Jinnie’s Story – Book Five, Chapter Nineteen

The Engagement Party

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

Jinnie and Lucia where busy feeding the twins their breakfast and having their regular chat when they both suddenly stopped. Willie had distinctly said ‘Mum’ while reaching out for his mashed up boiled egg. Millie was eating a bread and butter soldier and also stopped and looked at her brother in surprise. Lucia said, “I expected them to walk before talking, they have been hauling themselves upright to stand by the sofa for a few days now.” Jinnie was just delighted that he had said ‘Mum’ and not ‘Dad’. They made a fuss of Willie and he grinned and said, ‘Mum, Mum, Mum.’

With the twins safely in their playpen Lucia was loading the dishwasher when she suddenly asked, “Have you been talking to Vincenzo’s parents? I have been asked to dinner to meet the family.” Jinnie replied carefully, saying, “Well I did have a word with his dad and I think he sorted out his mum.” “Well, thank you,” said Lucia, “Now we need to work out an evening I can go.”


Jinnie headed for her garden office accompanied by Larry who trotted at her side like a little dog. As autumn was creeping on it was getting cooler and Jinnie switched on the air conditioning and set it to blow warm air. Larry loved the gentle warmth, found a spot where the AC blew on him and settled down to doze. Jinnie turned on her PCs and checked her email inboxes, on her Trattoria Trevi PC she spotted an email from Miranda called ‘Business Case’ and opened it. There was a short greeting in the body of the email and an attachment. Jinnie clicked on the attachment and it opened a multi-page Word document. Jinnie decided to print it off to read it as she could make notes on it and sent it to her printer. The printer starting up made Larry stir.

While the laser printer churned out the pages Jinnie looked out of the window and across the field to the construction site that was the PM’s new house. She could see the form work being assembled ready to go into the trenches that the JCB had dug for the foundations and Jason keeping an eye on things. Jinnie stapled the wodge of paper by the top left-hand corner using the heavy-duty stapler and settled back into the comfy chair to read it. She had no sooner got comfortable than Larry jumped into her lap and curled up. Jinnie read it through once quickly and then again more slowly, underlining the odd paragraph, ticking others and marking a couple with a question mark.

The proposal was fully costed and included several worked cases, a wedding reception for 150, with a three-course meal in a garden marquee with a DJ; a private dinner party for 12 with a table magician; a Christmas party event at a vineyard with a three-course Christmas dinner and live music; and a gourmet dinner in a high-class restaurant with live music and a singer. Having read the business case document through for a second time Jinnie sat back and started to think. She thought it was a pretty good document and was inclined to put it to the board. It was an inexpensive venture and could make decent money, but first she wanted to run it past someone for a second opinion. She would have normally gone to Brian, but he had clearly had some input into the document as only he and Belinda would have known about the gourmet dinner she wanted to offer at Trattoria Trevi Windsor. She decided to ask her dad to read it through and to get his business lecturer colleague to also give his opinion.

Jinnie gently picked up Larry and put him in his cat basket, before heading to her desk and composing an email to her father, attaching the ‘Business Case’ document and hitting the send icon. Jinnie then went through the rest of her emails which included a DKL trading update from Brian, updating the board prior to the meeting later that week. Jinnie read it with some satisfaction as they were in the black well ahead of their expected break-even date. However, it was the contribution from the construction division that had made the difference and she was happy that it was only on her insistence that they had acquired Wright Refurbishment.


Jinnie accompanied Belinda on her weekly site walk-through on the SIS building at Vauxhall Cross. Belinda had told her that the staff canteen, kitchen and adjacent toilets were as near as damn it finished and this was her final walk around with the customer before sign off on that phase of the work and starting on the rest of the ground floor, visitor toilets, post room and reception, which was to be phase 2. Jinnie arrived at reception and donned her Wright Refurbishment high viz jacket and carried her white CEO hard hat. A similarly clad Belinda arrived a few minutes later and then Emma emerged from the lift. They were led to the site where Peter was waiting for them and Jinnie had her first glimpse of the nearly finished canteen.

The transformation from the canteen Jinnie had known was amazing. Gone was the hospital green paint and the odd selection of mismatched chairs and tables and in had come brightly coloured painted surfaces, matching circular tables of two sizes with either four or eight modern chairs. The ceiling had been replaced and the modern gull wing lights threw a nice even light across the large room. Jinnie couldn’t help but notice that everywhere there were power points and data points so that people could use and charge laptops. The new vinyl flooring was a pleasant shade of pale blue with a metallic sparkle and was capped and coved.

Belinda saw Jinnie looking at the floor and said, “It’s anti-static, which we would normally put in a clean room, but it was requested for ‘security’ reasons. But it has the advantages of both looking good and being easy to clean.” But it was the new gleaming stainless steel servery that really impressed Jinnie. It was magnificent and clearly designed to serve both hot and cold meals as well as snacks and drinks. As Jinnie took in the transformed surroundings ‘C’ arrived accompanied by the HR director, the head of maintenance and a man who Emma whispered to her was the chairman of the staff committee (unions not being allowed).

