Jinnie’s Story- Book Six, Chapter Twenty-Five

A royal visit

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

Jinnie and the twins climbed into the back of Nigel’s Bentley which had been fitted with child seats for the occasion. Nigel was in the front and Freddie was driving. It was only a short trip to the retirement home, but Jinnie was anxious to be there. Nigel turned to Jinnie and grinned. “The bottles are in the boot,” he said, “I hope the matron doesn’t object, or we are going to have to smuggle them in!” Jinnie took Willie’s hand and led Nigel who was holding Millie’s hand into the home’s reception where the matron was waiting for them. Nigel said he needed a quick word and Jinnie and the twins were shown up to the large bedroom where the three oldies’ beds had been put together.

Jinnie thought how sad it was that the three men she remembered as active underground operatives less than 10 years before were now confined to bed. They were mentally bright, but physically wrecked. She could see what the matron had told her was correct. The oldies were really happy to see her and the twins and Jinnie took photos of each of them in turn with a twin on either side of them. The oldies perked up with the visit and were soon laughing and smiling so much that one of the carers popped in to make sure they were OK.

Jinnie was just wondering what had happened to Nigel when a knock came on the door and the matron came in followed by Nigel carrying a bag that Jinnie knew contained the bottles. While Jinnie reintroduced the ex-PM and he presented each of them with a boxed bottle of malt, the matron pretended not to notice and busied herself tidying and plumping pillows. The twins were loving the attention and chatting to the oldies. Bert made a little off-the-cuff speech, thanking them for the surprise visit and the whiskey which he intended to try before he went to sleep.

Matron was just organising tea and biscuits and juice for the twins when another knock came on the door. Nigel broke into a broad smile and opened the door to reveal Queen Catherine and the three children. The oldies were initially dumbfounded but quickly recovered as Nigel introduced her and the children to the oldies, but Kate quickly put them at their ease with her natural charm. Of course, Jinnie had met the Royal Family on several occasions and after curtsying introduced the twins, who were soon best friends with the princes and princess. The twins quickly found that George and Charlotte were learning French so much to Louis’ disgust they started chatting in it.

Charlotte came to talk to Jinnie and asked if she was still a soldier, remembering when she came to tea in uniform, so Jinnie explained that she gave that up when the twins had been born and she now was in the catering business, with restaurants and sandwich shops in Britain and with a fried chicken business in the Caribbean. Charlotte asked, “You mean like KFC.” Jinnie smiled and said, “Similar, but they like it a bit spicier in the Caribbean. We are going to try it in London to see if people like it.” Kate, who had been listening said to Charlotte, “Dame Jinnie owns the sandwich shop in Windsor where we send sometimes James the Footman to get your favourite sliced egg and tomato sandwiches for tea.” “Really?” said Charlotte, “If I owned that shop I would have them for tea every day with one of the big scrummy Bakewell tarts they do.” “I think you would quickly get bored,” replied the Queen.

The Royal Family stayed for nearly two hours before Kate said they had to go as the Australian ambassador was coming to dinner. Turning to Jinnie she said, “I must admit I have stolen some dishes from the Trattoria Trevi menu to use at official dinners. Those evenings in the private dining room haven’t been wasted. In fact, the gin and tonic sorbet is on the menu tonight.” When they had gone Nigel said, “I am so pleased they came, I phoned the Palace as soon as I heard, and the King said he was visiting a company in Birmingham, but he would speak to the Queen. She phoned me back shortly after and she said she remembered you and your story and would love to meet the people who recruited you, especially as it might be the last chance. As it was still the school holidays, she promised to bring the children and I’m so pleased she did they are delightful, and I love them nearly as much as the twins.”

Before Jinnie, the twins and Nigel left, Bert said, “Thank you for a wonderful afternoon. I think I can speak for all of us here. When we were young, we lived in a democracy and had a king and then we were invaded by the Germans, life changed, the King and Royal Family was evacuated to Canada and we were ruled from Berlin through a puppet government. I longed for the ‘old’ days. When we came to live here, with the wonderful Ethel, we had a chance to do our little bit to gain our freedom. We helped recruit for the Resistance but all the time what we wanted was our freedom, democracy restored, the monarchy restored, and the Germans gone.”

