Jinnie worried about what to say to her assembled department and had a short discussion with Greta and Carol. In the end, the consensus was not to make a speech, but to say a few off-the-cuff words introducing herself and the new reporting structure. Then to say that they were looking at re-organising the department and one way or another it was going to be refurbished and to add, as far as she understood it, all the jobs in her directorate were safe. Finally, she was to ask for questions.
As usual, Jinnie took her lunch with Emma in the canteen and paid for her egg salad sandwich and coffee with her personal credit card. The girl on the till said, “Ma’am, I’m sure you know that you could put that on your expense account, or get it for nothing in the director’s dining room.” Jinnie smiled and thanked her, adding she preferred to grab a snack with her friends and get back to work quickly. Emma had a message from David, he had checked out Belinda and Brian and was satisfied that they and a large number of their workers had been vetted by Special Branch and if she wanted to invite her in to give a quotation that was OK provided they were willing to sign the Official Secrets Act.
Before her departmental briefing, Jinnie rang Belinda’s mobile. She caught her in the office and told her she had just been promoted, her new office badly needed urgent refurbishment, in fact, the whole department needed a spruce up and she needed an office built for her personal assistants. Belinda listened in silence and then said, “You realise we are very busy at the moment with a big job at the Italian Embassy?” Jinnie replied, “Yes, but I have a lot of influence there and if you were to pull some people off for my job I can square that with the Italians. Can we meet first thing Monday morning for a look at the site?” Jinnie heard the clatter of a keyboard and Belinda eventually replied, “I can rearrange a couple of things. I have a 10 o’clock walk round the embassy site with Melissa, Andrew and Peter which I can put back an hour or so. Where are we meeting?”
Jinnie suddenly realised that Belinda had no idea where she worked or what she did. So she said, “Well I am in central London, so if you can get to me for 08:30 I’m pretty sure you can get to your 10 o’clock on time and I was going to ask you to bring Melissa, Andrew and Peter.” “That sounds good,” said Belinda, “Can I take down the address?” Jinnie said, “I’ll meet you in reception at the Secret Intelligence Service building at Vauxhall Cross, oh, and I will have to ask you all to sign the Official Secrets Act.” Belinda was silent for a moment and said, “I thought you were a senior civil servant, knowing the PM, but I never guessed you were a spy!”
Jinnie and her assistants walked into the department a minute before 3. Greta pointed out the new sign on the door that said ‘Mission Planning – Director Mrs J De Luca’ saying, “That was quick”. Jinnie introduced herself to the department, telling them that her door was always open to anyone with a problem. Then she introduced Greta and Carol explaining they were her personal assistants and permanent members of the ‘Sensitive Missions Group’ who would report directly to her. She then asked Alan to unveil the new reporting structure. He had a large flip chart which he turned over to display the structure they had agreed. He had shown a number of teams reporting to him numbered 1 to n. Jinnie pointed out that the main change was that all the teams would report to Alan for their day-to-day management. She then explained that due to the maintenance crew being fully occupied in the HR department the refurbishment of her office had been delayed so she would continue to use her old office in the meantime, but she was working on a plan to speed things up and if anyone was in early on Monday they might see her showing some strangers around the offices. Finally, she asked for questions. One of the team leaders wanted to know if they were staying in place. Jinnie said, “Yes, unless I need to move people around.” Then she was asked if the refurbishment included new furniture as theirs was old and tatty. Jinnie’s answer was, “I don’t know if we have the budget but I promise you I will do my very best with what money there is.” The final question was, will you still be undertaking missions? Jinnie replied, “The PM tells me I’m retired unless it is something very special.”
The meeting with IT went well. The database specialist pointed out that HR had a database that covered every employee and although it contained a lot of personal information, fields that Jinnie wouldn’t want or need to see, it could easily be adapted to include the additional necessary fields. The specialist pointed out that there was already a field for language skills but it was somewhat limited as it only allowed for one foreign language. Jinnie chuckled and wondered out loud if it said she was fluent in German, French or Italian. The specialist said, “My point exactly”. Then the director pointed out that there were all sorts of people in the organisation whose skills might prove useful to other departments. He added that he had just done his firearms refresher and discovered, much to his surprise, that the instructor spoke fluent German. Again, Jinnie chuckled and said, “That’s because Willie is German.” The IT directors said it was a very viable project, and adding fields to a database was simple and cheap, as was developing search routines that restricted searches to particular field. The difficult bit might be populating the fields, but if Jinnie was going to propose this to ‘C’ he was willing to be there and support her.