The party made its way around the canteen and the only person to pick up on any problems was Belinda whose eye for perfection picked up a small area of painting that was not perfect and one of the new lights not being quite sitting square in its ceiling opening. But they were noted by both her and Peter and Jinnie was certain that within an hour of them completing the inspection everything would be perfect.

The party moved on into the refurbished kitchen. Jinnie had never seen so much stainless steel even in the DKL kitchens. The kitchen was spotless with ceramic tiles and more plasticised ceiling tiles and sealed lighting. Every possible modern convenience was in the kitchen and the head chef who joined them for this area was beaming. Belinda did her best to find something wrong but in the end had to congratulate Peter and the subcontractor who had designed, supplied and installed the kitchen equipment. Then finally into the refurbished staff toilets and in place of the old ones were smart, new areas.

‘C’ turned to Belinda and Jinnie and said, “I am delighted with this, my head of maintenance tried to convince me that we could do the work internally. Having seen what you did in mission planning and my office I knew the standard of your company’s work, but this is better than I could have hoped, it is simply fabulous. I only hope the food lives up to the surroundings when the staff start using it on Monday.


Jinnie and Paolo received their invitation to Melissa and Steven’s engagement party in the Saturday morning post. A handwritten note on the invitation read, ‘Please bring the twins, I know the family will love to see them and we are going to have a crèche – Melissa,’ and underneath that in a different hand it said, ‘I hope to show you just what a well-organised event is like – Miranda.’

Jinnie knew the way to Belinda’s house quite well now, but still set it in the Sat Nav to show Paolo just how good it was. The trip around the M25 had been uneventful as the twins had dropped off to sleep shortly after they had left home. As Jinnie drove down the private road to Belinda’s house she remembered her visit to Belinda’s neighbour to purchase the Turners Hill restaurant. Outside Belinda’s house they were greeted by a high viz jacketed Jason who directed them to park in the paddock which was already quite busy.

Once parked Paolo got the double buggy out of the car’s boot, together with all the paraphernalia needed when travelling with the twins, and loaded them in it. They had parked quite near to the peacock’s enclosure so they took the twins to see them before making for the house. The twins loved the peacocks and marvelled at the displayed tails.

Peter was on duty in front of the house, directing people around the side of the house to the patio where people were gathering and being handed drinks by waiters from silver trays. ‘So far so good for Miranda’s event management skills,’ thought Jinnie. Belinda slid up beside Jinnie and immediately started making a fuss of her godchildren who just loved being the centre of attention. Within a couple of minutes they were joined by Brian who also wanted to see his godchildren. “Gosh they have grown,” said Belinda, “Are they walking or talking yet?” Jinnie explained that they had started saying the odd word and were on the verge of walking. Belinda said, “You will be in for it now. Miranda’s first word was ‘No’, and once she could walk she was into everything.”

Jinnie told them how they had loved the peacocks and Brian suggested they might like to see the fish in the lake, and if they then went into the woods they might see a wild deer or two, several doe’s with fawns had been visiting regularly because they had been putting out special food for them. They pushed the buggy down a path, past a huge marquee from which music emanated, to the lake where they were joined by two young girls and two boys. The children were Belinda and Brian’s grandchildren, Miranda’s daughter Pandora and son Jesse and Melissa’s daughter Xanthe and son Ellis who were all anxious to meet the twins.

The twins loved the fish in the lake and Millie quickly learnt the word ‘fish’. The eldest girl, Pandora, then led them to the edge of the clearing where Brian fed the deer. Jinnie was delighted when after sitting quietly for a few minutes a doe and fawn nervously entered the clearing. The twins sat in the double buggy mesmerised, before the deer disappeared back into the undergrowth. Xanthe then led them back to the area where Brian had built swings, a slide, a playhouse and a treehouse for the grandchildren. The twins giggled through their turn on the swings.

Walking back towards the house, the group entered the marquee and found a three-piece on a dias playing standards. There was a huge buffet laid out on trestle tables and a bar. Melissa and Steven were getting something to eat from the buffet and her children ran over to her to tell her they had been in the wood with Jinnie’s twins and had seen a fawn. Melissa turned and waved to Jinnie before she and Steven came across the wooden temporary dance floor to them. A very happy Melissa said to Jinnie how happy she was that she and Paolo had come and especially that they had brought the twins. The twins had seen the food and both were now agitating for something to eat. She suggested that she sit with them while Jinnie and Paolo got some food.

Back with plates piled high, Jinnie and Paolo fed the twins, one each, while Melissa and Steven told them of their plans. Steven explained how the PM had stopped him leaving the Army by sending him for officer training. The abbreviated course would be for six months after which they would marry and he would be posted to a junior position in Madrid for a year or two and his wife and the children could come with him. Melissa joined in saying that Mum and Brian were delighted as the kids would be educated at the Army’s expense in the British School in Madrid and they would no longer be paying the fees to have them privately educated. Xanthe chipped in saying she was already taking Spanish as an extra after-school lesson to help.

