Jinnie’s Story – Book Six, Chapter Twenty-One

The Cruise starts

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

On the way back from visiting the two new Aunty JoJo’s sites, Jinnie expressed her satisfaction at how well things in Barbados were going to Belinda. Belinda asked if she had plans for more branches on the island or was the plan to expand to other islands. Jinnie’s answer was whether they went for more branches on the island was down to Patricia and Monica, they were in the best position to judge the domestic market. But she added that Chefette had around 14 branches on the island so in her view there was plenty of room to expand.

Jinnie was silent for the next mile or so and then said, “I have always wanted to expand across the Caribbean, and I might keep my eye open on the islands we visit on the cruise. We visit several that I think of as ‘British’ islands, like St Lucia, Antigua, Tortola, Grenada and St Vincent. But I’m not so sure Fried Chicken would go down so well in the Dominican Republic, Curaçao or Aruba. Although we are not going to Martinique, I would think it was too French. I recently looked quickly at Jamaica and KFC is well established there with several dozen outlets, I would like to be a bit more established before we went head-to-head with them.”

“Interesting,” said Belinda, “I need to talk to Keith about how we could work on other islands.” “I don’t think we will be expanding the number of islands very quickly,” said Jinnie, “Don’t forget we will have two takeaway kitchens to integrate into the network. Let’s talk to Patricia and Monica over lunch and get their views.”

Again, Jinnie went silent for a while and was clearly thinking before saying, “I have been pondering launching the chain in the U.K. I was looking at a number of KFC branches in the U.K., it’s over 1,000 and there are 145 in London alone. Setting up a branch of Aunty JoJo’s is likely to be hugely cheaper and quicker than opening a new Trattoria Trevi. I think I might see what the TT board think in the new year. How would you feel about designing a small branch in say Brixton as a trial?” “As a guess,” replied Belinda, “I can’t see setting up a British Aunty JoJo’s is going to be any more difficult in Brixton than in Bridgetown. I think the problem you will have is setting up the supply chain. Would you use commercial suppliers or set up your own links to manufacturers?” “Gosh,” said Jinnie, “I haven’t thought that deeply yet. I suspect if we only have one or two branches, we will use someone like Booker but it would make sense to talk directly to suppliers if we got big. Trattoria Trevi already has an exclusive deal for Aberdeen Angus beef with a Scottish Farmer.”


Back in the office Jinnie was not in the least surprised to find a buffet lunch of Aunty JoJo’s goodies laid out in the boardroom. With a full plate, Jinnie cornered Patricia and Monica and talked expansion. Patricia was all for caution, consolidating the two new branches and the new delivery kitchens before expanding on the island. On the other hand, Monica wanted to keep the momentum of new restaurants moving, thinking that they should be looking to adding to the number of outlets. Her thoughts were similar to Jinnie’s, if Chefette could have 14 outlets on the island so could they.

When the original plans to invest in Aunty JoJo’s had been discussed with Patricia, Jinnie had made it plain that she wanted to build a Caribbean-wide chain, but she wanted to know Monica’s thinking. Without prompting, Monica went on to say how she would like to see the group expand to the rest of the Caribbean. She suggested the nearest islands should be first, mentioning St Lucia, St Vincent and then Grenada – all English-speaking islands. Jinnie asked would she want to move on to more northerly English-speaking islands and Monica said yes, in the long term, but Trinidad and Tobago was a big target with a big population and they loved fried chicken with nearly 60 KFC branches. They should look there first before going to the likes of Antigua, St Kitts, Tortola, Jamaica, even the Bahamas.

Monica was clearly thinking big and Jinnie asked how long this plan took and Monica replied, “It’s not a plan, it’s a dream! KFC started with one outlet in 1952. They now have over 25,000 in the world. I would be happy if we got to a couple of hundred branches in the Caribbean in a decade.” Jinnie chuckled and said, “I love your vision Monica, it pretty much lines up with mine, but with one major difference. I want to expand the chain to the U.K. I think we could open hundreds of branches there alone. Many small towns have two, three or four branches of KFC and there are nearly 150 KFC branches in London alone! But I think our product is superior.”

