Paolo and Jinnie were finally ready for the Christmas Eve drinks party. Paolo had been in charge of the booze and a table in the corner of the room made a well-stocked bar. Cold beer was in the fridge and two bags of supermarket ice were in the freezer. Jinnie and been in charge of nibbles and Paolo said if the guests ate all the food they wouldn’t want their Christmas dinner tomorrow. The guests had been told to come at 8 and at 7:30 everything was ready except Jinnie and Paolo who both wanted to shower and change. Jinnie had never been so quick in her life and just managed to be ready with a chilled glass of white wine when the Jeffries from two down arrived swiftly followed by the Franks and their daughter Denise from next door.
The next to arrive at 10 past eight were the Hickmans from the other side of Emma and Freddie who followed them up the drive. Paolo was fetching more ice from the freezer in the utility room when Larry shot out of the cat flap and Nigel arrived at the back door accompanied by Larry and a burley security officer, who slipped away into the night once Nigel was in safely in the house. Nigel explained that the police had been watching the arrivals and had told him he was safe to go as all the partygoers were on the list of vetted neighbours. Nigel chose a bottle of Hooky Gold from the selection in the fridge saying that would be nice before he started on the 12-year-old Glenlivet Paolo had also offered.
When Nigel entered the room with Paolo and Larry the conversation in the room instantly died, before Nigel said to Jinnie, “Good evening, do you see what effect I have on a room full of people,” and the drone of conversation restarted. Emma was busy telling Jinnie what a huge success the series of office parties had been. The unanimous opinion was that it had been far better than the previous year on every level. The food, service and entertainment had all been highly rated by a quick survey of a cross-section of those who had attended. Much to her delight ‘C’ had called her into his office that morning, where he had thanked her profusely for her hard work in sorting things out and had presented her with an enormous bouquet of flowers, a massive box of chocolates and told her that he wouldn’t need her that afternoon and she could have the afternoon off.
The party was going far better than Jinnie could have dreamed, everyone was mingling and chatting, the drinks were flowing and the food disappearing. Larry was happy, he was with his two favourite people, Jinnie and Nigel, he was getting lots of attention, and he had been given all sorts of food to try. He had liked smoked salmon, hated something he had leant was called a Twiglet, liked plain and cheese & onion crisps, but his favourite by far had been the chicken drumstick that Denise had pulled apart and fed him the meat from. Now that was real food.
Nigel had been chatting with everyone and already knew their names and as always a little of their background. He had surprised Mr Franks by talking about his work in a large stockbrokers before he retired. Even Jinnie had been surprised how much he knew about her companies. He explained that following his wonderful night at the Show Ground he had made a point of researching Miranda and was amazed to discover how Jinnie was one of her major backers and how Trattoria Trevi was expanding fast. To Jinnie’s delight Nigel passed on a message from Queen Catherine. She said she had heard much about the fantastic food served at the Trattoria Trevi and had been disappointed to not have been allowed to try it herself. Now that the new restaurant was due to open so close to their Windsor home and it had private dining rooms she fully intended to book a private dinner for 10 or so of her girlfriends and arrive incognito.
As the party was thinning out around 11:00 Jinnie was intrigued to see Nigel in deep conversation with Emma. Eventually he shook her hand and Jinnie was certain she heard him say, “We have a deal then.” Shortly after he drained his fourth large Glenlivet with ice and said his good nights and to Jinnie and Paolo said that he would see them at noon on Boxing Day for the football.
As soon as Nigel had gone, a smiling Emma came over to Jinnie and whispered to her, “I’ve just landed a new job. I’m going to be Nigel’s PA, girl Friday and general factotum. He has doubled my wages, I get to travel the world with him when he goes to give speeches, Freddie can come too if he can get time off and best of all no more commuting. I can stroll to work in a few minutes.” “How fantastic,” said Jinnie. “But won’t you miss the office and working for ‘C’?” “Perhaps I shouldn’t tell you this but ‘C’ is being made a peer in the New Year’s Honours list and will become a full-time government minister. It’s a good time for me to move on and besides I hear on the grapevine that Nigel is to get a knighthood.”
