Jinnie woke with a start and for a few seconds struggled to realise where she was. It was only when she saw the stewardess reading to the twins that she remembered where she was. Glancing at her watch she saw it said 04:20 and she quickly calculated that they were scheduled to land at 06:20. Willie saw her moving and called out, “Good morning mummy, you’ve been asleep ages. We’ve had breakfast. We had juice and cornflakes then scrambled egg, pancakes and syrup all on one plate, it was scrummy. Izzy helped us dress and Clare has been reading to us.” “Where is Izzy?” Jinnie asked. “Cleaning her teeth,” replied Millie.
Moments later Izzy appeared and took over child-minding duties from Clare who said, “The toilet is free if you want to get dressed Dame Jinnie, I’ll convert your bed back into a seat and fetch your breakfast if you tell me want to want from the menu.” Jinnie quickly chose cornflakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, mushrooms and hash browns, accompanied by English breakfast tea. As she headed to the toilet to dress, she shook Paolo and told him to wake up or he would miss breakfast. As she quickly washed and dressed, Jinnie couldn’t help reflecting on the best night’s sleep she had ever had on a flight. By the time the adults had finished dinner it had been ten o’clock local time and she had opted to go to bed and had fallen asleep almost immediately. She blamed it on the two little bottles of excellent English wine and the large port she had consumed.
Breakfast was served the moment Paolo got back from dressing and Jinnie wondered if his two poached eggs trumped her scrambled eggs. Not that it much mattered as her breakfast was excellent, better than the medium rare fillet steak she had for dinner which she had declared was her best-ever airline meal. The remnants of breakfast had only been cleared away what seemed minutes before the seat belt sign was illuminated and the pilot announced he had started the descent into Heathrow where he expected then to arrive at Terminal Five about 15 minutes early.
Being in First Class they were first off and by the time they had negotiated the passage and walkways to immigration where Paolo’s Italian Diplomatic Passport and Jinnie’s title helped them pass through in next to no time. At the baggage hall their luggage was circulating on the baggage reclaim conveyor and it was piled on a trolley which Paolo pushed through an unattended customs hall. As they walked out into arrival Jinnie said to Paolo, “Why do I always feel guilty walking through customs.” The same limousine driver who had driven them to Heathrow was waiting for them and pushed the baggage trolly to the short-term car park and they piled into the limo.
Arriving at the Hadley house Mrs Walsh’s car was parked outside and Jinnie spotted Larry at his usual spot in the front room window. As the family walked across the drive, Jinnie realised Larry had moved so it was no surprise that when Mrs Walsh opened the front door he came padding out and rubbed himself around Jinnie’s legs. The twins ran over to stroke him and Millie said, “Hello Larry we missed you.” Mrs Walsh hugged her daughter and said, “I’m certain your cat is clairvoyant, he went and sat in the cat carrier as soon as he had finished his breakfast and when I let him in the house he went to his basket and only moved to the windowsill five minutes before you arrived.” Stroking him Jinnie said, “He is a very clever cat,” and Larry meowed.
As it was Sunday it was lunch at the Walsh’s where it was roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and carrots, peas and beans from the garden. Mr Walsh pretended he didn’t recognise the twins because they were so brown which amused everyone for a while. Penny took Jinnie to one side and told her how ‘C’ had been delighted with their work in Barbados and asked her to get her to ring him on Monday. Jinnie said, “Well I might be able to find the time, but it is the twins’ first day at school and I’m officially back at work so I expect there will be a heap of things from Trattoria Trevi and DKL.”
The twins were up early on Monday and just before 6:45 they tapped on Jinnie and Paolo’s bedroom door and came in. They were dressed in their new school uniforms. A pair of grey trousers, a white shirt, pale blue tie and pale blue pullover for Willie. A grey gymslip, white blouse, pale blue tie and pale blue cardigan for Millie. Jinnie burst into tears as she realised her babies were growing up and how much she was going to miss them between 9 and 3:30 every day.
Izzy had been assured that with the twins at school she would still be needed. Jinnie intended to spend more time in Crawley and in her office in Potters Bar so her presence would be essential in getting the twins ready for and to school, collecting them after, getting their tea and later to bed. But this first day Jinnie and Izzy were joining forces to take them to Hadley Wood Primary School where the twins had been offered places. Jinnie and Paolo had thought about a private school but decided that if state education had been good enough for them then it should be good enough for the twins.
