Jinnie and Paolo both took a week off work to settle into the new house. She and Paolo moved into one of the en-suite bedrooms and decided that the second could be a guest room. As for the two bedrooms that shared the Jack and Jill bathroom, Jinnie declared they were eventually to be for their children. Paolo said OK, but give me plenty of warning as I need to decorate one as a nursery and I am very slow at DIY.
Jinnie and Paolo joined Emma and her partner Freddie on the daily commute into London from Hadley Wood station. The station was on the same line into London as Potters Bar but was only served by stopping trains that turned off the main line just after Finsbury Park and then ran underground to Moorgate. Because the train stopped several times on the run to Finsbury Park the journey took them a few minutes longer to reach Finsbury Park, but the trains were much more frequent during the rush hour.
The two girls spent much of the first few weeks of commuting discussing the housewarming party, should it be drinks only, or drinks and food? Should it be a bring-a-bottle party, would ‘C’ and the PM accept invitations if they were asked to bring a bottle? Would the Italian Ambassador and First Secretary accept invitations? The discussions seemed endless to Paolo and Freddie who just wanted to know if there would be draught beer on offer.
Jinnie felt she had to invite her fellow owners of the Trattoria Trevi, but as the party was planned for the afternoon and evening of the last Saturday in August she doubted many would be able to accept as Saturday was normally the busiest day of the week for the restaurant. However, she was delighted when Alberto rang her and said that the staff had discussed the party and agreed that it was only correct for the restaurant to be represented and that he had been nominated to attend but he would have to leave in the middle of the evening as the restaurant was booked solid that evening.
Alberto then asked if they had selected a caterer. Jinnie laughed and she told him that, it was to be a simple affair and that she together with her mum, Penny and Emma, would be making, sandwiches, rolls, cakes and things. Alberto said, “But the PM and the Italian Ambassador are coming, I am sure the restaurant can produce you a great buffet of salads and cold meats, trays of canapés, mini desserts, in fact anything appropriate for such important guests.” So that was agreed and Alberto even offered to set up a ‘help yourself’ bar with plenty of draught beer to suit Paolo, Freddie and the PM.
Ever practical, Jinnie’s father pointed out that being England, good weather was impossible to guarantee in August and the house would be packed if everyone had to stay indoors. He suggested he contact the people who supplied the marquee for Jinnie’s wedding and so a massive one at least four times larger than the one that graced the garden in Potters Bar was erected in the new garden and linked by a covered walkway to the house. It was complete with electric light and power for drink chillers powered by generators. Numerous trestle tables were placed in the tent and covered by table cloths. Then came the fold-up chairs. Larry observed these preparations from an upstairs window from where he could view the whole garden. When the workers withdrew, Larry wandered around the massive tent and admired the structure and preparations, but thought it an awful fuss for a party.
On the morning of the party, more people from the Trattoria Trevi arrived with food and drink. Trays covered in foil were placed on the tables and Larry was dazzled by the lovely smells. He recognised meat, fish, eggs and in particular one tray smelt of chicken. He made his mind up that he was going to position himself below that table and see what he could scrounge. He was delighted when, just before midday, Mr and Mrs Walsh arrived with Penny and her fiancée Daniel. Then Emma and Freddie appeared and were all put to work on the last-minute preparations. They brought several large homemade cakes to supplement the gateauxs and other desserts from the Trattoria Trevi. Larry looked at the groaning tables and wondered just how many people were coming.
Jinnie was beginning to panic that just about everyone who had been invited had accepted and although she wanted to display her new home to her friends and colleagues she was getting nervous. This was especially so when a security team arrived and checked the area. She had seen this prior to Nigel Farage arriving at the restaurant so she realised it was nothing unusual but she saw armed officers patrolling the golf course and the common and hoped the neighbours wouldn’t complain. Most of them had been invited anyway.