Jinnie and Paolo had gone to bed when Jinnie heard Lucia come in. As always she was very quiet but Jinnie couldn’t help but smile when she heard her check on the sleeping twins.
Jinnie woke early on Christmas morning and got the twins up and dressed and had them in their highchairs ready for their breakfast. She started preparing bacon baps for the adults and boiled eggs and soldiers, the twins’ favourites, for them. By the time the smell of cooking bacon drew Paolo and Lucia down to the kitchen she had laid three places at the table and had checked the Champagne and orange juice were nicely chilled for the Bucks fizz. Jinnie piled the freshly cooked bacon into the heavily buttered baps and Paolo prepared the Bucks Fizz to the traditional recipe of two parts Champagne to one part juice and Lucia finished feeding the twins and gave them mugs of orange juice.
The adults had just started on their Baps when the front doorbell rang. Paolo grumped a bit, then went to the door before returning with Nigel Farage wearing a Santa hat and carrying two huge teddy bears, bigger than the twins, one with a blue ribbon around its neck and the second with a pink ribbon. The twins grabbed them and immediately said ‘orsacchiotto’ and Lucia smirked saying, “I have been reading Goldilocks to them and they love the three bears.” Nigel sat and watched them before accepting the offer of Bucks Fizz and a bacon bap saying, “I only had cereal in for breakfast, but this should keep me going until lunch.”
When Nigel had gone, Lucia went and got her presents for the family, picture books for the children and chocolate selection boxes. New cuff links for Paolo and a pretty pendant necklace for Jinnie. Paolo and Jinnie presented Lucia with a voucher for a pair of handmade shoes from Arni. She had often much admired Jinnie’s many pairs of handmade shoes and was delighted. Jinnie told Lucia she was off duty and to go and ready herself for her day with Vincenzo’s family while she and Paolo got the twins ready for a visit to Potters Bar.
While Paolo loaded the dishwasher, Penny rounded up Larry. When Larry saw the pet carrier arrive he eyed it suspiciously knowing it often meant a visit to the vet. Jinnie said, “Come on Larry, it’s Christmas and we are off to Mum and Dad’s for the day. You can go and see your friend the skewbald mare and it’s turkey for lunch. I know you love that, it’s just like chicken.” Larry got up from his cat basket and headed straight into the carrier where he curled up and closed his eyes.
The Walsh family home was as welcoming as always. While Grandma and Grandpa Walsh entertained the twins, Jinnie and Paolo unloaded all their paraphernalia and a big bag of presents, Larry shot out of the cat flap and down the garden to visit his friend the skewbald mare. She was at the far end of the field, where the shelter was, with her latest foal she jogged up the field as Larry jogged down to meet her.
Penny and Dan arrived shortly after Jinnie and Paolo and also lugged a big bag of presents across the Green to the house. With the family gathered, a discussion took place as to whether they should open the presents before or after lunch. In the end, it was decided to open them after the king’s speech and to instead have an aperitif and play with the twins. Their parents had given them one of their presents each to keep them entertained. They each had a big plastic tip-up truck which they had sat their bears in to drive around the sitting room and dining room. Mrs Walsh was delighted that the new metal gate kept them out of the kitchen, but Larry was slim enough to pass between its metal bars.
As usual dinner was excellent and the twins tucked into chopped-up turkey, roast potato, sprouts, carrot and parsnip all with gravy. Penny fed Willie and Jinnie fed Millie between bites of their own dinner. Of course, the twins wanted to feed themselves using their hands which everyone found hilarious. While the adults ate their Christmas pudding the twins each had a bowl of ice cream which they appeared to enjoy smearing over their faces as much as eating.
The King’s speech was its usual review of the year and pictures of his family. He wished the ex-prime minister a happy retirement and thanked him for his service to the nation. Finally he wished everyone a merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. As the national anthem played, Mrs Walsh started sharing out the presents making a heap in front of everyone. The heaps in front of the twins were by far the largest. Paolo and Jinnie had mainly got them clothes as they were growing too fast, Grandma and Grandpa had given them a rocking horse which they adored and the pair of wooden pull-along ducks that quacked from Penny and Daniel were quickly in use. The family had all coordinated Jinnie’s gift, a gold bracelet with umpteen gold charms, a matching broach and ring, all of which she immediately put on.
