Jinnie, Alberto and Guido sat in First Class in the Thameslink train back to Cambridge. This was a decent way to travel, they were heading into London when the commuters were heading out so the train was half empty. They were discussing the first board meeting and were generally of the opinion that the meeting had gone quite well and they had got everything they had set out to get. Jinnie asked Alberto what he thought of the other board members.
Alberto said most seemed OK. He didn’t think much of Aimee, saying that as an HR person he thought she should have been a bit more diplomatic. However, he had been impressed by Nigel and asked if he really was as sharp with IT as he came across. Jinnie said, “He really is, he is a computer genius, first class degree from Cambridge and a high flyer in a government agency.”
Suddenly Jinnie’s mobile rang and displayed a number that she didn’t recognise. Jinnie said “Hello” and a voice replied, “Hello Jinnie, Ro here, I have got your interviews set up. The first one is at 11 and then every 30 minutes for the four candidates. I have booked a meeting room at the Ramada. Do you want me to sit in as Aimee thinks you should have someone from HR with you?” Jinnie thought ‘Aimee again’ but said, “I would love you to sit in, but not because you are from HR but because I value your opinion.”
As soon as she rang off, the phone rang again, this time it was Belinda. She wanted to know if Jinnie had an email address she could send the garden office quote to. Jinnie suddenly realised she didn’t have a personal email address, she had always used her SIS one. She suggested that Belinda send the quote to Paolo’s email address and she would look at it as soon as he got home. Jinnie said to Alberto, “That’s two things I have suddenly realised we need to sort out. We need to set up a website and email addresses for us all and I need to set up my own private address.” Alberto said, “Even Trattoria Trevi has a website and our own email addresses, but we paid a company to do it for us, surely a big company like Super Burgers employs people who can sort that sort of thing out.” Jinnie thought for a moment and said, “I must ring Nigel, he will know the right thing to do. I remember Belinda showing me her web group. She has two people looking after web presence, updating her website, putting out Twitter messages, Facebook messages, Instagram messages and LinkedIn. She said much of her new business came through the Internet.”
Nigel said he would get on it immediately. Jinnie was waiting for the slow train at Finsbury Park when Nigel rang back and said, “We now own “darkkitchen.co.uk”, “darkkitchen.com” and “DKL.co.uk”. I have paid for them for the next five years. We have 1,000 email addresses in the format initial dot surname at DKL.co.uk., so you are ‘email@example.com’. I have one of my staff on things right now. In a couple of hours a web hosting company will have up a placeholder for ‘darkkitchen.co.uk’, saying the website is under construction and if anyone looks for ‘dark kitchen.com’ or DKL.co.uk it will be automatically forwarded to the .co.uk address.”
“Wow that was quick,” replied Jinnie, “I bet that cost a fair bit.” “You must be joking,” said Nigel, “The three domain names were £10 a year each. Setting up the website, my trainee did with a bit of freeware, so basically it cost nothing and was a good learning exercise for him. Hosting the two websites is £30 a year for the dot co dot uk as it should hardly attract any traffic and £60 for the dot com. Mind, that is bound to go up when we develop a proper website and we get loads of traffic. The email is a bit more expensive, I have just laid out £300 for the 1,000 addresses and one gigabyte of storage on the ISP’s email server, but we can move all that in-house as soon as we get our server room up and running.” “That’s made me think,” said Jinnie, “I need to talk to Brian about claiming expenses.”
Nigel went on, “I have set up your email account so that you can log into it right now using ‘Jinnie99##’ as the password but it will immediately ask you to change the password. Make it something you can remember, at least 10 characters, mixing upper case, lower case, numbers and at least one non-alphanumeric like a # or a %. I take it you can install it on your phone and home PC.” “I think I can do that OK,” said Jinnie, “I have a laptop at home but the internet isn’t very fast. Part of my agreement is that the company will install high-speed fibre to my house for me to work from home.” “OK,” said Nigel, “I’m on it. I think you need a fast fibre business line to your home. I’ll get my trainee on it, but it is getting late so it won’t be until the morning and I think you need a high-spec desktop with a big screen and an A3/4 laser printer. That really is a company purchase, do we have a procurement department/manager yet?” “I’ll talk to the COO about that in the morning,” said Jinnie, “but can you get things moving in the meantime please.”