“Today,” Bert continued, “we have met one of the greatest people we had the privilege to recruit, our first post-German prime minister and the Royal Family, all our dreams have come true. We are a free, independent nation again and we couldn’t be happier. We are nearing the end of our lives, and I can tell you we will die happy and meet up with our wonderful friend Ethel.” Jinnie wiped her eyes, kissed hugged her old friends and said she would be back to see them next week, but not with the twins as they would be at school. Nigel added that he was in America for a week and if they didn’t mind, he would come again in a couple of weeks.

As Jinnie and the twins walked back to the car, Willie looked up at his mum and said, “They have been telling us about the war at school, not much, but they tell us about the Germans and all the people they killed. Next term we can tell Miss Evans we met some real Resistance people and the Queen. But who was the other Resistance person they were talking about, was it the matron?” Jinnie smiled and decided that was it time to gently tell the twins she had not always been a restauranteur. She said, “Before I met your daddy I was in the Resistance and helped fight the Germans.” “Oh,” chorused the twins and went quiet processing that information. Jinnie wondered how long it would be before they asked more questions.


With the twins in bed, over a glass of wine Jinnie told Paolo and Izzy about her day and said how sad it was that her old friends were dying and there was not a thing anyone could do about it. They knew that Nigel had been with her but were surprised to learn that the Queen had been there with the children. Jinnie told them how lovely the Queen and the children had been and how well they had got on with the twins. Jinnie then talked about Bert’s little speech and how he had basically said he was dying but was happy to do so in the knowledge that he and the other oldies had helped free the country. Jinnie looked up and was surprised to see Izzy crying.

Izzy said, “I was still at school during the War of Liberation, I don’t know what I would have done if I had been old enough to fight, I don’t know if I have been brave enough to join the Resistance.” Jinnie said, “I’m sure you would, it’s surprising what you can do when you have to. We have never told you before, but Paolo and I met in Berlin, before the war when we were both in the Resistance.” “What!” exclaimed Izzy, “I thought you were a diplomat and a restauranteur.” “We are,” said Jinnie, “That is all in the past, and I can’t really talk much about it as it is still secret. The twins started asking questions today, and I really don’t know how much I can tell them.”

Paolo, who had been silent up to now said, “It’s a real pity that we can’t do anything, I would love the nation to know that the Queen spent an afternoon on a private visit to some of the country’s last heroes while there was still time.” Jinnie thought and said, “I have an idea. I’m going to ask Nigel round for a drink.” With that she pulled out her mobile and called the ex-PM on the new private mobile that only his friends had the number of.

Nigel was settled with a whiskey and water when Jinnie said, “I’ve been telling everybody about our afternoon and how wonderful it was that the Queen and the children came. Paolo says that it’s a pity that the nation doesn’t know about the visit and how it was to honour three brave Resistance workers before they died.” “I agree,” said Nigel, “I wonder if the Queen would mind us leaking the visit to the press now it’s over and done with, it’s hardly a security risk.” “And I think I have the sort of relationship with the local papers chief reporter that we can have my friendship with the oldies reported without any mention of me being in the resistance,” added Jinnie.

“Let’s see what Kate thinks.” said Nigel, “If she agrees, then perhaps you can call the paper.” Nigel pulled his phone from his pocket and pressed a stored number. Jinnie heard the phone ringing and a voice answered but Jinnie could only hear Nigel’s end of the conversation. Nigel said, “Good Evening Wills, I hope you don’t mind me ringing this late, but I really need a word with Kate. OK, I’ll wait.” Turning to Jinnie he said, “She’s in the kitchen making a hot drink.” Then he said, “Hi Kate, it was lovely to see you and the kids this afternoon. After you left, Bert told us that they had enjoyed a wonderful afternoon and that it had always been his ambition to meet the Royal Family and now he could die happy.”

