Jinnie’s Story – Book Four, Chapter Thirty-One

Jinnie makes a decision

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
The christening was a lovely occasion.
Baptism of a child,
Public domain

Jinnie and Paolo arrived at the restaurant early as Alberto had promised to give them an update tour of the Dark Kitchen. He was delighted with progress which was about two weeks ahead of schedule. As they wandered around, Jinnie was surprised to find that things were so far advanced. They started in the garage, which was complete and locked up. Alberto told them that three Vauxhall vans were on order and should be delivered in a week. Their graphic wraps had been designed and agreed by the other companies. Once the vans were delivered, the company that the Project Manager had chosen would take two days to wrap them. He had also organised the new website and the freephone number. Alberto said to Jinnie they needed to talk about advertising leaflet design, what exactly would be on the delivery menus, applying for a liquor license for the delivery business and should they talk to the other companies about a joint advertising campaign, perhaps using local commercial radio as well as the local press?

All the kitchens, except one, were complete, the dispatch area was nearly ready, the changing rooms, toilets and wet weather gear drying room were nearly finished. Upstairs, the offices, boardroom and meeting room were being decorated but were missing carpets and furniture. The IT room was short of any computer hardware but there were cables everywhere and the racks were in. Alberto explained that IT contractors were due in later that week as they had been waiting for the server, PCs and other electronic equipment such as printers and networking gear to be delivered. The call centre was also short of furniture but all the cables, power and phone lines were in place in trunking under the raised floor and terminated in floor boxes. Paolo asked if the furniture would have its own in-built cable management and Alberto said, “Of course. Leads will plug into the floor boxes, run up the table legs and serve the phones and desktop ordering computers. We have even got special chairs being delivered.”

Jinnie asked when it was expected to be completed and Alberto said, “Belinda is aiming to hand it over to us in about three weeks. I think we would need a week to get up to speed before opening for business. I am not sure of the others, we have been hiring staff for our kitchens, drivers for the vans, call centre staff, a mechanic, dispatchers. A bit of on-site training and we’ll be ready to go. Even if the others aren’t ready I think we should launch, after all, we have a lot of money tied up in this exercise and the sooner we start recovering it the better.”

Jinnie said, “Don’t we need to consider the advertising, if we are having a joint campaign?” “Yes,” said Alberto, “but if we just go with our two services, with our own leaflets and newspaper goodwill, we could call it a soft launch and go hard on local radio once when everyone is ready. Oh, I forgot to mention, I have authorised the lease of two mopeds with big boxes on the back for small local deliveries.”

Jinnie suddenly stopped, “Have you built an extra office?” She asked. “Well you could say so,” said Alberto, “it is for you.” “But I don’t have a full-time job here,” replied Jinnie. “But you might want one when it’s time to go back to full-time work, I call it planning ahead. Besides, it has cost next to nothing while all the other work has been going on. If Belinda had to come back to create a single office it would cost a heck of a lot more.” Paolo was chuckling in the background and suddenly said, “Think about it Jin. You would be working ten minutes from home. We could easily live on my wage alone, so we wouldn’t miss what you earn at the office. But they will pay you a wage. The only problems I see are we would need to find a childminder and we would have to give your company Jaguar back. Mind I think we should buy one and trade in your Mini, you never use it these days.”

On and off through the meal Jinnie was thinking about going back to Vauxhall Cross. Did she really want to or would she prefer working full-time for Trattoria Trevi. She changed her mind at least a dozen times and couldn’t make a final decision. Jinnie became aware that Irena was learning fast what was what for a classy meal, which cutlery to use for which course, what wines went with what food, how to read the menu and that Dirk was clearly pleased. He said to Jinnie, “I think we might try this again at my hotel, it’s not as posh as this, but it will be another decent test.” She agreed.

Two days later Jinnie was having a quick cup of coffee between hanging out the washing and checking on the twins when her phone rang. She picked it up off the table and glanced at the screen to see who it was. It read “caller withheld” and she guessed it was the PM, but she had been caught out that way before, so she just said, “Hello”. The familiar voice of the Prime Minister answered, “Hello Jinnie, nice to speak to you. How are you all, well I trust? It’s a while since I met you after Penny’s wedding and you have twins to worry about now as well as Larry.” Jinnie laughed, “Larry is no problem as long as he is fed, gets occasional cat treats and can settle down with me on the sofa. Now the twins are much harder work. How two little babies can generate so much washing I’ll never know.”

Nigel continued, “I hear your ‘Dark Kitchen’ is nearly ready. The Home Secretary is getting anxious as Belinda’s team are moving on to the Home Office when she finishes with you.” “Wow,” said Jinnie, “She hasn’t told me that.” “I’d hope not,” replied the PM, “She and her staff have had to sign ‘the act’ to be allowed in and the job has been on a need-to-know basis. I am only telling you this now because I am planning a major reshuffle to get the Government in shape for next year’s general election and although I plan to keep the Home Secretary in the same position, the same can’t be said about most of the civil servants who work for him. He has inherited a lot of duff staff and I am planning a major cull. That’s where you come in, I would like you to be a special adviser on security for him, working closely with Policy Unit.”

