Jinnie’s Story – Book Five, Chapter Six

The Grand tour

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

Belinda led the small party through the double doors that lead to the ground floor accommodation. From her memory of the drawings and images she had seen, Jinnie knew that most of the ground floor was given over to all sorts of things except offices. At the moment it was bedlam with the flooring being lifted, partitions being demolished, ceilings being taken down and electricians rigging temporary lights. Two men were busy sticking runs of masking tape on the bare concrete floor. Peter explained they were laying out where partitions dividing the area into various rooms were to go.

Immediately behind the reception was the mail room and Peter said it would have a door into reception and a door into the main ground floor corridor. Other rooms were to be a large boardroom, six large meeting rooms, a first aid room, large male and female toilet blocks and changing/locker rooms which were to be accessed only from the kitchens’ side of the building and smaller toilets for the users of the meeting rooms. Belinda explained that there was an existing 90-minute compartmental firewall between the office space and the kitchens and the building inspector insisted it had to stay. Consequently, when it was decided that The Dark Kitchen Limited was going to use the office space, and two additional kitchens had been created by moving the main toilets/locker rooms with access through the firewall, they had to be created as 90-minute protected boxes.

The last room on the ground floor was enormous and Peter told them it was to be a canteen/staff restroom for both office staff and kitchen workers. It would not cook food but there would be units and worktops along two sides, four sinks with boiling/chiller water taps, six industrial microwaves and four American-style double fridges as well as vending machines loaded with sandwiches and microwaveable goods like pies, pasties and sausage rolls. Staff could bring in their own food and store it in the fridges and use the microwaves to cook it. The rest of the space was to be occupied by large circular tables and chairs. Once again a rendered image was blue-tacked to the wall. Jinnie looked from the dusty area where a few of the construction workers sat eating sandwiches at rickety old tables perched on mismatched chairs, to the image on the wall and thought about the imagination that it had taken to produce that. She also thought about a ready market for the Trattoria Trevi sandwiches and snacks business.

The next stop was the first floor of the office block. Peter said, “We can either walk back through the building and use the main stairs or use the emergency stairs in the car park.” Jinnie said, “I want to see the car park so let’s go via the emergency stairs”. They went out of the emergency exit and down four steps to the car park. Belinda pointed out the new disabled slope that had been cast in concrete from the landing immediately outside the emergency exit. Peter said, “Once the concrete has cured we will be installing a handrail and we will be changing the door so that it is a dual emergency exit, entrance for kitchen staff to the canteen and a fire door.”

The car park was enormous and ran across the back of the building and down either side. Belinda said the idea was to have the side of the car park on the side by the reception to have director and visitors’ spaces. It currently was partly occupied by the combined Portaloo, changing room and washroom that Ro had reported being unloaded. The car park was marked out with parking spaces and roads serving the four giant roller shutters across the back of the building. Jinnie saw why Belinda had included for resurfacing the car park. In places the tarmac was crumbling and potholed and patches were covered in moss, grass and weeds.

The metal fire escape tower was a bit rusty but was stable, it just need wire brushing and painting. The small party climbed the stairs and entered the first floor via what was another fire door leading into a huge, completely open space with loads of men working. Belinda explained, “We are a little further advanced here as this is where the core team will be moving in first. We have lifted the carpet tiles, stripped out all the existing partitions and removed all the ceiling tiles, ceiling grid and lights. We have temporary lights rigged as it gets dark early. As you can see, we have already started installing the new ceiling, a 600 x 600 ceiling grid and the electricians have made a start on the cable tray for the lighting. The ducted air conditioning will also run in the ceiling void. This level has a raised floor so please be careful walking around as the electricians have chunks lifted to run underfloor cable trays for power and data and to install floor boxes.”

Belinda led them to a plan stuck on a window and oriented them. She pointed out that where they were standing would be a row of director’s offices. Jinnie’s office was in the corner and then came Ro’s office, then Brian’s office and then the rest of the directors. Belinda said that as the director’s offices blocked a whole wall of windows. They had been designed to be all made from full-height glass but in case privacy was required it would be photochromatic. A small area at the front of the floor was to be divided off by a solid partition. This small area was to include the stairwell, the lift, the toilets and a break-out space with several sofas, armchairs and coffee tables. This was designed for ad hoc meetings with the likes of salesmen.