Nigel listened for a few moments before saying, “Yes, it is sad. Jinnie and I wondered if you would object if we leaked this afternoon’s visit to a tame pressman? We can control what is printed so we can keep the kids out of it if you would prefer it.” Nigel listed again interjecting the occasional “Yes,” “No,” and “I understand”. Finally, he said, “Thank you, I’ll tell her,” before ringing off. He then said, “She is quite happy for us to tell your pressman and wants the world to know that she and the kids loved being able to chat to genuine Resistance heroes. She wants the oldies to get recognised by the public and says she will do everything she can to help. Oh, and she said it was lovely meeting you and the twins and she will be writing to you soon to invite you all to tea in the nursery again.”


The following morning Jinnie sat at her desk in the garden office and searched through her collection of business cards until she found the one of Bill Furr at the Potters Bar Press. Before dialling the number she thought about what she was going to say. Then she dialled and waited, Bill answered on the fourth ring saying, “Bill Furr, how can I help you?” Jinnie said, “Good morning, Bill, it’s Jinnie de Luca, have you got a few minutes, I have a story you might like.” Bill replied, “For you Dame Jinnie, I always have time to listen.”

Jinnie told him how she had come back from holiday and realised she hadn’t been in touch with her old friends at the retirement home recently. Bill listened intently for a while as Jinnie explained how the matron had told her that the oldies were fading away and they had banned her from calling Jinnie, but not issued any instructions if she were to ring in. How she, her twins and the ex-PM had visited that next afternoon and the matron had put the oldies’ beds together so they could all chat. Bill interrupted saying he remembered the oldies from the special lunches that the restaurant had put on and he was sorry to hear of their predicament, and asked if they had any relatives.

After answering no, Jinnie continued telling Bill that the shock had been when the Queen had unexpectedly arrived with the royal children. Bill was interested now; this was shaping up to be a wonderful human-interest story and he asked a few questions about how the Queen knew they were visiting. Jinnie explained that Nigel had told her, before going on to explain how lovely the Queen and her family had been, had they had joined in for tea and biscuits and had stayed for two hours before leaving only because she and the King were hosting a dinner at the Palace. Jinnie then talked about Bert’s little speech about dying a happy man.

Bill then asked if he could quote her and Jinnie said yes. Then he asked if the Queen was aware that she was telling him about the event and again Jinnie said yes, and that both the Queen and the ex-PM would do anything to help the story, although she would not be directly quoted. Jinnie explained there were a few more provisos, one that there was to be no mention of her time in the Resistance, that they wanted to review the story before publication and if the story was sold on, 10% of the fee should go to the retirement home for the benefit of the residents. Bill said he was happy to proceed on that basis, but that he had to clear it with his editor first and would ring her back.

Jinnie’s next task was to check her e-mails, there were always plenty to read through and others to ignore. She had only dealt with a few when her desk phone rang. Engrossed in a report about possible sites for new dark kitchens, she grabbed the receiver and simply said, “Hello”, not taking her eyes off a report that recommended an opportunity in Southampton and another in Hull. Jinnie jumped when a voice said, “Hi Boss, I am back from Barbados, and thought I better update you on what I have been doing”. Jinnie quickly changed her thought process from DKL to Aunty JoJo’s and said, “Hello Brooke, I expect you are finding it cold here in London.” “You’re not kidding,” replied Brooke, “From 28° to 4° overnight is tough.”

“How did things go?” asked Jinnie. “Pretty well,” answered Brooke. “We have secured a couple of medium-sized adjoining outlets at St Lucia airport, so we intend to do the same as Barbados, a big Aunty JoJo’s and a smaller Artisan Sandwich outlet. The two new Aunty JoJo’s in Barbados are up, and trading and wow are they busy. Patricia says she thought business was good when she moved over the road into the KFC, but this is way better and is sustained after two weeks trading. Patricia’s January report is going to make interesting reading. We have another couple of possible outlets in Bridgetown lined up, and Patricia is busy negotiating with estate agents. Keith has measured up, taken photos and sent them all to Wright Refurbishment in Crawley to get a costing, but he says they look easy conversions. Patricia wants to go for both, they are well away from other branches.”