Jinnie drove the short distance to the school where they kissed their mother and Izzy goodbye and only paused at the gate to speak to a teacher with a clipboard who pointed where to go. Miss Evans was waiting for her new brood at the reception class door and directed the little ones to one of four tables of eight with a big papier-mache model bird sat in the middle. Miss Evans clapped her hands and said good morning to everyone and introduced herself and her two teaching assistants Miss Jones and Mrs Clark.
Miss Evans then told the children they were in the group designated by the bird on their table. She asked who knew what the birds on the tables were and the twins recognised them all. Theirs was a robin and the others were a blackbird, a thrush and a starling. Miss Evans then got them to stand up one by one and tell the class their names. When it got around to the Robin table Willie stood up and said, “My name is Willie De Luca, and this is my sister Millie,” who also stood up. Miss Evans said, “Class, Willie and Millie are twins, does anyone know what twins are?” No one answered, except Willie and Millie who both put up their hands as they had been taught in nursery. Miss Evans laughed and said, “I should have guessed you would know, but I think I better explain to class.” The twins’ decided they liked Miss Evans.
On getting back to the house Jinnie decided it was time to get to get back to work and strolled down the path to her garden office to catch up on things. It was no surprise that when she unlocked the door the first thing she saw was Larry curled up in his office basket watching her through sleepy eyes. Jinnie smiled and said to him, “Sorry my friend it’s too early for tea and Hobnobs, anyway I expect they are stale they have been in the tin for a month!” She decided the first thing to do was to phone Ro who answered with her usual cheery, “Hi boss,” before saying, “How did it go getting the twins to school, any tears?” “Only from me,” answered Jinnie, “they looked so sweet marching across the playground hand in hand that both I and Izzy were a bit weepy.”
Jinnie asked if there was anything important that needed her attention and Ro said no things were chugging on nicely. The development team had identified two new kitchen sites at Edinburgh and Londonderry, and they were going to be up for discussion at the next board meeting. Then she said Brian was in his office and had been running an eye over the finances while he had been away and had said he would like a word if she rang in. Belinda had popped in for five minutes to make sure everything was OK and to organise a few days’ holiday the next week. Jinnie said, “That reminds me how would you and Jed like a few days in Barbados next week? While I was out there Trattoria Trevi bought a new posh restaurant in Bridgetown and its opening a week on Tuesday with a grand reopening, the Trattoria Trevi board and partners are all flying out which is why Brian and Belinda have booked a holiday.”
“Paolo and I are going so you better put me down for holiday from Monday to Wednesday, I should be back early on Thursday morning so I will work from home that day. I’m afraid that this isn’t a DKL trip so we will all be flying Business Class spread over Sunday and Monday on both BA and Virgin. Anyway, I want to say thank you to you and Jed for all your hard work and stepping up while Brian, Belinda, Nigel, Jerry and Mick have been missing on business. Of course, everything thing is on me, flights, hotel and hire car, please say you’re coming.” “Oh, thank you,” said Ro, “of course we would love to be there. Can I tell Jed? Do I need a long dress? Will you be taking the twins?”
“Hang on,” said Jinnie, “of course you can tell Jed, I have spoken to Nigel, and he is happy. It is possible he has already told him. No, you don’t need a long dress, just a nice summer one and tell Jed a suit is unnecessary, dark trousers and open-neck white shirt are considered smart in Bridgetown. As for the twins, I dare not pull them out of school now they have just started, Izzy is going to have to look after them for a few days. Now I am going to get the Trattoria Trevi travel agent sorting out the travel and accommodation, I hope you don’t mind if a give them your mobile number so they can ring you and get things like your passport details.”
Ro passed the call on to Brian who said, “Hi Jinnie, what have you said to Ro? She has just rushed off to Jed’s office with a huge smile and tears running down her face.” Jinnie explained and Brian said, “How lovely, they deserve the reward. Do you think we could get them out again when we open the DKL business? I’m sure you’ll need your PA and Nigel will need his.” “Now that’s what I call a plan,” replied Jinnie, “but let’s keep it our little secret until nearer the date, I think the programme says the end of November when the weather is supposed to be wonderful in the Caribbean. Anyway, what did you want to talk about.”
“I have been going over the accounts this morning and we are in a much better position than I expected. The DKL numbers are predictable, but the Wright Refurbishment numbers are more variable, very dependent on contract completion dates. If two big ones happen in the same quarter it can make results look a bit odd, which is why I prefer stage payments. It makes things much more predictable. Well, while we were in Barbados, Andrew and Roger have been looking after things and they have had two big contracts signed off and have landed a huge job to fit out a new 18-storey building in the City. Belinda said they had never bid for a job like this before, the old company didn’t have enough financial backing, but now with DKL behind them they have won this £11 million minimum job. The good news is the developers have just transferred a 10% deposit into the Wright Refurbishment account.”
