Biscuits And Wee
The first volume of the 'Lost Boys' quartet.
Iris Fairlie is lonely, isolated but increasingly unable to cope with independent living.
Against her every desire she is moved into Bridge House, a home for the elderly, where a constant round of confectionery seeks to compensate for the lapses of old age; there is an all-pervading aroma of biscuits and wee. Iris sulks in her room, rebuffing the blandishments of the piano-playing spinster, the happy-clappy evangelicals, the raffia-weaving WI, all determined to distract the hapless residents from the inevitable terminus of their slow demise.
But in her new surroundings she is forced to see herself differently, honestly. She is old. Life is over. What has she achieved in this life to which she holds with such stubbornness? Where, amidst the work and weariness, the pride and resignation, were the warmth, the love, the laughter?
What is it that separates her from her daughter? Why can’t they talk about things?
The answer to all these questions seems to be her wayward son, her lost boy, missing for years on some quest she never understood.
Witnessing by chance the tumble of a young boy into a racing river, Mrs Fairlie is galvanised at last into action; if she cannot rescue her own boy she will try to rescue this one.
Little Mikey’s fall pulls Iris into the maelstrom of his fate, along with Matt, Megan and his Auntie Jade, whose stories are featured in books 2, 3 and 4 of the Lost Boys Quartet.
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Finally there is a rustle of excitement and the news permeates round the room that the Mayoral car has arrived. Mrs Terry is like a dog with two bones, quivering with self-importance and wagging her metaphorical tail. Even the school children are silenced at the prospect of the august arrival. The kitchen staff are ushered in, hastily tying fresh white aprons, and a waft of hot scones adds itself to the medley of scents already at large; wet clothes, hot-house flowers, distressed old people. The press take photographs of the arrival with eye-dazzling flash bulbs. Later, reviewing the press coverage, Mrs Terry will be dismayed to see that in every single picture her eyes are closed.
Mrs Fairlie finds herself placed next to Pinkie. Close to she is even more insubstantial; a mere gossamer of existence. Her skin is the finest translucent tissue over a tracery of blue veins and grey, bird-like bones. Her eyes, milky with cataracts, are sunk deeply into her fragile skull, the contours of her sockets as visible as smooth porcelain under their opaque membrane. Her hair is a diaphanous white wisp of down on the pink shell of her crown. Her hands are skeletal, claw-like, the twin twigs of her wrist bones disappearing into the sleeves of a candyfloss pink woollen cardigan which lies on her chair occupying the space where her body ought to be. The empty cardigan and some brushed cotton trousers in strawberry milk-shake pink, and a rose-pink cellular blanket take up the seat of a substantial wheeled reclining chair which can now be seen to house beneath it a discreet oxygen cylinder and a pouch of some clear fluid with a tube which disappears underneath Pinkie’s clothes. It looks as though Pinkie’s essence is being decanted into the pouch drip by drip.