“Monica and Keith have been to Trinidad for a quick look around and have come back with at least a dozen lots of estate agent’s details for potential outlets, they have even taken measurements and photos. They have seen a load of places and reckon they have picked the best. Monica and Patricia think that we should be securing outlets now and banking them so that we can open them at say two a month. That would make it easier for Keith, he could have a crew moving from job to job, and having an experienced crew makes for quicker, cheaper jobs.” “That sort of fits my thoughts” said Jinnie “I would like to expand into Trinidad quickly, before the competition realises what we are doing. I have heard of company’s land banking shops in areas to stop the competition moving into an area. This is sort of doing it in reverse, buy up the possibilities and then start opening up quickly before the competition can react. I like it, but I would need to talk to Brian about finances.”

“Brian and Belinda were on the same flight as me coming home and I mentioned the idea to him, I hope you don’t mind,” said Brooke. “I don’t mind at all” answered Jinnie “and I’d be interested know what he said.” “Well,” said Brooke “he pulled out his phone and started looking at spread sheets and doing calculations and said he thought it was do-able if we were willing to reinvest all the profits from the existing Aunty JoJo’s for possibly a year. I asked him how many branches he was including, and he said the five in Barbados. I told him we had just signed for another at St Lucia airport and were almost certainly we had found two more outlets in Bridgetown. Then I asked him if he had seen the latest trading numbers for the two new Barbados outlets. He said ‘No’ and got on the planes Internet.”

“Eventually, after a lot of moaning about the internet speed” Brooke said, “he gave me a big smile and said ‘I’ve changed my mind, I think it is more than do-able, I think it is worth recommending’.” “Excellent” said Jinnie “I want to see Brian’s calculations but that is looking good. Now a couple of questions for you, are we ready to promote Monica as we discussed and how do you feel about us taking a trip to Brixton looking for an Aunty JoJo’s outlet.”

“Monica is doing the job unpaid, already” said Brooke “the only thing I’d say is that if we don’t promote her soon, she might take her skills elsewhere and that would be a disaster. She has already found someone to replace her at the home branch, who is officially deputy manager but is in effect running the joint and my is she good. I reckon she is another one who will make a great addition to the management. As far as opening up in Brixton is concerned, I’m willing to join you on a visit any time, but I have been doing a load of research and there are loads of Fried Chicken shops in Brixton High Street. I’m confident our product is damn good and is a match for anyone, but it is the sheer number of competitors that bothers me.”

“But that’s the whole point” said Jinnie “Brixton has got of highest number of people with Caribbean roots in the country. If we can make a profit there, we can make a profit anywhere. I want to take a shop in a busy area, on a short lease that is renewable. If it is a success we can extend, or even buy the lease. If it is a failure, we can get out and scrap the whole idea or try it somewhere else in London or maybe Birmingham or Bristol.” “OK” said Brooke “let’s do it.”

* * *

Jinnie and Brooke decided that as they were unfamiliar with Brixton, and had no idea where to park, they met and travelled to Brixton on the tube. Coming out of the station on to Brixton High Road they decided first to walk south and then cross the road and walk north in their search for a suitable outlet. As they strolled, they saw numerous fast-food outlets and all seemed to be busy. Jinnie paused outside a ‘Caribbean’ restaurant and although it was fairly busy its menu didn’t look very appealing to her. She pulled out her iPhone and snapped the menu and said to Brooke, “I’ll send that to Patricia and see what she thinks.”

As they walked back, on the other side of the road, they stopped and looked in the window of an estate agent that showed lots of houses and flats and a few commercial properties in one corner of the window. Brooke said to Jinnie, “They are offering a restaurant lease, it looks about the size we want, but there is no location and no real details. Should we go in and ask?” Jinnie replied, “Come on, we have nothing to lose if it is no good for us.”