Emma’s Birthday fell on a Saturday and Jinnie had booked a table for four in the Trattoria Trevi. The staff were aware that it was Emma’s celebration and Alberto had put a bottle of one of their better Champagnes aside in an ice bucket to chill. So that everyone could have a drink, Jinnie had ordered a taxi for 7:45, the table was reserved for 8:00. Emma and Freddie arrived in plenty of time for the taxi and while they waited for Jinnie and Paolo, Emma stroked Larry and whispered to him. Larry rather liked Emma and when he learnt that they were all going out for a meal he tried sending her mental messages to order chicken and to big him a ‘catty bag’.
The taxi dropped them at the restaurant entrance and as Paolo paid and tipped the driver he told them he had only heard good things about the restaurant and said, “Enjoy your meal”.
The receptionist now knew Jinnie very well and welcomed her tell them their table was ready but if they wanted a drink at the bar first that wouldn’t be a problem. Jinnie said to Emma, “It’s your birthday, you choose.” Emma replied, “Let’s have a drink at the table, I really want to see the dining room and who’s in.”
Alberto led them to the table, got them seated and made a fuss of shaking out the intricately folded crisp white serviettes and placing them in their laps. Another waiter, one of the new staff who Jinnie didn’t know, arrived with the menus in leather folders embossed with the Trattoria Trevi logo in gold and the wine waiter poured them all a glass of chilled Champagne. Emma looked at Jinnie and said, “I could get used to this.”
The waiters left them alone to select starters and mains, and Emma started to look around the room. A few people looked familiar, but she could only put a name to Emily Maitlis who was eating with her partner and an Arsenal footballer who had recently broken into the England team. He was with a girl displaying a huge engagement ring and was sitting at a table for four sipping water, obviously waiting for another couple. Jinnie pointed out a minor Government Minister, who was a Hertfordshire MP, and was dining with his wife and a singer who had a recent number one. As the four placed their orders, another couple joined the footballer and his fiancée. Paolo recognised another young Arsenal and England footballer and pointed out that many Arsenal players lived in the area as their training ground was local.
While they waited for their starters Emily Maitlis passed by their table on her way to the ladies and stared hard at Jinnie who was being treated like royalty by the staff and Alberto was chatting to them. On her way back to her table Maitlis stopped and said to Jinnie, “I am sure I should know you but I’m sorry I can’t place you.” Jinnie smiled and said, “You interviewed my sister and me on Newsnight when we were put up by the SIS as people who had been involved in the invasion of France.” Emily said, “Now I remember, I sorry I gave you a hard time initially, I just didn’t expect agents to look like you and your sister. Can I buy you a drink to say sorry? They have a wonderful selection here.” Jinnie chuckled and said, “I know, I am one of the owners.” Maitlis looked shocked and spluttered, “That explains the staff falling all over you,” and headed back to her table. Jinnie called over Alberto and asked him to deliver a bottle of Champagne to Emily’s table.
The starters were cleared away and steak knives brought for Paolo and Freddie who had both chosen the fillet steak. Jinnie remember Alberto saying it was one of the most popular dishes on the menu, a look around the room quickly endorsed that. Jinnie had gone for fish, halibut was on the menu and for her that was too good to miss, while Emma had chosen a veal escalope. Emma and Freddie admitted they had no knowledge of Italian wine and had asked Paolo to choose. He asked Freddie if he would mind a white wine with his steak instead of the traditional red as white went better with the girls meals and after all it was Emma’s birthday. He perused the wine list and selected a bottle of Gravner Amphora Pinot Grigio Friuli Venezia Giulil GP Italy, 2007, which he said was an excellent wine and was often served by the Ambassador at embassy dinners. He said it was a snip at £110 a bottle and the wine waiter nodded knowingly.
The mains were perfect, the wine crisp and dry, and the selection of vegetables delicious. Emma kept looking around at the famous guests, the beautiful dining room and her empty plate and said to Jinnie, “This is a wonderful evening, we could never have afforded it.” Jinnie replied, “But that is what friendship is all about.” Dessert menus appeared, choices made and consumed. Coffee was served and Jinnie thought, ‘Not bad but this is not as good as David’s Blue Mountain. I must have a word at the next board meeting’. Paolo and Freddie both had a brandy with their coffee and they all sat back and chatted. When it came time to leave, Alberto said there was a bit of a crowd on the pavement outside the entrance, word had got out that the two footballers were there. Jinnie called a cab and asked for it to pick them up from the staff car park at the rear of the restaurant. She could do without the publicity.
