SANDY was showing Tom how to update the website. He’d redesigned it, and the banner proclaiming The Ferryboat showed the newly whitewashed building with Tom and Judy standing smiling at the front door, with their very own tubs of geraniums.
There were new buttons to click to see the bedrooms, sample menus, and links to local attractions even one for the view from the dining-room window. Tom was thrilled with it and found Sandy to be a patient tutor in all that had to be done behind the scenes.
“Your uncle will miss you when you go back to Switzerland,” he said, having been kept up-to-date on the subject by Roberta during their gardening sessions.
“I’ve arranged for Iris to go in a few days a week,” Sandy said. “Kind of home-help. And Donnie and Roberta will keep an eye on him. He was in a slump, not knowing what to do with himself, but I think he’s on the up now.”
“What do you think about this vandalism business?” Tom asked. “Obviously it’s nothing to do with Donnie. But someone’s doing it.”
“Has to be one of the bridge workers, I think,” Sandy said, “someone who knows how to use those industrial cutting tools. But the foreman told me he suspects the owner of a company who didn’t get the painting contract.”
“Too bad that someone that guy with the big moustache and the short temper is spreading rumours about Donnie.” Tom shook his head.
“Apart from it being against the law, Donnie wouldn’t do anything sneaky like that,” Sandy said. “I’ve known him all my life and I’ve never heard a word against him.”
Tom saw the opportunity to discuss Donnie’s love life with someone other than Judy or Holly.
“So what is it with Donnie and Roberta?” he asked, lowering his voice. “Have they really been engaged for eleven years? Do you think they’ll ever get married?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, Tom and everyone else’s.” Sandy chuckled. “Donnie can talk the hind leg off a donkey, as you know, and Roberta is hardly discreet as a rule, but on that topic they are both absolutely mum.”
“Maybe they are secretly married,” Tom surmised, “and laughing up their sleeves at us.”
“I thought you were learning how to look after the website, Tom Jeffrey. And they say women are gossips!” Judy stood in the doorway. “I’m sorry to drag you away but the downstairs loo is blocked again.”
Sandy pressed a few keys on the computer and the beautiful new website with the loch view and the geranium tubs disappeared.
“It’s all glamour in the hotel business!” he said. “I’ll leave you to it, Tom. You know where I am if you need me, but I think you’ve got the hang of it.”
“It was a learning curve,” Tom said. “New tricks, old dogs.” He held out his hand to Sandy. “See you again soon, I hope, and let us know if there’s anything we can do to help with Charlie.”
“There is, actually. Well, not help exactly, but I thought as this is my last night I’d take him and Iris here for dinner if you’ve got a table for three?”
“No problem,” Judy said. “Come and I’ll put your name in the book. What time would suit you?”
Tom was just about to go and get to grips with the plumbing problem when the phone rang.
He could see from the new call display unit that it was Philip, and debated with himself whether to answer it or not. It was ridiculous. He was going to be fifty this year but Philip made him feel like a callow youth.
Philip’s visit with his Edinburgh golfing friends earlier in the month had been very successful. The newly opened course was pronounced to be “a blinder” and they went home with plans to return at the earliest opportunity. Perhaps he was phoning now to make the booking, although that call should be made to the front desk number and not their own line. But Philip wouldn’t make that distinction.
These thoughts shot through Tom’s mind as he dithered with his hand above the phone. Then he took a deep breath and lifted the receiver. It wouldn’t look good from Philip’s end, hearing the phone ringing and nobody answering.
“Philip! Good to hear from you.” Tom cleared his throat. “How is Verity?”
“Well, very well. And how is our future grandchild progressing?”
“Holly’s fine,” Tom said. When Philip had heard the news about the baby he’d said to Tom that they would have to have a chat about “making financial provision” for it. Tom hoped he wasn’t wanting to have that chat now.
But Philip had other things on his mind.
“Splendid. Now, I’m waiting for the chaps to let me know what dates they’re free to come back. Wives to consult! But maybe they could come, too. If you could find something for our good ladies to do while we’re on the golf course that would solve the problem. And double your our income.”
“That sounds like an excellent idea.” It did, actually, Tom thought, annoyed that he hadn’t come up with it. “Judy and I will see what we can do.”
“Don’t take too long about it!” Philip urged. “We want to get back on that green. Maybe this time you’ll be able to join us for a round, Tom?”
“Maybe, Philip. A lot to do here, though. Difficult to get away.” It wasn’t the first time Philip had suggested they play together but Tom had always managed to avoid it. Philip was too competitive by half.
“Look, I’ll talk to Judy and the others about what you suggest,” he said. “I’m going to have to go now, Philip. There’s something Judy’s asked me to do urgently.”
“Good for Judy. Keep you at it! Speak soon.” There was a crash at the other end of the line as Philip replaced the receiver.
“Judy!” Tom called as he went to get his toolbox. “Come and hear what Pip’s latest is.”
Judy frowned at him as she came into the hall.
“Don’t call him that in Corin’s hearing,” she said. “What does he want now?”