By six in the evening the twins were getting grumpy as they had missed their afternoon nap. Jinnie and Paolo got them into their new matching jumpsuits and headed for home. No sooner than the car was moving then they were asleep in their child seats. Jinnie debated with herself whether to pop them straight into bed or to give them their regular bath first. They were a bit grubby so the bath won. It temporarily woke them up and they had fun splashing in the warm water, being dried off in big fluffy towels and dressed in new pyjamas. They insisted on taking their new bears to bed and were asleep before their head hit the pillow. Jinnie kissed them good night and crept downstairs to join Paolo who greeted her with a large G&T.
About 9 o’clock Lucia got home, and joined them for a drink. They all talked about their day. Lucia said it had been lovely, they had spoken Italian all day and had eaten so much she thought she would burst. The meal had gone on for hours and they had cold meats and olives, baked pasta, pasta with clams, roast veal, real Italian cheeses and then Vincenzo’s mum had produced one of her favourites, a chocolate cranberry Christmas cake. She wanted to know about the twins and what they had eaten and did they get lots of presents. Jinnie explained how they had a mountain of things and were absolutely warn out and were fast asleep as soon as she had put them down, they hadn’t even demanded a bedtime story!
For Boxing Day the weather was quite good when the party set off for the football. Paolo drove his car as it still had the child seats in from the previous day. Nigel’s car was driven by a police officer and he gave Lucia a lift with him in the back. The arrangement was to meet in the main car park and all walk in together. Paolo parked next to Mr Walsh and Nigel next to them. Penny and Dan were last to arrive, having picked up Vincenzo, and parked behind Paolo who was getting the buggy out for the twins. They all strolled to the ticket office and bought seats in the main stand before heading for the turnstiles. A gate at the side was opened for the buggy and Jinnie was allowed to push it in but the others had to go through the turnstile. When it was Nigel’s turn the turnstile operator did a double take and said, “Good afternoon, Sir”. The Walsh party was closely followed by two big burly secret service men whom Jinnie guessed were armed and sat in the seats behind Nigel, who was in the middle of the Walsh party, carefully scanning the crowd who had no idea he was there.
Having narrowly avoided relegation last season, Barnet were having a much better year and were in the playoff places but several places out of automatic promotion. They really needed to win to maintain their promotion push. At half time they were winning one nil and were playing well. Paolo, Dan and Mr Walsh went for refreshments and returned laden with the orders, hot Bovril, tea for Dan and Paolo, hot giant sausage rolls, a steak pie for Nigel and a giant bag of chocolate M&M’s for the twins. Paolo gave a few each to the twins and put the bag in his jacket pocket. Jinnie laughed and said, “Remember whose those are, no eating them during the second half.”
Barnet continued to play well in the second half and scored twice more to win 3-0 and keep their hopes of promotion back to the Football League alive. The security police insisted on letting the crowd leave before they could exit the now almost deserted stadium and return to what were virtually the only cars in the car park. Vincenzo kissed Lucia goodbye and said he would meet them later in the restaurant, his father was going to drive him in when he went to work.
The party reassembled for dinner, the men all having put on suits and the ladies elegant dresses. As usual Alberto had excelled himself and they had the best table in the restaurant. Jinnie spotted several celebrities from TV, stage and as usual, football. Vincenzo who had been waiting for them was delighted to see Arsenal’s star centre forward who had scored a hat trick that afternoon in their four-nil home win over Southampton. But it was Nigel who was the one whom all eyes were following as he was shown to his seat. Jinnie had the twins between her and Paolo so they could look after them and she told Lucia to sit next to Vincenzo who only had eyes for her and they quickly lapsed into a deep conversation.
As always the food was marvellous and the service attentive but not overpowering. Guido guided them through the wine list suggesting both excellent red and white wines that were good value for money of which even Nigel approved. But the first surprise of the evening came just after the coffee had been served when Vincenzo went down on one knee, produced a small ring box containing a diamond engagement ring and asked Lucia to marry him. When she said yes, Nigel called for Champagne but Guido said that tonight the Champagne was on him, it wasn’t every day you watch you only son propose marriage in front of a full restaurant and be accepted.
