Jinnie’s Story – Book Five, Chapter Nine

Penny heads to the West Indies

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

The new building was progressing leaps and bounds. Nigel wanted to start off the site visit in the computer room. It was a hive of activity, Nigel pointed out several racks where servers were humming and lights flashing, storage was in another rack and two more empty racks stood ready for expansion. There were network connection cabinets being cabled from the cables coming up through the raised floor and Jinnie was amazed how the installers seemed to know which cable went where. Nigel pointed out where the internet came into the building and how it had already been connected up to the mini network Nigel had jury-rigged.

Nigel and Jed had already got the high-speed network working to the boardroom and the Core Teams offices and had a rudimentary intranet running. Nigel explained that over the coming weekend, he would be switching the little network from over the road in the serviced office to run on these servers and the following weekend Belinda’s office work to be linked in as a satellite office. Jinnie asked, “What about my little home office?” “Oh,” said Nigel, “we changed that last Sunday, have you noticed anything different?” Jinnie had to admit that as far as she was concerned nothing had changed.” Nigel high-fived Jed and said, “I told you she would never know.” Then he explained that he had negotiated with the hardware supplier and got a price reduction by buying the computers, servers, storage and Network Cabinets from them. He had decided to spend this with the same hardware supplier and had used it to install WiFi though out the building now everyone could use a laptop and mobile phone on the network. Jinnie approved.

Belinda walked them around the rest of the site. The reception was beginning to look good, the new entrance was in and the postroom partition was up. Men from the furniture supplier were in the postroom installing cabinets and worktops. Belinda said decorating the postroom started on Monday and she had seen the reception desk in the furniture maker’s factory earlier in the week, it was magnificent and ready to ship when the room was ready. Belinda stopped a man walking through and introduced Jinnie to him. He was Gary the boss of the company installing the electrics and data cabling. Gary said he was just checking power in the board room, it was only a temporary arrangement but was looking good. Gary said he was having a problem with the electric distribution company, the substation that supplied the site was too small and was being upgraded by them, but they were behind with their work. Gary said he was pushing them but they were blaming a hardware supplier.

Jinnie asked if it was going to delay the opening of the first two kitchens. Gary replied, “We have enough power coming into the site for them and for the offices to start up, but I am having to reschedule the working order of later things. I think we can get away with running cables but I can’t terminate them or test them. I hope to God that nothing gets damaged in the installation as many will be under floors or in ceilings and we might need things being dismantled.” Belinda said, “Gary, you worry too much. I can’t ever remember your crew damaging a cable while installing it.” Gary replied, “But have you seen the size of these cables?”

The boardroom looked good and as far as Jinnie could tell was finished. The boardroom table and chairs were there and the matching storage wall and sideboards were better than the render. Belinda showed the party how pop-ups came up from the table revealing power points and data points. Gary pulled what looked like an iPad, from a holder next to the door, and demonstrated how it controlled the lighting, TV, sound system, blackout blinds and which data point was feeding the giant TV in the storage wall.

Belinda showed them the ground floor toilets and Jinnie approved. Everything worked; from magic eyes, the combined water, soap dispensers and dryers, the toilet flushes even the lighting was on a movement detector so Belinda suggested that no one should sleep in the toilets. The colour scheme was purple and white, the agreed corporate colour and Jinnie thought it looked good. Belinda said, “We can go into the visitor’s loo if you like, but it’s very similar to the staff one you have just seen. It should be finished but the suppliers of the moulded Corian sink in the gents dropped it unloading it from the delivery lorry and they are having to remake it.” Jinnie laughed and said, “At their expense I trust!”

The staff restroom had its ceiling, lighting, cabinets, worktops and wall units in place. Belinda said, “I am really happy with this lot. We costed for custom-built units from the furniture supplier but Andrew suggested commercial kitchen units from Howdens. These are top of the range and their men installed everything in two days saving quite a lot. The plumber has already installed the boiling water taps and Peter reckons they are brilliant. I might have to have one at home! The laminate flooring goes down on Monday, which leaves only the microwaves, fridges, vending machines and furniture to be installed.

In the first-floor office area the ceiling was fully installed and at least half the lights were in place. The line of core team offices looked complete and Ro was sat at an old table in her area tapping away at a laptop. Jinnie went to speak to her and asked her why she was working here and not over the road. She replied, “To get some peace and quiet. I work for you but some of the other directors think I’m a general dogs body. When Nigel told me the WiFi was up and running I moved here. I must say he has been great, he and Brian haven’t pushed me and have helped whenever I needed it. I think the ex-SuperBurger people think I am still an HR junior.”

