Jinnie settled into the First Class compartment on the Thameslink train from Hadley Wood to Moorgate. It was just like the old days when she commuted into the Cross, but she now could afford to travel in First Class the short journey to Finsbury Park where she intended to change onto the Tube. She didn’t miss commuting and didn’t envy Paolo his daily journey into central London. She quickly scanned the Daily Telegraph she had picked up at the station but found nothing to interest her much other than the always amusing Matt cartoon.
The train pulled into Finsbury Park and Jinnie walked down the stairs to the southbound Victoria Line that took her under London to Vauxhall station. Just as she remembered, the train rattled and squealed on its way. Jinnie had got her timing pretty much right as it was 10 to 11 when she walked into reception and thought how well Belinda’s refurbishments were holding up. The two receptionists were new and when said she was there to see ‘C’ and her name was Jinnie De Luca the receptionist consulted a computer screen and said, “Would that be Dame Jinnie? I have a note here to ring his PA the moment you arrive.”
By the time Jinnie had filled in the visitor documentation and been issued with an ‘accompanied’ visitor pass, the lift had opened and a girl walked over offering her hand saying, “I’m Louise, Alan’s PA. He tells me you used to work here and knew his and my predecessors.” As they went up in the lift Jinnie said, “Did he tell you I was his boss and Emma your predecessor is still a close friend, in fact she lives only a few houses down the road from me.” “Really”, said Louise, “Perhaps you could clear up something for me. I keep hearing stories that she now has a fabulous job working for Nigel Farage, the ex-PM, and travels the world with him.” “That’s right, both her and her husband work for Nigel, and they do travel a lot, I understand they are all off to Barbados at the weekend.” “How wonderful,” said Louise as they walked into the ‘Cs’ outer offices.
Alan was seated at his desk and seeing them enter the outer office he waved them into his inner office and then said, “Hi Jinnie, please take a seat in the visitor corner while Lou gets us a coffee. You’ll be delighted to know we are still using Jamaica Blue Mountain.” Once the coffee had been served and Louise had retreated to her outer office desk, Alan said, “Gosh you’re brown, the weather must have been good.” “It was excellent,” said Jinnie, “We were very lucky; I understand August in the Caribbean can be very wet. But if you think I am brown, you should see the twins, they were on the beach nearly every day, even when I was working.”
“I have been thinking about how we can reward you for the work you, your sister and brother-in-law did for us. It’s easy with Penny and Dan they both work for me and it will be overtime and extra holidays, but it’s over four years since you left us. I had the idea we could create a reserve force for the likes of you, maybe Dirk and Brian who we use occasionally. We could then pay you a small annual retainer and a full agent’s wage when activated, but we could also include you on our insurance just in case you got hurt. On that last mission, if you had been killed your estate would have got nothing, but Penny’s estate would have benefited by several tax-free millions if it had been her.”
Jinnie said, “I’ve been thinking about things and the insurance is the important thing to me. I’m up for a reserve force if it means I’m insured but I don’t really want to pay much more than a tiny retainer. But when Penny flew out to join us on Virgin, they upgraded her to First Class and told her they have a secret list of passport numbers of agents and they are automatically upgraded, that would be payment enough to be on that list. I think I am going to be flying to the Caribbean a lot in the future.” “I think we can organise that,” said Alan. “How about we pay you a tax paid £1-a-month retainer, I don’t think the computer can handle anything less!”
Jinnie had agreed with Brooke that she would get down to her Croydon offices, at the back of the sandwich shop, to try her version of the roast beef roll. So, on leaving the Cross she took the Victoria Line one stop south to Stockwell where she changed on to the City branch of the Northern Line north to London Bridge. From there it was back on the Thameslink for the quick non-stop trip to East Croydon. The sandwich shop was only a few hundred yards from the station, and it was about 12:30 when she arrived at the shop and Jinnie was pleased to see a big queue outside.
Ignoring the dirty looks from the queue, Jinnie walked straight up to Brooke who was helping clear tables. Brooke led Jinnie into her office where on a side table a selection of the items needed to make hot roast beef rolls was set up. Brooke said, “We have tried various rolls, beef from several suppliers, mayo, butter and marg, different cheese squares and the staff here came up with this as their favourite and I must say I agree. I have taken it to two other shops to try and this was also their favoured combination. I think it is a winner.”
The soft rolls Brook indicated were already sliced and smeared with mayo. Jinnie added a generous helping of the hot rare roast beef, added horseradish and a slice of cheese, put the upper part of the roll back and bit into it. It was delicious, even better than the roll she had in Barbados. With her second mouthful, Jinnie started analysing the difference. The roll was not as sweet as the Bajan one, the roast beef was excellent, and she much preferred the cheese. In Barbados it had been one of those processed American cheese squares designed to melt quickly, this was British cheese. It had softened rather than melted and had so much more flavour. “I love this,” said Jinnie, “but what’s the price point? Can we sell it profitably?”
