Jinnie, Paolo, the twins and Izzy stepped from the limousine that driven them from the house in Hadley to the British Airways First Class wing at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Porters quickly loaded their luggage onto a trolly, and they were rapidly led to the check-in desks, where Jinnie was delighted to see there was no queue. The travel agent that Dark Kitchens Limited used for company travel, and Jinnie had used to book this flight, had told her that BA boasted that its First Class passengers would be in a First Class departure lounge within ten minutes of arriving at the terminal. Jinnie had started the clock running when she had got out of the car and so far, she was pleasantly surprised.
The check-in girl was super efficient and had collected all five passports and flight tickets and processed them instantly. She had immediately addressed Jinnie as ‘Dame Jinnie’ and wasn’t even thrown by Paolo’s Italian diplomatic passport. Their luggage had rapidly been tagged with the BA First Class tags and the stickers applied to their passports and in well under ten minutes they were fast-tracked through the special security lane and walking down the passageway to the Concorde Lounge. Outside the lounge an official was turning away all the non-BA First Class passengers.
Their fight to Bridgetown, Barbados was scheduled for 10:35 and it was just after 08:30 so they had plenty of time for breakfast in the lounge. Their next-door neighbour, the ex-prime minister Nigel Farage had told them all about the exclusive Concorde Lounge. There were several First Class lounges in Terminal 5 but he said this was by far the best and that unlike others there was no buffet with curled-up sandwiches, instead you had to request a menu for food or drink and order from one of the plentiful attendants. He added that in his opinion by far the best thing on the Concorde Lounge’s breakfast menu was the gammon chop and fried eggs with a tangy sauce. But he had warned it was only cooked to order and that could take 20 minutes, so to order it as soon as they arrived and to enjoy Bucks Fizz and a starter while waiting for it to arrive.
Of course, the twins only wanted juice and cereal, followed by scrambled egg on toast. Now they were four years old they were more than capable of feeding themselves and thanks to frequent visits to Trattoria Trevi their table manners were excellent. In fact, their nursery school teacher had complemented Jinnie on how polite and good-mannered they were. She had also been amazed that they often spoke to each other in Italian and already had an excellent grasp of basic reading, writing, counting and could tell the time. This was to be the last De Luca family holiday before the twins started in the reception class in September. The nursery had told Jinnie that they were well-adjusted, friendly children who were probably a year or two ahead of their classmates and school could not come quickly enough for them.
Two days ago, their upcoming reception class teacher had been on a home visit. The visit would normally be at the end of August, but was exceptionally early, as the family was going to be in Barbados for most of the month. The twins’ reception class teacher, Miss Evans, toured the house and garden before viewing the twins’ rooms with their Jack and Jill bathroom. The twins had immediately hit it off with Miss Evans and she had been amazed to see all the books the twins had and that many were in Italian. She had asked if they were read to in Italian and had been shocked when Jinnie said, “No, they read them to each other.” When she asked about the gate with the cat flap in the garden wall, Millie said, “That’s for our cat Larry. He is very old, and it lets him visit Nigel.” Willie added, “And we go swimming in Nigel’s pool.” Jinnie had to explain that their neighbour Nigel, was the ex-PM and one of their godfathers.
The service in the Concorde room was immaculate and the adults’ Bucks Fizz and the twins’ orange juice arrived in the blink of an eye. A couple of minutes later their starters arrived. Coco Pops for the twins, fruit salad for Jinnie, Special K for Paolo and fruit yogurt for Izzy. Jinnie ate her fruit salad slowly as she waited for her cooked breakfast to arrive and reflected on events of the past couple of years.
The Twins had initially missed Lucia but had quickly grown to love Izzy and had continued to rapidly learn both Italian and English. Jinnie, not for the first time, wondered if Lucia marrying and moving to Barbados was a blessing in disguise. As lovely as Lucia had been she wasn’t a trained nanny and the twins had learnt quickly from Izzy who was. Izzy had settled into the family and had never given Jinnie a moment’s doubt she had made the right choice in hiring her. Jinnie had drifted into the habit of working from her garden office three days a week and in her DKL and Trattoria Trevi for one day each. As often as possible she joined Izzy and the twins in Nigel’s pool, both the twins loved the water and were soon swimming unaided.
The Trattoria Trevi empire had developed faster than she had dreamed possible. The Windsor restaurant had rapidly become the financial mainstay of the business due to its capacity and popularity. Jinnie’s idea of a monthly supper club had proved so popular that it had quickly moved on from being monthly. First it become fortnightly and was now weekly on a Thursday evening. Jinnie had worried about getting quality artists to perform, but that worry had proved baseless, and they were now regularly approached by agents volunteering their clients to perform at what had rapidly become one of the hottest tickets in town.