The invitations had said from “15:00 hrs till late” and the first guests started arriving shortly after 3. Most of these were people with young children who would not be staying late. Fortunately, it was a warm dry day and the garden was fairly busy. Jinnie had temporarily moved Larry’s stuff out of the Wendy house so that the kids could enjoy it together with the swings, slide and sandpit. For several hours the garden rang with the happy sound of children playing and Emma, Penny and Mrs Walsh were busy supplying the parents with cups of tea and cake. Freddie, Mr Walsh and Daniel took over the bar and were pulling pints of draught beer for those fathers that didn’t want tea. Jinnie and Paolo were mingling with their guests and conducting occasional tours of the house for their guests.
Around six in the evening, the families started drifting away and the party properly started getting underway. It was around six-thirty when Dirk and Big Willie turned up. They pointed out that a number of reporters and photographers were hanging about on the common and the police had been checking on people entering the road. They appeared to have obtained a list of guests from somewhere. Jinnie had a think and realised she had used her office computer to compile the guest list during her lunch hour.
Jinnie and Paolo continued to circulate among their guests and when the music started they were happy they had invited the new neighbours who all seemed to have turned up. Jinnie guessed some were just being friendly, but others wanted to be nosey and see the house. She also wondered if word had somehow got out that the PM was coming and they wanted to see him.
Larry was happy under the table with the chicken on it. He had successfully avoided most of the little children who wanted to haul him around and had already been snacking on several bits that had been dropped. He was going to stay where he was as the forest of legs was becoming denser and he was only small, he didn’t want to be trodden on.
Jinnie heard the clatter of a helicopter flying very low and when it landed on the common she realised that it was the PM arriving. Jinnie and Paolo watched as six couples got out of the helicopter and strolled across the common towards the house, The Italian Ambassador and his wife, the Italian First Secretary and his wife, the PM and someone Jinnie recognised as his ex-wife Kirsten. The PM stopped and spoke to the reporters and, while they were distracted, Jinnie watched ‘C’ slip out of the plane and stroll casually across the common and in through the front door completely unobserved by the press. Jinnie quickly greeted him and introduced him to Paolo. ‘C’ had a huge grin and said he hoped they didn’t mind the little deception. The PM was telling the press how he was attending the housewarming of one of the co-owners of his favourite restaurant and as the owner’s husband was an Italian the Ambassador was joining them. He carefully avoided any mention of Jinnie’s involvement in the security service. He also said that his ex-wife was accompanying him as she knew the owner of the house and no, they were not getting back together but were just friends.
With that, they left the media scrum and headed for the party. It wasn’t long before Nigel had a pint of Hooky in his hand and was laughing and joking with all and sundry. Kirsten however saught out Jinnie to thank her for releasing her from the clutches of the Gestapo. She explained that she spent a long time in hospital recovering from her experience and had until recently still been suffering psychological problems. The doctors had finally got the balance of talking therapy and drugs right and she was now anxious to meet the person who had planned and executed her rescue from almost certain death as she had been in no fit state to thank her before.
Jinnie explained to Kirsten that although she had been in charge of the operation to free her, many other people had been involved in its planning and execution. In fact, several of them were at the party tonight. Kirsten smiled and said, “I knew something was being fixed up by Nigel when he suggested I come with him tonight. Although we have remained friendly after our divorce we have never gone anywhere together, but when he said I would be able to thank you in person, I agreed. I just didn’t realise that I would be meeting other members of the team.” Jinnie introduced Kirsten to Carole and Gretel, then Emma and Dirk all of whom she explained had been involved in the planning and finally to Willie who she explained had himself recently escaped from Germany, but had taken part in the operation and was the man responsible for actually stopping the train.
Jinnie left Dirk, Willie and Kirsten happily chatting in German and went to find her husband as she wanted him to meet her old housemates and their partners as it was the first time that they had all been together since their wedding. He had been showing the First Secretary and his wife around the house and had just reached the two bedrooms with the Jack and Jill bathroom. The First Secretary’s wife commented that they would make ideal children’s rooms and Paolo said that one day that was their intention. While they were chatting Jinnie heard a disturbance downstairs and before she could go and investigate the PM appeared at her side and said, “I took the liberty of inviting a few other people to the party and organising the travel, I hope you don’t mind.” Before she had the opportunity to speak Jinnie was nearly flattened by Juliette rushing up and throwing herself at her and shouting in excellent English, “Hello Auntie Jinnie, are we late? The plane had a problem and we were stuck at the airport.”
