Jinnie’s Story, Book Six – Chapter Two

Jinnie had some ideas

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

Penny and Dan had a much better flight to Bridgetown than they had expected. Unlike Jinnie they weren’t earning a fortune, their jobs with the SIS paid well, but not First Class well. Consequently, they had opted to fly on the daily Virgin flight from Heathrow to Barbados in Premium Class, better than Economy but not anywhere as good as Upper Class, the Virgin version of First Class. When they arrived at the Virgin Premium desk at Heathrow the ground stewardess scanned their passports and immediately called over a supervisor. Before they could ask if there was a problem, they were taken to the Upper Class check-in and the supervisor explained that all SIS operative’s passports carried an identifier on the computer and as a thank you for the risks they took for the country they were always upgraded if there was space on the plane.

The girl who checked them in told them to head for the ‘Clubhouse’ the special lounge for Upper Class customers, where they could get a free freshly cooked breakfast before the flight. As they had set off early and had intended to buy a cooked breakfast, that just suited them. Not for the first time Penny was invited to turn left on boarding, but it was all new to Dan. The A350-1000 had a large Upper Class cabin with 11 rows of seats in a 1-2-1 arrangement and they had been allocated a central pair. Although they had not got window seats, they were more than happy to have been upgraded to the half-empty cabin.

The flight passed rapidly and the four-course lunch had been excellent for airline food and Penny had particularly enjoyed the garlic and ginger prawns in a Thai green curry sauce for her main course. The pair had watched the in-flight entertainment, read the flight magazine, wandered up to the flight bar for a G&T and picked up scones, cream and jam, from the ‘anytime snack’ offering, for tea before they landed. They were amongst the first to deplane and exited arrivals to have their freshly tanned niece and nephew crash into them.


The first evening of Penny and Dan’s holiday was an early night as they were still on U.K. time, but on the second night Jinnie and Paolo took them to the Continental Restaurant that had particularly impressed Jinnie. Once again, the meal was excellent and Jinnie shared her thoughts on a Trattoria Trevi Caribbean venture with her fellow diners. She told them she had been pondering as to whether the Caribbean would be a good market to enter for a fine dining establishment, was there space in the market, were there sufficient high-end diners to sustain a venture, should it be an Italian restaurant or should it offer an ‘international’ menu. She added that from what she had seen Bridgetown certainly did meet her criteria, but she had no idea how many other Caribbean nations did and if it was possible to develop a chain.

Penny said, “All you really want is for Trattoria Trevi to pay for you to have a tour of the Caribbean!” When the laughter died down, she added, “But seriously, I think it could work, look around here, there is hardly a spare seat, the clientele seems to be a mix of locals and tourists, and the food and service are good. It would benefit from a lick of paint and a new carpet, that’s just superficial, but the basics here are excellent. Have you thought about talking to the owner?” Paolo chipped in saying, “Do you know what the law in Barbados says about foreign investment?”

Jinnie said, “Trust you to be practical. I haven’t got that far yet, I suppose I better check out where we stand legally, it might have to be a joint venture.” Paolo quickly replied, “I have just been Googling Barbados law, and it looks like they are very open to foreign investment and all you have to do is declare things up front to the Exchange Control Authority and get their permission if you are bringing in the funds and intend to use them to buy a Barbadian business or to create a business.” “That looks to be good news,” replied Jinnie, “I might just email Alberto to get his view and that of the rest of the board. If I do it quickly, I might be able to set things in motion here before we go home.”

When the party left the restaurant, the girls decided to cross the road and look in a dress shop window while the boys went to fetch the car from the secure car park at one of Vincenzo’s downtown office buildings. Penny fell in love with a dress in the shop window and vowed to come back when the shop was open. But Jinnie had her restauranteur’s hat on and was looking down the road where on one side of the road was a large glossy branch of KFC and opposite it a very ordinary-looking jerk chicken shop. As Jinnie watched, a few people walked into the KFC, but there was a long, never-ending, queue outside the Auntie JoJo’s Fried Chicken Shack. Again, Jinnie started thinking, was there room for a Caribbean food takeaway/delivery business? This was another thing to discuss with Alberto and to check the agreement with SuperBurger, did it prohibit them from opening a takeaway fried chicken business? Her memory said they were barred from selling takeaway burgers in the U.K. and that included chicken burgers. She vaguely remembered a clause about future European branches but couldn’t remember any specific mention of the Caribbean or the Americas. Still, even a ban on burger sales wouldn’t prohibit selling fried chicken, jerk chicken, jerk pork, curry goat, flying fish and cou cou, conch fritters, even goat water that she had learnt was a mutton stew.


