It was around about 4 o’clock on Friday afternoon when Jinnie parked her Mini next to her father’s ageing Audi 80 in the bay cut into the green opposite her family home. For a few moments, she sat looking at the house and thinking however much was enjoying Cambridge, it would be nice to be home for a few days. Seeing her dads old car had reminded her that she had promised herself that she was going to treat her dad to a new car. She pondered on what he would really like to drive. She couldn’t see him in a smallish car like her Mini. As a college lecturer, he had a certain status to preserve and had always driven a large car but so many of the big cars had been imports from Germany, France and Italy so a replacement Audi was out of the question. The Japanese, who had kept out of the war in Europe, built cars in the UK but made nothing big. There were some American imports arriving, but they were mainly Jeeps and she couldn’t see him driving one of those. Maybe a Range Rover or better still a Jaguar, now she thought about it, she could picture him in a Jaguar. There was a dealership just down the road in Barnet. Now, how to get him to Barnet without him realising where she was taking him, because if he knew, or even suspected, what she was planning he would definitely say “no”. She would have to work on that.
Jinnie used her key to open the front door and the house was quiet. She wandered through to the dining room and spotted her parents and sister sitting on the patio in the last of the late autumn sunshine. Mum was reading a paperback book, Dad had a gardening magazine, while Penny had on her headphones and appeared to be deep into schoolwork, as she kept making notes in an exercise book. Jinnie looked down the immaculate garden, the grass was neatly trimmed and Dad had been preparing the vegetable patch for winter. The summer crops had been cleared away and the ground dug, but she could see the autumn and winter crops coming on well. She recognised potatoes, cabbage, sprouts, carrots, parsnips and there were a couple of other crops she didn’t recognise. In the field at the end of the garden, the skewbald mare was happily grazing with a new foal beside her.
Jinnie walked out onto the patio, quietly enough for her family not to hear her, but she couldn’t avoid the sharp hearing of Bonnie the next-door neighbour’s beagle. Bonnie clearly remembered the long walks with Jinnie over the summer and went mad barking and jumping at the chain-link fence. Her mum looked up from her paperback and jumped up to hug her daughter. Dad climbed out of his lounger and kissed her on the forehead. As he did so Jinnie saw he was wearing his gardening clothes and a pair of tatty old shoes he kept in the shed to wear when the ground was dry and a plan started to form in her brain.
Bonnie’s barking finally penetrated her younger sisters headphones and she looked up. Seeing Jinnie had arrived she pulled off her headphones and hugged and kissed her. Jinnie greeted Penny in French and they proceeded to chat until mum interrupted to ask if they wanted a cup of tea. Bonnie was still barking so Jinnie went to say hello to her and was quickly joined by her owners, the Williams, who had also been alerted by the barking. At last, the dog calmed down, the Williams finally gave up asking about Cambridge and Mum appeared with a tray with four mugs of tea. Jinnie was delighted to see her’s came in her favourite “Kit-Kat” mug.
After the tea, Mum went to do the washing up while Mr Walsh wandered off down the garden to water the few remaining plants in the large greenhouse and close it up for the night as they could be chilly this deep into the autumn. Jinnie decided to try her plan out with Penny. Explaining, still in French in case her mother heard, that she wanted to get their dad a new car and that the problem was getting to Barnet High Street where the dealership was. However, could Penny ask him to drive them to Barnet tomorrow on the pretext of picking up some bespoke shoes from a shoemaker shop that was nearly next door to the Jaguar dealers? She was to tell their dad that they were special shoes she needed to pick up for Tuesday’s trip to Windsor. Penny said yes of course and would she get a chance to look in “Arties” shoe shop as had heard that his bespoke shoes were just fabulous. The story was Artie made and kept a last for every customer and many famous people used the shop. The only problem was a pair of hand made court shoes started at around £500 and that the cost of the last was similar to a pair of shoes. Jinnie promised Penny that if the ruse worked she would buy her a pair of Artie’s handmade shoes.
It being Friday it was fish and chips night and Dad was sent off to get the order from the local chippy. Dad said he was having haddock, Mum wanted cod while the girls both went for plaice. Jinnie just prayed that the smell of fish wouldn’t linger in the Audi as it may devalue the trade-in price. The fish was as good as always and Jinnie disgusted her mother by making a chip butty with brown sauce. Her mother said she had hoped Cambridge would have taught her some manners.
Mr Walsh fell for the plan and said of course he would drive Penny to Barnet and would the others like to come as he would treat them to a quick pub lunch in the Black Horse at Arkley on the way home. Jinnie had fond memories of the Black Horse as that was where she and Pandora had enjoyed several chats while she was being recruited. The only thing was he had to be back for 1:30 as he was due to be out canvassing for the Reform Party. Jinnie looked at him and said, “I thought you were standing as an independent.” He replied, “I was, but the Reform Party completely matched my values so I joined them when they started looking for candidates.”