Jinnie was hugging the little girl and kissing her on the top of her blond hair when her parents arrived. Simone and Jan rushed in the door and told their little one that she really shouldn’t run off like that, but they couldn’t be angry when they saw the joy on the faces of Jinnie and Juliette. Very quickly all four were hugging and kissing while the PM stood back smirking and Paolo stood on the edge of the crowd of the scrum slightly embarrassed.
Out in the garden, the party was in full swing. Drinks were being consumed, the volume of the music was edging upwards, dancing had started and the coloured lights illuminating the tent and garden had been switched on. When Paolo and Jinnie emerged through the patio doors followed by Jan, Simone, Juliette and the PM they paused for a moment and surveyed the scene. All around them groups of friends and colleagues were standing and sitting, drinking, eating and chatting. Jinnie hugged Paolo this was the party she had dreamed about. She could see Nigel and Camilla chatting to ‘C’ and wondered if they knew who they were talking to. Over near the bar, the Italian First Secretary was in deep conversation with Alberto, Belinda and Melissa, as she watched they all shook hands and the group broke up with Alberto and Belinda heading towards her and Melissa heading to the bar where Freddie was doing his best to make her a cocktail.
Alberto arrived with an ear-to-ear grin and Belinda was smiling widely. Alberto explained that the First Secretary had just agreed the outline of a small loan from the Italian Embassy that would allow them to complete the refurbishment of the Trattoria Trevi and, all things being equal, Belinda’s company would once again carry out the work. Alberto said of course this would all be subject to board approval and a suitable quote from Belinda. Alberto was also quick to explain that business was currently so good that the company should be in a position to pay Jinnie back at least 25% of her director’s loan when the half-yearly accounts were approved in a couple of months’ time. Jinnie suddenly realised that this repayment would allow her and Paolo to pay off the embassy loan on the house.
Jinnie asked Belinda how business was and she replied, “Booming. The free publicity I got from the work at the restaurant has brought me several big contracts and I have had to take on additional full-time staff.” She continued “In fact, I have just agreed to give the Embassy a quote for some work.” Alberto then said, “Belinda is being modest, this will be a multi-million pound contract. The Embassy is looking to expand its commercial section into the building next door. Just as when she quoted us for the restaurant, an architect has already done the basic design and the quotations from two of the biggest London refurbishment companies were ridiculously high. I was telling the First Secretary that was just the problem we had when I spied Belinda and Melissa on the other side of the tent and dragged her over.”
Alberto then said, “I am absolutely certain that Belinda will be able to come in as the underbidder and get the order, so we have struck an agreement that she will make our little project a priority and will send Peter to manage the site once again”. Belinda replied, “It’s the least I can do for a customer whose job has brought me so much business and always finds me a table when I want to impress a new client.” She then changed the subject and said she and her husband, Brian, had enjoyed strolling around the garden before it started getting dark. “Do you know you have inherited some rare and unusual plants? Whoever set out and maintained the garden really knew their stuff.”
Jinnie looked at Belinda in amazement, she replied, “I had no idea, the people we purchased from didn’t mention anything other than they didn’t maintain the garden themselves, but paid a gardener to come in to look after everything. My dad is a bit of a gardener but he is really into his fruit and vegetables and did say that the greenhouse was full of vegetable seedlings and was as neat and tidy a greenhouse as he had ever seen.” While they had been talking they had been joined by Brian and Melissa.
Brian said, “Is Belinda on her second favourite subject, gardening? If she isn’t talking work it is the garden, closely followed by the grandchildren and football.” Belinda laughed and said, “Well you have made our garden beautiful and the grandchildren adore it. In fact, you have been worrying about getting it at its best for the autumn open day.” Jinnie was amazed, “You open your garden to the public?” She asked. Belinda replied, “Yes, once or twice a year we open the garden to the public and charge an entry fee for charity. We try to add to the money by selling tea, coffee and homemade cake. In fact, the neighbours all join in baking the cakes and manning the refreshments stall. Last open day we raised several thousand pounds for a charity set up in memory of a little boy in our youngest granddaughter’s class who died from a childhood cancer.”
