Paolo looked at his watch and saw it was twenty past five, time for a quick wash and to get his casual gear on. Jinnie was still asleep and he decided that he should wake her. He gently stroked her cheek and she roused and asked him what the time was. When he told her she said, “I suppose I better get changed and be ready just in case anyone is early. Then rubbing the sleep from her eyes she asked, “Have you fed Larry?” “He’s busy eating Felix Chicken and I’ve mixed in a few cat treats. I’ve also cracked open the door to the spare bedroom so he has somewhere to retreat to if he feels overwhelmed by all the people tonight.” “He thinks it’s Christmas,” said Jinnie.
The first guests arrived at six o’clock on the dot and followed the signs that had been erected directing them to walk around the side of the house to the rear garden where Jinnie and Paolo were waiting for guests, sitting at a round table under a large umbrella. Paolo was sipping a cold beer while Jinnie was enjoying a Pepsi Max with ice and lemon. Jinnie wondered which pub garden the table and umbrella had been borrowed from.
Five minutes later Penny and Daniel Webster arrived, hand in hand with Penny looking radiant. Penny said, “We thought that as the party was in our honour we had better arrive early.” Daniel was dispatched to fetch the pair drinks while Penny thanked Jinnie all over again. Jinnie asked her how the hotel they were staying in tonight was and Penny turned up her nose a said, “OK I guess, typical chain, the menu tonight is of cheeseburger and scampi type but the fried breakfast tomorrow looks good.” Jinnie asked, “Did you find the voucher for the hotel in Southampton for tomorrow night? Penny replied, “Yes, we checked it out on the internet and it looks far superior to tonight’s accommodation.”
Jinnie said, “I should hope so, it has five stars! Did dad tell you that he and mum are going to drive you down tomorrow? I understand he has booked a table in a pub he knows on the way for Sunday lunch. I am quite jealous, Paolo and I will be eating leftovers from tonight’s buffet for weeks. The hotel is only a short taxi ride from the docks. Did you see that as you are in a grill suite you get priority embarkation? I see from the itinerary that you are down to board at 12:30 and you can use the Queens Grill for lunch. I suggest that if you intend to have a big lunch you have a small breakfast!”
Penny sighed and took a sip of her dry white wine, “If I had known I was in for a gourmet experience I would have purchased some elasticated clothes, all Dan told me was it would be warm and I would need to pack swimwear.” Jinnie chuckled and said, “To be fair that’s all I told him, I wanted this to be a surprise.”
The garden was beginning to fill up and people were already wandering around with drinks in hand, sitting at tables eating and forming groups to chat. Paolo asked Jinnie if she was OK and did she want to eat yet. Jinnie said, “I’m OK while I’m sitting here. People can come and talk to me, I have no intention of getting up and working the guests, that’s Penny and Dan’s job, it’s their party. Why don’t you wander off and talk to some of our guests? You can check in on me every so often and when I am hungry I’ll let you know and you get me some food.”
Jinnie sat in the shade under the umbrella and sipped her drink while saying hello to many people she knew and many she didn’t, some of whom seemed to know her. She was hardly surprised how many people she didn’t know as Penny and Daniel had moved in a different circle to her and had invited all their old school and university friends. Of course she knew Penny’s relatives, they were her relatives, but apart from Dan’s immediate family she hardly knew any of them. Penny and Daniel had agreed with Penny that it was only fair on her neighbours that she invite them as once the DJ started at eight the music would be going on until midnight. Jinnie had also invited her fellow Trattoria Trevi directors but knew that only a few were likely to turn up as it was Saturday night and the restaurant was fully booked. The one director she knew was coming was Brian as he only worked one day a week! That meant that he would bring Belinda and she had already spotted Melissa who Penny had badgered to come to the evening party just in case her makeup and hair needed touching up.
Penny’s glass of Pepsi was empty and she had resorted to drinking the water from the melted ice while waiting for Paolo to return, so she was delighted to see her mum and dad coming around the side of the house. They joined her at the table and very quickly Mr Walsh was sent off to the bar. Chatting with her mum while waiting Mrs Walsh said, “You look tired darling.” Jinnie replied, “I am a bit but I had 2 1/2 hours sleep this afternoon, it’s been I very hectic day.” Mr Walsh came back with the drinks and Jinnie enjoyed a long draft. As she put the glass down Belinda and Brian arrived with Andrew and his boyfriend who were wearing matching pink suits.
Once again Brian headed for the bar and as the music started and Andrew and his partner headed for the dance floor. Belinda took the remaining seat at the table and asked how the wedding had gone. Jinnie said it was wonderful and her mother launched into describing the honeymoon gift. Brian came back from the bar with Melissa in tow. They pulled up two chairs from the next table and the six were deep in conversation when Melissa said, “Jinnie, I hope you don’t mind me saying but your make-up is smudged, would you like me to sort it out?” Jinnie said, “Yes please, but is the light here good enough now the sun has dropped behind next door?” “It’s not very good is it,” replied Melissa, “If I get my makeup bag from my car can we use your dressing table, I’m sure the lighting is better there. Besides I can use the en-suite, I don’t fancy those mobile loos.”
Jinnie was sat in front of the mirror, while Melissa worked on her when Melissa suddenly pointed out onto the green and asked, “What’s going on out there?” Jinnie could see quite a lot of men who appeared to be laying out lights. As they watched a cross of lights on the ground were illuminated and a helicopter clattered into view and dropped onto the cross. Jinnie said to Melissa, “There’s only one person I know who arrives uninvited like that, the Prime Minister.” Melissa stood open-mouthed, “You know the Prime Minister?” “Oh yes,” said Jinnie, “and so does Penny.”
