When the BA cabin manager approached Penny on the flight from Venice to Heathrow she knew what to expect, but she let him tell her that she was to be deplaned first and an official would be there to meet her at the aircraft door. Penny thanked him and went back to her complementary Bacardi and Coke, contemplating what an ugly word ‘deplane’ was and why didn’t passengers ‘disembark’ any longer. As she expected an anonymous man in a dark grey suit met her at the door of the airbridge and led her down the emergency stairs to a brand new dark blue Range Rover. Penny asked, “What happened to the Jaguar?” asked Penny. “The Government Car Service goes out to tender for new cars every year. This was this year’s winner,” said Grey Suit. Jinnie sat back in the leather seat and luxuriated in the sumptuous ride, wondering just how much that policy cost the taxpayer.
The car dropped her in Downing Street and as she walked up to the front door she was delighted that she was being totally ignored by the press pack hovering on the other side of the road. As Jinnie had discovered several years before, any young pretty girl was not considered likely to be important enough to waste time taking pictures of. As she neared the black front door it opened and the police officer standing just inside said, “Welcome back miss, this lady will take you straight up to the PM’s office, he is waiting for you.”
In the PM’s office he and ‘C’ were sat in the leather armchairs, drinking mugs of coffee, both jumped to their feet as Penny entered. Once seated with a mug of coffee of her own Penny was asked for a verbal report on what she had seen in Trieste. Carefully she explained how Steven had gone about his plan, how he had scoped out the naval yard and the airport and realised that the cell was basically a spy cell and to assist the invasion forces he needed to recruit a lot more young fit fighters.
Once he had recruited enough fighters, he then had to work out his plan of attack. As he had a reasonable number of fighters and his plan was basically to destroy the naval base and all the Nazi ships within it, while simultaneously destroying a squadron of attack helicopters, a squadron of transport helicopters and half a squadron of Messerschmitt fighter jets at the airport and grabbing the civilian port for allied landings. The PM chuckled and said, “Even to me that sounds a spot ambitious. How the hell does he plan to do all that?”
Penny said, “Well, at first that’s what I thought but he has recruited around 270 people extra to Maja and I have been watching them train for the past few days and listening to Steven and Maja’s plans. The more I heard, the more convinced I became that with good timing and inter-service cooperation it should be possible.” She continued, “Firstly the Dockyard, Maja has around 90 people in her cell. Although most of them are basically spies reporting what is happening in the naval dockyard, the port and the airport on a daily basis to Maja and hence to the Italians, quite a few are willing to take action. Steven’s idea is to make use of dockyard workers to place radio location transmitters on every ship in the dockyard. He says this would enable them all to be taken out by allied aircraft launching air to ship stand-off missiles from a safe distance out over Adriatic.”
“Please continue,” said ‘C’ who Penny saw was making notes. Penny went on saying, “Steven recognises there are a few problems, in that there are two hardened submarine, pens, several anti-aircraft gun and missile installations, three huge ammunition bunkers and a naval barracks for the ‘Naval Protection Force’, which Maja’s people don’t have access to. First he wants to hit the air defences, for this he wants loitering drones which he can launch from high ground overlooking the dockyard. I have been up on that high ground and it offers an excellent view of the targets. Once those air defences have been cleared his plan is for a second wave of aircraft dropping bunker buster bombs on the pens and the ammunition bunkers, they will be illuminated by laser designators again from the high ground, while the barracks will be hit by several Javelins.”
“Interesting,” said the PM, “does he propose using much of his force to take the dockyard?” “No,” replied Penny, “Once it has been destroyed, it is not of much use to either the Germans or us but the guys on the high ground should have a clear view of the dockyard and be able to suppress any remaining resistance from up there, but he has allocated a few fighters. Next the civil port, it is on the other side of a headland from the military installation. There are only 2 or 3, 3-man patrols at night. The port gates are controlled by civil docks police and just about every single one has been in the resistance for years. The plan is for them to admit a squad of around 20 who will eliminate the patrols and set up guide lights for the Marine Commandos to land. Steven says that he fully expects this landing to be unopposed and it will be up to the military planners what happens when his people hand over to the Marines.”
“Why is the port so lightly defended?” ‘C’ asked. “Maja says it is because of its proximity to the naval base,” replied Penny. “I think they are complacent, they have been running freighters up and down the coast for years and the only thing that they have had to deal with is a bit of petty pilfering. That was always left in the hands of the civil dockyard police. The Italians have been using the submarine/fishing boat route for ages to supply Maja and we should be able to get Steven’s logistics in that way. Although he is asking for a lot of kit most of it is all lightweight man operated.”