“I think so,” said Brooke, “We have costed it at £2 to make it, all up including staff costs. I think we could sell it at £3.50p, that is comparable to our other items. The staff here all know how to make these consistently and have been demolishing all the test items. We tried the same idea with lamb, gammon and pork and turkey. Lamb was awful. Gammon was nice but better without cheese, a couple of people have suggested we put a slice of pineapple in, but I haven’t tried it yet. Turkey went down well once we dumped the cheese and replaced it with sage and onion stuffing. But the real runner-up to the beef was roast pork and apple sauce. That was a touch cheaper to make and we could sell it at the same price as the beef.”
Jinnie said, “Let’s do a marketing test on the public right now. You and I can set up this lot on a table in the cafe and we’ll sell rolls at cost till we run out. I’ll start getting this set up if you print out a notice that says ‘Marketing Test, Today Only – Hot Rare Roast Beef Rolls – only £2.50p until we run out.’ “OK,” said Brooke, “but we have another tray of beef in the kitchen and rolls which can be quickly prepared.
Jinnie commandeered a cafe table just inside the door where people going to the counter had to pass and had the table nearly set up when Brooke arrived with the notice and an old-fashioned cash box with some float in it. She whispered to Jinnie, ‘It’s normally the petty cash box.” The first people through the door looked but were not tempted. Then the first person said they would try one. Brooke started putting it together asking if the man wanted cheese and what sauce. The roll was popped in a paper bag and Jinnie took the money. Seeing what was on offer attracted more people and Brooke quickly called over one of the servers from the sandwich counter that was noticeably less busy. One customer bit into his roll while Jinnie was finding him change and she asked what he thought. “Fantastic,” he replied, “Is this going to be available on a regular basis.” “Probably,” replied Jinnie, “That’s why we are testing it, but it will cost more than this.” “No problem,” replied the customer, “It’s worth double this price.”
Within half an hour all the beef was gone, and several customers were disappointed. Jinnie said to them, “We are sorry to have run out, but it was only a test. On the evidence of today, I think we will be introducing this as a product quite soon. I think you will see this on sale very soon.” As Jinnie and Brooke cleared up Jinnie asked her, “How long to bring this in as a product. Let’s say we start here where the staff are familiar with the product. Then spread it to other branches as we train staff and get the equipment and supplies in place.” “I think launch here next week; I have the supplies lined up to go for here. The two places where I’ve tried it on staff, they are familiar with the product and the suppliers can also reach them the week after, I reckon we can roll it out in London and the Southeast within a month. Maybe another month for the rest of the country.”
“Do we need an advertising campaign?” asked Jinnie. “I don’t think so,” answered Brooke, “Just look how this has sold today. OK, it was cheap, but no one knew of the offer until they entered the door. I will get some big window posters printed, like when we do our Christmas sandwiches and rolls. If we are struggling to sell, then once we are nationwide we can hit the radio waves.” “OK, posters are a lot cheaper than radio,” replied Jinnie.
“Before I go home,” continued Jinnie, “we need to talk about the sandwich business, it’s growing fast and having you based in offices at the rear of this shop can’t be ideal. I know it’s only you and an accountant girl now, and you use the Trattoria Trevi computer systems for accounting, wages and purchasing. But you are now on the Aunty JoJo’s board, so you’re going to need a capable assistant for when you are away. As we grow the chain, you’re going to need your own admin, HR, purchasing and a bigger accounts department, maybe even your own IT network and servers that talk to the TT system. So, let’s start looking for offices that are big enough to expand into. We will get Belinda to do them up and furnish them. Now, the question is where. I know you lived in Windsor when we hired you so I guess you would want to be located near there.”
“Not really,” replied Brooke, “I haven’t lived there for a while. I moved in with my boyfriend at his house near Horsham, he’s an easyJet pilot based at Gatwick and it’s easy for us both to get to work, so Horsham or Crawley would be ideal for me.” “I wonder if any of the offices in the block where Belinda is are available, they are rather nice close to Crawley, and Gatwick. Belinda started off with one of the two-floor units and has expanded into two more. The motorway and trains are close, parking is good and I know that ultra-fast internet is available.” “You’ve sold it to me,” said Brooke, “Should we talk to Belinda?”
Jinnie clambered aboard a Thameslink train to Cambridge at East Croydon and settled into a quarter-full First Class compartment. She had picked up a copy of the Evening Standard and read a few stories before reading an article on an inside page that was telling the supposed inside story of how the SAS had captured the German terrorists who had attacked the Italian cruise liner off Barbados. Apparently, there had been a huge shootout in the jungle on a “nearby island” with terrorists killed, injured and captured. It all sounded very dramatic and was illustrated by a drawing of a helicopter firing rockets into a jungle camp as SAS men abseiled to the ground. Jinnie laughed out loud, someone had obviously leaked the basic story, but it had been ‘sexed up’ to include things that had just never happened. Jinnie was astute enough to know that the story had been leaked for a reason and wondered what the public was being softened up for.
By the time the train got to Finsbury Park for her cross-platform change for the slow train, Jinnie had forgotten the story, finished the cryptic crossword and had realised she would be home about the same time as Izzy arrived with the twins. The train was on time at Hadley Wood station and Jinnie rushed to her car for the short drive home. As usual Larry was waiting in the window when Jinnie reached home, and she saw him jump down and she knew he would be waiting behind the door. Izzy’s car wasn’t to be seen, so Jinnie stopped to make a fuss of Larry who had slowed up a bit over the last year or so. Jinnie realised he was getting to be an old cat, and that despite still being lively he might not be around a lot longer. The twins would be devastated, she thought, and realised that so would she be.