Belinda said the core team furniture was being installed on Monday together with the first few staff desks. All the desks were designed for co-working and were in pods of six. Each desk had inbuilt cable management, monitor arms, two twin power point points per person, two data points and a PC holder. Nigel said they were a dream to install and wire up. Jinnie loved her corner office, windows to two sides, a gazed front and a half-glazed wall with a door to Ro’s office. On the other side of Ro was Brian’s office, again a half-glazed wall with a door between them, a full-glazed front and windows to the opposite side. A solid wall made up the fourth wall between Brian and the next office. The offices and the area immediately in front of them was already carpeted. A number of fully glazed partitions with glass doors divided up the space.

At the far end of the office Jinnie could see Jason busily painting the full-height solid portion that divided the offices from the break-out area on its other side. Belinda said, “That partition has been a pain. We thought a standard 30-minute firewall would be OK, but the building inspector has insisted on 60 minutes and it going to the roof, not just the ceiling. I can’t find anything in the building regs but what he says goes.” The break-out area was nearly complete, its ceiling and lighting had been installed and the decorations done and the carpet tiles were down. Belinda explained the sofas, armchairs and coffee tables were with the furniture supplier but were only going to be delivered after the site was industrial clean. Here, the toilets were not finished, Belinda said there had been a short delay on the sanitary ware but it was due to be delivered midweek and the plumber was booked for a week on Monday.

Belinda asked where Peter was, and Belinda said he was busy supervising the installation of the new sliding electric car park gates and its visitor controls from reception. “That reminds me,” said Belinda, “we didn’t allow for any EV chargers in the car park. We actually don’t have to legally, but I think if we put half a dozen in for staff and a couple in the visitor parking we might get ahead of the law. But we can’t activate them until the sub-station has been upgraded.”

Richard saw the party enter the ‘kitchens’ area and headed over to them. The mezzanine was complete and the supplier’s men were just finishing off an emergency stairwell in the back corner of the mezzanine. Richard explained that at its base a crash bar door would lead into the car park at the side of the building. Now it was complete Jinnie could work out how the mezzanine worked. The kitchen nearest the offices was the first Trattoria Trevi kitchen, then came the second Trattoria Trevi kitchen and built into the wall between them were the lean lifts, one serving each kitchen. Then came the Superburger kitchen which had an ordinary lift. These three kitchens looked to be well advanced but the next three only had their exterior walls in place and the ceiling installed. Some of the ceiling grid and cable trays were in for the next six kitchens, they were obviously way behind the first three.

The ambient stores, chilled stores and freezers under the mezzanine for the first three kitchens looked almost complete, but clearly were not as fitters from the refrigeration company were busy. On the kitchen level a wide walkway ran full width of the building along the edge of the mezzanine. On the office side it ended at a double door into the offices. Richard explained that this gave access between the offices and kitchen, and acted as another emergency exit, but Richard said it was currently locked shut as otherwise it was a breach in the firewall until the fire alarm and the automatic closers were fitted and working.

The other end of the walkway finished at the side wall of the building where what Richard called a dumb waiter was to take finished meals down to dispatch. A second walkway ran along this side wall and connected it to a walkway that mirrored the one at the front of the mezzanine. Richard said that was to serve another door through the firewall into the offices but it was still to be punched through the wall and would be one of the last things done. At the opposite end of the second long walkway was the fire escape stair the men were working on. Along the side wall a third walkway connected the front and rear walkways.

Richard pointed to a pile of steel sitting on the concrete floor of the huge building, he explained that it was for an extension to the mezzanine in the front corner of the building and another emergency staircase. The extra mezzanine floor level was to house the call centre and the drying room was to be under it on the ground floor. Dispatch was housed in what Richard described as a ‘dog kennel’ on the outside of the side wall. Belinda explained it kept meal delivery vans and scooters clear of heavy lorries backing in through the roller shutters to deliver to the kitchens.

At the end of the walk-through, as they strolled back to the boardroom for the now traditional coffee and sandwiches, Jinnie asked Belinda where there were on the programme. Belinda answered apart from things we have no control over, like the dropped Corian and the substation, we are about a week and a half ahead. As the party entered the boardroom Jinnie was hit by the smell of warm food. Ro was busy laying things out on a couple of the sideboards, as well as the usual cold sandwiches there were warm sausage rolls, sausage sandwiches and bacon rolls. Ro had taken Jinnie at her word and had visited the burger van. The smell of the bacon drew Jinnie.