The main floor was divided into areas such as HR,sales, accounts, finance, IT etc. Once again all the partitions and doors were to be glass to let natural light flow as much as possible. Jinnie asked where the construction division space was located. Belinda laughed and said, “Exactly where it is now. I intended to bring it up at the board meeting, but if I am to carry on offering refurbishment and fit-out services to other customers I think it would be bit off-putting to have them come to this building. My offices are only at the end of the road and round the corner, you can walk it in less than five minutes. I think the estate agent next door is moving out so I might take that space to ensure I can expand when needed.

Nigel asked, “Where is the server room? So far I haven’t seen it.” Peter said, “Follow me,” and led them to the main stairwell and up a level. At the top of the stairs was a double door and Peter took them through it into a room about 30 feet by 45 feet. “This was the airline catering company’s server room. It is also where the internet and phone lines come into the building and it already has its own air conditioning. I hope this is suitable for your server and communications room, our computer people thought it was pretty good.”

Nigel looked around and said, “It looks ideal, did they do any drawings to go with their specification?” “Absolutely,” said Belinda, “they positioned everything; server racks, comms racks, network switches, and even did power calculations, everything. There is a set of full-size drawings downstairs, behind the old reception desk, together with their full quote and specifications.” “Great,” said Nigel. “I’ll get Jed to collect it all after lunch and he can start going through it with a fine toothcomb. Not that I expect to find anything wrong, they look very competent and have suggested exactly what I would recommend.”

The next stop was the kitchen area. Belinda told them that to get there they had to go back to the ground floor and walk through the car park to a door between two of the roller shutters. As they walked to the fire escape stairs Peter pointed out where they intended to drive a double doorway through the firewall onto the new mezzanine once it was up. He explained this would be a special 90-minute fire door, linked to the fire alarm with battery electric closers that would ensure it shut in the event of the fire alarm being triggered. As they exited onto the emergency stairs Jinnie saw a number of workers walking across the car park to a van parked just outside the site. Peter said, “It’s lunchtime and the men are heading to the burger van. He has started coming about eight-thirty each morning and doing egg, bacon and sausage rolls for breakfast and then back at lunchtime with burgers, hot dogs, pies and chips. He also does tea, coffee and fizzy drinks.”

Jinnie was pleased to visit the kitchen area at lunchtime as she imagined the noise in there would be awful. Belinda explained that the subsoil was very sandy and the building was built on a slab sitting on pile caps. The perimeter piles were on a 20-foot by 20-foot grid and extra piles had been driven and capped to accommodate the later installation of a 40-foot wide concrete mezzanine around the three sides of the space that didn’t have roller shutters. The concrete mezzanine had not been installed and Belinda had agreed with the building inspector that the pile caps could be repurposed for a full-width steel mezzanine. However, they had left out a single 20-foot bay across the rear of the building next to the roller shutters. This meant that new piles had to be driven and pile caps cast for the mezzanine legs in the middle of the building.

A pile driver sat silent with a six-inch diameter pipe pile halfway driven into the ground. Each pile cap was to sit on four pipe piles. More piles had been driven for the foundations of the Trattoria Trevi lean-lifts and the Super Burger’s goods lift. This had entailed diamond cutting a hole in the slab and digging out pits, installing reinforcing bar and forming shuttering to cast the pit. Peter said the building inspector had passed the pits and the first eight pile caps and a ready-mix concrete trunk had poured the first concrete on Monday. They could start installing the mezzanine legs on the existing pile caps immediately and the recently cast ones as soon as the building inspector gave the OK that the concrete had cured.

As they exited the kitchens area a lorry loaded with steel members was coming in the gate. Peter said, “Excellent, that’s the first delivery of mezzanine steels slightly ahead of schedule, excuse me I have to go and get the forklift to unload him.” Jinnie said to Belinda, “You are so lucky to have Peter, he seems to be on top of things.” “You are right,” said Belinda. “He and Richard have got everything in hand. Jason is good but he doesn’t have their experience on these huge jobs. Mind you, this is the biggest job we have ever tackled.”

Belinda, Jinnie and Nigel crossed back over Manor Royal and headed to the meeting room where Ro had organised sandwiches, cake, biscuits and coffee. Nigel sent Jed to get the server room stuff and told him to read it through and start making notes. He and Jinnie got stuck into the sandwiches. Once again Jinnie thought, ‘Here’s another market for our artisan sandwiches.’ Ro took Belinda to one side and said, “While you were over the road I received a letter addressed to you. It was hand delivered by a taxi driver and is marked, ‘Private and confidential – to be opened by the addressee only,’ so I thought I better hand it over to you immediately.” Jinnie opened the letter and read it through once quickly. Then read it a second time more slowly. Then smiled and shoved the letter in her pocket.

