It was Mrs Walsh’s turn to cook Sunday lunch for the family and for the first time in ages both daughters, their husbands and the twins were all there. Only Lucia was missing having, with some trepidation, accepted a lunch invitation from Vincenzo’s parents. It was Paolo’s turn to drive, so Jinnie was only too happy to accept a pre-lunch dry sherry while her husband had a non-alcoholic beer. Mr Walsh was itching to talk about the business case for the events company and he and Jinnie went and sat in the dining room so as not to bore the others with numbers when they were all playing with the twins in the living room.
Mr Walsh started talking as soon as they sat down saying, “I read the business case and I thought it was good. My colleague loved it. He said if one of his students had written it he would have given them a A+ for presentation, an A for content, and an A for the idea. He thought the chances for the company to be successful were excellent but pointed out some possible pitfalls. Of course it all depends on getting the numbers to the big public events and picking up a private event weekly. Then the other thing is can Miranda actually organise a big event? The company might be cheap to set up and not need a lot of full-time staff but it will need a hell of a large advertising budget and he worried that if they want to hit this year’s Christmas party market they need to be up and running in the next couple of weeks.”
“He emailed me his conclusions yesterday and it was just what I hoped he would say,” said Jinnie. “I have a good feeling about this idea. I have just seen what Miranda has produced for her sister’s engagement party and it was really good. I don’t know how much it all cost but it was excellent. I have decided that if the board don’t want to buy into this one I am willing to join her stepfather in setting up the business.” Mr Walsh thought for a moment and said, “I would also be willing to put a little of my savings into this and if you need another investor I think my colleague, who looked this over, might well like to buy in. He has watched the last venture he gave you an opinion on boom and wished he had been able to put some of his pension to use.”
Jinnie jumped when she heard Paolo calling her and rushed into the sitting room expecting a disaster. Instead she found her mother crying tears of joy. Paolo said, “The twins have started walking, well staggering really. First Millie walked over to your mum to get her doll and not to be beaten Willie followed her.” Jinnie knelt down and called the twins who both staggered over to her and collapsed in her arms before slumping to the ground. Penny laughed and said, “You are in for it now sis.”
Alberto called a special meeting of the Trattoria Trevi (Holdings) Limited board to discuss Jinnie’s proposal. Brian said he would have to excuse himself from the discussion and voting as Miranda was his stepdaughter and he had helped her produce the business case. The board asked him to stay as there may be questions he could answer. The board had already seen the written business case, but Jinnie presented her proposal for Trattoria Trevi to set up a new venture. She talked about the advice from the expert, the costs of setting up the business, how impressed she had been by Miranda’s efforts regarding the sister’s engagement party. She explained how it could fit in with the current business lines, home catering and party food preparation. How to the best of her knowledge the costing in the business cases was accurate. Then she explained that Belinda had offered cheap office accommodation and how Miranda had already negotiated a Christmas party deal with a well-known Surrey vineyard and the idea was to run six parties a week for the four weeks before Christmas with a different theme on each weekday. The idea was to sell a minimum of 300 tickets a night and serve a three-course meal associated with the evening theme with a bottle of wine from the vineyard per four people. There would be a bar and live music until midnight. The vineyard would charge a fixed fee for the hire of their restaurant and hope to sell bottles of their wine to be taken away. Jinnie explained Miranda had estimated break-even as being 175 tickets at £40 per person and at 300 people that would make at least £100,000 profit over the four weeks and more for every ticket over 300 sold.
Guido’s first question was, could the company afford another investment while they were spending so much on the Windsor restaurant? Alberto asked Brain to answer and he said yes, this was a very low-cost investment. There were worries about the amount of advertising needed and Jinnie said she had an idea of leafleting all the companies they supplied with sandwiches, making use of social media, advertising in local papers, in the restaurants and maybe even local radio. After discussing the plan for around an hour they had a vote and the six members vote split 50/50. The deciding vote fell to Alberto and, as he had already voted in favour of the proposal, he cast his vote in favour. They then decided to instruct Brian to set up Trattoria Trevi (Events Management) while Jinnie hurried off to phone Miranda and give her the good news.