They parked in the car park at the back of The Spires shopping centre and wandered through it towards the shoemakers. As they passed the Jaguar dealers Jinnie stopped and looked in the windows. There were several models on display but Jinnie particularly liked the look of the XF, however none of the cars had a price on them. Jinnie pointed out the car to her dad and said “Now that’s what I call a car, what do you think Dad?”. Mr Walsh came over and looked. Before he realised what was happening his daughters had dragged him inside and Jinnie was negotiating a deal. Jinnie turned to her dad and asked him what colour he liked and without thinking he looked around the showroom and said, “Maroon like that one.” The salesman turned up his nose and said, “We call that Rossello Red.”
That snootiness was enough to annoy Mr Walsh and he took over the negotiations, getting a good discount and, after taking the salesman for a test drive, a decent trade-in price. It was only when Jinnie paid a deposit and was told that his car would be ready for collection the following Saturday that Mr Walsh seemed to realise he had been railroaded by his daughters. Leaving the dealership Penny reminded Jinnie of her part in the deal and asked if they still had time to visit the shoemakers. Checking the time Jinnie realised that if they were still to have a pub lunch they would have to postpone the shopping trip until Monday.
Sunday reminded Jinnie of pre-war liberation days. A big lunch of roast beef, roast potatoes, two vegetables and Yorkshire puddings, followed by homemade apple pie made with apples from the garden. Penny was on duty at the retirement home for tea and early evening so Jinnie gave her a lift and went off to find Fred, Bert and Jimmy for a chat. She found the three old men huddled together in a corner of the communal lounge enjoying tea and biscuits. They were delighted to see her and naturally talk turned to “the old days” and Ethel, before turning to Thursday’s election. The three oldies announced that they had, after much soul searching, decided to vote for the Reform Party as they were supporting the military, the resistance groups in the occupied countries and were in their opinion the “Patriotic” Party. Jinnie told them that she had decided much the same and that her father was standing for the local council as a Reform candidate. Bert pulled a Reform Party flier for their ward out of his pocket and asked Jinnie if the picture on it was her dad. Jinnie had to look twice as the photo looked like a younger version of her dad, she realised it had been photoshopped. When she said “Yes,” they told her to tell him he would get at least three votes.
On Monday Jinnie drove Penny to Arties the shoemaker’s shop. The walls were adorned with photos of famous people with Artie, all were holding pairs of shoes. Jinnie recognised TV presenters, actors and actresses, singers, even politicians. Artie turned out to be a pleasant man of Greek Cypriot extraction who had lived in England for many years. He asked them how they came to know of his shop as he did no advertising and they explained that they lived locally. When Jinnie saw examples of Artie’s exquisite work and the beautiful soft leather he was using she decided to order a pair of shoes for herself as well as for Penny. Artie explained that he would take all their foot measurements, it took a while as he had to accurately measure both their left and right feet, as they tended to be different sizes, and send the dimensions to the last maker. Once the lasts were made he would like a check meeting just to ensure the lasts were the correct size and only then would he begin to make the shoes.
Artie explained that only by this meticulous process could he ensure that his shoes were a perfect fit. Of course, it extended the time to produce the first pair of shoes but it was his way to ensure quality. In fact, he told them, that rather than get an old pair of his shoes repaired at a heel bar or local repairer he could remake them and no one, except him, would know that they weren’t a brand new pair of shoes. He said his last maker was so busy that their shoes would not be ready for some time and set a date for the “check meeting” in the week before Christmas. He asked for payment for their lasts there and then, but said he would not even let them choose a style of shoe until their Christmas meeting. Jinnie happily paid up for the lasts. As she and Penny left the shop a newsreader from the TV was coming in clutching a pair of black Oxford shoes that clearly needed new soles.
Tuesday dawned bright and sunny but with an autumnal chill in the morning air. Jinnie was pleased that it was dry as the award ceremony was to be in the open air in the grounds of Windsor Castle. The whole family were fussing around, getting dressed up and Jinnie was astounded at how good everyone looked, even her mum who had struggled so much to select her outfit. The hat that had been especially made for her was perfect. As they walked across the green to get in her Mini Jinnie couldn’t help but wonder what any of the neighbours who saw them would think was happening. Jinnie had entrusted her father with the invitations and the car pass and had to make one last check with him that he had them before setting off.
Windsor was busy but they followed the proscribed route through the town and soon arrived as their designated entrance point to the castle grounds, where their invitations and car passes were checked by armed guards before being directed to a car park reserved for those being presented with medals and their guests. Leaving the car they were further directed to a holding area where it was explained that the minor awards would come first and build up to the major awards culminating in the posthumous award of a VC to a soldier’s widow. Reserved seating was arranged for guests with a good view of the awards and official photographers would be recording every award in both stills and video, so if the guests felt they were a little far away for decent pictures they should not worry as they would all receive official ones in the next few days. Following the ceremony tea and light refreshments would be served for recipients and guests in a huge marquee. The king and queen would mingle for a while but they were not to be approached directly, the royal couple would pick out just whom they wished to speak to.
