Jinnie’s Story – Book Five, Chapter Seventeen

The Sandwich business starts trading

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

Penny, Steven and Les were dropped off by two ministerial cars in Downing Street and much to Les’s surprise they were shown straight into the PM’s private office. Nigel shook hands with them all and thanked them for a job well done. He showed them satellite photos so detailed that Penny was shocked, but both Steven and Les were unimpressed by the quality, they had both seen such things before. The photos showed that the assembly building, workshop and offices were totally destroyed by the intense fire caused by the exploding rocket fuel. The only thing Penny recognised was the erector vehicle which had been parked close to the launchpad and had not been consumed by the fire.

Nigel said, “I couldn’t have dreamed of a more complete destruction of the site and the best bit is that the Argentinians and Germans have absolutely no clue that it was sabotage. GCHQ and the Americans have been monitoring their communication and they are convinced that they had a failure in the missile’s navigation system. Fortunately, we hear that the crash and the fire have destroyed things so completely that the remains of the missile have proved impossible to help the inquiry. The Germans asked if sabotage was a possibility and the Argentinians have said it was totally impossible, the fence had not been breached and the rocket was never out of scientists’ sight (which we know was untrue).”

“I have had reports from our standing agents in Argentina that no search has been undertaken or is even contemplated. Better still, since you left there has been very heavy rainfall which helps hide anything, like a footprint, you might have inadvertently missed. The cars you used have been ‘processed’ and papers incinerated or are on their way back to London in the diplomatic bag. In other words you seem to have not only got back safely to the U.K. but they have no idea you were ever there. This is more than I could have dreamed of.”

“Now Penny,” said the PM, “go home to your husband, I have arranged with ‘C’ that you are not expected back in the office for another seven days. The same with you Les, I have arranged for you to have seven days shore leave before you report back to your ship and I think there might well be a surprise awaiting you once you report back. Now if you two would like to leave us, I need to have a few words in private with the Sgt. Major. You will find that departmental cars are waiting outside to take you both home.” With that the PM rose and shook their hands. Penny recognised they were dismissed and said, “Thank you PM I hope to see you again soon.” As she headed for the door the PM said, “I think that may be sooner than you think, I am going to be your sister’s neighbour.” She and Les were in the corridor before what he had said had sunk in.

The PM said, “Now Steven, the word on the street is that you want to get married and you feel that it would be unfair to your intended to continue risking your life on secret missions.” “You are remarkably well-informed, Sir,” said Steven. “I fully intend to ask to be returned to my regiment and see out the remaining 13 months I am signed up for.” “How would you react to me finding you a nice safe military job if you sign up for another eight years?” continued Nigel. “What I have in mind really is an eight-year path for a married man with the option to extend it at the end.” “Please go on Sir,” said Steven.

“OK,” said the PM, “The idea is that you continue and request your return to the Paras, it will be reluctantly granted by your colonel, but he has been lent on. The Paras will immediately send you on an accelerated officer training course, from which you will emerge as a lieutenant and will be posted to Madrid as an assistant military attaché. After two years you will be promoted to captain and posted as deputy military attaché to Rome. Both these posts come with married accommodation and private schooling at the local English school for children. Two years in Rome and you will be a major and posted to Buckingham Palace as a military equerry to the king. At the end of your military service you will be able to retire as a lieutenant colonel or continue your service. The choice will be yours. If you choose to remain I think I can guarantee a cushy posting in the MoD.”

“That’s all very interesting,” said Steven, “but I can’t make my mind up immediately, I really need to discuss it with my intended. You never know she might turn me down or hate the idea of living abroad.” “I doubt she will turn you down,” said Nigel, “but like the others I have arranged for you to have a week’s leave, and we have booked and paid for a week’s accommodation at the Copthorne Hotel, Gatwick. There is a Range Rover waiting for you outside, again it is fully paid for. All you need to do is return it to Avis in Cheltenham when you report back next week.” “Thank you, Sir,” said Steven as he left the room. Nigel called after him, “Give my regards to Melissa and Belinda.”

Steven checked in at the hotel that was about a mile from the airport and looked more like an old manor house than a hotel and was set in extensive grounds. He was handed a swipe card for his door key which was a ground-floor double-bedded garden room with large French doors that opened onto a private patio. He didn’t know the area at all but a quick look at the map from the rental car revealed he was not far from Melissa’s house or come to that Belinda’s home. He contemplated phoning Melissa but realised she would almost certainly either be at work or picking up the kids from school. He decided to wait until the morning and phone her at work. Instead, he made a booking for the hotel’s restaurant that evening and switched on the TV to catch up with domestic news.