“Wow,” said Jinnie, “I would love to do something like that, but I wouldn’t know where to start. How do you advertise the events?” Brian explained, “The people who had the house before us had it registered with the ‘National Garden Scheme’ and we just carried on. Our next open day is on Sunday, three weeks tomorrow. Why don’t you come and see what it takes, you can also meet the grandchildren and maybe our peacocks will be allowed out by then.” Jinnie was stunned, “You have peacocks?” She asked. “Well, only two at the moment, but they are not allowed out of their enclosure yet, as they tend to wander if they have not become accustomed to their new home.”
Jinnie said, “I’d love to come, please give me the address, date and time and Paolo and I will be there, I might even get mum and dad to come along.” As Belinda wrote the details on a paper napkin Jinnie became aware that Brian was looking quizzically over her shoulder. “Is that Dirk Scholz over there chatting to the PM?” He asked. Jinnie turned and confirmed, it was Dirk, “Do you know him?” She asked. Brian said, “Years ago, before I was pensioned off following my accident, I served with him in the Paras. He really must have done well for himself if he knows the PM.” Jinnie chuckled and said, “Come with me and I will introduce you. Dirk was my German professor at Cambridge.”
Before they knew what was happening Belinda and Brian were chatting to the PM and Dirk, while Jinnie went off to find Paolo and tell him he was going to visit Belinda’s garden in three weeks time. After talking for 5 minutes Nigel told the two ex-Paras that he had to go as he wanted to make a short thank you speech to the partygoers before he slipped away for a couple of important phone calls that he had to make from Number 10.
As the PM walked into the marquee he was suddenly aware that he wasn’t alone. Looking down he released that walking alongside him was Larry the Cat. Nigel stopped and bent down to stroke him. Larry purred like mad and the PM spoke to him saying he had been looking for him to say hello. He told Larry that he missed him and that while his replacement was a good mouser he was a solitary cat who didn’t seem to like anyone. He said to Larry that he was looking fit and well and that lots of people regularly asked after him, especially the girl who used to give him cat treats. Larry meowed a few times and rubbed himself around the PM’s legs.
Nigel was still hunched down talking to Larry when Jinnie and Paolo arrived. Jinnie scooped up Larry and he was purring loudly. Jinnie said to Nigel, “Look how he remembers you, he always meows when he sees you on the TV. I think he is happy here in his retirement and wouldn’t want to go back to his old life.” As if to agree, Larry rubbed his head into Jinnie’s cheek and they all laughed. Nigel explained to the De Lucas that he had to leave shortly as he had some important international calls to make but before he left he would like to say a few words of thanks for everything.
Jinnie was standing with Paolo, still nursing a content and purring Larry, when the DJ cut the music and announced that the PM would be leaving shortly, but before he went he wanted to say a few words of thanks to the hosts. Nigel took the microphone and apologised that he had to leave the party early, but matters of state called. He then thanked everyone from the hosts, to the neighbours for their tolerance, the people who had baked the delicious homemade cakes and the Trattoria Trevi, his favourite restaurant, for supplying the food. Finally, he said, “Now I can let you all into a little secret that my people have discovered. It will be common knowledge tomorrow so I’m not really breaking any embargo, but I am delighted to be able to tell you that Jinnie’s restaurant, the Trattoria Trevi, has been awarded a Michelin Star and not even Jinnie or Alberto know this.” The partygoers erupted into cheers, Jinnie burst into tears of joy and Larry meowed loudly.
As he slipped away, Mr Farage whispered in Jinnie’s ear that, depending on the results of tonight’s phone calls, her skills may soon be needed once again.
In Chapter 3 – Autumn ideas.
© WorthingGooner 2022