“What about the airport?” Asked the PM. Penny explained, “It is a joint civil-military airport with a single runway. The terminal building, railway station, road access and car parks are all on the south side of the runway, while the military operates from the north side. There are currently a squadron of transport helicopters and half a squadron of attack helicopters stationed there. There are several hangers but at this time of the year they are only used for maintenance with the helicopters parked on the apron overnight. At either end of the runway, on the military side, there are hardened shelters for 3 fast jets. Steven wants to hit the hardened shelters with cruise missiles homing in on laser designators aimed from the roof of the terminal building. I pointed out that a cruise missile wouldn’t bring down a hardened aircraft shelter but he said the shelters were open-ended and we would aim the lasers into them and illuminate the jets.”.
“OK, I think I understand,” said the PM, “please go on.” Penny continued, “He wants to take out the helicopters, and air defences using a mixture of Javelins, NLAWs and loitering drones. He says he has sufficient fighters to hold the runway until the Paras arrive.” “And what part will you be playing,” asked ‘C’. “Irena and I will be on the roof of the terminal building or the multi-story car park with sniper rifles looking for targets of opportunity and ensuring any Germans who escape the initial onslaught keep their heads down.”
A frown crossed the PM’s face, “What about reinforcements and who is Irena?” He asked. “Irena is one of Steven’s recruits and she is very bright, an excellent shot but as yet raw. I think she could, with a bit of training, be a better shot than me.” “Really?” said ‘C’. “Yes,” said Penny before adding, “As for reinforcements the nearest barracks is 7km down the motorway, they will have to come by road as we will have destroyed their transport helicopters. Steven plans an ambush from motorway bridges and embankments with another squad of his fighters, led by Maja.
“Thank you,” said the PM, “I need to get all this to our military planners. Can you put all of this into a written report please. I know you are getting married soon and then are off on honeymoon, so can I wish you all the best for your wedding and I’m sure I will speak to you soon.” ‘C’ said, “Thanks Penny, the GCS driver will take you home and we’ll see you in the cross tomorrow.”
Jinnie tried on her maid of honour dress for the umpteenth time, although the wedding was tomorrow and she had last tried it on yesterday she was still worried that at the last moment she was not going to be able to fit into it. It was a maternity version and she need not have worried she fitted in easily. With under 3 weeks to her due date she felt enormous and had given up on her Mini as she couldn’t get behind its wheel any longer. In fact she could only get in her official Jaguar with the greatest difficulty so for the past two weeks Emma or Paolo had been driving her to or from the station. She was rather looking forward to meeting Willy and Milly and beginning to hope they might be a bit early as the country was in the middle of a heat wave and she was struggling to sleep.
Jinnie checked the tickets in the pouch she had received from the US Embassy for the fifth time. She had told Daniel a few white lies about treating them to a surprise honeymoon and needing their passports to get the appropriate visa. In truth the passports had come back from the US Embassy the very same day as they had been couriered over and both now bore multiple entry visas with a diplomatic endorsement. Jinnie had not dared to return them to Daniel in case he inadvertently told Penny where the visas were for. Of course, Carol and Jason already had similar visas stamped in their passports and the tickets for the two Atlantic crossings, internal air flights, tours and shows.
Once again the service was to be held in the King Charles the Martyr church off Darkes Lane and the formal reception lunch was being held in the Trattoria Trevi. However Jinnie and Paolo had volunteered their house and garden for a huge party in the evening, meaning that the restaurant could open for evening service. Two linked marquees had been erected on the lawn with an enormous bar. Larry had been wandering in and out of them and had decided that he was going to curl up in a quiet corner of the garden and only come out to eat chicken if there was any on offer.
Jinnie woke early on Saturday morning, the twins were restless and it felt like they were fighting, she hope that wasn’t a precursor to the coming years. She slipped out of bed, leaving a still-sleeping Paolo, and headed downstairs to make a mug of tea, she had found coffee was giving heat heartburn. Of course Larry wanted feeding and while he ate his Felix she sat at the kitchen table sipping her tea and re-reading the latest interview in the Potters Bar Press. She and Alberto had sat down with Bill Furr and told him all about their plans for the dark kitchen. Bill had picked up on the planning permission and splashed on it the previous week, going with what he had learnt from the planning application and permission and making several spurious assumptions.
Alberto and Jinnie spent over an hour with Bill explaining the concept of the dark kitchen, how it worked in New York, how they had decided it could work in Britain and done some preliminary costing, found that with the right premises it could work financially. How they had hunted for and found an ideal building close to their restaurant and their design company had produced a specification, drawings and designs for the conversion allowing them to apply for planning permission. Bill had asked many questions. When would work start? When would it be possible to place an order? Would it create many local jobs? Would there be noise and smells? What would be available to order?