Following his full English breakfast, Steven went back to his room (that he was pleased to see had been serviced), and checked Melissa’s number on his mobile. With some trepidation he pressed the ‘call’ button and waited while it rang. Melissa’s voice said, “Hello,” and Steven, who always withheld his number, said, “Hello Melissa, it’s Steven.” He heard her make a strange noise before she said, “Where the hell have you been? I have been worried out of my skin.” Steven replied, “I’m really sorry but I’m afraid I just can’t tell you anything except that it was work, and I have just got back.” “You didn’t tell me you were going away,” said Melissa, “I thought I had been dumped.” “Never,” replied Steven, “Look, I have something very important I need to talk to you about. Can you get a babysitter for this evening and I will buy you dinner at my hotel, the food is typical hotel but quite good.”

He heard her shout, “Mum, could you possibly have the kids tonight, Steven is on the phone and says he has something very important he wants to talk to me about over dinner tonight.” In the background he heard Belinda say, “I suppose so, but it’ll only be sausage, chips and beans it’s all I have in. Brian and I were going to pop to the pub for something.” Melissa said, “Thanks mum, the kids love that for tea. I promise I won’t be late, if you could get them to have a bath and put on their pyjamas and dressing gowns, I’ll pick them up as soon as we have finished eating and they can go straight to bed when I get home. It’s school tomorrow.”

Melissa came back to Steven and said, “Mum says she will look after the kids and give them tea, but I need to pick them up and get them home early, it’s a school day tomorrow.” “That’s OK,” said Steven. “The restaurant here opens at seven, I’ll book a table for then.” “Great,” said Melissa, “there is only one problem, I don’t know where you are staying, will I be able to get there by seven, I don’t finish work until five.” “You’ve got plenty of time,” replied Steven, “I’m at the Copthorne Hotel Gatwick. I’ll wait for you in reception as I’ll have to make sure your car is checked in or you will be charged for parking.” “I’ll be there just before seven,” said Melissa. Just as he was about to ring off, Steven remembered to pass on the PM’s regards to Melissa and Belinda.

Melissa arrived at five to seven and immediately Steven was put at ease, he had obviously been forgiven for not telling her he was going on a mission. Once they had ordered drinks, Melissa was driving so it was a Pepsi for her and Steven kept her company, the menu arrived and they ordered. Waiting for their starters Melissa asked, “Well what is ‘very important thing’ you want to talk to me about.” Steven took a deep breath and launched into the story of how he had been thinking of quitting the Army, but the PM had offered him the chance of becoming an officer and being posted as a military attache to Madrid and then to Rome and finally as an equerry to the king.

Melissa listened intently and finally said, “That all sounds like a wonderful offer, but what I really don’t see is how it affects me other than you will be going away again.” “Ah,” said Steven, “but it does affect you, what I haven’t mentioned yet is that both of these overseas postings are for a married officer and I want you and the kids to come with me as my wife.” Melissa stopped eating, her fork full of prawn stir fry halfway to her mouth and said, “Are you asking me to marry you?” “Yes,” replied Steven, “Melissa, will you marry me.” “I’d like to but what about the kids?” said Melissa. “Well, of course they are part of the deal. They would love living abroad and I bet they would be speaking fluent Spanish and Italian in next to no time. They could carry on their education at the English schools at the expense of the Army. I bet when they get back to the U.K. they will be years ahead of their peers.” “In that case,” said Melissa, “yes, I will marry you.”


Jinnie was up very early, picked up Alberto and Guido outside the Trattoria Trevi and was on the road to Windsor before six in the morning on the day Artisan Sandwiches was to open its doors for the first time. The plan was to open the shop at seven thirty in the hope that they pick up some of the early trade of people heading to the office and either picking up a breakfast sandwich or a lunch sandwich. As an afterthought they decided to offer a cheap early bird dine-in breakfast expecting it to attract a few customers. When the directors arrived just after seven they were greeted by the smell of freshly baked bread and there were already half a dozen people waiting outside.