“I want to start off with a branch in an area with a large West India population and expand fast. I think we have the financial clout to do it and with the management team we have in place I think it will work. But first I think we should open two more branches in Bridgetown in the next couple of months. I know that you, Patricia, want to be cautious, but I don’t think we would be testing ourselves too much if we aimed at opening a restaurant a month this year including one or two in the U.K. I’m going to talk to Brooke when I get home and I’m sure she will be in touch early in the New Year. In the meantime, can you two look for a couple more sites in Bridgetown.”


After lunch, Anderson and Brian joined the party to visit the two DKL sites, while Patricia and Monica started on the tasks Jinnie had set them. Again, Jinnie was driven by Belinda while the men were all in Anderson’s car. As they headed to the Bridgetown Dark Kitchen Belinda said, “I couldn’t help but hear some of your conversation with Patricia and Monica, it looks like you are planning a steady stream of work for the Construction Division.” “True,” replied Jinnie, “but that’s nothing too serious, Keith sounds like he is looking to be busy with his own jobs. But I would like to open a new Trattoria Trevi branch on another island and to think about another DKL kitchen. Until I have seen the islands, I’m not sure where yet. But what do you think of the U.K. plan?”

“I don’t know,” said Belinda, “We are currently opening three, maybe four, 12 kitchen DKL sites a year. Add to that a new Trattoria Trevi every six months, a sandwich shop a month and now Aunty JoJo’s outlets which I guess would be at a similar rate. I also have a few big projects of my own lined up. I think we are going to win another big government job for the DtI and a major bank’s office fit out in Canary Wharf. An office refurbishment job for a big credit card business in Brighton is also looking good. I think the construction division is going to be a bit busy.” “I actually would like to hit the fried chicken business harder than that,” replied Jinnie. “If Brixton is a success then I want Hackney, followed by Tottenham and Notting Hill. I think we could open at least two a month in the UK.”


The little convoy pulled into the car park of the Bridgetown DKL site and parked alongside two of Keith’s company vans. They walked through the gate in the fence into the warehouse where Jinnie saw a large open space with four men busy stripping out the small number of offices that remained. The waste was being loaded into two large skips that had been parked inside the warehouse. Once again Belinda pulled drawings and renders from her bag. She and Keith discussed where items were going until a voice shouted “Hello” from the open roller shutter. Keith turned and said, “Hello, Jimmy,” turning to Belinda and Jinnie he said, “Jimmy is from Bridgetown Steel Fabrications, who are our mezzanine manufacturers.” Jimmy said, “We are here to take a couple of core samples through the floor slab. The original building drawings show the floor slab to be well capable of taking the mezzanine’s imposed loads but the building inspector wants proof that it was built to the design drawings.” Keith laughed and said, “But the building inspection department supervised the slab’s construction, are they saying they didn’t check it was done correctly?”

The party didn’t stay long as there was little to be seen as the main work wasn’t due to start until after Christmas. They were quickly on the road again heading for the Speightstown site. Belinda said to Jinnie, “This site is some weeks behind the Bridgetown site, it only got planning permission this week. Keith has had the subcontractor orders ready to go and the long lead items, like the mezzanine people who have been in and measured up and will start cutting steel immediately after Christmas.

Once again, they parked in the building’s car park, but this time none of Keith’s vans were there to park beside. Keith unlocked the padlocked gate in the site’s perimeter wire fence and led the party to the wicket gate in the warehouse’s roller shutter which he again unlocked. Stepping inside he switched on the hi bay lighting revealing another huge space with a few metal partition factory offices. For a final time that day, Belinda produced drawings and renders from her bag. The finished building drawings looked very much like any other DKL kitchen and Jinnie expressed her satisfaction with progress all round.

Jinnie climbed back into Belinda’s car and on the way to the cruise port said, “I think I may have to have a few visits out here to keep an eye on progress with the DKL sites and what is going on with the Trattoria Trevi investments. Our local staff seem to be doing a really good job, your decision to take over Keith’s business looks like an inspired move. As far as Aunty JoJo’s is concerned, I think that Monica is going a long way in the organisation. She is like a Bajan version of Brooke. Talking of whom, I must make sure she flies out regularly to approve new branches.”

Belinda dropped Jinnie off outside the cruise port dock gates as she didn’t have a pass to get in. Jinnie showed her ship’s cruise card to the gate security, and he nodded her through. She walked, in the hot afternoon sun, past a long row of taxis to the doors labelled ‘Cruise Port Entrance’ and again showed her cruise card to security. She found herself in the air-conditioned duty-free building and followed the signs marked ‘To Cruise Ships’ and quickly found herself on the dockside and back in the hot sun. The route to the ship was virtually the reverse of the route she had used when getting off the ship, except she had to pass through the magnetic arch and X-ray bag search at the foot of the gangway.