Jinnie thought for a moment and then said, “I already have two jobs, three if you include full-time mother, but I will think about it.” “Please do,” said the PM, “because what I have in mind is teaching you how Government works and then finding you a nice safe seat in next year’s election. After a few months on the back benches, I think I could guarantee you a junior position in the Government and rapid progress through the ranks to Cabinet level. I need people around me I know and can trust. I think the electorate would love you, young mother of twins, pretty, bright, multi-lingual, a war hero, you could land up being more popular than me!”

Jinnie chuckled and said, “Impossible! But as I said I will consider it. I must say I am tempted, but I have a department to return to and the offer of a full-time job further developing the Trattoria Trevi business and now this. I need to talk it all through with Paolo and my family. But the most import things are the twins and Paolo, whatever I choose to do they are my priority.” “I understand,” said the PM, “The current plan is the reshuffle will be in the third week in September so SPADs won’t be appointed until the last week of the month, so you have over two months to make a decision. While I think about it, out of politeness I did ask ‘C’ if he would object to me attempting to poach you. He said he did, but he realised that I was PM and usually got what I wanted! He said if you choose to take up the post he would wave the normal three months notice.”

The following Sunday was the turn for lunch at mum and dad’s house and it happened to coincide with Penny and Daniel not being at his parents, so Jinnie and Paolo decided it was time for a family conference. It was a beautiful late July day and Jinnie parked the newly acquired twin Buggy on the patio with the sunshade protecting them while they slept. Following roast shoulder of English lamb, roast potatoes, and dad’s fresh peas, carrots and courgettes from the garden, the family all joined the twins on the patio to enjoy the sun and their after-lunch mugs of tea. Jinnie decided it was now or never to hold the family conference.

She had already discussed it with Paolo and he had been reluctant to voice an opinion saying that it was Jinnie’s decision and pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of each course of action. Jinnie explained the three choices to the family and asked what they thought. Her dad, who was still a local councillor, remarked that politics was a dirty business and that no matter what the PM said he couldn’t guarantee being in power. Although he was currently 20 points in the lead in the opinion polls it only took a couple of scandals creeping out of the woodwork and the opposition could be in the driving seat. At the moment the fighting in Austria was going their way but if it swung around, would the polls change?

Daniel said she was in a great position at the Cross, she was genuinely very popular with her staff and had the confidence of ‘C’. The word was that she was favourite for promotion to Deputy Director when the current one retired in 18 months. Penny backed him up saying all that was true, but wondered if her heart was set on the SIS. She had seen how animated she was when dealing with the restaurant and how she had enjoyed coming up with and implementing new things. Finally Mrs Walsh spoke, saying she didn’t know if it would help and only her husband knew this, but she had decided to retire. She had put in her notice and had intended to leave at Christmas but had been persuaded to stay on until Easter. If it made Jinnie’s decision any easier she would love to be a child minder to the twins until they were old enough to go to school.

Jinnie had hoped that, talking to the family, her problem would be solved, but nothing of the sort had occurred. Everyone had a different idea. Her mum had helped in the long term but not if she wanted to take up Nigel’s offer. For that she would have to find a childminder between the autumn and Easter. Still, in the short term she had the twins christening to think about. They had decided on the usual church, it had to be King Charles the Martyr as she and Paolo had got married there. But they still hadn’t finalised the godparents selection. Most had been quickly agreed but since learning that they could actually have as many as they wished they had been struggling to finalise the list.

At the moment Millie had Penny, Daniel, and Dirk, while Willie had Emma, Freddie, Belinda and Brian. They needed another godparent for Millie. Jinnie had been pondering on who should be the final person on the list for weeks. She and Paolo had thought of any number of their friends and then discounted them for one reason or another, when suddenly the answer popped into Jinnie’s head. In the middle of watching the latest news of the fighting in Austria Jinnie said to Paolo, “How about Nigel?” Paolo asked, “Do you mean your old university friend?” Jinnie giggled and said, “Of course not, I was talking about the Prime Minister.”

The christening was a lovely occasion, added to the end of a Sunday morning service and, only once they were in the church, did the congregation realise that the Prime Minister was amongst them. The family, the other godparents and the church had kept things to themselves and for once nothing had leaked out. The godparents, family and selected guests were invited back to the house in Hadley for a buffet lunch that Jinnie and Emma had laid out in the kitchen before the service. It had all been carefully covered, but the chicken drumsticks were, much to Larry’s disgust, still in the fridge. Jinnie had told him that she hoped his friend Mr Farage would be coming back after this christening thing was over and Larry was hoping he did.