On Sunday morning Jinnie felt a bit sick. She wondered if last night’s fish had been a bit off, but it had smelt and tasted OK. By mid-morning she had forgotten it and happily drove over to her parents where she consumed roast shoulder of lamb for lunch while entertaining them with tales of last night’s meal.
On Monday morning Jinnie was up early as she had to get to work early to meet Belinda and her team. On the train she felt a little queasy but put it down to the train’s rattling and rolling. Once in the office, she put the filter coffee machine on so that she could offer Belinda, Melissa, Andrew and Peter a fresh cup, but the aroma made her retch and she had to rush to the ladies. By the time she pulled herself together she realised it was very nearly 08:30 and she rushed down to reception to find the refurbishment team waiting for her. She apologised for keeping them waiting and explained that she felt a little sick. Melissa laughed and joked, “Morning sickness!”, to which Jinnie replied, “I don’t think so, I’ve been taking the pill for years.”
After signing the Act, the team were issued with visitor, must be accompanied at all time, badges and Jinnie took them to her new office. Jinnie saw Melissa nudging Andrew and pointing out the sign on the door. Belinda asked what was wanted, and Jinnie said, “Redecorating, a feature wall, new modern practical furniture, new carpets and blinds.” Belinda used a laser measure to establish the size of the office and called out the measurements to Melissa who added them to a sketch. Andrew suggested the feature wall could be a vinyl picture, maybe a cityscape or a country view. Jinnie liked that and said, “How about Nice beach, it has memories.” Then they worked out where the new partitions were to go for the SMG office, again Jinnie asked for new furniture, carpets and blinds. Belinda asked what sort of partitions were required, cheap and nasty, solid, glazed, double glazed, soundproof? She explained that it would be difficult to achieve a high level of soundproofing as the office block had a raised floor and a suspended ceiling which would always allow some sound to leak out. In the end they settled for double plasterboard walls with insulation in the cavity, with several full height double glazed panels with internal blinds and solid timber doors in timber frames.
Jinnie asked for extra prices to redecorate, re-carpet and to supply and install new furniture and blinds in the general office and Alan’s office, although, she explained, she didn’t know if a budget existed for the main office. Belinda asked about electrics and data and Jinnie explained that that had to be handled internally for security reasons. Peter asked about access to the site, would his people need to be ‘accompanied’ and could they use the loos. Jinnie had checked this before and they would be issued with ‘temporary worker’ passes which would allow them access via the service lifts to the floor they were working on including the toilets on that floor. There could also use the staff canteen, which was located on the ground floor. This was a security feature, anyone looking in a window would only see people eating.
Over coffee, Belinda said she had put off the embassy meeting until tomorrow and they were all going straight back to the office to work up a scheme and costs. Could she drop a quote in tomorrow morning when she was back in town? Jinnie said, “Of course, just leave with a receptionist and mark it for my attention”. Then she asked, “If it’s acceptable when could you start and how long would it take? Belinda thought for a moment and said, “Well, if you can swing it with the Italian Embassy I could have a crew here on Thursday and there is not really a lot to do, my preliminary guess is no more than 8 working days. I can give you the name of everyone I propose using with the bid if that would help.” Jinnie replied, “Yes, It would help, I doubt you know it but many of your team have already been vetted.”
After Belinda had gone, Jinnie remembered Melissa joking about morning sickness. She felt perfectly OK now but decided to pop out to a chemist at lunchtime and get a pregnancy test kit, just to be on the safe side. The more Jinnie thought about it the more she thought she just could be pregnant, about a month ago she had forgotten to pick up her prescription from the chemist, it had been in the middle of moving in and sorting out the housewarming party and she had taken the left over French pills the Wrens had supplied. She wondered if they had not been the equivalent of her British pills as she had been assured.
Boots wasn’t busy and Jinnie quickly got the test and hurried back to the office, anxious to carry out the test. She was only half surprised when it indicated positive, but equally she was delighted (she dearly wanted a baby) and bothered, she had only just been promoted to director. Back in her office she closed the doors and rang her doctor’s surgery for an appointment. The doctor’s receptionist asked what the appointment was for and Jinnie explained she had just had a positive pregnancy test. Reluctantly the receptionist said, “Well, I suppose you better see the doctor then, can you make the first appointment tomorrow morning 8 o’clock?” Jinnie said “Yes” and then wondered if she should tell Paolo yet.
In Chapter 8 – Work, refurbishment and babies.
© WorthingGooner 2022