Just like yesterday, when the family had boarded, there were a number of check-in desks but they were currently unmanned as no one was waiting to check-in. Jinnie recovered her iPhone and bag from the X-ray machine and had just started the short walk to the gangway when the steel drum band struck up what appeared to be their favourite, ‘Mary’s Boy Child’. Jinnie looked over her shoulder and saw a coach disgorging passengers who had clearly just arrived from the U.K. as many were wearing jackets or pullovers in the afternoon heat.

Jinnie quickly boarded Britannia and had her cruise card scanned, thankful that she had beaten the latest plane load of passengers. Jinnie pressed the lift call button, she was still warm from her stroll in sun and had no intention of climbing up the stairs to her suite on Deck 14. The suite was empty and as she changed into a bikini, shorts and a shirt, she texted Paolo saying, ‘Where are you?’ The answer quickly came back, ‘Rivera Pool, Lido Deck, port side, we have a sun lounger and towels for you.’ As she was about to leave the cabin her phone pinged and Paolo added, ‘The twins are in the Reef, we collect them at 17:00.’

It was 15:45 when Jinnie settled herself on the sunlounger and slavered herself in Factor 20. She lay back and closed her eyes to enjoy the sun. She was jerked awake by a loud ship-wide announcement, “This is the officer of the watch. We have just seen a strange object on the ship’s radar. It is moving towards us at a very high speed. We will keep you informed of developments.” Penny leant over and pointed to an entry in the Horizon daily activity sheet. ‘16:30 – Father Christmas arrives on the ship’s forward funnel.’ Izzy said, “When I booked the twins in for this afternoon’s session the receptionist said they would be taking all the children to see Father Christmas’s arrival.”

Ten minutes later, at 16:20, the Tannoy sparked up again, “This is the officer of the watch. We have been in touch with NASA, and they tell us that the object on our radar is Father Christmas and his sleigh, and he is going to land on the forward of the funnels. We are trying to contact him by radio right now. We will keep you informed.” As Jinnie sat up she saw the children from the Reef being led out onto the next deck up where the Reef was housed. The next announcement said, “We have spoken to Father Christmas, he will be here at 16:30. We have put a cabin at his disposal so he can get a short rest before delivering presents to all the children of the world.” An enormous cheer came from the gathered children.

At 16:30 the Tannoy clicked on again, ‘This is the officer of the watch – Father Christmas has landed and his reindeer are being taken below and will be fed and watered.” As he spoke, a waving Father Christmas appeared at the base of the forward funnel and the children went mad cheering and clapping. When the noise died down the officer of the watch continued, “Father Christmas says he will be coming back on board later and would like all children of fourteen and under to come and see him in the atrium from 10 am tomorrow onwards, where he will have a present for them.” Which caused the cheering to start again.

While Izzy collected the twins, Paolo and Jinnie had a quick shower and changed for dinner. Jinnie and Paolo got the twins ready for dinner as Izzy slipped back to her suite to get herself ready for dinner. The family had opted for a large table together on the six o’clock first sitting. The family gathered for a pre-dinner drink in Jinnie’s cabin at 17:40 where everyone was dressed in casual clothing, the men in slacks and shirts, the women in summer dresses. Just before heading for the lift down to the Oriental Restaurant on Deck 6, Dan said, “Has anyone noticed, we have sailed.”

The doors of the dining room were open when the family arrived, and the members of each suite showed the receptionist the little card with the table number they had been allocated and found in their suites. A guide led them through the rapidly filling room to a long table at the extreme stern of the ship, with a view over the ship’s wake, and Bridgetown behind them. Their waiter Rohan and his assistant Amit fussed over them, pulling out and pushing in chairs, dropping crisp white napkins in their laps, pouring glasses of iced water and delivering menus. Rohan asked if the twins were OK with dining chairs and Jinnie said yes, if they could have cushions to lift them up a bit and Amit was despatched to find some. Rohan asked if the twins would like to order off the children’s menu or the main menu. The twins, who Daddy and Izzy had been helping with the adult menu looked at each other and chorused, “Adult.” Willie said, “I want tomato soup, roast chicken and ice cream,” and Millie said, “Me too.”