The following afternoon Jinnie rang Alberto on his mobile having decided that it was too complicated to put everything in an email and the five-hour time difference made things awkward. She explained her thoughts and that she had twice dined in a restaurant that was of a consistently good standard and offered a menu of international dishes, it was exactly what she would suggest Trattoria Trevi needed to emulate or purchase. Alberto asked if it was for sale and Jinnie had to say she didn’t think so but she hadn’t wanted to ask without the permission of the board.

She then talked about the Chicken Shack and how it was rammed for both sit-down meals and takeaways while the bigger more modern KFC opposite was quiet. Alberto chuckled and said he had been reading about what the Caribbean islanders liked and told her that in Barbados the leading seller of fried chicken was a local business called Chefette. It had around a dozen outlets in Barbados and was far more popular than KFC and styled itself as ‘Family Friendly’ and most branches had children’s playgrounds similar to the bigger McDonalds. He said if we were to look at jerk chicken takeaway/delivery we might have to tread carefully to avoid upsetting the incumbents and SuperBurger. He promised to set the lawyers on the proposals to check they were not infringing any agreements with their partners and to call a board meeting to discuss the suggestions.

Jinnie was delighted with the phone call. Alberto had immediately seen the suggestions as solid and had not criticised anything, although he had not said he was in favour of her ideas he certainly wasn’t against them and would present them fairly to the special board meeting. As Jinnie walked the short distance to join the family on the soft white sand beach she was smiling contentedly. Things were looking good. On the beach the twins were busy burying Uncle Dan in the sand, but as soon as Jinnie asked, “Who wants ice cream?” they stopped and chorused “Me.”


The following day was the first of the three-day naming programme for the MSC Caribbean and after breakfast everyone climbed into the seven-seater and Paolo drove to the Bridgetown Cruise Terminal where they were directed to the guest parking. As they were only to be on board until the following afternoon, they hadn’t brought much with them, but they had some smart clothes for the actual ceremony and night things. A shuttle bus took them to the generously named Cruise Terminal, which was really a converted corrugated iron banana warehouse, and they were quickly walking up the gangplank to be greeted by a senior officer. The twins were for once stunned into silence and were wide-eyed in amazement at the sheer size and splendour of the brand-new ship.

The officer handed the party over to a steward who led the party to their accommodation. Jinnie, Paolo and the twins had been allocated a large balcony suite towards the stern of the ship. Izzy was in an adjoining double cabin with a communicating door while Penny and Dan had another large balcony suite, which Penny said reminded her of their honeymoon. Each cabin had a large bowl of fruit, a vase of fresh flowers, a large box of chocolates and a bottle of Champagne in an ice bucket awaiting them.

Jinnie opened the wardrobes and found towelling robes for them all, full-size ones for the adults and child-size ones for the twins, together with slippers for them all. In the bathroom were a whole array of potions. Face creams, body creams, soap tablets, liquid soap, shampoo, toothpaste, flannels, everything they could want was there and all were good quality. Paolo had found the fridge and on opening it realised that it was well stocked with whisky, gin, vodka, beer, wine, mixers, soft drinks, fruit juice, snacks and chocolate.

On the dressing table was a note from the ship’s captain welcoming them aboard and explaining that while on board everything for their honoured guests was free of charge. That included all food and drink in the restaurants and bars and included the contents of the fridge, the robes, slippers, and cosmetics, even the Wi-Fi and added that if there was anything else they required, their cabin steward would be delighted to help them. It invited those with children to try the children’s club where the trained children’s nannies were waiting for them. They had been allocated a table for the party for a celebration dinner on the early, 18:30, sitting but if they wished there was a 17:30 children’s meal. Reading about the children’s club made Paolo realise the twins were quiet. He found them on the huge balcony using the binoculars, that came with the cabin, to watch the people coming on board. He need not have worried as Izzy was watching over them from the next-door cabin’s balcony.