Jinnie had explained that the building was in an industrial zone with no one to be disturbed by noise, which would be kept to an absolute minimum anyway, and that planning permission limited their opening hours. Work had already begun and they were coordinating with the building inspector to ensure that all work was within the building regulations. Their contractor had already started placing subcontracts and much of the design work was done and approved. Alberto had continued explaining that initially there were to be six kitchens and they would be using two themselves while the other four would be Chinese, Indian, burgers and fried chicken for which they had already signed contracts.
Bill had probed a little further ask why the Trattoria Trevi wanted two kitchens, would they be delivering their own food? “Of course,” Jinnie had told him and explained how they would be offering two evening gourmet delivery services. One for Italian food and one for traditional English food. The meals available, would be high class and aimed at people dining in who wanted excellent food for themselves or for dinner parties. Alberto explained that because this was an evening service they had realised that there would be spare capacity at lunchtime so they would be offering a gourmet sandwich delivery service for office and shop workers. Bill asked if he would be able to order his favourite egg mayonnaise and tomato sandwich and grunted with satisfaction when Alberto said yes, but he would be able to specify the type of bread or roll, was the bread spread with butter, margarine or mayo, did he want cress or anything else adding and of course the eggs would be free range and the tomatoes organic?
Jinnie explained that of course they would be hiring local people and would need quite a few, ranging from chefs to delivery drivers via call handlers and they would be advertising nearer the start-up date which was around four months away. She explained that how the various types of kitchens worked would depend on the operating company. They could utilise their own in-house ordering and pass the order electronically to be fulfilled or they could use the kitchen’s call handlers who would have a computer program that would display the appropriate menu automatically for the food type called. They would then take a credit or debit card number and pass the order electronically to the appropriate kitchen. Of course their own kitchens would be using this system that was very similar to the ordering system already employed by waiters in the Trattoria Trevi restaurant. Orders would be passed to dispatch where it would be possible to amalgamate, say Chinese and burger going to the same address and send them out in insulated containers so that they eliminated duplicate journeys and allowed everyone to eat together.
Jinnie was delighted with the write-up in the paper. Bill had been more than fair. The front page was devoted to the story and laid out the facts of what was happening and had been written in a very pro manner. Pages two, three and four were devoted to the interview and it had been printed virtually word for word. The newspaper’s leader column on page 15 was extremely positive saying how this was a first for Britain and how the investment and jobs coming to Potters Bar was more than welcome. The leader writer’s final paragraph said how he could see himself using the sandwich service as he liked the idea of being able to choose what bread he was getting rather than being forced to buy his supermarket prawn sandwich in seedy bread that always gave him indigestion!
Jinnie and Paolo made their own way to the church in Paolo’s car. Paolo immediately took up his duties as an usher, directing early arrivals while Jinnie plonked herself down on a shady bench in the sunny churchyard awaiting the arrival of the carload of bridesmaids and the official photographer. She had only been enjoying sitting in the dappled sunshine for a few minutes when a wedding car arrived bearing her and Daniel’s mothers. The two mothers joined her on the bench and all three sat waiting and chatting. Mrs Walsh said that when they left home the bridesmaids were nearly ready and were only waiting for their car and Melissa was just touching up Penny’s make-up. Daniel’s mother said she had no idea where he, his father and the best man were, but if they were in the pub she would kill them.
The next to arrive was the photographer who quickly got to work with a digital camera posing the two mothers and the maid of honour. Jinnie was ready for another sit down when the carload of bridesmaids arrived, led by one of Penny’s old school friends who was her chief bridesmaid. Fortunately the photographer was happy to take individual shots of the bridesmaids first so she rested before being needed for a group shot. Then she was able to rest again when the groom, his father and the best man arrived and had to line up for more photos.
Eventually the photographer was done and the groom’s party moved into the church. Mrs Walsh sat with her daughter and asked if she was OK. Jinnie said yes, it was just standing around she found difficult, she was OK when she was sitting. The next car to arrive had all the posies for the bridesmaids and then Jinnie felt quite emotional when hers was distributed to her, it was so beautiful. Paolo popped out to join them, as the church was now nearly full and he wasn’t required for a while. Finally, Penny and her father arrived. Mrs Walsh fussed around arranging and rearranging her youngest daughter’s vail then posing for a photo with her husband before heading into the church.
It was only then that Jinnie noticed the videographer who had been lurking in the background recording events. She had come in closer to shoot the bride and her father and the bridal party that was forming up. From the open church door the strains of “Here Comes the Bride” leaked out and they were off. By the time she got down the aisle Jinnie was delighted to be able to take her seat between Paolo and her mother.