Nigel’s pressure, through the Press, had finally got the Potters Bar restaurant its second Michelin star and Turners Hill had got its first. They had also opened new restaurants in Brighton, Leeds and Manchester and were currently building one in Birmingham. Jinnie had concerns about being able to finance such an empire, but Brian had assured them that the cash was in the business, and they had only once had to borrow from the bank for a very short period.
The Artisan Sandwich shops had been a great success and there were now 12 branches in London and the Southeast including two at Gatwick and one at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 with three more shops lined up, including their first one out of the Southeast in Leeds. Brooke had proved to be more than capable of being the area manager and as the business had expanded, she had been promoted first to general manager and then managing director of Trattoria Trevi (Fastfood) Limited reporting directly to Jinnie who was the COO Trattoria Trevi Group of companies.
The Dark Kitchen business was also flying and had, as planned, opened kitchens in Wood Green and Stratford. They had then moved on to Canary Wharf, Hillingdon, Chelmsford and Brighton, before opening in Cardiff and Glasgow, all areas with large populations. The current plan was for at least three new branches of 12 kitchens a year with Edgbaston currently under construction, Nottingham was next and then Belfast. The company had big plans and wanted to open more branches in the Birmingham area to be followed by Manchester and Newcastle. The board were even considering trying overseas branches in Paris and Dublin. DKL had, last year, traded profitably for the first time, if the contribution from Wright Refurbishment was excluded. But because of Wright Refurbishment’s profitability, the parent company had been able to declare a dividend for the last two years which delighted both SuperBurger and Trattoria Trevi its joint owners.
Wright Refurbishment had been trading extremely strongly and its work at Vauxhall Cross had been much admired and profitable. Belinda was delighted that it had won them recognition in the industry with stories about the company appearing in trade magazines. The Home Office contract had been highly profitable and had also won several awards. The company had a good base workload, working on Dark Kitchen and Trattoria Trevi contracts, but its reputation had grown and it had fitted out several new buildings in London, refurbished the offices of a major oil company and a well known pharmaceutical company and were in discussions for several big jobs including another one for a Government department, Jinnie understood it was the Foreign Office this time. Belinda had struggled to initially find a talented designer to replace Melissa and had eventually settled on Willow who worked well with Andrew and was doing some impressive work.
Trattoria Trevi (Events) had, despite Jinnie and Miranda’s reservations, traded profitably in its first year, but only just. As it had not made a fortune the board had decided to leave the money in the company and use it as a reserve. The second year’s trade had been much better as the company became more known. The Christmas trade had been fantastic with last year’s three party customers returning, and they had added two more sites, one in North London at Alexandra Palace and one at the ExCel Centre in Dockland. Both had done good business and had returned last Christmas with the first out-of-London site in central Birmingham.
Miranda had always aimed at an event a week to break even, and last year it had averaged three a fortnight. However, it was increasing as time went by and most weeks was now up to four or five with often two events on Fridays and Saturdays. The home party side of the events business had clashed a bit with the dinner party offering from Trattoria Trevi so the two had been merged into one managed by the events business but catered by Trattoria Trevi. However, several customers had enquired about children’s parties. These were now being offered as a joint venture between the events and sandwich businesses, with events managing things and supplying the entertainment with options for magicians, princesses and cowboys proving popular. Artisan Sandwiches was supplying the likes of sandwiches, cakes, jelly and ice cream and party bags, as they were considered better positioned for those items.
The custom wedding dress design business had initially struggled to get a toe hold in the market. They had got some publicity in the local papers when they had first opened but tucked away on what was effectively an industrial estate it was not as if they were on a high street and getting passing trade. The customers they got were delighted with the product and the price but in the first few months there had been too few customers. The board of directors had several discussions on what to do, they were certain they had a good product, but they were hardly visible to brides. Miranda and Jinnie were convinced that they needed to advertise, but where? The glossy bride and groom type magazines wanted a small fortune for a full-page advert and the type of TV advertising they had done for the event’s business was not viable as research showed that was not reaching the required audience.
Finally, it was Andrew who had suggested that they advertise on music radio as their target audience was more likely to correlate to the customers they were looking for. Their first ads went out on Heart and Capital and brought an immediate response. They weren’t flooded with brides, but they got a steady stream of people contacting them. Andrew had then pointed out that perhaps they should also think about the groom as they nearly always bought a new suit to marry in. Belinda then added her suggestion that they should also offer page boy outfits and laughingly, Jinnie recounted how her mother had shopped all over London for a hat for her wedding to Paolo. So, it was decided that they would branch out and offer a more complete service by dressing not just the bride, bridesmaids and flower girls but the bride’s mother, the groom, the best man, the ushers and anyone else who was interested. This and the low-cost custom designs would be their unique selling point and they adjusted their advertising accordingly. That was when they started getting busy and when they knew the business was going to make it.
