Jinnie, Brian, and on this occasion Miranda, once again visited the TV station for a progress update. As they waited in reception Mike Graham walked out and did a double-take before walking over. He said, “Hello, it’s Jenny isn’t it? Didn’t I interview you and your twins a year ago when your restaurant got a Michelin Star? Are you here for another interview?” “Hello Mike,” said Jinnie, “No, we are not here for an interview, we are going to review some adverts that are being made for us. And by the way, it’s ‘Jinnie’.” “Oh,” said Mike, “I can’t imagine why you need to advertise Trattoria Trevi, every time I have booked a table it’s had to be weeks ahead.” “We don’t,” replied Jinnie, “Trattoria Trevi is a huge success, the restaurant, the artisan sandwich business and the home delivery businesses are flying. But we have launched a new events business and we want to give it a bit of a helping hand.”
Mike said, “That’s interesting, I didn’t know you did sandwiches or deliveries. Are they widely available?” “Not yet,” said Brian, “But they will be. We currently have delivery kitchens in Potters Bar and Crawley with more to come in Wood Green and Stratford when DKL build them. They support the sandwich delivery business locally. But we now have a standalone artisan sandwich shop in Windsor and one in Croydon will be opening next week. They support deliveries in their areas.” “Who are DKL?” asked Mike. Brian explained, “Dark Kitchens Limited is a 50/50 joint venture between Trattoria Trevi (Holdings) and Super Burgers Limited. They now own and develop blocks of kitchens and lease them to the names you know. In Potters Bar the six delivery kitchens are leased by Super Burgers, two by Trattoria Trevi (Kitchens), a pizza outlet, a Chinese outlet and an Indian outlet. Six more outlets are currently being built by DKL’s construction division.”
“Why do you need two kitchens?” Mike asked. “Simple,” said Jinnie, “One does traditional Italian food and the other does English food like roasts. We also have a company that operates a kitchen for a leaser.” “You have grown since we spoke, and now another venture ‘Events’, how did that come about?” “That was my idea,” said Miranda, “I worked for mum doing the website and media and when we were bought by DKL I became the corporate media officer. I did Mr Farage’s resignation announcement when he opened the Manor Royal kitchens. However, I wanted to run an events business and I presented a business plan to Jinnie, she had contacts, dad had contacts, mum had contacts and it all came together.”
Miranda continued, “I approached a vineyard on the Southdowns about putting on a Christmas party night in their restaurant/events space and we are running six nights a week for the four weeks before Christmas. Two hundred or more people a night at night £45 a head, live music through the meal, three-course meal and a bottle of English wine for four, entertainment after the meal, then a DJ till midnight, a pay bar and, oh and I almost forgot, mini burgers at 11 o’clock. Trattoria Trevi are doing the food, Uncle Neal the staff, mum has sorted the furniture hire, I have sourced the entertainment and we are 90% sold out.”
“So why do you need to advertise it then?” Asked Mike. “We don’t,” said Brian, “but we now have a second party at the Surrey County Show Ground. Same sort of thing but bigger. This will be 250 people a night minimum and we could go to 300 or maybe 400 if we have the demand. This is only for four weeks and is currently only 50% sold. That is our break-even point so we need a push to make real money. But it is what happens after Christmas that matters, we will also be advertising weddings, corporate events, posh home dinner parties, summer balls, engagement and birthday parties. We have a special wedding arranged for Saturday and your people will be videoing it for an advert. The reception was cancelled with three weeks to go because the hotel had double booked. The tearful bride approached us and we have organised a replacement reception in huge marquees, with the same menu and entertainment. We have pulled out all the stops and have organised everything from Trattoria Trevi food to Portaloos.”
Mike thought for a moment had said, “Can you all come into the studio on Monday to talk about this on air, the listeners and viewers love a good news story. I’m on from ten until one, so could you be here for say, eleven o’clock.” The group had a quick discussion and Jinnie and Brian agreed that it was free advertising and said they should go. However, Miranda told them she had a series of meetings arranged for that morning so opted out.