Jinnie answered the knock on the cabin door and found Penny and Dan who suggested they should all go exploring before lunch. Izzy joined them and suggested that the twins might like to try the children’s club for a couple of hours, because it had its own swimming pool, while the adults explored the ship. The twins looked at each other and said “club.” Jinnie and Izzy quickly got the twins into their swimming costumes and put clothes on over the top, then took them to the club and signed them in. Willie and Millie saw other children who were painting, colouring and being read to by a girl dressed up as Little Bo Peep and couldn’t wait to join in. Jinnie said they would be back a 13:00 to collect them for lunch, but the twins were already at the colouring desk so the girl on reception noted it on their cards.

The ship was huge, being able to carry over 5,000 passengers, and everywhere was new and bright and shiny. In the centre of the ship was the ship’s atrium, a large open area, several decks high and surrounded by shops which were closed as they were in port. Wide fancy staircases swept up on either side and the ship’s reception desk was at one end. At the other end, a row of glass lifts rose through the ceiling and whisked people to upper decks. On the lowest level of the atrium was a dance floor but this morning a pianist was playing tunes on a grand piano and people were sat around in comfortable chairs sipping coffee from the coffee shop.

The five moved on and indoors they found a number of bars, three main dining rooms, a nightclub, a supper club, the enormous two-level theatre, the cinema, an ice skating rink, casino, library, card room, games room, the huge gym and the spa. On the open deck were numerous pools some of which were labelled ‘adults only’, thousands of sun loungers and steamer chairs, an aerial rope walkway, a climbing wall, and a sports cage for five-a-side football and basketball. But Jinnie and Paolo were surprised to find more outdoor bars, casual dining outlets serving hot dogs, pizza, burgers, iced cream and even an American diner.

Next, they stumbled into the sky dome where a vast glass dome could be moved over a pool if the weather was wet. They saw the jumbo screen which showed movies under the stars and then wandered into the buffet where self-service meals were available 24 hours a day. As it was late morning breakfast was still available at several serving stations, while morning coffee and cake was available at others and several stations were closed preparing for lunch. Jinnie looked at the lunch menu that was displayed on a board by the entrance and was amazed to see it covered every possible taste from a bowl of soup to waffles via roasts, salads and pasta. Jinnie saw chicken nuggets were on the lunch menu and told Paolo this was going to be the perfect place for the twin’s lunch.

The men were done with exploring and suggested a cold beer at one of the deck bars and the girls agreed. No sooner than they had sat down then a waiter arrived and tapped their order into what looked like a tablet computer. The waiter was quickly back with their two beers and three Pepsi Max’s, and they enjoyed sitting in the warm sun with their cold drinks until it was time to collect the twins. The girl on the kid’s club reception desk asked their name and said the twins would be along shortly. While waiting for them she asked Jinnie if the twins were English or Italian as they switched effortlessly between the two languages. Jinnie beamed and replied, “They were born in England so I suppose they are British, that is what it says on their passports, but their father is Italian, so they could claim dual nationality. But we have brought them up to be bi-lingual. In fact, they also speak a little French, I would love them to speak fluent French as well.” The twins flew out of the club and rushed up to the adults full of what they had been doing, colouring, swimming and playing video games. Soon they were asking if they could go back for the afternoon, there were going to be swimming races and they were going to win!

The buffet was busy but they quickly found a big round table. Jinnie and Izzy took the twins to choose their lunch and they moved from counter to counter trying to make up their minds. In the end, just as Jinnie had expected, they both went for chicken nuggets, baked beans and chips, followed by a scoop of ice cream. Jinnie was careful to keep the children’s portions small but was amazed to see what some people piled on their plates. The adults had decided to eat sparingly as there was to be a seven-course gala meal in the main dining room that evening.

The children were anxious to get back to the kid’s club as soon as they had finished eating so Izzy took them down and told them they would be collected at 16:30 so that they could get bathed and dressed ready for the evening meal before they rushed off to get ready for the swimming races. Izzy rejoined the other adults for an after-lunch coffee. Once again Jinnie thought the coffee could have been better but then realised that this was bulk catering to a budget. However, on her earlier explorations she had seen a specialist restaurant charging a supplement with a menu by the famous Italian chef Aldo Zilli. She wondered if he was on board for the naming ceremony, as she would love to meet the man who had built a restaurant empire only to give it up and go into consulting.


