The Ferryboat – Episode 05

IRIS inhaled. Yes, the hotel smelled of freshly made coffee and the sweet aroma of baking. She’d popped the dough in the oven twenty minutes before the prospective buyers were due to arrive and now the biscuits were cooling on a rack.

Last night she’d done something she hoped she wouldn’t regret. She’d done an internet search for “Alexander Mack, Zurich”. His name had come up on a company website but with no direct e-mail address. So she’d decided to write and tell him what was happening to the Ferryboat and how despondent his uncle was. Before she could change her mind this morning she’d given the letter to Lizzie to post on her way to work.

She peeped round the office door. The little room looked tidy. All that remained was the telephone and the large hardback notebook in which they wrote down bookings.

It was a pity there was no way of hiding faded wallpaper, or bed-linen that was a riot of dated patterns and colours. Still, she thought, as she went to check the dining-room, the new owners could take time to replace those and to upgrade the whole place, but they’d already have the best thing of all the view here from the picture window.

“Iris!” Charlie called from the kitchen. “They’re here.”

She hurried through.

“You meet them at the front door. Mr and Mrs Grainger,” she reminded him.

“I’m Corin Grainger and this is my wife, Holly,” Iris heard the newcomer say. She opened the kitchen door a fraction more and caught a glimpse of a dark-haired man and a girl in a stylish red dress.

Charlie was to take them upstairs first and give them the tour, ending up in the dining-room where they could admire the view and Iris would serve coffee and biscuits.

But when Charlie brought the couple into the kitchen, the girl sat down.

“This is Corin’s department.” She smiled. “I warn you, he’ll leave no cupboard unseen.”

“This is Iris,” Charlie said. “Been working for me on and off since she was a schoolgirl. Extremely reliable. Versatile. Cleaner, receptionist, chamber-maid. You name it. And she ”

“Can I get you coffee, Mrs Grainger?” Iris interrupted. Charlie putting in a word for her was one thing. Laying it on with a trowel was another.

“I’d love one. And please call me Holly.” She threw her husband a laughing glance. “We’ve only been married six months. I still think of Mrs Grainger as Corin’s mother.” She took a sip of coffee. “I’m a receptionist in the Glasgow Grand. Corin’s a fabulous chef,” Holly chatted on. “He’d love to have his own kitchen.”

The fabulous chef was looking rather aghast, no doubt because of the lack of equipment Iris was familiar with from watching ‘Masterchef’. He came and sat down.

“Great biscuits. You do the cooking here, too, Iris?”

Iris looked at Charlie before replying.

“Not cooking, as such, no. Baking for morning coffees. We take someone on to cook in the summer months.”

She watched the Graingers as they asked Charlie questions, feeling a pang as she saw how happy they seemed, leaning into each other, their eyes bright with their plans for the future.

When Fin’s motorbike accident coincided with Great-aunt Janet dying and leaving Brook Cottage to herself and her sister, Lizzie, it was to Lorn that Iris had fled. Lizzie had given up her flat-share in Oban to come to be with Iris and baby Angus, commuting now to the town by bus. She hated that journey, Iris knew, and her job in the bank.

After four years Iris felt strong enough to be on her own but Lizzie, protective elder sister, didn’t see that.

But now, how could she manage on her own? The insurance money from the accident was tied up for Angus’s future, a decision she’d made at the time and never given any further thought to. Employment prospects in Lorn were as scarce as roses in December. She relied on what Charlie paid her. It wasn’t much, but then, she never went anywhere to spend it.

Charlie had stood up.


Iris blinked. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, she scolded. She tried to smile.

“Could you show Corin and, er, Holly the annexe? And then we’ll finish seeing this floor.”

The annexe had been built for Charlie’s parents to live in and was rarely used now. Iris had opened the windows to air it but it looked and felt neglected.

Would the view from the dining-room be enough to persuade the Graingers to turn a blind eye to the hotel’s deficiencies? She didn’t know whether she hoped it would or not.

“That kitchen is a joke,” Corin said as they got back into the car. “The cooker’s not much better than a domestic one. And the fridge ”

Holly scrolled through the photographs on her camera.

“It could be gorgeous, though, couldn’t it? I’ve got loads of ideas about colours and fabrics.”

“Tom and Judy will have a fit when they see how much there is to do.”

“I won’t send all my photos,” Holly said. “Mum will love that view from the dining-room. And the front looked nice, with those plant tubs.”

“‘Potential’ is definitely the word.” Corin turned to smile at her. “At least I wouldn’t have a hard act to follow here, cooking-wise. The store room had mostly frozen or microwaveable stuff.”

“You wait a couple of years. That dining-room will be booked from one end of the year to the other. Michelin stars, here we come.”

Corin stroked her arm.

“I like your confidence, sweetheart.”

“What are you going to tell your parents?”

He looked at her, apologetically this time.

“When you went to see the annexe I tried to get some financial details. Our Mr Mack wasn’t very forthcoming. I’ll get Dad on to it, all the legal stuff. I made an appointment for my parents to come and see the place Monday afternoon next week.”

Oh, no. Did that mean Philip and Verity would swan in and take over?

“But oh, I wish my mum and dad were free to come up.” Holly bit her lip. “It’s them who would be living here.”

“I know that, Holly. But if we decide to go ahead, we’re going to need whatever my father can offer towards the cost. He is a solicitor. You can’t expect him to go into this blindly.”

“I know that,” Holly said in her turn. “I’m not stupid. ‘If we decide to go ahead’ does that mean you didn’t like it?”

“My head is bursting with plans,” Corin said tightly, “but I’m trying to be practical.”

Holly swallowed.

“Iris seemed nice, didn’t she? A pity we won’t need her,” she said.

Corin squeezed her hand.

“Shall we park by the ferry, have a look around the village?”


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