At the same time as Jinnie was eating her bacon roll, Penny, Steven and Sub-Lieutenant Leslie Phillips were sitting comfortably in British Airway’s Club World enjoying a 3-course lunch with wine. SMG had altered the plans as they just couldn’t make the PM’s ideas work. The flight from Gatwick to Jamaica was direct to Kingston and then across the island to Montego Bay before flying back to Heathrow. The three agents were booked through to Montego Bay. As were, according to the chatty stewardess, about half the people on board. The stewardess had told them that the 1/3rd full Business Class was a haven away from packed World Traveller behind them. She said the overhead lockers were full of boom boxes. After lunch Steven said, “I’m going to get my head down for a bit, give me a shake when the pre-landing meal comes around, you know I snooze and get stuck into scoff whenever I can.” With that he pressed the button that converted his seat into a lie-flat bed and within minutes was gently snoring.

Penny took the chance to go over the plan in her head. For this mission she and Steven were brother and sister from Berlin, which explained them wanting separate accommodation. The background story was they were taking a holiday in Argentina where they hoped to meet up with the family of their grandfather’s brother who had emigrated years ago. Leslie ‘call me Les’, was their cousin and to excuse his lack of German he was supposed to be dumb. At Montego Bay they were picking up a cruise ship and would travel on it through the Panama Canal and down the west coast of South America to Valparaiso but as it was an American ship they were Italians while on board. Then it was by car on to Santiago and over the mountains on National Route 7 into the city of Mendoza in Argentina. The missile factory and launch site were close to the city and disguised as a winery with large tanks that are supposedly holding wine, but actually held liquid oxygen and hydrogen.

Penny reached over the dividing panel and nudged Steven who was instantly fully awake. The stewardess was coming around with a cream tea, but on Jamaican time it was about lunchtime! Still, she was hungry and she knew that Steven could eat at any time. The meal trays had been cleared and a final round of drinks consumed when the seat belts sign pinged on. The pilot came on the tannoy to announce the plane was descending in to Kingston where the crew would change ready for the short hop to Montego Bay.

The flight taxied to the terminal and around half the people in the Club World cabin got off and were replaced by a fewer number for the leg to Montego Bay. As the plane taxied out to take off for Montego Bay the new senior steward in Club World crouched down by Steven and said, “Sir, I have instructions to deplane your party first, even before the First Class cabin. Please be ready as soon as we land, I don’t want complaints from First Class passengers.” When the Steward had gone to take up his seat for take-off, Steven turned to Jinnie and said, “I don’t think we are flavour of the month with him.”

Nevertheless, the agents were off the plane the moment the cabin door was open and a man rushed them down the emergency stairs at the head of the airbridge and into a chauffeur-driven large black American limo that was waiting at the foot of the stairs. The driver introduced himself as Glenmore and said worked for ‘the embassy’. They waited a few minutes before their ‘priority’ luggage arrived and they were off, no messing with passport control or customs, straight through the police control point and onto the highway and through the town to the cruise port.

They were joining a celebrity cruise from Miami to Valparaiso. Penny thought the ship was similar in size to the Queen Mary 2, but having Googled it she knew this was a cruise ship and not an ocean liner. Glenmore dropped them at the cruise terminal, wished them a good trip and gave them a huge wink. As they stepped out of the limo, a porter grabbed their luggage, slung it on a sack barrow and pointed out the passenger entrance to them and told them their luggage would be delivered to their cabin. They headed into the terminal where they checked in using Italian passports because Les could speak Italian. There were other people joining the cruise there and the half-dozen desks were fairly busy. Other passengers were returning from excursions, but they only had to go through a metal detector arch and have shopping bags X-rayed.

The party had adjoining balcony cabins, Penny had a double for one and the men were sharing another balcony cabin. The cabin steward asked if they wanted the connecting door between the balconies unlocked and they unanimously agreed. While waiting for the luggage to arrive the group had a wander around the ship. Steven was impressed, but Penny kept comparing it to the Cunarders of her honeymoon saying it was OK but missed out on class. Les said he want to hold his judgement until after dinner.

For their evening meal the three were placed on a table of eight and were able to practice the variation on their cover story for the cruise. They were Italians and now Italy was free, were exploring the friendly world. Their fellow diners were American and most had never been outside their own state let alone the US. The table waiter took their orders for starters and mains. The two boys both ordered a New York sirloin steak while Penny went for grilled chicken breast, both came with mash. With starters of French onion soup consumed, the waiter brought bowls of salad and offered various dressings. The Americans all dived in and their salads soon disappeared, while the ‘Italians’ put the salad to one side to eat with the mains.

The waiter came over and asked if everything was OK with the salad and Penny explained that unlike Americans, in Europe salad was eaten with the main course and not as a separate course. The waiter shrugged and brought the mains. Steven and Les said the steak was tender and tasty enough but they would have preferred it with ‘French fries’ and a bigger steak. Penny was happy with her chicken breast and promised to be more adventurous tomorrow but she was still suffering from the flight. Rather than a menu, the commis waiter brought a tray loaded with one of each dessert on offer for the table to select, while the waiter noted selections. Penny commented that this was eating with your eyes.

