Just over a week after her meeting with the PM Jinnie realised that things were starting to happen. She had put the radio on to listen to the morning news while making her favourite soft boiled egg and soldiers for breakfast and there was an item talking about a major fire at a naval dockyard in Hamburg. The BBC said it had first been observed by a satellite, but they reported “sources” that said it was the result of action by the German Resistance. This was the first time she had ever heard such a report by the media. Twenty minutes later she was in her room doing her makeup when her mobile rang. It was the PM and he wanted to know if she had heard the news bulletin. He explained that the SIS and the BBC had set up a mechanism to feed news to them that was accurate but sanitised just enough not to reveal sources.
The PM told her that the BBC had also come up with several ideas for TV and radio programmes and the first TV programme had already been commissioned. It would include an interview with Fred talking about his early life in North London and his memories of Golders Green, Temple Fortune and the small dairy farm in Finchley. The secret service had come up with contemporary film that had been found in German archives when they had been searched after the War of Liberation. The film had never been properly reviewed and only following the orders of the PM had its content been realised as relevant. It showed Jews being herded onto a Tube train at Golders Green and being transferred to the mainline at London Bridge. The review of the seized archive was expected to yield further film and documents. The PM said the secret service had suggested that the story of the discovery of this archive could make a programme in its own right. Jinnie told the PM that such a programme would make an excellent excuse for the sudden rush of TV programmes and newspapers articles.
Jinnie moved the discussion on the topic of her sister and her urge to get involved, she explained that she had already been recruited by the SIS and that she should be going to Cambridge to read French next year. The PM said he would think about it but if she was half as good an agent a Jinnie then he was certain he could come up with something.
Jinnie then asked after Larry the Cat. The PM said he was sleeping more and didn’t seem to be bothered about catching rodents anymore, he was being urged to recruit a new younger more energetic cat and pension Larry off. Without hesitating, Jinnie said if that was the case Larry was more than welcome to come and live with her in Cambridge. He could have the run of her house and garden and she would ensure he had his favourite Felix, cat treats and could sleep all he wanted when she was at lectures. The Prime Minister said that could be an excellent solution as Larry clearly liked her. When the time came to replace Larry she would be number one on the list for his retirement home as it was important that he should go to someone he liked and liked him.
The following Sunday morning TV politics programme was discussing an exclusive article in the Mail on Sunday revealing that the secret service had found an archive of German film and documents showing many appalling things done by the Germans when they were consolidating their occupation. Jinnie headed out to buy the paper as she wanted to see just how much was being revealed. The Mail on Sunday was sold out in the first three newsagents she tried and the large Sainsbury’s where she finally managed to obtain a copy only had a few left. The story spread over pages 1 to 9 and included several stills that had obviously come from the film show people being forced onto the Tube at Golders Green. Jinnie sat down in the living room, quickly read through the various parts of the story and came to the conclusion that the release of the news was being carefully managed.
The story explained that the Germans hated Jews and that Golders Green and the area around it were home to a high proportion of London’s Jewish residents. It talked about the creation of the ghetto and then its clearance, demolition and replacement with luxury housing and shopping. There was no mention of where the residents of the ghetto had gone or what had become of them, only that they seemed to have been transported to mainland Europe as they had not been seen again in Britain.
Jinnie read through the article a second time but reading it carefully this time instead of only skim reading it. To her it was obvious that the story was being managed, it was being drip-fed to the paper. She would have been willing to bet that there would be a tiny bit more leaked during the week but that next week’s paper would have another major revelation. The public’s interest was being manipulated and soon they would be begging for more details. Jinnie left the paper on the side and went off to make her breakfast. When she came back with a mug of coffee and a bacon roll, Nigel was reading the article. Carole and Jason were not up yet, they rarely surface before midday on a Sunday, but it wasn’t unusual for Nigel and Jinnie to chat on a Sunday morning over breakfast, especially when Camilla wasn’t staying over.
Nigel asked Jinnie if she had read the article. When she said “yes” Nigel asked if she believed it as he had never heard about it at school or from a relative. Jinnie again said, “Yes she believed it, this article was only the tip of the iceberg, much worse was going to come out.” Nigel said, “How come you have heard about this and I haven’t?” Jinnie explained that she had met someone who had seen it with their own eyes. She didn’t want to have to explain to Nigel how she had been told about the Nazis, but she told him that as far as she was concerned the article was totally true.