Of course the twins had no idea what was happening, only they everyone was happy. When spontaneous applause broke out even the twins joined in and Jinnie had to find a tissue for Lucia’s tears of joy. For the rest of the evening Lucia and Vincenzo sat holding hands and talking to each other. When it was time to leave it was sad to part them but Vincenzo was getting a lift home with his father and Lucia with Nigel.
The following morning Jinnie was up early but Lucia had beaten her to it and was preparing the twins’ breakfast when she entered the kitchen. Lucia ran over to her and said, “I am sorry, but I have some bad news for you. I am really sorry but I must resign. In six weeks time Vincenzo is being posted to Barbados to be Head of Financial Products for his Bank in Bridgetown. They are moving the Barbados business to a new office block in a new commercial district just on the outskirts of Bridgetown and he will be covering the whole of the Southern Caribbean, about 10 islands. He will be allocated a company house and he wants me to go with him as his wife and of course I have said yes. It will be so sad to leave the twins, I love them like they are mine, but maybe you can all come and stay for your summer holiday.”
Jinnie hugged her and said, “What a fabulous opportunity, to be in the sun with the man you love. Don’t worry I think I already know the perfect person to replace you. Now are you going to marry before you go, or marry in Barbados or maybe even in Italy?” Lucia replied, “We talked about it a lot last night. Both Vincenzo and I think of England as our home, in fact he has never lived anywhere else. I have seen the pictures of the beautiful church you married in and we could marry there because Vincenzo lives in the parish. His dad says we can have the reception at Trattoria Trevi and he will pay but I think my Mum and Dad have been saving for my marriage and they don’t even know much of Vincenzo. I must tell them more and they must meet him, but there is so much to do and only six weeks to arrange things.”
Jinnie said, “I have an idea, you go and tell your parents right now. The first thing to do is to arrange for them to fly over for the weekend and meet Vincenzo and his family. While you go and phone them I will arrange flights and hotel accommodation for the weekend and before you say anything their weekend is on Paolo and me. Then I will phone Miranda, she is a wedding organiser and she will sit down with you and organise everything about the wedding, dress, invitations, the menu absolutely everything.” “Really,” said Lucia.” “Yes, really,” replied Jinnie.
When Paolo arrived at the kitchen table he was clutching his copy of the Telegraph and a copy of the Potters Bar Press that they had recently started taking. The Telegraph had a front page picture of Nigel at the Trattoria Trevi inset into a bigger picture of Vincenzo on his knee proposing with the headline ‘Upstaged’ and see page three for the full story. Jinnie thought, ‘Someone has been busy with their camera phone.’
Turning to page three there was only a picture of the whole table with some of the people identified. The story was that Nigel was dining as a guest of one of the restaurant owners, Mrs Jinnie De Luca and her husband who was an Italian diplomat. His presence at the table had been upstaged by the son of one of the other directors proposing to Mrs De Luca’s nanny. The only other people the paper had managed to identify were the twins who were simply identified as the De Luca’s twin son and daughter.
The Potters Bar Press had a similar story on its front page but had managed to identify the other dinners as Mrs De Luca’s parents and her sister and her sister’s husband. The story was by Bill Furr and he had stitched together a lot of bits and pieces to make more of the story. He had obviously talked to an employee as he informed his readers that the Du Luca family dined at the restaurant every Boxing Day but it was the first time they had been joined by the twins and their nanny and by her boyfriend Vincenzo. Mr Farage, who was a regular at the restaurant was understood to be one of the De Luca’s neighbours. It went on to say that Vincenzo Giordino was the son of Guido Giordino another of the restaurant’s directors and worked for one of the big banks in the city.
The Barnet Press’s page three story was about Trattoria Trevi’s rapid growth and how they now had a second restaurant in Turners Hill and a third on the verge of opening in Windsor which would be their biggest restaurant yet.