Paolo had Belinda’s quote on his iPad and had been going through it on the train home from the embassy. The first thing he said to Jinnie was, “This is much lower than I expected, have a read and tell me what you think.” Jinnie took his iPad and read through the quote and looked at the drawings and images. She finally got to the end and read the exclusions and the total price. The exclusions were obvious really, computers, printer, desks, chairs and internet connection to the house. But just as Paolo had said, the quote was much lower than she had expected. Turning to Paolo she said, “I think it’s not worth getting any more quotes, I’m going to phone her and tell her to get it on order.”
Belinda was happy to take Jinnie’s verbal order and Jinnie said she would transfer the deposit into Belinda’s company’s bank account that evening. Belinda explained that Peter was running a big project at the moment, but she would have Jason, who she knew, start on Monday, his team could start digging the trench and preparing for the foundation. The prefabricated office would take a week to arrive, but the concrete base needed that to cure.
When her conversation with Belinda ended, Brian came on the line. He explained that he had been looking at setting up banking for the company and the business manager at Barclays in Crawley was a friend and had offered them a good deal. However, he had a small problem. The bank wanted the signatures of the managing director and the finance director on the paperwork. Jinnie said she was in Crawley, interviewing for a PA, on Tuesday morning, could he meet her at the Ramada at about two and she would be happy to accompany him to Barclays? Brian replied that Barclays was two minutes walk up the High Street so he would try for a 2:15 appointment.
Saturday and Sunday were relatively quiet, Nigel rang to say he had been checking out what business broadband was available at her address and it wasn’t great news, there was no fibre to the premises available yet but it was expected within a year. He had spoken to a couple of suppliers and one could supply a 75MB business line the following week and another a 150MB line in five working days. After a short discussion it was decided to go with the faster speed mainly as that provider would let them break a 24-month contract if they were upgrading to FTTP.
On Saturday night Emma and Freddie were invited for a drink. Jinnie updated them on how they were having a garden office installed by Belinda starting on Monday. Freddie mentioned that with the cold weather the concrete slab could take a long time to cure to full strength. Although it would probably be hard enough to walk on after a couple of days it could take 28 days or more to cure to something like full strength. Emma told Jinnie how surprised people at work were to hear she had resigned, they had her down for the next deputy director and a damehood, especially as she was so close with the PM.
Emma’s next bit of work news was that Belinda was the chosen contractor to refurbish three floors and the staff canteen at Vauxhall Cross. They were about to be called in for negotiations to sort out the final cost and specifications. Emma was particularly excited by the staff canteen as it was currently rather shabby. She had seen the drawings and rendered images and was impressed. She said she didn’t understand all the kitchen refurbishment but the restaurant manager and chef were more than happy. Jinnie was about to tell her that she was soon to be involved with Belinda’s company but decided that it was perhaps better not to mention it yet.
Freddie, who worked for the local council, asked if Jinnie and Paolo were aware that the golf club had applied for planning permission to build a mini estate of four detached houses on a bit of land they owned, but didn’t use, at the side of their property. Jinnie said, “No, I thought the council were supposed to ask anyone affected if they wanted to object.” “That’s right,” said Freddie, “but it hasn’t gone out to consultation yet, the application only came in on Thursday. It isn’t even up on the council planning department website yet.” Paolo and Jinnie decided that they would object on the grounds of over development, a single house would be appropriate but four was too many.
Sunday was Jinnie’s turn to host the family Sunday lunch. In some ways she liked it when the others came to her as it meant she didn’t have to mess about getting the twins ready but she had to spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking. Paolo suggested that they order-in lunch from the Trattoria Trevi’s English kitchen. After looking at the menu they decided on an extra large roast chicken (serves eight) goose fat roast potatoes, broccoli, carrots and peas which everyone, including Larry, liked. For dessert, she ordered Golden Syrup sponge pudding and custard.
Larry was confused, he heard Jinnie talking about a roast chicken for lunch but he had not seen any sign of one in the kitchen. When Mr and Mrs Walsh arrived they found Jinnie playing with the twins in the living room. Larry was sprawled on the sofa, where he was close to a big radiator, watching the twins, who had begun to recognise him and reached out when he passed near them. Mrs Walsh sat down next to Larry and he shuffled up so she could stroke him. After accepting a gin and tonic she asked Jinnie, “Do you need any help in the kitchen?” Jinnie smiled and said, “No thanks mum, everything is in hand, Paolo has even laid the table.”
