Now that her brood had left the nest, Fanny McBride, a large, cheerful and indomitable Tyneside widow, had time to sit by her window and watch the goings-on outside. There was plenty to keep her occupied: the mystery of the new woman at Mulhattan's Hall, the tenement block (here a fortnight already and not so much as a hello); the long-standing feud with Mrs Flannagan; after-school visits from her grandson Corny. But Fanny had any intention of ending her days in lonely isolation. So when her friend Mary fell sick and couldn't work, it was Fanny who took her place. She enjoyed imagining how her son Phil would react. He was the clever one, with his job in the Borough Treasurer's office. She could picture his face when she told him she'd got a job in town -- looking after the ladies' lavatories.