Bill wrote, “Little is known about Mrs De Luca’s life prior to buying into what was then a small Italian restaurant, but a highly respected one, in Potters Bar. Our research draws a blank other than what is public knowledge that she gained a degree in German and Italian at Cambridge University. Languages that she is fluent in together with French. It is known she first met Mr Farage while campaigning for her father, Reform Party councillor Peter Walsh who is now the Chairman of Potters Bar Council’s Way and Means Committee, in the first post-war set of elections. It is understood that Mrs De Luca worked in a government department where she rose rapidly due to her language skills. Although it is documented that after we aided Italy to become a free nation she worked as a translator on loan to the Italian PM and it is there that she met her husband who is now the number three at the Italian London Embassy.
Mrs De Luca is believed to have inherited money on the death of a relative and used it to allow her to buy into The Trattoria Trevi when banks wouldn’t loan it money and allow it to expand into the successful Michelin Star restaurant that it is today. Mrs De Luca used a small company, Wright Refurbishment, to do the highly admired refurbishment work and it was then that she met Mrs Belinda Quaranden the company owner and MD and her husband Brian the finance director. Under Mrs De Luca the business has expanded rapidly first opening a ‘dark kitchen’ business in Potters Bar that cooks and home delivers quality Italian and English meals. The kitchens also cater for lovers of burgers, Chinese, Indian, and shortly various other meals. In fact, the chances are that if you have ordered a meal to be delivered in the area it has come from this kitchen.
The dark kitchen concept has been so successful that a company ‘Dark Kitchens Limited’ has been formed as a 50/50 partnership with the takeaway giant SuperBurger and now owns a 12-kitchen outlet in Crawley and in the New Year similar outlets are to follow in Wood Green and Stratford. Mrs De Luca is also the MD of DKL and under her leadership they have acquired Wright Refurbishment as their in-house construction division and both Mr and Mrs Quaranden are board directors. Wright Refurbishment continues to be a highly successful business in its own right and has won contracts to refurbish everything from huge government offices to the local taxi company. Needless to say after trading for less than a year DKL is said to be profitable and ready to expand away from London.
But Trattoria Trevi has not stood still either. On New Year’s Eve the chain will open its third restaurant, its biggest yet, in Windsor. This will include private dining rooms and a function room that can be varied in size to seat between 40 and 120 depending on requirements. They are also launching a supper club where customers can enjoy a three-course meal while being entertained by top singers and comedians. But I am led to believe that Trattoria Trevi will be actively pursuing additional restaurants possibly in other British cities.
But Trattoria Trevi has also launched out in other directions, they offer a dinner party service where their staff come to a home, cook and serve dinner so that the cook in the house can enjoy a dinner party just as much as the guests. They started using spare daytime capacity in their dark kitchens to produce and deliver artisan sandwiches and cakes to the likes of offices and pubs. This line has proved so popular that they are opening a chain of artisan sandwich shops where you can have them make your sandwich with the filling of your choice in the bread or roll of your choice to eat in or take away. Two of these shops are now open and I hear more are planned, with the next likely to be in Gatwick’s South Terminal.
The latest Trattoria Trevi business is TTEvents who plan and manage anything from a wedding to summer balls. I hear that Christmas has been a particularly good time for this fledgling business with a series of sell-out events in the run-up to the big day. This business is only 50% owned by Trattoria Trevi with its Managing Director Miranda Kennedy and family owning the rest. Mrs De Luca has recently teamed up with Mrs Kennedy to start a bespoke bridalwear business where a team of talented designers work on the bride’s dream dress, sketch it and make it at a price less than a wedding dress shop. The business opens on the first business day of the New Year.
Mrs De Luca seems to have a golden touch when it comes to business and lives in a large house in Hadley with her husband, twins and pet cat. Her new next-door neighbour is the ex-PM Mr Farage.”
Jinnie read the article through twice before saying to Paolo, “I wonder where this man gets his information from, much of it is right, but he also says things that I haven’t even thought about yet.” “He’s guessing,” replied Paolo. “He probably is,” said Jinnie, “but his thinking is spookily close to mine.”
In Chapter 32 – Mid February
© WorthingGooner 2023