The meal was ordered for 13:30 and arrived three minutes early. The guests realised what was happening only when the delivery van arrived on the drive. Jinnie nipped into the kitchen and put the pudding into the warm oven before putting the vegetables out on the table in the opaque plastic bowls they had been delivered in. Paolo carved the chicken remarking that it cut beautifully and smelt wonderful. Plates of meat were handed out and the guests helped themselves to the vegetables. The smell of roast chicken was tantalising Larry and he was patrolling around the table meowing loudly. Jinnie said to him, “Don’t panic, Paolo hasn’t forgotten you, the chicken is big enough for us all with plenty left over for you.” Paolo carved Larry a big portion and Jinnie chopped it up into small pieces for him before adding a bit of potato and broccoli, then pouring on some gravy. For a change he was allowed to eat with the family and despite starting last was finished first and sat licking his lips while silently urging someone to give him a bit more chicken.
As they had ordered a meal for eight there was plenty for seconds and even plenty of chicken left for Larry’s tea. Paolo and Jinnie cleared the table and fetched the sponge pudding from the oven. Jinnie got Paolo to go to the kitchen cupboard and bring in a big tin of Golden Syrup in case anyone wanted extra. When Daniel saw what was for pudding his eyes lit up and he said, “That looks wonderful, I don’t think I have had this since school.” While enjoying a post-dinner cup of coffee everyone agreed that the food had been perfect and Jinnie said she was delighted how easy lunch had been and how she had been delighted to spend time with her guests. Penny said, “It’s my turn to host next Sunday, I think I might order a gammon joint, I hope everyone likes it.”
Jason arrived very early on Monday morning driving what Jinnie guessed was a brand-new company van and towing a concrete mixer and micro digger on a flatbed trailer. He said good morning to everyone, stroked Larry, explained that two more men were on their way and a skip was meant to be delivered at any time, accepted the offer of a mug of tea, and unloaded a micro digger. By the time Jinnie had made the tea, Jason had started digging the trench. When the other two men arrived, Jason set them to work pegging out the boards for the foundation slab. About half past nine a builder’s merchant lorry arrived and unloaded bags of sand and aggregate, a couple of sheets of reinforcing mesh, sacks of cement, concrete protection slabs and several rolls of green, red and blue plastic tubes.
After more mugs of tea, Jason got back to his nearly finished trench, while the other two men positioned the plastic tubes to take the services from the trench under the slab and up through the slab just inside where the rear wall of the office was to go. The concrete mixer was fired up and all three men started mixing and barrowing concrete for the slab. When it was half depth the reinforcement grid was added and then more concrete to bring it level with the edge boards. By three o’clock Jason’s crew had tidied up, loaded up the micro digger and hitched up the trailer. He told Jinnie that on Wednesday morning the plumbers and electricians would be there to do their first fix as the slab would be hard enough to walk on. His crew would be back on Thursday to fill in the trench, convert it into a path and clear the spoil. On Friday the prefabricated office and triple glazing would be delivered and he and his gang would be back to put it all together and make it watertight.
On Tuesday morning Jinnie’s mum arrived to babysit the twins, it was far easier for her to come to Hadley, as everything the twins needed was there, saving Jinnie having to pack everything into her car. Jinnie took the train to Three Bridges and a taxi to the hotel where a smiling Ro was waiting for her. They had plenty of time for a coffee and a chat before the first appointment. Ro told her how she lived with her parents and brother in Pound Hill. She had gone to school locally and had gone to university in London where she had got a 2.1 in English. She had got a graduate trainee job at Super Burger but wasn’t impressed, once she had finished the traineeship she had made her mind up to move to a job where she was appreciated.
Jinnie gave her a potted version of her history, saying how she had gone to Cambridge, got a 1st in German, but also spoke French and Italian. She said she then worked in a government department where she had risen to a director, inherited some money and invested it in the Trattoria Trevi and became a director. She then said she had met her Italian diplomat husband while working for the government and had twins. All true but highly edited and abbreviated. The only thing that Ro was really interested in was the twins, what were they called, how old were they, where were they today and would she get to meet them?
Jinnie liked the way Ro had set up the meeting room for the interviews. Instead of a desk or a large table between her and the candidate, all three of them had tub chairs arranged around a small round coffee table. The first candidate had all the qualifications, was pretty, smart but devoid of any personality. Number two was plain and mousey but well qualified, in Jinnie’s head she ranked her above the first candidate. Number three didn’t turn up, instead Jinnie and Ro discussed the first two candidates. Ro liked number two better than number one but felt neither was what Jinnie was looking for. Jinnie said she was 100% right. Number four was a little early, again well qualified and experienced but seemed to be lacking any get-up and go, Jinnie wanted someone who could work on their own initiative.