In Dublin the hire car was delivered to the hotel’s underground car park at breakfast. The car was a black Mercedes, a vehicle that was available in the ‘neutral’ Irish Republic. When Penny and Les were ready to leave, the car was brought around to the main entrance and a Porter loaded luggage in the boot while the concierge opened the car doors. Les drove the car out of Dublin while Penny made certain they were not being followed. They joined the N7 going west and shortly before it became the M7 pulled over at a rest stop for a prearranged meeting. It was here they switched to a nondescript grey-coloured Range Rover and the lookalikes took over the Mercedes. At this point the black car continued along the M7 until its junction with the M8 that it took to the outskirts of Cork. In the city the diversionary team headed for their hotel and their ancestral research.
Penny emerged from the rest stop’s toilets wearing a hat that hid her colourfully dyed hair, she would wash the temporary dye out when they reached Portmagee. Now in the Range Rover, Les also headed off down the M7 but unlike the diversionary team they carried on past the M8 junction and continued west on the M7 to Limerick and then by a number of N and R roads until the car’s Sat Nav led them to their rented ‘cottage’ on the edge of Portmagee. Penny had been told that a cottage had been leased in their German names but the building in front of them was in fact two fisherman’s cottages knocked together to form a four-bedroom property that was rented to summer visitors. But in early November visitors were few and far between and the owners were delighted to lease the property for three months.
Penny and Les unloaded their bags and chose their bedrooms. Penny at the front, overlooking the gravel drive and Les at the back overlooking the small back garden and acres of rolling farmland. In the distance he could see a tractor dragging a harrow across a field, but little else was moving. After unpacking, they decided they needed to drive into the village to stock up on food as the landlord had only left them a pint of milk, six eggs, a slab of butter and a sliced white loaf. Les jokingly said they could have egg banjos and a glass of milk for dinner but Penny was not going to settle for that and besides she desperately wanted a cup of tea and there were no teabags.
The short drive into Portmagee revealed one small combination food store and post office, a gift shop, several bars, a cafe and a restaurant. The tiny shop offered a vast selection of tinned food, a little selection of fresh meat and vegetables, bread and dairy but no fish. Penny really fancied fish. They picked up some lamb chops, steak, tea bags, fresh vegetables, more milk, instant coffee, a bag of sugar (for Les’s coffee), cornflakes, a big slab of Irish Cheddar and a loaf of what Penny called ‘real’ bread. They decided to drive to the next town the next morning where they were told there were two ‘big modern supermarkets’. On the spur of the moment they decided to eat in one of the small port’s many restaurants as most advertised fresh fish. Penny had sea bass, which she said was delicious, while Les stuck to cod and chips.
Shortly after arriving back at the cottage they heard a car crunch across the gravel drive and the doorbell rang. Les opened the door to two Garda officers, a sergeant and a female officer. The sergeant explained that they had heard they were in town and had rented the house for three months which meant they had to register at the Garda station. The sergeant laughingly explained that the nearest station was in Kilkenny so they had called in and would take their passport details, saving them a journey. Les and Penny handed over their German passports and the junior officer noted the details while the sergeant chatted about the local area and its beauty.
The officers said good night and headed towards their patrol car. As they approached it, Les saw them both reach up and turn off their body-worn cameras. The female officer then opened the car’s boot and brought out a large package. The officers then returned and the sergeant said, “Now the official business is done and the cameras think we have moved on we can get down to real business. We are your local contacts and here are your weapons, two pistols and a long gun. There is a hiding place for the rifle case in the floor under the wood store out back and the pistols have places behind the bathroom tiles. I understand you are familiar with this from a previous operation and I have been told to tell you ‘right-hand wall, three tiles up and five tiles in’.”