Jinnie was delighted to see that Brooke was busy organising the shop and that trays of sandwich fillings were being lined up behind the takeaway counter. The various types of bread sat on racks ready to be sliced as required. Behind the eat-in counter was a menu board that covered numerous snack meals, everything from beans on toast, to an all-day full English breakfast. As Jinnie watched, a tray of freshly cooked bacon arrived from the kitchen and was put on a hot shelf. The smell made her wonder how anyone could ever be a vegetarian.

At about twenty past seven Brooke walked over to Jinnie and said, “I think we are ready to open. Everything is in place, everyone is ready and the kitchen manager says they are also ready.” Alberto said, “Everything looks good in here and the queue is growing outside I suggest we open early.” Guido nodded his agreement. “OK,” Jinnie said “there’s no point us hanging about doing nothing for the next 10 minutes when we can be taking customers’ money. Brooke can you warn the kitchen we are going to open in two minutes please.” As Brooke scuttled off through the kitchen door, Jinnie clapped her hands to get the attention of everyone who was working front of house and called, “We are opening the doors in 90 seconds. I hope you are ready.” Then after watching the second hand of her watch sweep through 88 seconds she called, “Here we go; good luck everyone,” and punched the button to raise up the roller shutter while Alberto unlocked the glass double doors. As the shutters lifted it revealed a queue that went down the street for three or four shops. Guido said in Jinnie’s ear, “I wonder how many of these are reporters and will be back buying a McBreakfast tomorrow?” Jinnie replied, “If we give them something good to write about I don’t care,” and stood to one side as people entered the premises.

After ten minutes the queue outside the shop had been dealt with, but the queue at the sandwich counter still nearly reached the shop door and was not shrinking as people were joining it as others left. The queue at the counter to order eat-in meals was much shorter and the system where the customer ordered and paid at the counter and was given a numbered ticket was working well with the servers coming out of the kitchen with plates of food and calling out the numbers so that it could be delivered. Jinnie watched from a corner fascinated as plate after plate came out of the kitchen. She wasn’t sure whether a full English or two poached eggs on toast was the most popular, but mugs of tea were definitely beating mugs of coffee. The two waitresses were being pushed and Jinnie was happy to see Brooke lending a hand. Over on the sandwich counter most people were asking for bacon rolls of one kind or another. The choice was a crispy roll, a soft roll or a large bap which was a little more expensive.

As she watched, Jinnie saw her fellow directors joining in the service. Alberto appeared with a fresh tray of bacon and Guido was slicing bread for sandwiches and serving the takeaway teas and coffees. Jinnie felt she should be helping but she had no real catering knowledge – her forte was management. However people were now finishing their breakfasts and walking away from the tables and the waitresses were too busy to clear them. Jinnie thought, ‘This is a job I can do,’ and jumped in clearing crockery and sanitising tables. Just after nine the trade slowed down to a steady trickle at the sandwich counter but the call for bacon baps and a cup of coffee had eased, it was obviously sandwiches for lunch that were being bought now, often with a can of soft drink. The breakfast trade at the eat-in counter had also slowed up so Jinnie took the opportunity to call an impromptu management meeting and pulled two eat-in tables together and the three directors, Brooke, the kitchen manager and the branch manager gathered over mugs of coffee.

Jinnie asked if anyone had any observations. Brooke spoke up saying that it had been a lot busier than anticipated and they had only just managed to cope with the assistance of the directors. She said that it might have been because it was a new business and people were just trying it out but if they had trade like that tomorrow morning and they hadn’t got the directors to help out they would be in trouble. The branch manager agreed, he had been lending a hand frying bacon as there had been such demand. He also pointed out that the full English had proved so popular that they were in danger of running out of some of the key components. The kitchen manager agreed, they were short of eggs and black pudding and urgently needed to get more delivered before the morning.

Guido said they really needed someone dedicated to serving hot drinks and Alberto said they needed another person portering food from the kitchen to the counter and Jinnie pointed out the need for someone to clear and clean the tables. Jinnie had been making notes and suggested that the branch manager should immediately phone an agency and get some temporary staff in for tomorrow morning in the positions discussed. Take them on for a week on a daily basis that way they could establish if the need was permanent or a first-day phenomenon. Brooke then pointed out that during the ‘breakfast rush’ the cakes and pies had been ignored but the sandwich staff had reported requests for sausage baps and fried egg baps. Jinnie ask the kitchen manager what were the chances of making trays of both available for the next morning. He said that if they didn’t display the hot pies and pastry sausage rolls until after the breakfast rush he could do it as they were already cooking sausages and eggs for the fried breakfasts.