Penny was enjoying plaice and chips for her lunch in the refurbished restaurant when Emma came over to her and said, “Can you pop up and have a word with ‘C’ at 2:30 please?” Penny answered, “Of course, should I ring you first to get lift access to the executive floor?” “That’s not necessary,” replied Emma, “You have been authorised to use the button for the executive floor, it reads your fingerprint.” Emma asked if she could sit and chat for a while. She explained how she used to eat with Jinnie every lunchtime and missed their daily chats. “Despite only living just down the road I miss all the snippets of news about the twins and the restaurants. I simply don’t seem to have seen Jinnie in ages, she seems to be so busy these days.”
Penny updated Emma on the twins’ progress, between mouthfuls of her lunch telling her about them, how they had started talking and on Sunday, walking. She then told her how her sister was busy with a new project setting up a new events division of Trattoria Trevi and how they were going to do things like wedding receptions, up-market dinner parties with entertainment and Christmas parties. Emma was immediately interested, explaining that she had been delegated to organise the Christmas SIS Christmas party. “Well actually,” she said, “it was normally six or seven parties as very few venues could accommodate the 1,250 people and their plus ones, who worked in Vauxhall Cross.” She chuckled and said, “That’s only about half the full number of employees, but you can hardly invite the team in Moscow or Beijing! In fact what a target for terrorists if we got everyone together in one place.”
“Gosh,” said Penny, “I never realised it was so difficult to set up. I was away on business last year and the year before it was a miserable do in a huge dance hall in Kensington. Now that it’s been refurbished in here, have you thought about using the canteen? It must hold 500 so, you could do it in five batches.” “That’s very tempting,” said Emma, “but the canteen staff are invited so we would need to hire staff especially for the five evenings.” “So you’re worried about the cost?” said Penny. “Not at all,” replied Emma, “I have a £200 a head budget, it’s tax deductible. In fact I understand that ‘do’ that you described as ‘miserable’ cost about the same. We always try to have a quick opinion poll as to what people think of the evening and I have been stuck with the job this year because the last few years have not got good reviews”.
“It sounds like you’re on a hiding to nothing,” said Penny. “How about you speak to Jinnie? From what I hear the new company is organising a party for 300 at a vineyard restaurant six nights a week, a three-course meal and a bottle of wine between four for £40 a head. It’s soup, a turkey dinner and Christmas pudding and live music. I bet she could do you something really good for in here for your budget. Why not talk to her? I understand they do everything so all you would have to do is pay the bill.” “I’m going to run it past ‘C’ right now,” said Emma. “I’ll let you know how I get on when you come up to the meeting.”
Jinnie was surprised to get a call from Emma and was initially worried that they wanted her back to do a job. She was relieved when Emma explained she had been talking to Penny about the SIS office Christmas party and she had told her about the new venture. She had mentioned it to ‘C’ and he had suggested she get a quote for a series of five parties for 500 people each. Jinnie said, “I’m sure we could offer you something competitive, but I need to talk to the COO of our events company. Perhaps we could meet with whoever is organising the party to discuss the details like, where it was to be hosted, what was the per head budget was, was alcohol to be served, what sort of menu was being considered, what time was it to finish as if it went on too late they were into expensive overtime and did they want entertainment and a ‘going home snack’ like mini burgers at 11 o’clock.” Emma said, “Can you and the COO come in and see me tomorrow morning as I am organising things? But to give you something to go on, let’s say it’s in the newly refurbished staff restaurant, you would need to supply all the catering and waiting staff as our people would all be invited. I’m looking at a bottle of reasonable wine between two, a choice of menu, including vegetarian option, entertainment possibly live music during the meal, some sort of entertainment after and a DJ till midnight. I think the idea of an 11 o’clock snack is good but we would have to think about veggie, kosher, halal and other options. We are looking at a pay bar and a £200 per head budget.”