As they entered the door a young man looked up from his desk and said, “Good afternoon ladies, my name’s Alexander, how can I help you.” Jinnie said, “Good afternoon, I wonder if you could give us a few more details of the restaurant you are advertising in the window.” “Oh,” said Alexander, “I’m afraid I only deal with domestic properties; I need to refer you to our commercial arm.” With that he picked up his phone, dialled a number, and said, “Hi, it’s Alex, I have two ladies with me who are interested in the restaurant in the window.” He listened for a moment or two and then said, “OK I’ll tell them.” Turning to Jinnie he said, “One of our commercial sales consultants will be down to talk to you shortly.” Seeing the questioning look on Jinnie’s face he added, “Our commercial department is based on the first floor and Benjamin is coming down to escort you to one of our upstairs meeting rooms.”

As Jinnie and Brooke followed Benjamin, who had introduced himself as Benji, up the stairs, Jinnie was trying hard to suppress laughing as he was so outrageously gay. Jinnie was used to working with Belinda’s Andrew who everyone knew was gay, but he didn’t mince up the stairs in a pink suit like Benji. The ‘meeting room’ was not very well presented. Jinnie thought, ‘This could do with Belinda’s magic,’ but didn’t say anything as Benji had rummaged through a filing cabinet and come up with a printed handout for both of them, with details of the restaurant.

Jinnie scanned the handout quickly, absorbing the main details. Seventy-five covers, modern kitchen with gas and electricity, had been a burger parlour, in good decorative order, had a takeaway counter and was available for immediate occupancy on a five-year lease with annual reviews. Brooke asked, “Firstly, is the restaurant close to here, we really want something on this road because of the footfall and secondly do you have any photos?” Benji assured them that it was less than a hundred yards up the road on the other side and that he had photos on his laptop that he would fetch as he hadn’t had a chance to upload them to the network yet as it was a new listing.

As soon as he went out of the room the girls agreed that it was looking promising, but they didn’t know how much was being asked for the lease, if the owner would be willing to go with a trial short lease and Brooke wanted to know why a burger joint had upped and left.

Benji returned with his laptop and pulled up the pictures. It had obviously been two shops knocked together to form one biggish restaurant. The outside would need a new illuminated name display, that meant planning permission, and Jinnie noted that would probably mean time. She had learnt from the sandwich bars that councils could be fussy about that sort of thing, even when it was only a replacement of existing signage and in one case they had given up and up gone for an old-fashioned painted name.

The photos were quite professional and showed the restaurant off to its best on a bright sunny day. But they confirmed it was in decent decorative order and the kitchen looked good. Jinnie particularly liked the takeaway counter, it meant that provided the appropriate licences had been granted to the burger joint, no change of use would be needed to sell hot takeaway food. When they had finished looking at the photos Jinnie asked how much the lease was and Benji said the landlord was looking for about £2,750 pcm, but that was negotiable. Again, Jinnie jotted a note on the detail sheet while Brooke asked why the burger place had gone. Benji answered, “That’s easy, Burger King opened two doors away and the competition was too much, provided you aren’t proposing to open a burger joint, it is a super location. Jinnie left her mobile number and her name as Jinnie Walsh. The name Jinnie de Luca was getting to be too well known in the restaurant business. She explained she needed to view the property with her finance director and her fit-out contractor and if Benji could phone her in the morning they could arrange a convenient time.

As Jinnie and Brooke walked away from the estate agents, Brooke said, “Shall we go and find this restaurant, that gay guy said it was only just up the road.” Jinnie laughed and said, “I’m not sure how he gets away with that pink suit when walking down this road. Yes, let’s go and see what the restaurant looks like from outside, maybe we can see through the windows.” The restaurant was not very far up the road and as Benji had said it was only two doors up from Burger King. Jinnie had seen several small fried chicken outlets, but the only KFC was a long way down the road. ‘Good,’ she thought, ‘these are not going to be offering a lot of competition.’ Brooke had her nose pressed on the big glass window and reported, “I like the layout. The takeaway counter is bang opposite the main entrance and they seem to have left the tables and chairs in place and they look quite new. I think by the layout, customers had to buy at the counter and take their purchases to a table to consume. I like it, not so many waiters and waitresses. This is looking good.”

In Chapter 26 – A new Aunty JoJo’s

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