The adults retired to their cabins for an afternoon snooze and agreed to meet in the De Luca’s suite for Champagne before dinner. Looking at her watch, Jinnie realised it was nearly eight o’clock in the evening in England and decided to ring Alberto to see if there was any progress. Jinnie sat on the balcony in the sun and hit the number for Alberto in her mobile’s memory. It always delighted her how quickly overseas calls connected. The old phone system she remembered under the Germans as a teenager had been clunky and mobiles hardly existed. She thought back to her trips to occupied Europe and reflected on just how far ahead of German technology the West was.

Alberto answered the call almost immediately saying, “Hello Jinnie. I was considering calling you, but I wasn’t sure what the time in Barbados was. I suppose you want an update on your business ideas.” “Yes please,” she replied. “Well, I think it’s good news,” Alberto continued, “I have chatted to the board, and they are happy for you to talk with the restaurant and see if it could be for sale. Once we have an idea of the costs they want a full report, costing and a board discussion before making a decision. But I will say they like the idea but are cautious. I spoke to the lawyers and on a first reading of the contract they think there is nothing in it that could stop us expanding the restaurant business. As for a Caribbean restaurant/takeaway/delivery business, they think we would be OK, but it needs a little more investigation to be absolutely certain. SuperBurgers might object if we were to sell hamburgers, but we are almost certainly OK if we sold things like jerk chicken and other Caribbean food. I suggest you pay that fried chicken shack a visit. What’s its biggest sellers, is it a chain or a one-off, would you suggest a partnership, a takeover or setting up in competition?” Jinnie explained she was tied up for the rest of the day and for tomorrow but would then investigate a bit more and ring back.”


The family joined the queue outside their allocated dining room, just before the doors opened, where the milling crowd were all in formal dress. Jinnie smiled broadly as she looked at the party, they looked good, but she was particularly delighted by the twins who had been excited to dress up for a ‘posh meal’. Izzy had impressed on them that the meal was a bit like eating at the Trattoria Trevi, only the dining room was much bigger, and they could have anything from the menu. They were shown to a round table for eight where a waiter and his assistant were waiting. While the assistant fetched cushions for the twins, the waiter placed crisp white serviettes in their laps, poured glasses of iced water and opened menus. A wine waiter arrived and explained that for this special meal there would be served with a range of especially chosen Italian wines served with each course. He then asked what the twins wanted to drink and the chorused “juice” making several tables nearby turn around smiling. It was then that Jinnie spotted Aldo Zilli on a nearby table.

The meal was magnificent, starting with an amuse busche and then came an aperitivo. Jinnie chose minestrone soup, but Paolo went for warm olives, bread crisps and nuts. This course was accompanied by a small glass of Prosecco. Then came the primo, which was a non-meat pasta. Jinnie and the twins had Spaghetti with a rich tomato sauce while Paolo had tortellini in broth. This was served with a rosé wine. Then came the secondo, Jinnie chose lobster, Paolo had steak and the twins had chicken breast. This course was served with a selection of vegetables and a side salad. The wine this time was a dry white with the lobster and a full-bodied red with the steak.

Then came a course of cheese and fresh fruit and a mixed plate of cheese with slices of apple and grapes. Paolo was in his element; this was what he remembered from his childhood Christmases. The twins were pretty full but still managed to pinch cheese and fruit from their father’s plate. Then came the dolce or dessert, of course the twins saw gelato on the menu and had bowls of three scoops of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, while Jinnie chose tiramisu and Paolo had zeppole. The waiter then asked what they would like for caffe and nodded happily when they asked for expresso, no Italian drinks milky coffee after dinner.

Jinnie was thanking the waiter for everything when the wine waiter arrived and asked what they would like for their digestivo, she had forgotten that Italians liked to finish a special meal with a liqueur. Paolo opted for grappa while Jinnie asked if there was any hazelnut vodka, she couldn’t remember its name, but she had been served it at a reception in Rome. The wine waiter said he knew exactly what she wanted and had a bottle somewhere.

