TOM sat in the office wrestling with the accounts and wondering, not for the first time, if they’d bitten off more than they could chew.
He’d had a notice put on the hotel’s website that it would be reopening under new management at the end of March, and bookings were starting to come in for April onwards. Holly had a bookings spreadsheet on her laptop and would transfer the information to their new computer system when it was installed.
A website for the hotel had been set up by a nephew of Charlie Mack’s some time ago. Presumably he had intended that Charlie would then look after it, but it now looked out of date. Tom had been in touch with the nephew to make small changes but it needed a major upgrade with, of course, the new name. More money going out. And the sign proclaiming The Bridge Inn, with formerly the Ferryboat underneath, would be delivered next week that had been more expensive to make than Tom had anticipated.
But the weather forecasters were saying it was going to be a hot summer. If they were right, that would be good for business. The area was popular with hillwalkers and hopefully some sunshine would bring them out in droves. Corin’s cooking would attract gourmet customers and he and Judy were working on plans for meals that would appeal to families with children, too. There was a piece of garden at the side of the hotel that would be a great site for a children’s play area.
They might be short of money but they weren’t short of ideas.
Tom flicked through a pile of brochures and leaflets Corin had picked up the last time he was in Oban. Some of the local attractions were closed over the winter the castles and stately homes and gardens. But there were all-year-round sporting activities, with companies organising such things as wildlife safaris and kayaking expeditions, and, of course, there was the new golf course opening soon.
He must start now to ask these companies if they could work together to set up special packages for visitors. Apart from January, when they would close the hotel and take their own holiday, they would have to work really hard to attract guests every month of the year.
It was all so different from running the B&B where nearby Luton airport ensured a houseful of guests all year round.
He reached for the laptop and found the hotel website. There was the lovely review Miss Fisher had posted. And she’d promised to come back later in the year.
The banner heading, along with a picture of the hotel, showed the current ferryboat, one of many that had ploughed the waters between Lorn and North Lorn for hundreds of years.
Tom was suddenly assailed by doubt. Had he been too hasty in changing the name of the hotel? Rewriting history too quickly, maybe. What had Garry meant by saying, “You can try”?
His head seemed too full of questions to which he couldn’t see the answers. A walk sometimes helped when he felt like that, especially here, where the grandeur of the hills and the movement of the water, not to mention the neighbours stopping to say hello, distracted him from his problems.
He shut the computer down and went upstairs, where Judy was engaged in sorting out the linen cupboard.
“Are you free for a walk for twenty minutes?”
Judy stopped counting sheets.
“Oh, yes. Just what I could do with.” She made a note on a piece of paper. “Some of these sheets will need replacing very soon. I’ll get my jacket.”
She tucked her hand through Tom’s arm as they made their way out of the hotel grounds.
“Mum phoned,” she said.
“Everything going all right?” Tom asked.
“Swimmingly,” Judy replied. “Doesn’t sound as if Louise is missing us at all! Mum had some friends from her art evening class round last night. Louise gave them all manicures and they helped with her homework pop artists in the Sixties!”
“Did Marilyn mention Eddie?”
“Mention Eddie! She hardly stopped talking about him. He’s round there every day. Mum’s practically adopted him, from the sound of things.”
“He’s a ” Tom began.
“Nice boy.” Judy finished his sentence. “I know. He is. But they’re out at parties and clubs all the time, not just at weekends. Is love’s young dream distracting Louise too much from her schoolwork? That’s what I would like to know.”