When Jinnie lifted the double baby carrier out of her official Jaguar, she was delighted that the twins didn’t wake. As she walked across the pavement to the restaurant, Alberto and the receptionist emerged from the restaurant door. Alberto saw she was struggling with the large carrier and took it from her. The receptionist held the door open while everyone else passed through and the twins’ carrier was placed in one of the reception chairs. Suddenly half a dozen directors and the receptionist were gathered around cooing at the babies.
Eventually Alberto had enough and slipped over to Jinnie, who was standing back observing events with pride. “Are you happy to leave them for a while?” he asked. “I think so, they should sleep for a couple more hours, until they wake up hungry,” she answered, “besides I want to see progress in the Dark Kitchen.” She and Alberto slid away and headed for the old factory. Belinda’s people had wasted no time putting up hoardings around the site, but Jinnie noticed there were a couple of viewing areas where the solid hoarding included steel mesh panels. Alberto saw Jinnie looking and said, “Belinda says that people always want to see what is happening and if we let them see easily they won’t be tempted to make their own holes in the hoardings.”
Alberto pressed a button by the main gate and heard a bell ring somewhere on the site. A couple of minutes later a construction worker, who clearly knew Alberto, lead them to a Portakabin where they signed in, donned yellow hi-viz waistcoats with Belinda’s company name on the back and yellow hard hats. Alberto said, “Yellow for site visitors, blue for workers, white for supervisors and red for the building inspector/health and safety inspector and similar, oh and green for Belinda.”
The worker said, “I’m sorry but the site safety rules means you have to be accompanied at all times, so I will take you to Belinda, who is doing a walk around with Peter,” and led them off into the main building. Belinda, Peter, Melissa and Andrew were in one of the rooms that was to be a kitchen. Belinda greeted Jinnie, congratulated her on the twins and asked if they were with her. Jinnie explained they were asleep in reception. Belinda replied, “Great, we can meet them in a bit.”
To Jinnie’s untrained eye the room was a total mess and it was only when Peter started explaining what was what did she begin to match the site to the rendered image pinned on the wall. Peter pointed to the suspended ceiling grid and said, “Now the grid is in place the A/C engineers will start installing their trunking, the electrician can put in the cable trays and run the 3-phase machine power and the spurs to machines, the 2-phase power, the lighting circuits and the data cabling before the ceiling tiles can go in. The ceiling lights and A/C vents can then be installed.”
Belinda picked up the tale saying, “While that is going on the wipe-clean Whiterock walls will be installed. The plumber has already installed the floor drains and run hot and cold water pipes to the sinks and appropriate machine positions. When the walls are done, the floor tiles will be laid including coving and access points to the floor drains. Then the commercial kitchen fitters will deliver and install all the equipment. Finally the computer equipment will be installed. Then everything will have to be fully tested. But don’t forget this is just the first of six kitchens and the fit-out in most varies. The Italian and English kitchens are nearly the same but the other four are quite different, and have been specified by the user company and will be needing things like Tandoori ovens, wok burners, burger grills and deep fat fryers.”
Jinnie was amazed at what was being done and how much time and work had gone into designing and planning just this one kitchen. The party moved on to the dispatch area where Richard was busy installing two sets of double swing doors. “In and out,” he explained. “I must make sure they swing the right way!” Then it was on to the server room, the drying room, toilets and showers, a conference room, the board room, 4 offices, a plant room and finally the open area where the phones were going to be answered. Jinnie’s head was spinning, how on earth could Peter keep on top of all the work that was going on concurrently?
As the party walked back to the site Portakabin office, Belinda suddenly said, “You haven’t seen the garages yet,” and headed across the yard to where two men were working around a manhole. Peter explained, “These gents are specialist sub-contractors who are clearing out and re-sealing the underground petrol and diesel storage tanks that will serve our delivery vans and motorbikes. And here are the garages where we can park the vehicles overnight, wash and vacuum them and carry out light maintenance. We haven’t done much in here yet, apart from clear out two skip loads of rubbish!”
Back in reception, the twins were still sleeping but Jinnie couldn’t help noticing that they had moved together and appeared to be holding hands. Andrew wasn’t really interested in the babies but Belinda and Melissa were totally enamoured. Melissa asked how she was coping? Explaining that she had two children, a nine-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy and that her husband had walked out on her when the boy was a week old. Jinnie decided that it was now or never and she said to Belinda, “Can I ask you an enormous favour?” Belinda answered, “Of course, name it.” Jinnie continued, “I wonder if you and Brian would consider being Millicent’s godparents. We have decided that we are going to have four for each and I have already asked a good friend and neighbour Emma and her husband Freddy to be her godparents and they have accepted so you would complete her four.” “Of course,” said Belinda, “We would be delighted.”