Just as Jinnie expected, shortly after her chat with Nigel her phone rang with a ‘Withheld’ number. Jinnie answered, “Good Morning, Prime Minister.” Mr Farage chuckled and said, “Am I that getting to be that obvious?” He wanted her reaction to the Mail’s story. Jinnie explained that she had read it, thought it was a good start and as she knew the whole story was waiting for the next stage to be fed to the paper. The PM said that he had been discussing the next step with the security service and they had decided to make the newspapers work for the story. They would make them think that their investigative reporters were digging out the story rather than being fed it, that way the papers, and subsequently the public, would be more outraged. Jinnie told the PM about Nigel’s scepticism, to which the Prime Minister said, “This is only the very beginning of the campaign. The next step is a planted question at PMQ’s on Wednesday. In my answer I will hint at what has come out being just a fraction of what we believe happened and promise a statement to the House in a few days. That will send them into a feeding frenzy.”
The PM continued, “Oh, I must thank you for suggesting we talk to your old ERA colleagues. I have been watching the rough cuts of Fred’s interview with the BBC, it is fascinating and fills in loads of details to today’s newspaper article. The BBC will be using parts of it on Newsnight tomorrow as a trailer for the full interview expected to go out as a special on Thursday. Get Nigel to watch them and then ask him what he thinks.” The PM said Fred had talked about Ethel and how the disappearance of her husband had led to her becoming a recruiter. I remember her funeral and how the country reacted but it was only part of the story.” The PM then changed the subject, asking if she was still willing to give Larry a new home. Jinnie said of course, she had talked to her housemates about getting a rescue cat and they were happy. She had deliberately pushed getting an older cat and there had been no objections. The PM suggested that she could collect Larry the following weekend and it would only be sensible to also have his cat basket, blanket, litter tray and bowls to help him settle in. Larry had a pet carrier, but he didn’t really like it as he associated it with the vet. “Oh I nearly forgot, as the retired Official Cabinet Office Mouser, Larry is entitled to a £50 a week pension for the rest of his life and free sickness insurance.”
At the conclusion of the call, Jinnie made a mental to-do list. Get a cat flap fitted; get in a stock of Felix pouches; get some cat treats; get a sack of cat litter; clear a spot or two on the kitchen floor for the litter tray, bowls and cat basket; set the new cable TV box to record Newsnight and PMQs (for the first she was working and the second at uni). As she was in the lounge, she had started to set up the recordings when Nigel arrived and asked what she was recording. She explained that she had been tipped off that there were going to be a couple of items on the TV about the article in the MoS and she wanted to see them. As yet the Thursday ‘special’ was not in the schedule. Then an idea struck her.
Jinnie explained to Nigel that she had just been told that an old cat had become available and she was to pick him up from London on Saturday. If Nigel wasn’t busy would he like to come with her? Nigel said that Camilla was coming over for the weekend, but she was an enormous cat lover and had already told him she wanted two rag-dolls when they were married. Could they both come? Jinnie said of course, they could amuse the cat on the return journey.
The Monday morning papers had all picked up on the MoS’s story and had rehashed it but as far as Jinnie could see had added nothing new, nor had the radio stations, although the BBC were trailing ‘an important interview on Newsnight’. That evening when Jinnie and Carole got back from working in the bar, Nigel had gone to bed and Jason was watching a replay of a weekend rugby match on one of the new Sky channels while waiting for Carole. Jinnie made three mugs of tea and asked if Jason minded if she watch an interview she had recorded on Newsnight as she knew the person being interviewed.
Jinnie fast-forwarded until Fred appeared on screen and then backed up a little to catch Emily Maitless’s introduction. Fred was introduced as a veteran of the English Resistance Army who had been born and raised in close proximity to Golders Green and had witnessed the ghetto as a schoolboy. Fred had been videoed in the gardens of the retirement home and looked relaxed sitting in the pale autumn sunshine. It was quite a long segment and Fred came over as knowledgeable and totally believable. He talked of how he had seen the barbed wire go up and the shipments of Jews from all over London being crowded in and the Christians being moved out. He talked of his father no longer being able to supply milk to the area behind the wire, of the bus routes being curtailed and finally of the demolition crews arriving to start the redevelopment of a depopulated area.
