a while, expressed his pleasure with her progress and asked her if she had any plans for Christmas and the New Year. Jinnie said she hadn’t really thought about it, but she expected to go home to Potters Bar, have the usual family Christmas and then there would almost certainly be a New Year’s Eve party organised by her old school friends. Dirk smiled at her and said that sounded lovely but he expected to have a little mission for her over the New Year so she should perhaps turn down any party invitations. As usual, Dirk finished abruptly and started to get up, but this time he turned to her and said, “I’ll be seeing you at Windsor next week,” and with that, he limped off.
In Chapter 10 – Jinnie visits Windsor Castle.
© WorthingGooner 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file