“Now what does this mean to DKL? Well, Belinda will need most of the £1 million plus to buy material, hire plant and pay wages to set up the project. But the final payment for the other two jobs at 20% of each amounts to nearly £500,000 and after paying off the remaining suppliers it should add about £250,000 to our quarterly numbers. OK, this is our third quarter but my prediction for the year is looking very healthy. I think the board need to start thinking about whether we pay SuperBurger and Trattoria Trevi a bumper divided, retain it for a rainy day or speed up our development programme.”
Jinnie thought a moment and said, “It really does depend on the level of the profit, but we have a bit of an unknown at the moment, in if the Barbados project is going to work or not. On paper it looks good but until the kitchens open we don’t know if what works here is going to be as successful in the Caribbean. I would like to think it will all succeed, but I would like to see some money available if we have to hit the Bajan airwaves hard with an advertising campaign. If we up our dividend the money is gone. I think we should be being cautious and sitting on the cash until we know which way the project is going. If it’s a hit, I favour a rapid wheel out to other islands. One other thing, has Belinda spoken to you about Keith?”
“Yes,” answered Brian, “she tried the idea out on me. I think it could work; we could certainly afford it. Keith could easily be our Caribbean construction director and I think Anderson should also be on the Caribbean board. Now, who else is not so easy. I favour you as MD, Nigel as IT, Jerry could do sales but what else do we need?” “Well, you for finance,” said Jinnie, “but I have been thinking about HR, while we are so small in Barbados I favour outsourcing HR to a specialist company, perhaps we could do the same with admin and legal but that one is obvious.” “I think that sounds good,” said Brian, “but I think it’s one for the board to decide.” “So do I,” said Jinnie.
The next call was to Alberto, who was happy to be able to tell her that things were going wonderfully. The restaurants were booked for at least a month in advance, and did she want him to make the normal Boxing Day reservation for the family as they were already being asked about Christmas and New Year bookings. Jinnie explained the entire family were on a Caribbean cruise this Christmas and New Year, but could he book them in for nine on the Saturday day before Christmas? As she was talking, she was thinking should I ask Nigel and then added in Emma and Freddie and so told Alberto to up the numbers to 12 and made a mental note to tell Nigel and Emma. Alberto then said that the events business was once again going to be running in several places for Christmas events including the originals of the Vineyard and the Showground, this year they had added the ExCel arena in Dockland, a small hall at the Birmingham Exhibition Centre, and for the first-time venues in Newcastle, Edinburgh and Bristol. The actual covers at each site were still under discussion but the radio campaign was being prepared with the strapline “Catering by Trattoria Trevi”. Jinnie made another mental note, to ring Miranda to book the DKL staff party.
Jinnie eventually got around to try to sort out what was important and what could be deleted from the hundreds of emails in her DKL inbox. She was delighted to know the DKL Crawley staff cricket team were doing well but deleted that one. Someone had been smoking in the ladies toilets and set off the smoke detectors, so HR were reminding everyone that it was against the law to smoke inside the building and that a smoking shelter was provided in the car park. And so it went on, including the announcement of two births and three engagements (Ro had noted, ‘You sent your congratulation and added a fiver to the whip round for each, it came from expenses’). Jinnie had just finished reading about one of the employees who had dropped dead one weekend from an aneurysm (Ro noted, ‘The company sent flowers, you apologised for not being able to go to the funeral as you were overseas, but I went on your behalf. The widow told me that her husband loved every minute he worked here’) when a knock came on the office door and Larry started meowing loudly.
At the door stood Sir Nigel, her next-door neighbour, brandishing a packet of Hobnobs. “Any chance of a cuppa, I’ve brought fresh biscuits and gosh aren’t you brown.” “Come in and take a seat,” said Jinnie, “I’ll put the kettle on.” Nigel sat down on a visitor chair and Larry leapt into his lap. Nigel said, “Hello my old friend, it’s nice to have you back, I’ve missed you this last month,” while gently stroking him from the top of his head to the start of his tail. Larry purred loudly.