Alberto called the board meeting to order and Ro minuted that Aimee was not present. Jinnie was the first to speak saying that within the last 30 minutes she had received a letter of resignation from Aimee. She had written that she had accepted the position of HR director with a major London Accountancy firm that employed several thousand people and was starting on Monday hence she was tendering her resignation with immediate effect. Mick asked if that complied with employment law. Brian laughed and said perhaps they should ask the HR director! When the laughter died down Jinnie said, “I can’t say I am disappointed, she was not pulling her weight. I know it is difficult setting up a new company, but everyone else has been working hard to get things moving. Nigel and I had a walk around the site this morning and I was amazed at the progress being made. Belinda will give us a verbal update in a moment and tell us where we are regarding the schedule. I guess we have a new first item on the agenda, hiring a new HR director.”

Mick said, “I guess that is a Super Burger recommendation.” Jinnie said, “That could be debated, but if you can find someone quickly I wouldn’t object.” Mick said, “I’ll get on with it immediately this meeting is over.”

The next subject was Belinda’s progress report. She told them that everything was either on or just ahead of schedule. She then produced a bar chart, with all the completed tasks crossed through and pinned it to a fibre board. One glance showed that all this week’s tasks had been completed, as had some of next week’s. Belinda explained that the mezzanine erection was starting that afternoon, three days early, but they couldn’t start on the goods lifts or the lean lifts until the building inspector agreed the foundation concrete had set.

The next report came from Brian, the financial position was good, so far expenditure was as expected and income from Potters Bar was as expected. Belinda asked if there was any income from deposits on the Crawley kitchens yet and Brian said “No” and suggested that Jerry could better talk about progress there. Jerry said there had been quite a lot of interest but no one had signed up yet. Jinnie asked if anyone had said why and Jerry just shrugged. Jinnie pushed a bit harder asking, “Not even any of the existing Potters Bar customers?” Again Jerry just said, “No.” Brian then said, “Putting my Trattoria Trevi hat on for a moment, I can tell you we have had discussions but we are being asked for nearly two and a half times what we are paying in Potters Bar.”

A muttering broke out around the Boardroom table. Jinnie asked, “I thought these kitchens had been costed out at around the same price as Potters Bar, what has happened to make the price jump so much?” Jerry looked a little red in the face and said quietly, “We have been testing the market.” Jinnie looked around the table and said, “Well it sounds like the test has failed, if even our core tenants are not taking up their options. I suggest you reopen discussions with them at the prices we originally agreed. I fully expect that you will be reporting you have signed contracts at the next board meeting.”

The remainder of the board meeting went smoothly. Nigel reported that he was happy with what he had seen of the computer and comms room and the contractor looked to be doing a good job installing the cable trays. He would be checking the calculations but saw no reason to question anything as yet, the contractor looked highly competent. Belinda pulled furniture catalogs from her bag and pointed out what she had done her costings on for both directors’ and office furniture, on the fit-out for the first aid room and sofas, armchairs and coffee tables for the reception and breakout areas. She then showed them rendered images of the custom-built reception desk.

Belinda explained that furniture was normally made to order and, to guarantee delivery when required, she really needed a quick agreement. The board liked what they saw and agreed that Belinda could proceed. The next thing Belinda had was drawings and images of the toilets and locker room. The style of toilet cubicles and lockers was quickly agreed, but it was only after a robust discussion that it was agreed that the WC would flush automatically and the sinks would be moulded Corian with combined infrared-controlled soap dispensers, taps and dryers. The final item agreed was the furniture for the staff restroom/kitchen. For that, the board quickly agreed to go with everything Belinda had suggested.

The final bit of discussion came under any other business when Brian suggested that their next project should be to expand the Potters Bar site to its full 12-kitchen capacity. After a short discussion it was agreed that the construction division should work up a quotation.

Belinda drove Jinnie to Three Bridges while Alphonso drove Alberto and Guido. Belinda said, “You realise that if I get a couple of the contracts I am bidding for I am going to need to hire more staff. Will the board support me? The SIS one is enormous and has a lot of potential for additional work and Mr Farage has hinted that he wants me to do something for him. He has been very secretive and so far he has only dropped hints that make no sense to me. He said you will probably know what he wants.” Jinnie thought for a moment and then replied, “I honestly have no idea what he is talking about. I haven’t spoken to him in weeks, but I can guarantee the board will support you.”

In Chapter 7 – The PM pops in

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