Steven explained how the PM had the future mapped out for him and after Madrid he was to be promoted and sent to the Rome embassy as the deputy military attache. Jinnie told her how she had spent time in Rome and knew the Italian PM and he had been responsible for bringing Paolo and her together. She told them they would love Rome and its people and that they would benefit from learning the language. Again Xanthe said she wanted to learn the language but Ellis, who was only about five said he wanted to see Roma play football.

Steven was asking about Penny when a kerfuffle broke out and people started getting up. Jinnie soon saw that it was caused by people straining to see the prime minister who, accompanied by an entourage including Belinda, Brian, Miranda and her husband Noel, were walking across the croquet lawn towards them. On entering the marquee Nigel headed straight over to them and said, “How convenient, everyone I want to see in one spot,” before congratulating Melissa and Steven on their engagement. While he chatted to them all, Brian went to the bar to get the PM a pint and an underling was dispatched to get him a selection of food from the buffet. The PM joked, “He knows my taste, basically I’m into plain British stuff, I hope he comes back with a ham sandwich with load of English mustard, a chunk of Cheddar cheese, a slice of gala pie, some piccalilli and scotch Egg. Oh, and a big slice of Victoria sponge.”

Miranda smiled and said, “That’s all on the buffet and if your man doesn’t come back with any of those things I will get them for you, sir.” The PM chuckled and said, “I am among friends here, please call me Nigel. I am not a ‘sir’ yet although I will be disappointed if I am not given that honour in the New Year’s list.” The only thing missing from the plate when the aid returned was the Victoria sponge and Miranda duly returned with a huge wedge and a cake fork.

After eating, Miranda took Jinnie and the twins into the house where a crèche had been set up in two of the en-suite bedrooms staffed by two Norland nannies especially hired for the occasion. The twins were soon settled in with several other youngsters and dropped off to sleep in a matter of minutes. Miranda and Jinnie stopped for a cup of tea in Belinda’s kitchen that had been taken over by the catering team for the afternoon and evening. Miranda suggested they make use of one of Belinda’s sitting rooms for a few minutes, although not available to the general partygoers, as her daughter she knew her mum wouldn’t mind. Miranda was anxious to know what Jinnie thought of her business case. Jinnie explained she had read it with interest and thought it sound, but she had sent it for a second opinion to a friend of her father who was somewhat of an expert in producing such documents. He had sent his opinion the previous day and had found it well presented and the case compelling and had recommended that it would make an excellent investment. Much to Miranda’s delight, Jinnie said that together with what she had seen today, she was going to present the package to the Trattoria Trevi board with the recommendation that they proceed with the project as soon as possible so as not to miss out on the lucrative Christmas party market.

Miranda said she was delighted and had already been talking to a vineyard in the South Downs about running a series of different themed parties for the three weeks running up to Christmas Eve, they were looking at hosting three, four or maybe 500 people a night in their restaurant, with themes like 60s and 70s night, tropical night, formal night, and traditional Christmas night. Talks were so well advanced that if Jinnie had said ‘No’ she had talked Brian into financing the venture as she was convinced it would make money. She said first thing on Monday morning she was going to talk seriously with the County Show Ground at Ardingly as they had a large event space with a kitchen and ample customer parking. Jinnie warned her that the board hadn’t seen the proposal yet and their agreement wasn’t certain. Then on the spur of the moment she said, “But if they say ‘No’ then, like Brian, I think I would be willing to put my own money into setting up a company to do this.”

Jinnie and Paolo enjoyed the rest of the afternoon, wandering Belinda’s beautiful gardens in the warm autumn sunshine, before once again entering the marquee and joining Belinda’s family for tea and sandwiches. Jinnie admired the vintage crockery the tea was served in and Melissa said it was from her friend Fay who had a hire business. At about six thirty the three-piece packed up and a DJ started setting up and a number of younger guests started to arrive. Paolo and Jinnie decided that was the cue for them to say goodbye and headed to the house to collect the twins.

The twins were sitting on the floor happily playing with one of the Norland Nannies. As Jinnie got the twins ready to travel, the nanny they were playing with helped and chatted saying, “You have the most wonderful children. I have thoroughly enjoyed looking after them. Unlike some of the other little ones I get to look after, they are perfectly happy away from ‘mum’. Do they have a nanny?” Jinnie answered, “No, but they have had an au pair looking after them for ages now.” “Ah,” said the nanny, “That explains a lot, is she Italian by any chance?” “Yes, she is,” replied Jinnie, “How did you know?” “Well,” replied the Nanny, “We were looking at a picture book and your daughter said ‘cip cip’ when there was a picture of a bird. I have an Italian nonna and speak Italian.” Switching to Italian Jinnie said, “And I have an Italian husband and speak fluent Italian.” The nanny replied in Italian, “You are just the sort of family I want to work for when I finish my Norland training in three months. Can I give you my details, just in case your au pair leaves? I’m Isabella but everyone calls me Izzy.”

In Chapter 20 – More work for Penny

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