‘C’ had been as good as his word, when Jinnie and Paolo checked in at the Premium (Business) Class desk for the Sunday lunchtime Virgin flight to Barbados. They had been upgraded to Upper Class and directed to the Upper Class check-in which wasn’t very busy. As they walked past the queue to pass through security Jinnie saw someone waving to her and seeing it was Ro and Jed, waved back. Jinnie and Paolo were told they were welcome to use the Club House lounge. On entering the lounge Jinnie was surprised to see Nigel, Emma and Freddie. After saying hello, Jinnie said to Nigel, “I thought you were a BA man.” “I am usually,” said Nigel, “But there is something going on in Bridgetown on Tuesday and apparently a number of celebrities have bought out BA’s First Class cabin, so I switched to Virgin whose A350-1000 has a bigger Upper Class cabin.
Jinnie was enjoying a Bombay Gin and Tonic when Brian and Belinda walked into the Club House. Jinnie waved them over and said, “I’m surprised to see you in this Lounge I thought TT were only buying directors Premium Class tickets.” Brian smiled and said, “They are, but we paid for the upgrade, we can afford it. But how come you’re here, didn’t you have Premium Class tickets?” “We do,” said Jinnie. Not wanting to say the real reason she added, “But they upgraded us on check-in, it must be something to do with my title and Paolo’s diplomatic passport.”
The 44-seat Upper Class cabin was about half full, but Jinnie recognised Rihanna who had been performing at a sold-out O2 and Cuba Gooding Jnr. Jinnie said to Paolo, “I know Rihanna is Bajan and I know we invited her, but I didn’t hear if she had accepted. I wonder if we invited Cuba Gooding Jr. Is he Bajan? I haven’t seen the final list of invitees, but Trevor said a number of Bajan celebrities had rushed in to book tables to pretend they had been on the VIP list.”
Two hours into the flight, after a delicious meal, Belinda stopped to speak to Jinnie on her way back from the toilet and said, “Have you seen the stewardesses fawning over Nigel? Rihanna’s nose seems to have been put out of joint. I suppose she is used to being the VIP in the cabin.” Jinnie said, “I had noticed, if she’s coming to the opening, we better make sure she is looked after, we can’t afford a bad word from her.” “I can’t say my service on board has suffered, in fact it has been excellent. Oh, while I’m thinking about it, Brian says why don’t you and Paolo join us for a drink in the Loft.
Five minutes later the two couples were enjoying a drink and a chat when Rihanna swept in and sat down opposite them, a steward was instantly on hand to ask what he could get her and was told a Jameson and ginger cocktail which quickly arrived. Jinnie decided to try to make polite conversation and asked, “Are you enjoying the flight?” Rihanna said, “I might be if it wasn’t for that man in the front row, the stewardesses seem to be all over him, it’s not as if he’s famous.” “Oh, you mean Sir Nigel Farage,” Jinnie replied, “Well I suppose he is famous; he was the British prime minister until a couple of years ago before he retired. He is still probably the best-known living person in Britain and travels the world making speeches and being paid millions. I hear he is going to Sandy Bay for a week and is attending the opening of The TT Continental on Tuesday.”
“Oh, I’m on the VIP list for the opening,” boasted Rihanna. “I know,” said Jinnie, “I helped draw up the list, I’m Dame Jinnie De Luca and I’m the chief operating officer and part-owner of the company that owns the Continental. This is my husband Paolo, he is a senior Italian diplomat, and this is Brian, our finance director and his wife Belinda who has been in charge of all the restaurant’s refurbishments.” Rihanna was dumbfounded. Jinnie added, “I understand you have eaten in our Windsor restaurant several times. Once when Queen Katherine and some of her friends were in a private dining room. We have to inform the Royal Protection Squad who is dining with us when royalty eats there so they can clear everyone.”
“You mean the Queen and I were there at the same time?” “Yes,” said Jinnie, “She is often there, but always in a private dining room, she often brings the children for a treat, they adore our pasta.” “But you don’t have a royal warrant,” said Rihanna. “True,” said Jinnie, “But that’s because the king doesn’t want to disclose it’s one of their favourite places to eat. William says it would make getting a table more difficult.” Jinnie was on a roll now, she could boast just as well as Rihanna who said, “You call the king by his first name?” “Well, yes,” said Jinnie, “We first met years ago when he presented me with a medal for my service in the War of Liberation.”
Later into the flight, Brian said to Jinnie, “I didn’t know you were in the war and got a medal.” “Not many people do,” answered Jinnie, “It was kept secret for years while I worked for the SIS. But, just like you, I did lots of top-secret things I still can’t talk about, but that’s when I met your old friend Dirk.” “So, you were in Berlin,” said Brian. “I really can’t confirm or deny that,” replied Jinnie.
In Chapter 17 – A Grand Opening
© WorthingGooner 2024