“I think I’ve got a note of all that,” said Jinnie, “I think for your budget we can do something really good. I will talk to Miranda, the COO, as soon as I finish this call. I think we will have to think about entertainment, I don’t think a comedian would be any good, maybe acrobats or a magician, they tend to go down well with most people and religions.”
Miranda listen to Jinnie in amazement, this was an enormous break if they could get this job. 2,500 customers at £200 a head, that was £500,000 in turnover! She was working on a 10% profit margin that was £50,000 in her total set-up budget, she hadn’t even included bar sales! After that the income from the vineyard was going straight to the bottom line. The negotiations with the showground was looking promising she thought she could make money on what they were asking for the building hire and supplying their own people for parking control and security. Things were looking good.
Miranda walked into Belinda’s office and closed the glass door behind her. Belinda looked up from her computer and said “What’s up Miranda, problems?” “Not really,” she replied and repeated the conversation with Jinnie to her mother. “Gosh that’s some opportunity,” said Belinda, I guess it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Miranda laughed and said, “Well you aren’t doing too badly from the same customer with Jinnie’s help.” “True,” said Belinda, “I bless the day I met her, she has been responsible for bringing a lot of business Wright Refurbishments way.” “Actually Mum, I do need a favour, Jinnie and I are meeting the person who will make the decision tomorrow morning and I want to put a quick proposal together. I really do need to get something on paper to present and I am on my own, the two people I have hired don’t start until next week.”
“Alright,” said Belinda, “I guess you will need an indicative spreadsheet, that’s Brian’s field. He’s at home today.” She grabbed her mobile, speed-dialled him, and told him his spreadsheet skills were urgently needed and to get to the office as quickly as possible. Next she picked up her office internal phone and pushed the button for Melissa and asked her and Andrew to get up to her office at once.
After quickly explaining that Miranda had an enquiry for a series of Christmas parties in the SIS building, Belinda asked Andrew if he still had the drawings and rendered images of the Vauxhall House staff restaurant. “Of course,” answered Andrew. “Good,” said Belinda, “Can you and Mel tart up a copy with a big Christmas tree, decorations and a temporary podium for entertainment? Not too big as we need still need to accommodate 500 people on five nights, you might have to move the tables around a bit. We also need room for a temporary pay bar. Miranda needs it for a meeting tomorrow morning, so unless you want to stay late tonight I guess you better get on with it.”
Next she called up Roger and got him writing up a proposal based around the information Miranda had. She told him that Brian would be supplying a spreadsheet sheet or two, Andrew a couple of A3 drawings that could be bound into the proposal and folded to A4 so that it could be folded out. She said she and Miranda would sort out menus and entertainment and he should leave gaps in the document for actual hard information as it became available. Roger had produced this type of proposal document several times in the past and knew exactly what was required and how to make it look good.
By 5:30 the proposal document was complete and Miranda had five copies ready to take to London the following morning. The menu had been written and shared with Jinnie who had passed it on to Alberto to do the costing as Trattoria Trevi would be doing the catering. Alberto was happy he could produce any of the items within the cost allowance but he suggested that it would be best if the guests choose from the menu prior to the party so that the required number of portions of each dish could be readied. Miranda was particularly impressed by the rendered images of the decorated staff restaurant. Melissa had produced a scheme she thought excellent and Andrew’s rendered images brought it to life.