He continued, “We usually get a heads up a day before the Taoiseach comes to his farm. I will call you and in conversation say, “The dog is in the kennels this weekend.” He isn’t here this weekend, so you have got at least a week to sort out your hide. I have marked on this map the route he invariably takes when he rides. But it’s worth noting that he nearly always goes out about six thirty on a Sunday morning so you will have a minimum of a week to sort things out. If you need anything, please, here’s my card with my number on it. If anyone else answers say you need to speak to Sergeant O’Connell, but remember to be careful what you say, that number goes through the Limerick control centre and you never know who is listening in.”
With that the officers said ‘Good night’ and drove off down the lane, the car’s headlights cutting through the dark. Penny looked at Les who said, “Well, that was a surprise. Every other mission I have been on we have done our best to avoid the local police. Now I wonder who tipped them off, the shop or the restaurant?” “My money is on the shop,” said Penny. “It was called O’Connell’s food store!”
Just after 11:30 on Monday morning Jinnie and Brian walked out of the London TV studio and made for London Bridge station. After a few paces Brian said, “Gosh that was intense, but I think it went well.” Jinnie answered, “I am delighted, it was free advertising. Mike had listened to everything Miranda told him last week and asked questions he knew the answers to. We were able to push the events business really hard and get in a plug for Trattoria Trevi.” Brian said, “And he loved the story of the wedding and had even gone to the trouble of getting stills from the video crew. They did make it look good.”
Just as they entered the railway station Jinnie’s mobile rang. It was Miranda who said, “I can’t speak for long as I am just between meetings, but I needed to tell you our website has gone mad and mum has had to lend me a couple of her girls as the phone just hasn’t stopped ringing. We have had enquiries for weddings, home dinner parties and a corporate dinner for a retirement do. But best of all Christmas party ticket sales are moving fast. The Vineyard is all but sold out and I’m beginning to wonder if we should take up the option for the extra 50 places at the Show Ground as Friday and Saturday nights have been the big sellers.”
Jinnie said, “Thanks for letting us know, but don’t be late for your next meeting.” “I just had to tell you,” replied Miranda, “Tell Brian I’ll tell him more when I see him tonight. Oh, and mum says that you both looked good on the TV.” Jinnie passed on Miranda’s news to Brian who said he was delighted and wondered if it was now worth going ahead with the Christmas party adverts. Jinnie was quiet for a while and then said, “The boost from that interview will be over tomorrow, I suggest we don’t do anything rash. The wedding and the Christmas party advertisements start to air on Wednesday, let’s see how things develop, we have an option to cancel after two weeks. We can swap what adverts go out at any time, so if we sell out for the Christmas parties we can swap in the dinner party, wedding party, or any other advert as we see fit. I think we will need to keep pushing weddings and other events.”
What Jinnie didn’t account for was the wedding story being picked up by the Press and other media outlets. The following morning the story of the wedding reception had been picked up by the national newspapers. The Sun had managed to track the newlywed couple down to their honeymoon hotel, the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort in Ocho Rios and had secured an interview. The newlyweds had been full of praise for the way TTEvents had pulled out all the stops for them and had produced ‘a perfect wedding day’ for them. The marquee had been fabulous, the Quaredons’, who had loaned the paddock for the marquee and parking couldn’t have done more, they had even thrown their huge private garden open to the wedding guests. The food had been absolutely delicious and they said they were amazed when they learnt that it was prepared by the famous Trattoria Trevi.
They heaped praise on Miranda and her staff, explaining how they had been desperate when they had been let down by the hotel they had booked their reception with a year before. How they had tried everywhere to rearrange things, but with only three weeks before the wedding it was proving impossible. Then Sue had stumbled on the TTEvents website while searching the internet and after a single phone call Miranda had sorted everything out for them and it had been absolutely perfect.
The Daily Mail had gone down a different route and revealed that TTEvents was owned by Trattoria Trevi, the Michelin starred restaurant that was the last Prime Minister’s favourite. How the group had used many of its contacts and resources to pull the whole thing together including the use of a paddock owned by one of the directors. But it was the headline on the editorial that delighted Jinnie, ‘Is this Britain’s most caring company?’ There followed the story of how Trattoria Trevi had produced a gourmet lunch for an old people’s home, how it had become an annual event for the restaurant industry and now they had bent over backwards to save a bride and groom on their special day.