Alone again, Jinnie and Ro headed for the bar where Jinnie bought soft drinks and sandwiches. Over the refreshments they agreed that none of them were right for the job. Jinnie asked Ro to send them ‘Thanks but no thanks’ letters. Ro suggested she broaden the search and advertise in the Crawley Observer. Jinnie said, “Don’t bother, I have made my mind up who I want.” “Oh who?” asked Ro. “If you want it, the PA job is yours,” replied Jinnie. “You and I get on, you have been basically doing the job for a week and showing how capable you are. You have met the board, you are not scared to give an opinion and above all you have common sense.”
Ro stared at Jinnie, “Do you really mean it?” she asked. “Of course,” said Jinnie, “One thing we need to settle is the salary. I see we were offering £35,000 a year to the candidates, I take it that is acceptable.” “Oh yes,” said Ro. “Then we must add you to the non-contributory senior pension scheme, profit sharing scheme and reasonable expenses. Do you accept?” “Of course,” said Ro, “I’d love to.” “Right,” said Jinnie, “I will speak to Aimee later, she can sort it all out, whether it’s a transfer or if you have to be resigned and be re-employed.”
It was a happy Jinnie who met Brian at the bank. Brian asked why she was so happy. Jinnie replied that she had just found the perfect PA. Brian asked, “One of the interviewees?” “No,” said Jinnie, “I have offered Ro the job and she has accepted. She has been doing it for the past week, is very capable and I like her.” “Pity,” said Brian, “Belinda and I had decided to try to poach her for the refurbishment business!”
Jinnie and Brian signed the paperwork that was put in front of them and were welcomed to Barclays and told their accounts were now open. Brian was given a chequebook and asked to supply a sample signature form for people allowed to sign them. The discussions then started going over Jinnie’s head, she heard the occasional word she understood but had no real idea what Brian was plotting.
As Brian drove Jinnie to Three Bridges station he explained that everything had gone to plan. The company accounts were initially going to work like the Trattoria Trevi’s with the business account swept nightly and any surplus moved to a saving account. The new company now had £2.2 million in assets (that was what the Potters Bar Dark Kitchen had been valued at) and Super Burger would be transferring an equivalent amount into the account later that day. That gave them enough to buy the Manor Royal business and to pay a deposit to Belinda’s company for the work. Barclays had approved a £2 million drawing facility for the purchase of Belinda’s refurbishment business. But once on the “Dark Kitchen” books it would be generating cash just as the Potters Bar kitchen would be. The Manor Royal kitchen would be generating cash in four months time and at that point they could start paying off the loan. His calculations were that any borrowing for the purchase of the refurbishment business could be cleared within a year. In fact, it would almost certainly be much sooner as Wright Refurbishment was making good money. “Mind you, by the time we come to build a third kitchen we will have an in-house construction company reducing costs, much greater assets meaning we can borrow more cheaply should it be necessary. After a couple of projects we will be generating enough cash to not have to borrow.”
Jinnie was beginning to see that this was going to be a huge business. She wondered if she ought to tell Brian that Belinda was about to win the Vauxhall Cross contract. She thought about it for a moment and said to Brian, “My contacts tell me Belinda is about to be made preferred supplier for the Vauxhall Cross project. Is that going to mean a need for additional borrowing?” “Oh,” said Brian, “Your old colleagues are keeping you informed. The beauty of that job is that it is in phases with stage payments. At the moment the company is cash rich having just finished the Italian Embassy job. With the deposit and stage payments we anticipate no borrowing requirements, but if we did, the cost of borrowing is reduced for a company with assets.”
Jinnie climbed out of her car on the drive because the garage was blocked by a massive skip and a pile of stuff under a tarpaulin. Entering the house she was greeted by Larry who was waiting as usual. He was perched on top of a number of cardboard boxes that half-blocked the hall. Her mum was watching TV with the sound down low. When she saw Jinnie she held her finger to her lips and whispered, “The twins are asleep.” Jinnie laughed and said, “Don’t worry they will sleep through anything. What’s the parcels in the hall?” Her mum said, “I am told by your friend Nigel that it’s a new computer, twin 32” monitors, a printer and a server. He said to tell you he will be around in the morning to temporarily set it up and to supervise the people who are installing the business broadband.”
In Chapter 4 – Construction begins
© WorthingGooner 2023