The service flew by to Jinnie and it seemed only moments before they were all outside again in the churchyard for group photos and Jinnie was once again able to spend plenty of time on the shady bench. Eventually the photographer was done and the wedding cars lined up to take the leading guests just up the road to Trattoria Trevi. Paolo helped Jinnie into his car and drove up the hill to the restaurant. Jinnie noticed several guests had chosen to leave their cars at the church and make the short walk in the sun, but Jinnie was more than happy to be riding. The high street around the restaurant was solid with parked cars so Jinnie directed Paolo to the staff car park at the rear.
Paolo and Jinnie wandered through the kitchen that was busy putting the finishing touches to the 110 covers they were preparing for the wedding lunch. The restaurant was already half full when they emerged into the dining room and headed for their places on the top table. Alberto and Guido were greeting arrivals and handing them over to waiters who led them to their allocated tables. They were soon joined by both sets of parents, the chief bridesmaid, the best man and Daniel’s younger sister who had been another bridesmaid. The restaurant quickly filled and Alberto called for everyone’s attention for the arrival of the bride and groom who walked through the room to loud applause.
Jinnie had to admit that the meal was magnificent, even if she hadn’t eaten much of it and had only drunk water. Penny and Daniel had relaxed after the tension of the morning’s service and joined in the laughter and merriment. Finally, the post-lunch coffee was served (tea for Jinnie) and Paolo whispered in Jinnie’s ear how much better this blend of coffee was! Eventually waiters passed around the room with champagne for the toasts and Alberto called the room to order for the speeches. As is traditional, the father of the bride went first and made an amusing speech saying that now he had both his daughters off his hands he was intent to replenish his savings and was looking forward to holidays in the sun and grandchildren. Then came the groom who made a traditional speech thanking everyone he could think of, saying what a wonderful meal they had just enjoyed and reminding everyone that they were expected at the party in Hadley from 6 that evening where a buffet would be available for anyone who was still hungry.
Just as everyone thought he was finished and about to do the traditional thing and hand over to the best man, he announced, “I have been informed that the maid of honour wishes to say a few words as it is traditional for the best man to make the final speech, can I ask Jinnie to take the microphone.” Jinnie took the mike and started by apologising for not standing to make her short speech but she was sure everyone could see the reason why. As the laughter died down she went on to explain that when her little sister had first announced her engagement she had decided that she would treat her and Daniel to their honeymoon, she could afford it as she had done particularly well investing an inheritance and now had two well-paying jobs. She continued saying that it had been her intention to surprise them with a spectacular honeymoon and had booked a suite for Daniel and Penny on the Queen Mary 2 sailing to New York on Monday.
When the noise died down Jinnie continued saying that once in the States a stay had been booked in New York taking in several shows, then a trip to New England, followed by a trip to Niagara Falls and finally on to Washington before flying back to New York and cruising back to Southampton on the new Queen Anne. Once again Jinnie had to wait for the noise to subside before continuing back. Last year she had thought how wonderful this trip was that she decided to include Paolo and herself on the itinerary and booked for all four of them. Then she said a miracle happened and she fell pregnant. Unfortunately, the due date fell during the trip and she realised she couldn’t travel. Looking at a shocked Daniel and a tearful Penny she said she hoped they didn’t mind but she had passed her and Paolo’s tickets on to a couple she knew well, Carol and Jason who had agreed to travel in her and Paolo’s place.
Jinnie handed the package containing the travel itinerary, the tickets and the passports to her sister who was now in floods of happy tears. Penny leapt up and hugged her big sister saying, “Thank you, thank you,” over and over again while Daniel sat stunned. Of course he had been aware that Jinnie had been sorting something out but this was way beyond anything he had imagined.
Later that afternoon Paolo drove Jinnie home and suggested to her that it might be a good idea if she had a few hours rest while he checked all the arrangements for the evening party. Guests had been told that the party was from 6pm to late and many of the local guests had taken the opportunity to go home to change into something more casual for the evening. Guests who had travelled any distance had returned to their hotels and one or two had decided to retire to the pub on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Paolo checked how preparations were going and was satisfied. The caterers were setting up the bar and the buffet was outside in a chilled van ready to be brought in. The marquees were secure and the sound system was being set up by the DJ. A temporary dance floor was in place and a block six of Portaloos had been installed at the bottom of the garden behind a temporary hedge of potted bushes.
As Paolo looked around with satisfaction, Larry emerged from under a large rhododendron, stretched and rubbed himself around Paolo’s legs. Paolo bent down and rubbed his neck and said, “It’s too early for your tea, my friend. We are expecting around 250 people tonight so I will make sure you get your tea before they start to arrive. Then you can retreat under that rhododendron bush again and watch events or if you prefer I will leave the door to the spare bedroom open and you can curl up on the bed”. Larry meowed loudly and wandered off to do his own inspection. ‘I swear that cat understands every word I say,’ thought Paolo.
In Chapter 23 – The Party
© WorthingGooner 2022