At that point, the guests and the medal recipients were separated. The recipients were sorted into a line with each class of medal grouped together in alphabetical surname order with the VC last. Being a Walsh, she was nearly at the end of the line of about 40 people the king was going to present medals to. It was then that Dirk hobbled up on his crutches and being an ‘S’ was placed immediately before Jinnie. It was then that she realised that Dirk too was being awarded the George Medal. Behind her stood only two people the VC winner’s widow and an army private who was to receive the George Cross. Jinnie had been reading up on the medal rankings. The Victoria Cross was the ultimate, awarded for outstanding valour in the face of the enemy. The George Cross was the equivalent of the Victoria Cross but awarded when not facing the enemy. Her and Dirk’s award came next in the standings and was awarded for gallantry not quite enough to warrant a VC or a GC.
Jinnie greeted Dirk in English, thinking that German may not be appropriate here, but it seemed strange as they nearly always talked in German. Dirk complimented her on her choice of dress and she said she felt a little out of place as she was just about the only one of the people she could see who was not in uniform. Even Dirk was wearing his old Parachute Regiment uniform. Dirk joked that he hoped that she was good with a needle and thread because she would now have to sew her medal ribbon onto her cadet uniforms. He said at least he had nearly a year before he had to wear his uniform at the next year’s Remembrance Day parade.
Suddenly the band that had been playing in the background struck up the national anthem and King William came out of a doorway accompanied by Queen Catherine. Jinnie was becoming nervous and all at once she felt the urgent need for the toilet. Dirk said as they were nearly last in the queue he was sure she had plenty of time, so she asked a nearby man dressed in royal livery. He pointed out a door into the castle above which was a tiny sign and an arrow pointing out the direction. The liveryman confirmed that she had plenty of time as the king was taking a couple of minutes with each award and still around 35 people ahead of her.
Coming out of the loo she was nearly run into by a young black cocker spaniel hotly pursued by a little girl, that Jinnie guessed was about 6, shouting “Come here Lupo.” Jinnie managed to stand on the lead the dog was dragging behind him bringing him to a grinding halt. The little girl grabbed the lead and said, “Thank you, he’s such a naughty dog.” Jinnie bent down and patted him and said, “But he is lovely.” Jinnie suddenly realised that she was talking to Princess Charlotte and remembered to curtesy. The princess chuckled and said that she didn’t have to curtesy to her as she had caught Lupo she should save that for Mummy and Daddy. Then she told Jinnie that this was really called Lupo II as he was a gift from Uncle James when Lupo got ill and died. Jinnie realised that time was passing and that she had to go and apologised to the princess and explained that she had to rejoin the queue as she was getting a medal. Charlotte looked her up and down and said, “Mummy says everyone getting a medal today was very brave in the war. Did you kill Germans?” Jinnie replied “Yes” and with that the princess skipped off down the corridor, with the young dog in tow, shooting Germans in every doorway with an imaginary gun.
The medal ceremony was over in a flash and if she had not seen it on the video she was sent, Jinnie would have had no idea what was said or happened. Jinnie was watching all the soldiers, sailors and airmen ahead of her march up to the king snap a salute, have the medal placed around their neck, exchange a few words with the king and be dismissed by the king, initiating another exchange of salutes, steps back two paces, turn and march over to where the Queen was waiting to say a few words. When a liveried footman read out her name Jinnie walked towards the king turned to face him and curtsied. Before she knew what was happening she had the medal on a ribbon around her neck, the king was shaking her hand and then she was being congratulated by the Queen. All Jinnie could remember was that Kate was even prettier in real life than in her pictures.
As she walked away another uniformed flunky handed her a velvet lined box for the medal to live in and she was in the marquee being handed an exquisite porcelain cup of tea and Dirk was shaking her hand. They were still congratulating each other when the rest of the Walsh family found them. Jinnie introduced Dirk to them as Major Scholz who had been in the queue just in front of her and they had been chatting while waiting.
In one corner of the marquee, the Band of the Royal Marines was playing patriotic tunes. Jinnie did notice the enthusiasm with which the triangle player was banging out the music and was just about to mention it to her sister when they launched into the national anthem once more as the king and queen stood in the entrance to the tent. With the anthem over the king and the queen split, with the king making straight to the widow of the VC while the Queen made a beeline for Jinnie’s little group. They all bowed, curtsied or saluted and the Queen turned to Jinnie and laughingly said, “Miss Walsh, I have been reading up on your wartime actions as I like to be able to know what acts of bravery have earned people their medal, but I find myself having to thank you for catching Lupo.”
Jinnie replied, “It was my pleasure, your Majesty. May I congratulate you on your delightful daughter.”
“Charlotte was most impressed to meet a genuine heroine,” said Kate, “She wants to know all about you, I have just had to tell her I would invite to join us for tea, and some of Nanny’s delicious cake, in the playroom over Christmas so that you can tell her about your adventures. However, she wanted to know why you weren’t wearing a uniform. I could hardly tell her you were a spy.” Thinking quickly, Jinnie said that she would of course be delighted to accept the invitation and was looking forward to it being formalised. She then suggested that she could wear her cadet uniform for the visit and that perhaps she could tell the princess that her uniform was in the cleaners. Queen Kate chuckled and moved on to a new group.
In Chapter 11 – The Elections.
© WorthingGooner 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file