The BBC Breakfast programme had a reporter outside the Trattoria Trevi stopping passersby for Vox Pops. Everyone stopped had heard the story and said how they were delighted to have the restaurant in their town. Jinnie wondered how long it would be before the press put two and two together and saw she was a director of both Trattoria Trevi and TTEvents. She envisaged reporters outside the house and was pleased that her phone number was ex-directory.
Shortly after taking up her place in the garden office her mobile rang and the display said ‘number withheld’. ‘Of course,’ she thought, ‘it will be Nigel,’ and she answered the phone with, “Good morning Nigel”. The ex-PM said, “It’s too obvious when my calls always come up ‘number withheld’ I will have to get some of that software that spoofs a random number. I really wanted to congratulate you and the company on the story in the papers. You must be pleased with all the free advertising.”
“Yes,” said Jinnie, “but I’m worried about being besieged by the Press.” “No needed to be worried,” said Nigel, “The security services are carefully controlling who gets anywhere near my new house. As a resident or a contractor like Jason, it’s not obvious they don’t interfere, but reporters are going to get nowhere near your house and my precious godchildren.” Jinnie asked Nigel if he had seen the reporters outside Trattoria Trevi. He said he hadn’t but would have a quiet word with Hertfordshire Police and ensure they were around.
The next call was from Brian. He was on his way to his DKL office and had just had to fight his way through a crowd of reporters and photographers outside his home. He said how delighted he was that the address for Miranda, registered for her at Companies House, was at Trattoria Trevi. He didn’t want her children upset. He asked if she was also besieged and she explained how she was benefiting from Nigel’s security, but she feared for the staff at Trattoria Trevi. She said that Nigel had promised to have a word with the police and Brian agreed that if Nigel has said that then it would be OK.
The third call was from Miranda. She had got into work early and was delighted that as yet no one had made the indirect connection between Wright Refurbishments and Trattoria Trevi. However, the website was struggling to deal with the number of hits it was receiving and the phones had been ringing when she got to her office. She had answered half a dozen calls before one of her girls had arrived to help. Miranda said of the calls she had answered two were wedding enquiries, one was from a company trying to get on their supplier’s list and three were from reporters. She had told the reporters that at the moment the company had nothing to say but when the ‘boss’ got in she would tell her they had called and perhaps she would put out a press statement later. In addition she had taken the details of the enquiries and told them that someone would ring them back after nine o’clock when the office opened.
In Portmagee Penny and Les had been out exploring. They had visited the nearest supermarket and while nothing like the Tesco Extra Penny usually shopped in it was adequate with ample stock of everything they needed, even if some of the brands were not what Penny normally bought. Les had looked for Bird’s Eye fish fingers but had to settle for a brand called Donegal Catch which claimed to be Ireland’s biggest seller of frozen fish. Les said he expected it would taste the same in a sandwich.
They had also been out in the car near where the Taoiseach was known to go riding. It was very flat, without a lot of cover for a sniper. Les pointed out a small copse, but Penny’s view was that it was too obvious. She said that the Taoiseach‘s security would have to be seriously useless not to search there when their boss was around. Penny preferred to make use of the reed beds that edged the small river that drained the nearby bogs. She told Les that in a ghillie suit the Taoiseach‘s protection would have to step on one of them to find them.
Back at the cottage that evening she put in a call to Sergeant O’Connell saying they thought they might have someone watching them as they had seen lights out in the fields behind the house. O’Connell assured them it was probably only the farmer lamping rabbits but he would call in later when his patrol took him close by. When O’Connell and Officer Flaherty arrived Penny explained that they both required waterproof ghillie suits and the officers, whose body-worn cameras had not been activated, promised to get the message to London and they would deliver them just as soon as they arrived. Penny thanked them, and the Garda officers went on their way.
In Chapter 25 – Nigel’s House
© WorthingGooner 2023