Penny approached the firing range quietly and from a distance watched as effortlessly Irena rapidly emptied a magazine into the bull of a target that must have been at 1000 metres. As soon as she had fired the last round her spotter handed her a fresh magazine and she watched as Irena switched to another target which was at least 50 metres further and proceeded to put another 5 rounds in the 10. ‘Gosh she’s good,’ thought Penny, ‘I couldn’t have done that and I’m not sure that Jinnie could have.’
Penny deliberately made a noise and walked up to the pair. “I hope you don’t mind but I just watched the last two magazines you shot. Not bad at all, you must have been practising hard.” Irena smiled and replied, “I try my best.” “I think we can ease off a bit on live firing practice with the sniper rifle now and clean it and oil it and after lunch we can do a bit with a Glock.”
At lunch, Penny ate with Steven, Graham, David and Maya. She told them, “I think Irena might be just about the best shot with a sniper rifle I have ever seen.” Steven replied, “I think your sister is the best I have ever seen, is she as good?” “Better,” replied Penny, “I am going to try her with a handgun this afternoon. When this lot is over I think she could find a slot in the Slovenian Army, with skills like hers she will be teaching in their sniper school if they have any sense.” Graham said, “If she’s that good we could do with her in the British Army, or maybe as an agent in the SIS.” As they chatted, Steven suggested that Graham should look after the attack on the naval dockyard. While David should command the attack on the civil docks. He would command the attack on the airport and Maya would run the group blocking the motorway. Penny was to be his deputy and from her position on the top of the terminal building, she would easily be able to see everything that evolved at the airport.
Steven had acquired a small number of the latest secure digital radio kit and issued a transceiver to all the command team and their deputies. He explained that everyone could hear the command net so would be able to keep up to date with the battles. Then he further explained that the airport group would be on channel 4, the naval dockyard group on channel 5, the civil dock group on channel 6 and the Maya’s blocking force on channel 7, the Paras would be on channel 1 and the Commandos on channel 2. He suggested that they should try out the command net to ensure their devices worked but to keep off the airwaves as much as possible until start time on D-Day.
The decision was taken that as the force was already basically trained by Steven, they would each take their own group and train them for their own specific task. This left Penny with little to do as she felt Irena and her spotter were already quite ready for their task. She needed to get her spotter up to speed but that wasn’t too taxing as he was already quite good and a quick learner. Instead, she encouraged the other three to join her, in building up their physical fitness and floated around the other squads, helping and advising where possible. As the time passed, she found herself spending more and more time with Maya as she was the least experienced and Penny was able to help her pick good hides for her ambush.
Each evening, over dinner, they had a group debrief on how every squad was progressing. Steven was a tough, but fair, group commander and pushed his squad leaders hard. He confessed to Penny that he was satisfied with general progress but was not going to ease up, he wanted everyone to peak on D-Day. Penny was impressed with what she observed, the squads were coming together. The only problem was the precise timing of the operation. Everything hung on getting it right so that the Nazis were taken by complete surprise.
Jinnie’s mobile vibrated just as she finished changing Willie and was putting him down next to his sister. She let it continue vibrating while she kissed the twins good night and slipped out of the room. Looking at the display she saw it was Alberto so she said, “Evening Alberto, sorry to have taken so long I was just putting the twins to bed.” Alberto replied, “I guessed you were tied up so I didn’t hang up. I thought you might like an update on how things are going. I also have a bit of financial news which I would have preferred to discuss with you and Brian in person, but he has not been in for the last few weeks. Belinda tells me that he has been called up as a military reserve for a special exercise.”
“I did hear something about a big joint exercise with Italy from Paolo, I guess he will be back soon,” lied Jinnie, knowing full well that Brian was working with Dirk in Vauxhall Cross. “Alright,” said Alberto, “first an update on the Dark Kitchen. Belinda says we are still bang on programme. Two kitchens are complete and we have locked the doors to ensure no damage is done inadvertently. The third one, for the Super burger chain is 80% done and they are delighted. The fuel tank refurbishments are complete as are the drying room and dispatch and Richard is busy on the upstairs rooms. Next time you can pop in you will be astonished at the progress.”
“That all sounds good,” said Jinnie. “I really would like to get in but it’s hard work to go anywhere with the twins.” “I know it’s not easy, but you know the twins will be safe in reception if you can make it. Now I don’t like talking financials on the phone but I really need to talk to you and or Brian, the other directors are not very good with money. It’s good news from Turner’s Hill. I told you we had settled Belinda’s final invoice and she has delivered the maintenance manual. We have the completion certificate from the building inspector so the job is 100% complete officially, physically and financially. Now according to me and Lucy, the new accounts girl’s reading of the new accounting software Turners Hill cleared £150,000 after all expenses last month, that’s way ahead of what we planned. We’ve looked and looked every which way, but it still comes back to the same profit. That’s why I need to talk to you and Brian, I trust you.”
