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. They’ve now bought the flat and shop, which Natalie plans to run as a hairdressing and beauty salon.
Natalie Clark stood, hand on hips, proudly surveying her newly-acquired kingdom. The Richards, previous owners of the little antique shop below the Clarks’ flat, had cleared out their remaining stock, and were off to the Lake District to start a new business running a B&B.
“It’s all yours,” Bob Richards had said as he handed the keys over the day before. “And we wish you every success with your new venture.”
Alex and Natalie had thanked him profusely, waved him off sincerely, then turned to each other and performed an excited victory dance! They’d even popped a bottle of proper champagne.
There was a lot to do, of course, but first they had to celebrate. Let the hard work begin tomorrow!
Natalie gazed round at the bare walls, imagining how it would all look in a few weeks’ time, with backwash basins and styling chairs and nail bar, and a newly partitioned area for the massage table where clients could enjoy a face or body treatment at her expert hands.
She couldn’t wait to get started after fifteen months of enforced unemployment, due to the tribulations of the recent pandemic, and the happier arrival of baby William, now almost nine months old.
A sharp rap took her racing to open the door to her sister-in-law Jennifer, who groaned as she deposited the baby car-seat with its precious cargo on to the floor.
“What on earth do you feed that child?” Jennifer demanded. “He weighs a ton!”
Natalie laughed proudly. “He is getting big, isn’t he? Thanks for looking after him last night, Jen. It was great to get a night off.” But her eagerness to release her small son from his chair and smother him in kisses showed how much she’d missed him.
Baby William chortled in his young mum’s arms, then demanded to be put down. Natalie set him on the floor and he promptly crawled off to explore this exciting new world.
“I’ll need to get a playpen down here for him once all the work starts,” Natalie said. “Alex and I are going to do the decorating ourselves, but we’ll need to get joiners and plumbers and electricians in first, of course.”
“Well, you’ve got all your plans drawn up, so you can get started on that now, can’t you?” Jennifer said.
“Definitely! Jake – you know Jake and Rhiannon, who came to our wedding – is going to do the joinery work. He’s said he’ll get started on it next week, which is great. Tradesmen are so busy now, it’s hard to get them to come round, even just to give you a quote, but he knows loads of electricians and plumbers so he’s going to call in some favours.
“And Alex is taking some time off from the garage so he can pitch in, too – your dad’s been really good about it. Honestly, Jen, your family are… they’re magnificent! Without your grandparents help, we’d never have got this far, and your mum and dad have been so supportive.”
“Grandma and Grandpa are the tops,” Jennifer agreed. “I love the way we all live together in the same house. I know their flat is kind of separate from ours, but they’re always within shouting distance, and mum doesn’t have to worry about how they’re coping now that they’re ancient.”
“Your gran would have something to say about that!” Natalie said. “You’d never guess she’s over eighty.”
“No, but Grandpa is slowing down, and getting a bit forgetful. I spoke to Mum and Dad about it a few weeks ago, but they don’t think there is anything to worry about. It happened before you know, and it turned out he had a bad infection.
“Mum’s actually got him a doctor’s appointment this morning, then I think they’re going to call in here on their way home. That’s why it was me who brought William back. Anyway – ” she pulled out her phone to check the time – “I’d better get off now. My shift starts in twenty minutes.”
Natalie scooped baby William off the floor. “Wave bye to Auntie Jen, William.”
“And say hello to Auntie Keisha!” A curly head appeared around the door as Natalie’s fellow young mum announced her arrival. “Hope you don’t mind, Nats,” she said as she pushed little Kayla’s buggy in to the shop, and hugged her friend enthusiastically. “I couldn’t wait to see the place.”
As Jennifer took her leave to go off to her job at the local nursing home, Keisha gazed around the empty premises, exclaiming over its potential and asking eager questions about Natalie’s plans.
“There are going to be just two basins and two styling chairs,” Natalie said. “I don’t have room for more –and besides, I don’t want more. I’ve worked in a large salon, and though I liked it, I prefer the intimacy of a smaller place.”