As they sat in discussion Jinnie had noticed a change in what was being bought. There were now beginning to get a lot more ‘coffee and cake’ customers who appeared to be shoppers and retired people. The takeaway queue had changed as well. People weren’t just buying what she thought of as a lunch sandwich, now they were coming in with a list of several different sandwiches. Obviously one person was being sent out to buy more than one lunch. As she watched, several also headed to the eat-in counter for cakes. Turning to the branch manager she said that she felt it would be worthwhile talking to some of the bulk buyers and suggesting they might like to phone in orders and get them delivered or made up so they could call in and collect them. It had always been the intention to eventually run a delivery service and an office rounds service, as in Potters Bar, but it might be a good idea if it was sooner rather than later. In any case they had two vans being customised right now and drivers identified.

Finally Jinnie asked if there was anything else and Brooke said that the sandwich counter had just reported they had started getting asked for fresh fruit and bags of crisps. Jinnie said to her, “Send someone to the nearest supermarket straight away and get a load of apples, oranges and bananas and a wicker basket to put them in. Second thoughts I can do that myself right now and we can have them available for the lunchtime trade.” Turning to the branch manager she said, “Get the catering supplier to add them to the urgent order for eggs and black pudding I want to see at least a dozen red and a dozen green eating apples, a dozen oranges and two dozen bananas on the counter. As for crisps let’s start with what I understand is the most popular and get two boxes each of plain, salt and vinegar and cheese & onion. We can always buy more or less but get a big brand and we sell at supermarket prices. If we get lots of requests for other flavours we can always get a box or two but there is no point of having boxes of pickled onion flavour if people don’t buy them.”

By eleven o’clock Jinnie has got the fruit basket on display and had priced the items at a couple of pence more than she had paid for them in the nearest big Tesco Extra which was still less than the Sainsbury’s Local two streets away. There were also 48 packet cases of the three flavours of crisps she had suggested. Once again the crisps were priced at the same price the Sainsbury’s local charged for individual bags which gave them a small profit. If they ran out so be it.

Around about 11:30 trade began to pick up again and lots of people were buying sandwiches and Jinnie was delighted to see how many people were also buying a cake, a piece of fruit or a bag of crisps. The favourite cake was a big Bakewell tart and the Bananas were selling quickly. The shoppers were disappearing and the eat-in customers were ordering far more eggs on toast, beans on toast and toasted cheese and ham sandwiches. Jinnie decided to check on the kitchen. It was busy but they were coping. The kitchen manager said they definitely needed at least one more body, they could have them fry bacon early on and man the sandwich toaster now.

Back in the shop, Brooke mentioned to Jinnie they had received several requests to sell loaves, but they didn’t have enough to sell. Again Jinnie started thinking, could we make money selling artisan bread? Did they have the capacity in the kitchen? Did they have space in the shop? She decided to find the kitchen manager and get him to do an investigation and write her a costed report with a clear recommendation. Jinnie headed for the street, she wanted to see if there was a baker’s shop anywhere nearby.

Jinnie turn left out of the front and walked a fair distance, she found offices, restaurants, a burger bar and at the far end of the road, the Sainsbury’s Local which was the only bread outlet but it only had what she thought of as factory made pre-wrapped loaves. Turning back she walked past the sandwich shop and the chemist next door. Three shops after the chemist came Boots. But still no bakers. Jinnie had an idea and popped in the chemist which was a real old-fashioned shop with a section for prescriptions and a counter manned by a little old lady.

Jinnie bought some liquid soap, which she could always use, and engaged the old lady behind the counter in conversation. It transpired that she and her husband owned the shop and he was the pharmacist. They had made a comfortable living for many years and then the Boots had opened and trade collapsed. She wanted to retire, but the shop was their pension and no one wanted to buy it as a going concern with Boots so close. Jinnie decided to come clean and explained that she had just opened the sandwich shop next door. The old lady said they had hoped it might bring them more trade but so far that morning it hadn’t. Jinnie thought for a moment and said, “If we were to make you a reasonable offer do you think you and your husband would take it.” The old lady replied, “I would bite your hand off and I can guarantee you I can convince my husband.”

In Chapter 18 – Construction begins

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