“Well, that’s fantastic news,” replied Jinnie, “I’m sure you are right, but we will have to put money aside for Corporation Tax, does the software give you any idea how much?” “Yes, it’s 20% but we should be able to claim allowances for the likes of new equipment, vehicles and machinery. I think we will be able to claim a lot this financial year as we are doing so much work. I think we need to talk to Brian, perhaps I should phone Belinda and see if she can get him to ring you.”
“That sound like a plan,” said Alberto, “Now the next thing, you know we have budgeted to initially purchase a few vans and depending on how things develop maybe more. Well, I think we should think about getting our logo on them. I understand there are a lot of sign companies who will do it quite cheaply.” “I have no objections” replied Jinnie, “But do you think that the other companies might object to their food being delivered in a van bearing just our logo?”
“I didn’t consider that,” said Alberto. “How about we have it say ‘Another delivery from’ and show all six, no seven logos if we are doing sandwich deliveries and put the common phone number for the call centre prominently underneath.” “Not bad,” said Jinnie, “we will have to discuss it with the other companies and I suspect they will want a website as well as a phone number.” “Good idea,” said Alberto, “I’ll phone around in the morning and organise a meeting.”
“I think this is the last thing,” said Alberto. “Since the story in the press that we were going to deliver high quality ‘Dinner Party’ meals we have had numerous calls asking when we are starting and we have been noncommittal saying the autumn. But in amongst those calls we have had a fair number who have asked if we intend to offer a service where we supply a chef, kitchen staff and waiters to cook a dinner party in their own kitchen. Well, I have been thinking about it and I think we could do it profitably. Of course, we would have to send a chef to asses the kitchen, dining room, menu and wines. Then we would have to calculate the cost. I am sure we could easily develop a spreadsheet to cost each party. Now I don’t think we should offer it in Potters Bar yet, we have a lot on our plate here at the moment. However, I think we could try it out of Turners Hill.”
“Very interesting,” replied Jinnie, “I know as a business we can’t stand still, but I had expected you to propose another restaurant just as soon as our finances were strong enough, but this has come out of left field. It has the advantage that it would be cheap to set up, a few employees, a bit of costing per job, a site inspection, the cost of the food, maybe a van to deliver it and an advertising push. Give me a day to think about it and I’ll come back to you tomorrow evening.” “Ok,” said Alberto, “I’ll let you know how I get on about the vans.”
Jinnie checked in on the twins and as usual they had moved together and were sleeping peacefully. She checked the baby monitor was on and headed to the living room to sit down on the sofa and watch some TV while she waited for Paolo to get in from work. He was regularly getting home late these days as D-Day approached. Larry was sprawled across the sofa dozing and was reluctant to move but eventually did so plonking his head in her lap before going back to sleep.
Jinnie decided to ring Belinda and ask her about Brian. Her mobile rang a few times before Belinda answered saying, “Hello Jinnie, what can I do for you? No problems I trust.” “No not really,” Jinnie replied, “It’s just that Alberto has been talking to me this evening and he says he needs to talk to Brian about a financial matter, I wondered if you could ask him to ring Alberto. I don’t have Brian’s mobile number and I shouldn’t really make a private call to him when he is working in London.” “He’s here now, you can ask him yourself” replied Belinda before handing her mobile across to Brian. Jinnie gave him a brief idea of the problem and Brian promised to phone Alberto the next day. Then he said, “Belinda is waving at me frantically, I think she wants to speak to you.”
Belinda came back on the phone and said, “You must think me awfully rude, I didn’t ask after the twins, are they Ok?” “Perfectly,” replied Jinnie, “they are sleeping contentedly. I can hear them breathing regularly over the baby monitor.” Then it suddenly struck her, Belinda had a big house with a huge kitchen and dining room. “Belinda,” she asked, “I hope you don’t think me rude, but do you host dinner parties?” “Well yes,” said Belinda, “Not as many as I used to, I don’t seem to get the time to do the cooking these days, I am so busy at work.” Jinnie bit the bullet and explained Alberto’s latest idea. Then she said, “I wonder if you might consider being a guinea pig for a test. All you would need to do is invite 6 to 10 people for dinner on say Saturday. That’s enough people for a decent trial, decide what you would like on the menu and I will get a chef to come around to see the kitchen and discuss the menu. Then we will supply, cook and serve the food from your kitchen, allowing you to enjoy the dinner party.” “Now that sounds wonderful,” said Belinda, “Could I ask if there a limit to the number of course’s I have?” “I don’t think so,” replied Jinnie, “I think we could handle most things, although as I said you would be the first. Just write out your menu, I am sure the chef will discuss it with you as to it’s practically in your kitchen. It might be that we could prepare some things in the restaurant and cook them in your kitchen, if it was going to take a long time to make.”
In Chapter 27 – Trials
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