After the dessert and coffee, the waiter asked the diners if they had enjoyed their meals. One of the Americans said it was OK but the portions were too small for him. Steven and Les agreed and added that they would have preferred French fries with their steaks, mash and gravy was for pies and stews. Sitting in the bar, enjoying an after-dinner drink, the servicemen agreed the food was good, while Penny thought it and the service was just OK, but not a patch on the Cunard liners she had dined on during her Honeymoon.


Jinnie had really enjoyed her burger van lunch of a bacon roll, a sausage sandwich with HP sauce and a slab of fruitcake, even the coffee had been decent. The board meeting went to plan, all the departmental reports were good. Now that the price was right, two more kitchens had been leased and three more were expected to sign in the next couple of working days. Belinda was ahead of the construction programme, Nigel was able to say everything in the IT department was good and if Belinda was ahead of programme the IT would be ready. Brian reported the financial expenditure was in hand and the financial position was excellent. Mick reported that he and Jinnie were interviewing two possible HR directors immediately after the board meeting and hoped to have the position filled very soon.

Brain had been briefed to support Belinda’s request for extra permanent staff to cope with workload. Explaining that her construction division had been selected for a multi-million government contract, Belinda said that they were in final negotiations to tidy up the details and the contract would be signed in a week or so. She said the job was classified so she could not give them any details but she would need two additional permanent designers and a site supervisor. The site manpower could be picked up as short-term contractors or she could use subcontractors. That was agreed but Brian then said he needed permission to hire three people for his finance/account division and he added the HR director would also be needing to hire staff very soon. He suggested that each department should be preparing budgets which he needed to see by the end of next week so they could be discussed and consolidated.

The power would be on in the offices, and the first three kitchens, on Monday so it was agreed to move the core team in a week later. Trattoria Trevi and Super Burger had been advertising for staff locally for some time and both were ready to start testing their kitchens. But the DKL directors suddenly realised they were in need of more bodies. They needed call handlers, delivery drivers, cleaners, receptionists, mailmen, salesmen and numerous others to run HQ. Nigel said he would need two people to join his IT department immediately but he had already got them earmarked. Brian admitted he had been cheating and had been advertising for accounts staff, finance people and the likes through Belinda’s division and had selected his start-up staff. Jinnie said she expected the new HR director would need people as they would have to be establishing contracts and wage structures with the new people. It was agreed that advertisements should go into Crawley local papers, the West Sussex County Times, the Brighton Argus and the London Evening Standard ASAP.

Jinnie raised the subject of Belinda’s quote for the completion of Potters Bar, should it be the next project following the completion of Manor Royal? The discussion went on for a while before it started going round in circles. The argument was mainly around would the money be better spent building a new kitchen elsewhere. Brian pointed out that a new 12-kitchen project was going to cost a lot more than Potters Bar as they already owned the Potters Bar building and had much of the necessary infrastructure already in place. It was finally settled when Jerry said he had several enquiries from companies wanting to know if there were any kitchens available in Potters Bar. The decision was to go ahead with the expansion as soon as Manor Royal was complete.

Finally, it came to Jinnie’s request for an official opening ceremony. Mick asked why and Brian asked where the budget was coming from? Jinnie explained that a VIP was interested and he would not be asking for any payment. In fact, he was so famous that the free advertising would be worth a fortune to them. Of course that brought a chorus of demands to know who the VIP was. Jinnie said, “I have promised him to only give out his name if you agree to the ceremony and even then you will have to keep it secret until just before the event.”

The board eventually agreed, mainly because of the free advertising and Jinnie told them it was the PM. At first some didn’t believe her, but Brian said, “I might have guessed,” and Dirk just sat there laughing and eventually said, “That is so typical of the PM.” Alberto chipped in, “He has been to our restaurant several times and the free publicity is amazing, it is well worth a little effort involved in hosting him.” Jinnie then explained that he wanted the opportunity to make a speech as he had a couple of announcements to make, but he didn’t want wild speculation in the press, which he knew would happen if he just announced a speech.

The interviews went well, with Mick and Jinnie agreeing that the second candidate was outstanding and they offered her the job on the spot. A wage and remuneration package was agreed which Jinnie was delighted to see was lower than the outgoing director. When asked when she could start, Angela said she was owed more than four weeks’ leave from her current employer and as she was on 28 days notice she said she could probably start later the following week. Jinnie and Mick shook hands with Angela and suggested that her first job would be to draw up her own contract! Jinnie then rushed off to phone the prime minister and give him the good news.

In Chapter 10 – An Opening Ceremony?

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