Jinnie asked if they could switch and swap between the children’s menu and the adult menu. Rohan laughed and said, “Of course, you are on holiday.” Before Rohan could take their orders, a table of four arrived and Rohan went to go through the welcome process with them. He was replaced by a wine waiter and Paolo was delighted to see there were several Italian wines on the list and ordered two bottles of what he said was a delicious dry white which would go with everything.

Rohan came back with his ordering tablet and worked his way around the table taking the orders for starters and mains. But Willie wanted to order dessert. Rohan said, “I will come back and take your dessert order when you have finished your main course, you might have changed your mind.” “I won’t,” said Will and everyone laughed.

Amit went off to the kitchen to get their meal and the table started chatting, only to be interrupted by Rohan with a basket of various sorts of bread and rolls to choose from and the arrival of the wine, which Paolo tasted and declared perfect. The twins excitedly told their grandparents how they had seen Father Christmas, and he was going to give them presents the next morning if they went to see him. The starters arrived and Penny reminded the twins that this was a posh restaurant like the Trattoria Trevi and not to slurp their soup.

Jinnie had asparagus and a hard-boiled egg and as she ate, she noticed Rohan watching the twins. As he collected the empty plates he commented to Jinnie, “Your twins are a delight, such good manners.” The twin’s roast chicken was slices of breast meat and came with a roast potato, broccoli and green beans. Rohan said, “I only ordered one roast potato for them because I thought that the normal three would be too much for them.” Jinnie was used to silver service at the Trattoria Trevi and was initially amazed when she saw Amit carrying a tray loaded with the table’s nine meals. They were pre-plated, and each covered by a transparent stacking plate cloche. Thinking for a moment, she realised that with 3,500 passengers to serve dinner, plated meals were the only practical answer.

Jinnie chose roast leg of lamb as it was something she rarely cooked at home. She had to admit it was beautifully presented and was slightly pink, just as she liked it. Before she was able to start eating, Amit was at her side with the choice of mint sauce or mint jelly. They also offered mustard for the men having steak and even tomato sauce for Dan’s chips. The empty plates showed the quality of the food.

Amit cleared the plates away and brushed the table to clear the crumbs from the bread rolls and brought the menu to choose desserts, while Rohan served other tables on his section. Jinnie was impressed how the pair worked as a team and watched how Amit moved on to clear another table while Rohan arrived to take the dessert orders on his tablet. Nearly everyone ordered sticky toffee pudding and custard while the twins still wanted ice cream. The basic menu item was a scoop of vanilla, a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of lemon sorbet but the twins only wanted vanilla and got two scoops of that.

Jinnie thought her sticky toffee pudding looked good and it came with a ramekin of custard so she could add just as much or little as she wanted. But she was delighted when Rohan put down four bowls of vanilla ice cream in the middle of the table and said, “Just in case you want it.” The pudding was excellent and Jinnie was more than satisfied with her dinner. Rohan then leant over Mr Walsh’s shoulder and asked, “Coffee anyone?”

There was a chorus of, “Yes, please,” and a couple of, “Tea, please,” and Jinnie asked if the twins could have a small glass of milk to which Rohan answered, of course. Amit was dispatched to the kitchen for the twin’s milk and Rohan served the coffee and tea.

As the family went down in the lift, Mrs Walsh said, “I don’t know about you, but I thought that meal was excellent, the food was good and the service excellent.” “I agree,” said Jinnie, “The food was good, not quite Trattoria Trevi, but I never expected it to be. The service was really good though, I wonder how long Rohan and Amit have worked together, they were a real team.” “My steak was cooked just how I like it,” said Dan, “and I loved the sticky toffee pudding.”

Back in the suite, Ajay had been in and the twins’ beds were made up for them. Jinnie and Izzy got the twins ready for bed while everyone else gathered on the wrap-around balcony and enjoyed a G&T ice and a slice made with the Bombay Sapphire Gin that Mr Walsh bought in the Gatwick duty-free. Jinnie kissed the twins good night and told them that when they woke up in the morning it would be Christmas Day and Father Christmas would have popped into the cabin overnight and left them a few presents but the majority would be at home when they returned. She then joined the group on the balcony to watch the sun go down.

In Chapter 22 – Christmas at Sea

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