While sipping her digestivo Jinnie heard a discreet cough behind her. Turning she found herself face to face with Aldo Zilli who said, “I hope I am right, but are you Dame Jinnie De Luca?” Jinnie said, “Yes,” and Aldo said, “I have followed your journey with Trattoria Trevi with much interest. I ate in your Windsor restaurant recently and it was fabulous. The food was perfect and the service immaculate, if it doesn’t get a Michelin Star of its own soon, I will be very disappointed.” “Thank you,” said Jinnie, “I am rather proud of it. I am sorry to say that I have never eaten in one of your establishments and now it looks like I will have to go on a cruise to try one now.” “Yes,” said Aldo, “I have been on board overseeing the onboard offering, but my wife and I am flying back to U.K. tomorrow, after the ceremony. I wonder if I could invite your party for a drink in one of the bars? I would love to have a chat with you about the restaurant business.”


The following morning the family headed for the main dining room for breakfast. The menu card was handed to them and on one side was an Italian offering consisting of milky coffee like cappuccino and sweet cakes and biscuits, while on the other side was a mixture of English and American so there was cereal, eggs, bacon and waffles. The twins had their favourite cereal followed by boiled eggs. Izzy asked the waiter for some plain bread and using the butter on the table produced soldiers for them. Coupled with glasses of milk, the twins had a perfect breakfast.

Paolo was into his Italian food memories and went for cappuccino and a mixture of cakes, but Jinnie had fruit yoghurt and followed it with fried eggs, bacon and mushrooms, toast and marmalade and English breakfast tea. The rest of the party all went with the English menu and had a variety of fried items with Dan having a full English but added an extra egg and black pudding. After breakfast the party packed their bits and pieces and left them in the theatre in exchange for a numbered ticket. They then headed off to leave the twins in the kid’s club. They then took their reserved seats on the open deck where a stage was now in position over the pool, and the ceremony was being shown on the big screen. Italian TV presenter Federica Nargi was to introduce the programme which included speeches from the ship’s captain, the MCS President, performances from Nick Tempest and Svegliagierva, before the ship’s godmother, actress Monica Bellucci, was to remotely break a bottle of Prosecco over the ships bow. The Italian speakers in the party enjoyed the ceremony, but Dan was looking forward to lunch before disembarking.

When the twins were collected from the club for lunch in the buffet, they started pestering their parents saying that they wanted to go on a cruise for their next holiday. Jinnie said, “We will have to think about it, but it will be a long time until our next holiday, you two start big school when we get home.” But secretly she wondered if she could convince Paolo into going on a cruise.


The twins were in bed and the adults sat on the villa terrace enjoying a post-dinner drink and watching the rain, it was, of course, the hurricane season, but none were forecast. The stream of big jets bringing the passengers from free Europe countries for the MSC Caribbean’s maiden cruise had finally ceased. Penny looked at her watch and speculated that on the cruise ship the second sitting would now be enjoying their evening meal while those who had been on the first sitting would be in the theatre, bars or casino or maybe on the covered deck for the sail away party. Jinnie said, “We should be able to see the ship all lit up as it sets out to sea. I would rather like to experience a cruise around the Caribbean islands.” Much to her surprise Paolo said, “So would I, it was rather nice on board, the kids would love it and it would be a proper holiday with everything done for you.”

Penny chimed in saying how much she and Dan had enjoyed their honeymoon, but they had been looking at fly cruises to the Caribbean. That way they would get to the sun quickly without the uncertainty of North Atlantic weather. She explained the British companies tended to base ships in Barbados for the British winter season when it was not so wet. Penny added, “Dan and I have been thinking about flying out for Christmas and the New Year, but it would mean splitting up the regular family Christmas.” Jinnie thought for a moment and said, “Not necessarily, how about we all book and bring Mum and Dad with us? You never know, I might be the part owner of a Caribbean business by then.”

As they plotted and planed, Izzy suddenly pointed out to sea where the lights of the cruise ship could be seen emerging from behind a headland in a blaze of light. Everyone watched in awe as more and more of the huge ship emerged into view. Just after the ship had fully come into view there was a massive flash followed by a loud bang. Moments later there were more flashes and bangs. Jinnie was quickest to react saying, “That ship is under attack.”

In Chapter 3 – Jinnie is recalled to the service

© WorthingGooner 2023