As they watched, several armed soldiers jumped from the helicopter most took up defence positions but one saluted the PM as he emerged. Jinnie thought ‘he looks familiar’ and said to Melissa, “Quick, we have to get downstairs, he’s coming here.” The two hurried, as fast as Jinnie could manage, down the stairs and out of the kitchen door arriving just ahead of the PM who offered her his hand and said, “Good evening Jinnie I know you don’t mind me dropping in unexpectedly but you know I love a good party. Oh, I guess you are Melissa, I heard you were here.” Then turning to his escort he said, “and I’ve brought young Steven with me, I know I don’t have to introduce him.” The sergeant hugged Jinnie and said, “Gosh you’re getting big, I can hardly get my arms round you.” Several people had gathered around and wanting to shake hands with the PM, who was most obliging, until Jinnie said, “We must take you to the newlyweds, this is their party. They were last seen on the dance floor but you’ll be pleased to know that to get there we have to go past the bar.” “Now that sounds like a plan,” said Nigel.
Beer in hand, Nigel approached the dance floor. The guests parted like the Red Sea to form a passageway. Jinnie waddled next to him with Steven and Melissa just behind chatting like they had known each other for years. As the party approached the dance floor the DJ saw who was coming and killed the music in mid-tune. Penny and Daniel stopped in mid-move and looked at the DJ who simply pointed behind them. Turning, Penny was the first to react saying, “Hello Prime Minister, this is a pleasant surprise. Can I introduce my husband Daniel?” The PM replied, “In a non-formal setting, please call me Nigel, your sister does. I hope you forgive me for gate crashing your party but I couldn’t attend one sister’s wedding and not the other and I did tell you I would see you soon. Oh, I have brought an old friend with me.” With which he stood to one side, revealing Steven, who stepped forward, hugged her and kissed her on the forehead and said “Congratulations.”
Penny said to Steven, “What are you doing here, I thought you were on duty overseas.” He replied, “I am back for a few day’s discussions with the military planners.” Leaning forward he whispered in her ear, “It seems that your report has gone down well with the generals and we are going to get everything I asked for and maybe a bit more.” “Great,” replied Penny.
It only took a few minutes before the DJ restarted the music and the dancing restarted. The PM wandered off for some food accompanied by a couple of bodyguards. Jinnie guessed they were supplied by Special Branch, who were doing their best to worm their way back into the PM’s favour after a recent very public culling of their senior management. Jinnie rejoined her parents, Brian and Belinda and told them that Melissa had dragged Steven onto the dance floor with Penny and Daniel. Belinda said, “She always was a sucker for a man in uniform.” Jinnie leapt to Steven’s defence saying, “Steven is one of the nicest men I have ever met and an absolute gentleman.”
A few minutes later Jinnie spotted the PM emerge from the bar and buffet marquee carrying a plate of food and a glass of beer. Seeing him looking around Jinnie beckoned him over so that he could have a seat while eating. Jinnie said, “PM, you have met parents before, but do you know Belinda and Brian?” Nigel answered, “I have met Belinda, when she quoted for the refurbishment of the party head offices, but I’m pleased to meet you colonel, I have heard a lot about your exploits in the Paras and as an equerry to the late King. Now I hear you are working with Jinnie at Vauxhall Cross and the restaurant business, you are a busy man for someone who is retired.” Brian chuckled, “I have to go to work so that I can avoid being the unpaid gardener, children playground builder and general dogsbody.”
The PM lent towards Belinda and said, “I think I might be seeing a lot more of you in the next few months. I understand that the party chairman has recommended we accept your tender for the refurbishment. In addition I hear your company is on the list for the Home Office refurbishment and that is an enormous project. It looks like you will be looking to expand your own offices again if you land that lot. I see your daughter seems to have hit it off with young Steven. Can I tell you that he is extremely bright and an excellent soldier, and although he doesn’t know it yet, at the end of his current posting he is being fast-tracked to an officer training course.” Brian asked, “I see he has no unit markings on his uniform so I assume he is SAS or something similar, would he be looking at a commission with them or back with his parent regiment?” “I really don’t know,” replied Nigel, “but I believe his base unit was 40 Commando and they would love to have him back in the unlikely event that his current employer can’t use him.”
Nigel turned to Jinnie and said, “This grub is excellent, you know I love traditional British fare. I might just have a refill.” Jinnie said, “I don’t know how long you intend to stay PM, but at 11:30 there will be hot dogs and burgers both with fried onions, pizza, and cones of chips. Oh, and an ice cream van will be here for dessert.” “Wow,” said the PM, “I think I might just hang around for a big greasy burger, chips and a 99. It’s years since I was able to enjoy that sort of food.”
After the late-night food, people took it as a suggestion that the party was finishing and people began drifting away. Just after midnight Steven and Melissa arrived hand in hand. Nigel smiled and said, “Right young Steven, it’s time we left, can you pop out front and warn the guys I will be out in a few minutes so they can start the engines up and get the lights on.” While Steven was missing Melissa said, “Oh mum, he is nice and a real gentleman.” Brian said, “He comes highly recommended.” “I understand he is going overseas for a few months,” said Melissa, “I guess it will give me a chance to work out if I really like him.”
Steven shook hands with everyone but pulled Melissa to him and gave her a huge kiss. As he left with the PM he turned and said to Melissa, “I’ll ring you as soon as I get back.” Mellisa called after him, “But I haven’t given you my number yet.” To which Steven replied, “Oh don’t worry about that, I can easily sort that out.” With that he and the PM waved and climbed aboard the helicopter.
In Chapter 24 – America.
© WorthingGooner 2022