Once settled with DKL mugs of strong tea, the fresh biscuits opened and Larry tucking into a crunched-up Hobnob, Nigel said, “I hear you have been very busy while on your holidays, buying businesses, setting up a new business and fighting terrorists. It sounds like you need another holiday.” Once again Jinnie wondered how he always knew what was going on. “Yes, it was rather busy,” replied Jinnie, “and I have to go back next week for the grand reopening of the Continental, which I understand the board wants it be renamed the TT Continental.”
“I heard that from my good friend the President, she tells me she is looking forward to going to the reopening, she enjoys her food.” “Gosh,” said Jinnie, “is there anything you don’t know? It’s a pity it’s in Bridgetown or I would have invited you.” “Well,” said Nigel, “I rather fancy a short break at Sandy Lane, I would love to fly to Barbados and have a week in the sun with Emma and Freddie, try me and I might just say yes.” Jinnie asked, “Nigel, would you like to be a guest at the reopening of the TT Continental?” “Yes, please,” replied Nigel instantly, “and can I bring Emma and Freddie?” “Of course,” said Jinnie.
After joining Izzy for a beans-on-toast lunch, Jinnie remembered that she had been asked to phone ‘C’ and strolled back to the garden office before ringing him. Alan passed the time of day and asked after the twins before saying they needed to talk about how the department could reward her for her recent service. Jinnie thought for a moment before saying, “I don’t want any reward; I consider it my patriotic duty.” “Well, I have had a discussion with the PM and although he is very grateful for your efforts he feels that we should have not used your services without having some sort of contract which would have allowed you cover under our insurance scheme. I have several ideas and wonder if you would like to pop in for a chat over coffee.”
Jinnie agreed to visit on Wednesday morning at 11 and said she was looking forward to a cup of ‘C’s’ excellent coffee. She then returned to ploughing through the mountain of emails that had accrued over the month she had been away until Izzy arrived saying it was time to collect the twins from school and should she do it. “No,” said Jinnie “Let’s go together, it’s better that Miss Evans gets to recognise you so that you pick them up when I’m away next week.”
They arrived a couple of minutes before 3:30 and waited by the school gate with a crowd of other parents, several of whom Jinnie recognised from picking up the twins at nursery. At 3:30 the Miss Evans appeared at the door to the school and a line of children who, as they reached the head of the queue, pointed to the adult collecting them and when Miss Evans said to, ran over to them. Willie and Millie reached the head of the queue, and Jinnie and Izzy waved to them, before the twins pointed to them and were released to run over.
Jinnie bent down and kissed them before asking if they had a good day. Willie said, “Yes, we like Miss Evans.” Millie added, “I think she was trying to find out who could read, who could count, and who could do sums.” Willie carried on, “She told everyone we were twins, and we could speak Italian, and Millie said we could talk French as well. Oh, and we have a letter for you.” He dragged a crumpled bit of paper from his pocket and gave it to his mother. It explained that on Thursday they would have PE so could they bring plimsoles? It would be very basic and the children who needed it would be helped to change their shoes. The note continued that on Friday afternoons they would have swimming lessons in the school pool, so everyone needed to bring a swimming costume and a towel. Again, the note said there would be help for children who need help changing.
Jinnie handed the note on to Izzy and while she read it asked the twins if they knew what the note said. Millie said, “We tried to read it but there are some big words we didn’t know.” Jinnie laughed and said, “You have PE on Thursday, and you will have to take your Plimsoles and put them on.” “We can do that,” said Willie. “On Friday afternoon you are going swimming so you will have to take your costumes and towels.” “Whoopee,” cried Millie, and Willie smiled from ear to ear. Jinnie said, “Now don’t you two go showing off there will be lots of your classmates who can’t swim and will have to learn.” Millie asked, “Can we take our goggles?”
Jinnie looked around and realised that nearly all the children and parents had gone while they had been talking. Suddenly Miss Evans was at their side and said, “Mrs De Luca, I was amazed that your twins were so advanced when I was talking to them today. I think we may have trouble keeping them interested in lessons as they are probably a year or more in advance of their peers. I knew they could speak Italian, but not French, I know a little French, but no Italian so do you mind if occasionally I talk to them in French?” “Not at all,” replied Jinnie, “My husband and I both speak Italian as does their Nanny Izzy. Izzy and I both are fluent in French, so we have Italian, French and English-speaking days. The twins’ Italian is much better than their French so yes please, I want my little ones to grow up multilingual. My husband and I are also fluent in German so we might start teaching them that, but at the moment I’m not sure what use it might be short of being a spy.”
In Chapter 16 – A visit to Vauxhall Cross
© WorthingGooner 2024