Jinnie was brought back from her musing by the arrival of her gammon chop and just as Nigel had said, it was excellent. As to his saying it was the best thing on offer, she could neither agree nor disagree as she had not tried anything else. Following their breakfast, the party sat and waited in the comfortable surroundings and while the adults chatted the twins played on their tablets. After a few minutes, a stewardess approached the adults and reminded them that no announcements were made in the lounge, however there was a small screen in one corner that told them when a flight was boarding. She then added that it was a 15-minute walk to the gates and as they had small children with them, she would give them a heads up as soon as she heard the departure board was about to show the flight.
Jinnie thanked her and the stewardess said how it wasn’t common to get young children in the Concorde room, especially ones so well-behaved as these two, before wandering off. Later the stewardess reappeared and told them that the board was about to show gate C54 which was the other side of the terminal. Izzy gathered up the twins and they set off for the gate lounge. The twins walked ahead holding hands, with their little packs on their backs looking out for Gate C54. Izzy guided them on and off the travelators, which they loved, and they arrived at the gate before most of the other passengers. The ground staff at the entrance to the gate directed them to the small First Class pen in the corner of the lounge saying, “We will be boarding First Class in about 10 minutes, but as you are travelling with children I expect you will be asked to board first.”
The twins were excited to see the huge Boeing 777-200 parked at the gate and wanted to know if they were going on it. Paolo said, “Yes, and you have a huge seat that can change into a bed.” Willie then asked if they were going to be flying at night and Paolo replied, “No but it takes a long time, and you might want a sleep.” “No way,” said Millie, “Izzy says there are cartoons to watch, I want to see Paw Patrol.”
Only minutes later a male ground steward approached them and asked if they were the De Luca party. Paolo replied, “Yes,” and he beckoned them forward to the desk where their boarding cards and passports were checked. Then they walked down the airbridge and onto the aircraft. The stewardess, at the plane’s entrance, glanced at the boarding card and pointed to the left. They walked through the Club World cabin and into the First Class cabin of only eight seats and were greeted by another stewardess who introduced herself saying, “Welcome aboard Dame Jinnie to this flight to Bridgetown, Barbados. My name is Alice and I will be working in First Class for your flight today. Please do not hesitate to ask if you or your party need anything.” She then showed them to their seats and offered them Bucks Fizz and Juice for the twins.
The First Class cabin consisted of only eight seats arranged in two rows of 1-2-1. Obviously, the twins had window seats and were in 1A and 2A while Jinnie was in 1B, Paolo in 1C and Izzy in 2B. There was only one other passenger in First and he was sat in 2D in the opposite side of the cabin to the excited twins. The twins drank their orange juice, while the adults drank their Buck’s Fizz, and excitedly dived into their amenity bags. Unlike the adult bags that contained lots of things the twins wouldn’t need, want or use, their version contained things much more suited to a four-year-old. They were delighted with the storybook, the colouring book and coloured pencils, the finger puppet, the toy car, the tube of Smarties, the bag of popcorn and numerous other things. Alice explained to Jinnie and Paolo that shortly after taking off, the cabin manager would make an announcement saying that there would be two meal services during the flight, lunch and tea. But this didn’t apply to First Class passengers, they could eat at any time whether it was the full First Class lunch or tea menu or just a snack and of course, they only had to call her if they required a drink.
Jinnie asked, “Have the children’s meals been loaded?” “Yes,” replied Alice. “Their starters and mains are in the oven, but they will need a few minutes to warm up so if you could give me a little warning before they would like them it would be appreciated. We are nearly ready to push back, so I’ll be collecting the glasses for take off.” The twins were belted into their seats without complaint, they had flown before, but not in First Class and knew what to expect. At Christmas they had flown to Italy to meet their Italian relatives and to be fussed over by their nonna and nonno. The summer before they had flown to Nice to holiday with Simone, Jan and Juliette who was growing quickly and spoke Polish and English as well as her native French.
Following the excitement of the take off the twins had settled into watching their video screens, which they had quickly mastered. While Millie watched several episodes of Paw Patrol, Willie had found Frozen 4, the latest Frozen that had not yet reached the U.K. As the time edged round to 12:45 Jinnie asked Alice if she could prepare the children’s lunches but hold on to the adults until the children had finished theirs. Alice said, “Of course,” and was back moments later with menus for the adults to choose from so they could be prepared.
Jinnie knew just what the twins liked and had preordered spaghetti and meatballs for their main courses and fruit jelly and ice cream for their desserts, which they demolished.