Larry’s sixth sense told him that Jinnie, Paolo and the twins were on the way home, so he jumped down off his favourite tree stump and headed through the woods to the house. He entered the house via the cat flap, padded to the front room and jumped up onto the window shelf, carefully avoiding Jinnie’s precious mauve orchid, so that he could watch for them out of the window. He had only been there for a few minutes when Jinnie’s car crunched to a halt on the gravel outside the garages. Larry jumped down and headed to the front door to greet them when they came in.

Paolo came in with Millie in her baby carrier swiftly followed by Jinnie with Willie. The twins were quickly put into their twin cots and were asleep within seconds. By the time the parents were back downstairs Emma and Penny had taken charge in the kitchen. The food was uncovered, plates were distributed, tea was mashing and people were mingling. Larry found Mr Farage who made a huge fuss of him and got him a drumstick that he stripped the meat off and dropped in his name bowl, before helping himself to his own food.

Several guests asked to see the twins and Jinnie took them up to the nursery in ones and twos where they coo’ed over the angelic sleeping infants. Just about everyone said the same thing, that they didn’t know that you could get cots for twins. Each time Jinnie explained that they were from IKEA and were two cots that had bars around three sides and joined together. The babies loved it as they liked to be close to each other when they slept. Jinnie also pointed out that the nursery was part of what was planned for the future, twin bedrooms either side of a Jack and Jill bathroom.

Before he left, Nigel sought out Jinnie to ask her if she had come to a decision on the future. Did she want to set off on the road to being a cabinet minister? Jinnie replied, “I have been thinking about this for a long time and I have been struggling to come to an answer. I think I have to turn you down. As you might have picked up today, my husband and children come first in my life, so I couldn’t possibly start a new job that took me away from them at such an early stage of their lives. The other two options I have allow me to be with them as they grow up through their first year. If I go back to work for the SIS I don’t need to return until they are very nearly one. By that time my mother will have retired and will be in a position to look after the children. If I choose to work for Trattoria Trevi, the same thing applies, I am under no pressure to start work until my mother retires. Either of those ways I don’t have to make a decision until next June, but if I go with your option I must make the decision immediately. I have decided I prefer to kick the can down the road and make the decision next year. So I am sorry I can’t accept your kind offer.”

“I am sorry to hear that,” said Nigel, “I genuinely think you would make an excellent MP and cabinet minister. As long as I remain prime minister I will keep the door open for you and perhaps when the twins start school I will be able to find you a nice safe seat and you can become a backbencher. But in the meantime, I intend to be an active godparent and to see Millicent regularly. Of course that will mean I will have to see William at the same time as they clearly are inseparable. I hope you don’t mind but I would like to act like an additional grandfather.” “Of course I don’t mind,” replied Jinnie, “and I will bear in mind your kind offer, who knows what the situation will be when they start school.”

Nigel paused as he was leaving and said, “I must thank you and your department again for all the work in getting people into Slovenia and Austria. The latest news is very encouraging, the Germans are losing ground on all fronts and have asked the Swedes to talk to us about a ceasefire. At the moment we as playing some little political games pretending to be deaf to their suggestions. But when they come crawling we will talk and it won’t be long.”

Jinnie thought it only fair to tell both ‘C’ and Alberto that she would not be making her mind up finally until her maternity leave expired and her mother was available to child mind. She did, however, tell Alberto that she would help out with Trattoria Trevi business whenever possible, especially if it could be done from home or she could bring the twins into work with her.

As usual Belinda completed the project a little early, the building regs were signed off and it gave Trattoria Trevi time to ensure that everyone was properly trained to do their new jobs. Belinda’s brother-in-law, Neil, had come up trumps and found quite a lot of people for interviews for positions in the Trattoria’s two kitchens and Alberto was confident he had found some excellent new staff. He had also taken the opportunity to interview staff for the proposed “Home Cook” service, as he had taken to calling the service, and had drawn up a long shortlist. Several of the names on his list worked in 2 and 3-star restaurants and were interested in making a bit on the side when not on shift.

Thomas, the project manager, had been in charge of finding other grades of employees. He had advertised for and found delivery drivers, dispatch staff, kitchen porters, call centre staff and a mechanic to keep machinery and vehicles in top order. The date for the first three kitchens’ opening was set (the Super Burger outlet was also ready) while the Chinese would follow the following Saturday and the remaining two the week after. Jinnie was happy the launch was going to be staggered, it gave the call handlers, dispatch and delivery a chance to bed in slowly.

As previously discussed, Thomas had organised the local radio advertising and the five companies had decided to advertise themselves as a virtual food mall. The burger outlet had loaned their advertising expertise and three adverts had been recorded for a local commercial radio blitz in the week prior to the launch. The adverts all concentrated on the range of food available, all by dialling a single free number or through the website. One of the adverts featured a mum and dad hosting a traditional English dinner party, while the hosts and guests’ kids were in another room enjoying burgers, Chinese, Indian and fired chicken all ordered by calling one number and delivered together.

In Chapter 32 – Jinnie makes her final decision

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