While Miranda and Belinda were putting the proposal together, Penny was meeting with ‘C’. Entering the outer office she was surprised to see through ‘C’s’ glass partition that the PM was there. Emma hurried Penny into ‘C’s’ office and ‘C’ invited them both to join them. Penny said, “Good afternoon, gentlemen,” and addressing the PM, she said, “I didn’t know you were in the building, Sir, we usually get a heads up from reception.” Nigel looked at her and said, “That’s because I didn’t come in that way, I used the tunnel.” Penny said, “Ever since I started work here I have heard rumours of a tunnel under the river to Whitehall, but I always dismissed it as fantasy.” “It’s really is there,” replied the PM, “However, it has been out of use for a while. The little train was being repaired. It is just like the Post Office railway.”
‘C’ said, “Penny, I think the PM has just revealed a state secret, I must remind you that you have signed the Official Secrets Act.” He then said, “I think the PM was just about to explain the purpose of this meeting.” Nigel winked at the two women ensuring that ‘C’ didn’t see it and said, “Penny, I think we might need your services again, we seem to have a little problem developing in the Irish Republic. As you know they purport to have been neutral in every dispute we have had with Germany, but our agents have never been absolutely certain.”
“I must say I have had my doubts, but I have never had any proof. However, I am now in possession of a number of reports, from different sources, that all say the same sort of thing. They all report that the current Taoiseach is acting on behalf of the Nazis and is using the IRA to stir up trouble in Northern Ireland. The word is that he is being paid by the Germans and has built up a considerable bank balance and several large properties including a IR£1 million townhouse in the Dublin 4 area, a huge farm in County Kerry and a country house in Galway. Anyway, whether the Germans are behind it or not I have received proof that he has been using the Irish Army to pass arms, ammunition and explosives to the IRA. With the implicit instruction to use them against British troops in Ulster.”
Nigel continued, “The problem I have is that I would like to out him in public, but if I did, I couldn’t prove it without revealing the sources and that would get them killed. Now I have come to the conclusion that the only way to save the lives of our troops in Northern Ireland is to stop the supply line at source. That is a bit difficult as the source is official armaments factories. However, that route would soon dry up if they were not paid for the equipment. So I have concluded that we need to assassinate the Taoiseach. It will stop the armaments and warn off others. The next problem is getting near enough to him to carry the act out. He travels everywhere in an armoured car, he has heavy personal protection, he rarely goes anywhere but his properties, his office, parliament, TV studios and his official residence. In all these places the security is immense.”
‘C’ took over saying, “We have been watching him for some months and in all that time there have been only two occasions when he has identified a half opportunity to get to him. Both occasions were at his farm in the West of Ireland, when he went out riding on a horse in the early morning. Although he still had protection, our agents say it might have been possible to get a long-range shot at him from a spot outside his farm. It is a long way, over 1,000 metres, and the weather is hardly ever good with lots of westerly winds and rain coming in off the Atlantic.”
“That’s it in a nutshell,” said the PM. “The Taoiseach spends most weekends at the farm but has only gone horse riding three times in all the time we have watched, once in foul weather and twice in good weather. It is impossible to predict if he will go out riding on any visit, the only thing that has been consistent is that it has been before 6:30. In some ways this is an easier mission. The country is easy to get into, you can just drive over the border or catch a train, you can move about the country without the need for reams of paperwork and the Irish security services are not a patch on the German’s Gestapo. I would have liked to pair you with Steven once again, but as your sister has no doubt told you he has left the SAS, is getting married and is on an officer training course. So I have been pondering what to do, find you a new partner or send you on your own. Since he was with you in Argentina, Les has left submarines and joined the SBS, so on balance I think I might as well pair you up, he can at least watch your back.”
The PM added, “Les has been frantically learning German, it is coming on nicely, but it is nowhere as good as yours. I think that if we send you to Ireland as a German couple you could pass that test, I doubt he could pass as a native in Germany. As I implied before, I think you could easily get into Ireland on a U.K. passport and switch to being German, I suggest ‘C’ can put you in touch with his agents in place in Kerry and they can find you accommodation and I think you may then be in for a long wait.”
In Chapter 21 – A new prime minister
© WorthingGooner 2023