Jason and Carole watched mesmerised until at the end Emily Maitless came back on screen to say that they had just seen part of a special programme that was currently being put together to go out at nine on Thursday evening. She added that the BBC had been investigating events and had uncovered many disturbing stories which would be revealed on the special. Jason turned to Jinnie and said, “Did you really know him, did you know that story?” Jinnie said she knew him well from when she had volunteered in the retirement home and that it was him and his colleagues that had been responsible for her joining the Resistance. Jinnie told them that if they thought that story was interesting then they had heard nothing yet. Jason had immediately set about setting up the record function of the cable box for the programme that had miraculously appeared in the Thursday evening schedule.
Near the end of Wednesday’s PMQs, a backbencher asked the PM to comment on the newspaper article and if he had any further information he could impart. Mr Farage told a hushed house that to the best of his knowledge the report had been 100% accurate. That he had both security services and the military working flat out digging in the records they had found and that a lot of information had already been discovered. He said that he believed that under the German occupation many war crimes had been committed and that he hoped to be in a position to make a statement to the house early next week.
The Thursday program had an expanded interview with Fred, but also brought in Jimmy and Bert. They were asked if they knew what had happened to the inhabitants of Golders Green and they said they understood that they had been shipped across the Channel to France and then on to camps. They also explained that a similar thing had happened in Leeds with ships taking people from Hull to Holland and on to camps. The story of Ethel and her husband’s disappearance was brought in with the unspoken implication that he and many other senior officers had been exterminated. The special programme ended with more questions than answers.
The following day the media exploded. Every single paper, TV and radio station was carrying the story and speculating on what had become of the Jews and senior officer. Some claimed they had been imprisoned, some claimed they had been sent to the New Territories as slave labour, while at least one speculated that they had all been shot. If the PM had heard any of the radio phone-ins he would have been delighted at how well the plan was working. Enraged citizens were ringing in from all over the country and the vast majority already believed that unarmed British officers had been executed and that more than likely so were the British Jews. The question being asked was should the Germans be allowed to get away war crimes.
On Saturday morning Nigel and Camilla joined Jinnie on the trip to London. From the conversation, it was clear that they expected to be heading to Battersea Cats and Dogs Home. Jinnie decided not to enlighten them. She took the route she knew, A505, A1(M), A1, M1 and A41. She cut across London and only when she cut across Parliament Square heading west did Nigel say, “I thought we were going to Battersea.” Jinnie said, “No, this is not a rescue cat it’s a retiring working cat.” Camilla wanted to know what breed it was and Jinnie answered, “Ex street Moggie.”
When Jinnie turned into the back of Downing Street and was stopped by an armed policeman, Camilla and Nigel were shocked, but when the police officer addressed her as Miss Walsh and told her the PM was waiting for her just inside the garden gate, they were flabbergasted. Jinnie parked where told to, got out of the car and told the others to come with her. As they approached the gate it swung open and another armed police office greeted them and beckoned them in. The Prime Minister was on a garden lounger in the dappled shade reading the Daily Telegraph and smoking a cigarette. As they neared him he stood up and said, “Good Morning Jinnie, I think everything is ready.” She replied to him with a cheery, “Good morning, Sir,” then she added, “and here comes my friend Larry.”
Larry rubbed himself around Jinnie’s legs and she crouched down and stroked him. The PM said to Jinnie, “I think we know each other well enough for you to call me Nigel when we are not in an official setting.” Looking at Jinnie’s companions the PM said, “I see you have brought Nigel and Camilla,” and then extending his hand to them he said, “I am delighted to meet you both, I have met both of your parents at official occasions and now I have the pleasure of meeting you.” Before they could reply, two assistants came plodding across the grass laden down with a cat basket, litter tray, cat blanket, bowls with ‘Larry’ written on them and two squeaky rubber mice.
Camilla had dropped to her haunches and was tickling Larry under his chin. He was purring madly and didn’t seem to know with whom to spend time, with Jinnie or Camilla, turning to first one and then the other. It was then that the pet carrier arrived and seeing it Larry tensed. Jinnie scooped him up and said to him, “Come on Larry, you’re not going to the vet, you’re coming home with me to live in my house in Cambridge. No more official duties, you can have the run of the house and garden and I have loads of Felix chicken and cat treats for you. You can sleep as much as you want and we will be taking your lovely cat basket and blanket. The carrier is only for you to be safe on the journey.” With that, she put Larry on the grass and without the slightest hesitation he walked straight into the carrier and curled up in it, watching them through a single half-open eye.
In Chapter 22 – Larry’s tale.