We’d put the OP in at 12.00 hours in a cupboard full of someone’s gran’s old mixing bowls. We were in hard-routine so close to the cooker which meant no smoking, no hot drinks, no farting and only porn printed on para-silk to avoid the rustle. Linds hated it. He was a legend in the restaurant game. Back in that deniable feast in Oman in the 70s he’d been one of those to lay out sandwiches and cake right under the noses of the communist rebels. It had been no picnic. He was like all the veterans that had preceded me into the catering game, face pale from ingrained flour and with eyes broken from too many split shifts, nose brightly ruddy from too many hot pans.
‘This is bollocks,’ said Moz. Everything was bollocks to Moz. He’d been first through the door at the Embassy when things had gone to rat-shit and there’d been no Ferrero Rocher. It had been Christmas Eve and every box in every garage had been had by a thousand drunken husbands on their way home. He and Adey Barber had made them into pyramids using bits of pastry and off cuts of icing, part of the kit crammed into the Blue Kitchen’s always ready Range Rovers, they converted from burger vans, themselves improvised from ice-cream wagons. ‘This is bollocks,’ he said again. He was a big man and carried a big spoon. He was an old Oman hand too, done the Embassy as I say and was a specialist in gravy-boat troop. He snored like a bastard but his sauces were only ever one kettle from ready. He held up the supplies he’d brought for the mission, prairie oysters, this was indeed bollocks.
We waited till an hour before tea then bombe-burst out of the cupboard. Bits of glacee ice cream hit the kitchen about us. Linds was at the wine rack in a moment, the officer tucked in tight to his drinking elbow. He didn’t need the Jeremy (we always called the officers Jeremy) but it gave him someone to discuss Chiliean red with and soon the muffled rattle of corkscrew and glass told us that the job was on.
We peeled the spuds with two mags of silenced nine milly and had the water heated and roaring with a thermite charge Moz had laid in earlier. Through the insect goggles of his mask and under the dirty white of his hat I could see him scowling. He preferred a quick in/out job. Something that went ping and job done. But he was a good lad and if it was bollocks, then still he mashed the spuds with a vintage German stick grenade from the last war his Dad had brought back the trattoria at Monte Casino.
‘Thirty minutes, gas mark 6, stand-by,’ said our ear pieces. In the window opposite and keeping our cover Nott was too professional to comment on the plan. Shaped like the French bread on which he lived he was a frontline flour-monkey. He knew all the best pasties right down to crust and content but had no interest in how they worked. He’d always eat what he killed, and he killed a lot of curry.
Linds had the wine and I had the meat done. Good lamb, well flavoured, not too many carrots else it’s more sweet than savoury. Onion, a little fatty bacon, good stock, rosemary and Worcestershire sauce. Our Jeremy was ordering us to make it in individual, tiny portions. He did know food but he always wanted it as if seen from far away. Linds wasn’t having it. As far as he was concerned if you could pick it up, it wasn’t a shepherd’s pie.
We went into all round defence as we cooked off the pie. One by one we had a shit in a plastic bag. Not because we had to. We checked our white-kit, then on each other. Aprons that in training felt like a dead man on our backs were light as icing sugar now. It was almost mealtime and we’d have to do it room by room.
Then we got the call. ‘Wait one,’ said the Jeremy reading the order chit as it rattled out of the machine. He didn’t swear when he told us that three were wanting it veggie, he left that for us.
Linds went for more wine. That was practically vegan wasn’t it?