When the children had finished and Alice had cleared the empty plates away, Jinnie was delighted to see they both dropped off to sleep and the adults were able to enjoy their lunch without interruption. Jinnie and Izzy both started with poached prawns while Paolo had wild mushroom soup. Paolo then had fillet of beef, while the girls had pan-roasted monk fish, all were served with a selection of vegetables. For dessert they all had apple crumble and vanilla ice cream but only Paolo could tackle the selection of British cheeses and had golden cenarth, with savoury biscuits and grapes. Paolo and Jinnie agreed that for airline food it had been good but they preferred Trattoria Trevi food, especially the coffee.
Jinnie had feared that such a long journey would be tough for two four-year-olds, but that simply wasn’t the case. So far, the twins were revelling in the trip and not asking how much longer it was going to take. Instead, they were watching the TV, colouring and reading. Alice kept checking on them and stopped for a chat with Jinnie and Paolo saying how the twins were the best-behaved children she had ever had on board before asking if she should serve tea as they only had two hours to run to Bridgetown. Jinnie had ordered children’s teas for the twins consisting of finger sandwiches, yogurt, fruit pieces, crisps and a bag of M&Ms. The adults’ tea was sandwiches, scones with cream and jam and cake. Jinnie said to Paolo, “I think that flying long haul again the twins might like this tea.
The family walked out of arrivals at Grantley Adams International Airport and directly in front of them were Lucia and Vincenzo. The twins ran to Lucia and hugged her, they hadn’t forgotten her. Eventually Lucia was able to lead everyone out to the hired seven-seat diesel Kia Sorento that was to be theirs for the month. As Barbados drove on the left, Paolo drove while Vincenzo navigated to the villa that Lucia and he had found them. The villa was in Fitts Village in the St James district of Bridgetown, was in a gated community, had five double bedrooms, a swimming pool and was right on the beach. At first sight it looked wonderful. They had considered a smaller villa, but her sister and husband were to join them for the middle two weeks. This particular property had looked good on the internet, so Lucia and Vincenzo had been to view it and reported it was an excellent choice, in a safe, quiet area and not too far from good restaurants or their apartment.
As soon as the twins saw the large pool, they wanted to go in, but Jinnie said, “No, we have to unpack and choose bedrooms, then we have to find a supermarket for essentials like your breakfast rice pops and eggs. But I promise you can go in tomorrow and we will go to the beach, and you can swim in the sea.” Reluctantly the twins realised it was pointless arguing with their mother, she always won, and they went off to see the bedrooms.
The first week of the holiday were idyllic, the family swam in the pool before breakfast and spent the day on the section of beach close to the villa. The children played in the warm sea and dug on the beach and despite being slathered in factor 50 suntan cream every couple of hours the twins were turning nut brown and Willie’s blonde hair was being bleached even lighter. They lunched on snacks and drinks from a local beach bar relaxed in the shade of the trees at the back of the beach from the midday sun and generally had a wonderful time. Izzy, while keeping one eye on the playing children was able to relax knowing their parents were also watching.
On many days they were joined on the beach by Lucia, who had a part-time job as a courier on coach trips. But her employment depended on the cruise ships that put into the Bridgetown cruise terminal. As she was relatively new, she was at the tail end of employees and only required when the biggest ships or multiple ships were in port. Most evenings the adults ate together after Izzy had fed the twins, bathed them and put them to bed in their air-conditioned bedrooms. On two occasions Jinnie and Paolo had gone to excellent restaurants in central Bridgetown with Lucia and Vincenzo and enjoyed delicious meals.
Vincenzo had been well known at both restaurants as he regularly took customers to them for expense account meals. Jinnie was massively impressed by the second restaurant they ate at, the Continental. The food, service and atmosphere had been magnificent, and the restaurant was very busy for a midweek evening. Jinnie wondered how the board of Trattoria Trevi would react if she were to suggest opening or buying an existing restaurant in Barbados.
But all good things come with a price, and in a deal with the ambassador to enable him to take four weeks’ holiday in one hit, Paolo had agreed to cast his eye over the Italian consulate in Bridgetown. The consulate had a problem and was not working very efficiently, the consul had been changed with no effect and Rome wanted to find out what was going wrong. Paolo had so far been into the consulate twice and found that the consul was tearing his hair out trying to get his local staff to do anything but the bare minimum. Paolo had recommended that he set an example by sacking the worst employee and replacing him with a new member of staff. He promised to sit in on any interviews if that would help.
As a reward the consul had invited Paolo and his family to visit a new Italian cruise ship that was to have its naming ceremony the next week. Paolo explained that he would love to, but his family was being joined by his sister-in-law and her husband for the next fortnight and the consul said they were all welcome. The ship was to be in port for 72 hours for a glitzy occasion and the idea was that they should come aboard on the morning of the first day, spend overnight in a stateroom, attend the ceremony the next day and leave the ship before the paying passengers boarded on the evening of day two and on day three, before the ship sailed on the evening of day three.
In Chapter 2 – Jinnie has some ideas
© WorthingGooner 2023