“So you’ll have just one assistant?” Keisha guessed.
“Yes, I’m going to try to hire someone like myself, who is trained in hair and beauty – if things take off, I’ll hire another hairdresser, and then I’ll concentrate wholly on the beauty side. But that will take time, of course.”
“Won’t your old clients come to you?” Keisha asked.
“Some might, and I’m really lucky that Lauren, my old boss, is happy to recommend me to new customers that she can’t accommodate. Oh, Keisha, I can’t wait to get started again! I love being a mum, but my fingers are itching to get cutting hair and painting nails and massaging backs again. I’ve missed it so much.”
“Well, you can always start on me,” Keisha joked. “I’ll want to look my best when we’re going round the auction rooms picking up mirrors and lights and soft furnishings to complement all the high tech stuff that’s going in here. That’s still your plan, isn’t it?”
“Definitely.” Natalie declared. “I want it all to feel cosy and comfortable, a place where clients can really relax and feel at home.”
“So a shabby mess, then?” Keisha joked.
“Shabby chic,” Natalie countered. “Old mirrors with gilt frames, portraits of beauties from days gone by, maybe a chandelier overhead…” Her eyes sparkled as much as the imaginary chandelier might as she envisioned it in her mind’s eye.
“And what are you going to call the place?” Keisha asked eagerly. “Cosy Cutz? Haircut 100? Or are you going to be all elegant and just call it Natalie’s.”
Natalie’s face fell momentarily. “I wish I knew! I’ve been thinking and thinking, but I just can’t come up with a name. I don’t want anything corny, but I don’t want to call it just Natalie’s either. But I’ll have to decide soon.”
“We’ll have a brainstorming session,” Keisha promised. “Meanwhile, that looks like your mum-in-law’s car pulling up, so I’d better get off before she comes in. Don’t want to break the new rules before they’ve even been in place a week.” She planted a kiss on William’s cheek, and took her leave waving a cheerful greeting to Pinky Clark, who was helping her parents, Mike and Polly Wadham, out of her car.
The three ambled into the premises that had once been Mike Wadham’s pride and joy when he’d opened it as an antique shop, back when Pinky and Jim were newly-weds and living in the flat that Alex and Natalie now owned.
He gazed around in wonder at the bare walls and floors while Natalie excitedly recounted her plans yet again to Polly and Pinky. The two older women were suitably impressed and enthused, though Natalie couldn’t help noticing that both weren’t quite their usual cheerful selves.
When Mike went off to use the small facilities at the back of the shop, Natalie quickly asked how the doctor’s appointment had gone.
Pinky blinked rapidly. “Well, the GP doesn’t think he has an infection but she does agree that he doesn’t seem as sharp as he once was, so she’s referring him for some tests. He’s quite happy with that…”
“And so am I,” Polly interrupted firmly. “If he is developing dementia – and it is only if, at the moment – there are treatments he can have and plenty help available. And no matter what happens, he will always be Mike. My Mike. Nothing can change that…”
“I’m your Mike and you’re my Polly.” Her husband had ambled back into the front shop. “My pretty Polly,” he added, using his old nickname for his beloved wife.
“Pretty Polly…” Natalie repeated slowly. She turned to the old man, her eyes shining. “Mike you’re a genius. I’ve been racking my brains what to call the shop – and how to thank you and Polly for backing me financially.
“Pretty Polly is the perfect name! It reflects what the shop will offer – hair and beauty treatments to make everyone feel pretty and special. And it pays tribute to our partnership, too.”
“It’s brilliant!” Pinky cried, while Polly beamed her pleasure at the compliment and even William, catching the happy mood of the grown-ups, clapped his hands enthusiastically.
“Pretty Polly.” Natalie swung William around in her arms. How lucky she was, she thought, with her husband, her son, her home, her own small business. Now it had a name, too. Every day was bringing her one step closer to her dreams.
Mike grinned. He wasn’t used to being called a genius, but he’d take the accolade any day.
Join us next month for more adventures from the Wadhams.