We’re delighted to bring you the continuing adventures of Life & The Wadhams, featuring the younger members of the family. Not yet met the Wadhams? Read the background on My Weekly’s best-loved family, then come back and enjoy the next generation’s adventures as Mike and Polly Wadham’s elder grandson, Alex Clark settles into a new life with fiancée Natalie in the flat above the antique shop his grandfather used to own. After the arrival of baby William, they finally managed to have their lockdown wedding and were happily settled – until their landlord announced he was selling up the shop and flat …
Natalie Clark bumped the baby buggy containing her precious son safely down the last step of the staircase to her little flat, and bent to make sure he was well-wrapped up. Despite the March sunshine, there was still a chill in the air – a chill that was matched by the dread in her heart, every time she looked up at the sign above the front door she was now locking behind her.
It had loomed large for her and husband Alex ever since their landlord had announced that, sadly, he was selling both his shop and the flat above it which he currently rented out to the newly-married couple. Since then, they’d been looking for alternative accommodation, but so far had found nothing suitable.
Natalie sighed, and turned the pram in the direction of the park. Usually she met her chum Keisha there – the two young mums had bonded instantly the first time they met. But Keisha was taking advantage of the slight relaxation of lockdown rules and taking baby Kayla to meet her grandmother for the first time. Too old and frail to be looked after by her family, her grandmother had been isolated from them in her care home all through lockdown, and Keisha couldn’t wait to see her.
“She won’t know me, of course,” she’d confided to Natalie. “But she’ll love meeting Kayla – she hasn’t forgotten how to hold a baby. And, who knows, maybe it will stir some memories for her …”
Natalie’s eyes had brimmed with sympathy. Her maternal grandparents were long dead, and her paternal grandparents had lived in Portugal for so many years that she’d never really built a relationship with them.
Thanks goodness she had Alex’s grandparents, Mike and Polly Wadham! She loved them as dearly as if they were her own, and they returned her affection in equal measure.
In fact, it was Polly she was off to meet today, and the thought of a happy hour with the older woman put a spring in Natalie’s step as she pushed William through the gates of the park.
Having arrived early, Polly had secured a bench near to the mobile coffee van and waved frantically to Natalie as she approached.
“Darling! So lovely to see you.” She beamed. Today would be the first time in a long time she’d be able to hold her baby great-grandson, even if she and Natalie still had to sit a few feet apart.
“Oh, William! You’ve grown so much! Yes, you have … oh, come to Gangan. She needs a cuddle.”
William held out his arms obligingly as Natalie took him from his buggy and deposited him in Polly’s arms.
“Watch out. He’s becoming such a wriggler – I really think he’s be crawling soon.”
Polly laughed. “Your daddy was just the same,” she told the little boy fondly. “He was running around on all-fours by eight months and walking at eleven months.”
“Really?” Natalie smiled. “I didn’t know that. We’ll have to start moving everything breakable in the flat out of reach then …” She sighed, suddenly remembering they wouldn’t be in the flat by the time Willam was mobile. Where would they be?
Intuitive and sensitive as always to her family’s needs, Polly tightened her hold on William with one hand, and reached out the other to Natalie, before remembering she mustn’t and pulling it away. But her wave of sympathy reached the younger woman, and helped comfort her.
“Oh, we’ll find something,” she said, suddenly feeling much more positive. “There are always new places to rent coming on to the market.”
“You’re not ready to buy yet?” Polly probed carefully.
“We can’t afford it,” Natalie said honestly. “We’ve been lucky that Alex has been able to work all through this last year, but I haven’t had much income at all, of course, between having to shield while I was pregnant, and then being on maternity leave.
“I’d hoped to take a full year off, but now I’m thinking I’ll go back when the salon opens next month. Lauren called me last week to say Crazy Cuts is already booked solid through summer, so there will be plenty opportunity for overtime, too. Me going back to work will help us save towards a deposit for our own place.”
“You know, Mike and I would be happy to help out,” Polly said. “We’d love you to stay in the flat. Pinky and Jim were so happy there when they were first married … it will be a shame to see it go out of the family.”
“Actually, when we did our sums, we discovered we could just about to afford to buy the flat,” Natalie replied. “But the Richards won’t sell it without the shop – and what would we do with an antiques shop, even if we could afford it?”
A glimmer of an idea came into Polly’s mind.
“You know, it wasn’t an antiques shop when Mike and I bought it,” she said. “That shop could be anything … a gift shop, a bakery, a newsagents…” She let the idea hang.
“A hairdresser’s,” Natalie said slowly. “A beautician’s.
Oh, Polly!” she breathed. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could take it over and start up on my own! But there’s no getting around the fact we can’t afford the outlay.”
“Not without capital,” Polly agreed. “And for that you’d need a business loan, just like Mike and I needed when we opened the antiques shop.
“Of course, we were older than you, and in a better position financially, but still there were risks. But Mike had always dreamed of running his own business, so we took the chance. And it paid off.”
“Oh, look!” she changed the subject. “There are ducks on the pond. Do you want to go and see the ducks, William?”
“Gah!” William said obligingly, wriggling in his Gangan’s grasp.
Natalie laughed and took her son in her arms. Together the three set off across the grass, skirting flowerbeds bright with the yellow and purple blooms of daffodils and crocus. Soon the tulips would be opening to the sun, too – brighter days definitely lay ahead.
Once back at No.23 Elderslie Terrace, Polly gratefully accepted a cup of hot chocolate from her son-in-law Jim, whose turn it was to be at home looking after toddler Ruby while his wife Pinky went to her work as a teaching assistant at the local school.
Their younger son Matty was back at school, too – he’d made a fuss about going after so long at home, but Jim and Pinky knew he was secretly happy to be back among all his friends and they were extremely relieved to see an end to home schooling! Pinky might have experience in the classroom, but keeping a 13-year-old boy focussed on maths, English and history was no easy task when all he wanted to do was play computer games!
“Smell the chocolate, did you?” Jim laughed as his elder daughter Jennifer wandered into the kitchen.
“No,” she sniffed. “But I’ll have one if you’re offering. Actually, I heard Grandma come back in, and I wanted to ask her about her birthday. I wondered if there was anything special you’d like, Grandma.”
Polly shook her head.
“At my age I have everything I need, sweetheart,” she said. Her mind wandered back over her 82 years, and in particular to her very first birthday as a married woman, when Mike had wanted to give her the world, but she’d been so happy just to have him.
“In fact,” she added slowly, “I have more than I need … and what would make me happiest is to spread the joy, as you young folks say.” She put down her cup decisively. “Thanks, Jim, but I must go and speak to Mike now.”
Jennifer raised her eyebrow as Polly disappeared up the stairs to the granny flat she shared with her beloved Mike.
“Grandma is up to something.”
“Definitely.” Jim laughed and put the cup in the dishwasher. “And I’m sure she’ll tell us what it is in her own sweet time.”
Meanwhile, at 19a Grove Crescent, Natalie sat in front of the laptop, a look of grim determination on her face. She’d been doing her homework while William napped, but she just couldn’t get the sums to add up.
Never mind, when Alex got home from work, she’d enlist his help – after all, he’d be taking over the garage from his father one day, so he must have some idea how the business side of thinks worked.
The seed Polly planted had taken root.
Natalie was going to find some way to buy her home and the premises below, and become her own boss, no matter what it took.
Join us next month for more adventures from the Wadhams.