The Ferryboat – Episode 11

ANGUS was at school. Lizzie was at work. The cottage was as clean and tidy as was possible when there was a five-year-old boy around. There was nothing to do in the garden.

Iris stared out of the window wondering how to fill the rest of her day. She could sit and read a book, of course, or knit the jumper with a dinosaur on the front she was making for Angus. But she wanted a job. She needed a job. The notice she’d put in the shop window hadn’t brought any responses.

How would her life have been if Fin hadn’t roared into it that summer? She’d abandoned her ambition to study music to marry him. And she’d abandoned Sandy Mack and their budding relationship without a second thought. She’d been so in love. So young. The window blurred in front of her.

Roberta walked past, back from her morning walk to collect her newspaper from the post office cum shop a mile away. Iris wiped her eyes and rapped on the glass, then beckoned a startled Roberta to come in.

“What’s up?” she asked, as she took off her coat.

“Nothing. That’s the problem,” Iris said.

Roberta knew just what Iris meant. Plus, she might be retired but she was still a teacher.

“Get some paper and a pen,” she commanded. “OK. Let’s make a list of possibilities.” She stopped. “Actually, let’s not. I’ve just had a brainwave.”

“What?” Iris asked, amused in spite of her gloomy mood. Roberta was always guaranteed to cheer her up.

“You make a lovely fruitcake. And a good cup of tea.”

“Ye-es.” Iris couldn’t see where this was leading.

“It’s a pity I didn’t think of this before and of course the ferry won’t be around for much longer. On the other hand, with the weather being chilly people will be more likely to appreciate it.”

Roberta beamed at Iris.

“Don’t you think that’s a good idea?”

“What?” Iris said again. “What’s a good idea?”

“Sell cake and a hot drink to folk in the ferry queue, of course. It won’t make you a fortune but it would be much appreciated.”

Iris considered. In the summer, the queues for the ferry could stretch back for half a mile. It was one of the reasons why the bridge was being built.

In the winter, though, you didn’t have to wait very long to get on the four-car ferryboat. But Roberta’s plan was worth thinking about, if only to get her out of the house. She tried to think it through.

“But how would it work would I have to get loads of flasks, or what?”

Roberta jumped up.

“You know that tall chap? I think he’s in charge of the bridge workers. We’ll go and ask him if we can use an electricity socket in that hut. They’ve got to boil a kettle.”

Before she knew it, Iris was being whisked out of her front door and down the piece of new road that led to the bridge.

“The tall chap” was there, poring over some drawings. Iris let Roberta do the talking.

“Well,” he said, when Roberta had succinctly outlined her plan. “I’ll think about it. Can you come back tomorrow?” He grinned. “As long as there’s a nice slice of cake in it for me yes, what is it?”

A man with a large fluffy moustache stood in the doorway.

“Boss, there’s something you need to see.”

The boss sighed and folded up his papers.

“Not more trouble, I hope.”

“I’m afraid so.” Fluffy Moustache stood aside in an elaborately polite gesture to let Roberta and Iris past. As they walked away Iris heard the boss say something about CCTV. So, the rumours about vandalism on the bridge must be true. Who would want to do that?

Iris felt despondent again as she said goodbye to Roberta. The plan seemed futile in the cold light of day. Even if every driver and passenger bought a snack from her she would make hardly anything, not after she’d bought all the ingredients. And wouldn’t she have to get a permit or something?

“Hello, it’s Iris, isn’t it?”

Holly Grainger had stopped her car and wound down the window. Iris went over and crouched down to talk to her.

“How are you settling in?”

“It’s a learning curve.” Holly laughed. “I’ve just been along to the little shop. It’s an Aladdin’s cave, isn’t it?”

Her face became more serious.

“I I saw your notice in the shop window. Dad says we’ll probably need some help when the season kicks in.”

“Thanks,” Iris said meaning, thanks for nothing.

“Would you like to come in and have a coffee?” Holly asked impulsively. “I love it here but I miss my friends in Glasgow. They’re all waiting until the hotel is properly opened before they come up.”

Why not, Iris thought. It wasn’t as if she had anything else to do.

Sitting at the familiar kitchen table in the Ferryboat, she felt she’d been churlish, as Holly made a cafetire of coffee and poured it into a couple of pretty cups, chatting all the while.

Iris made an effort to sound upbeat.

“The place is looking better already,” she said. “I love the wallpaper you’ve used in the hall. It makes a really good first impression.”

Holly sat down.

“It was fun planning it all. Mum and Dad were great; they gave me a free hand with the colours and everything. If I wasn’t in the hotel business I’d be an interior designer. The bedrooms are nearly finished I’ll show you if you like. Oh! Iris, you might be able to help.”

Iris put down her cup.


“We can’t find that big book that Mr Mack used for bookings. He wouldn’t have taken it with him accidentally, would he?”

“I can ask him, if you like,” Iris said. “Everything was in such a muddle his last few days here. Have you tried his room?”

“The office?”

“No, the wee room next to it. He used it as a bedroom and sitting-room for himself. Shall we have a look?”

The room wasn’t one that would be in the public domain so it was presently being used as a repository for unpacked boxes and furniture that had yet to find a home.

There were shelves under the window with a curtain across them. In with a jumble of old travel guides and local history titles was the blue book.

Holly opened it.

“Can you read his writing?” she asked, handing it over.

Iris scanned the page and then looked at Holly, her eyes wide.

“It says here he’s got a party of four booked in for dinner, bed and breakfast tomorrow night.”


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