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 and baby son William in the flat above the antique shop his grandfather used to own. They’ve now bought the flat and shop, which Natalie will soon open as a hairdressing and beauty salon, in partnership with Polly.
“There you are. Go to Mummy!” Alex Clarke deposited his 10-month-old son, bathed, dressed and fed, into his wife Natalie’s waiting arms, and bent to kiss his little family goodbye.
“Good luck, today,” he said. “All set, are you?”
“Yes.” Natalie smiled as she moved William’s podgy hands from the sheets of paper in front of her. “I’ve just given the applications a final once over, and Keisha will be here in an hour to take charge of William for the morning while I do the interviews downstairs.”
“Anyone standing out for you?” Alex asked, grabbing a piece of toast from the table.
“Oi! I was about to have that!” Natalie exclaimed as he crammed it into his mouth, grinning. “I’ll have to add ‘check honesty’ to my list of requirements for an assistant hairdresser if I’m not going to starve all day.”
She sighed. “I don’t know how I’m going to choose. They all sound good on paper – all suitably qualified and experienced, at least.”
“In that case,” Alex was serious now, “choose the one that you know you’ll get along best with. You’ll be working together, just the two of you, for hours every day.”
“And working hard, if I’m to make this business a success. Oh, Alex –” for a moment Natalie’s confidence faltered – “what if no-one comes to me. There are so many established salons in town… I’ll just be one of many.”
“You’ll be fine.” Alex reassured her. “If nothing else, you’ll have your mum, your friends and all my family. You probably won’t be able to squeeze them all in.”
Natalie laughed. “That’s true. But I wish I had some sort of USP.”
“You have talent, brains, a lovely baby and me!” Alex consoled. “Don’t worry, the clients will soon come rolling in. Meanwhile –” he glanced at his phone – “I’d better get going if I’m to deliver that car back to its owner and be home in time for tea. Nightmare for him breaking down so many miles from home, but good luck for me and Dad getting to work on a vintage Merc. See you later, sweetheart. Bye, William.” And with a final wave, he was gone, leaving Natalie to clear the breakfast mugs and entertain her son until her friend arrived to take over.
Thank goodness for Keisha – so calm and laid back. She loved taking William on the rare occasions Natalie asked, declaring two babies were easier to look after than one.
But it was a surprisingly distraught Keisha that burst into the as-yet-unopened salon 20 minutes before Natalie was expecting her.
“Natalie! I’m so sorry but I have to let you down. I’ve had a call from granny’s care home to say that she’s unwell and that they’re moving her to hospital. I’ll have to go straight down there to see what’s going on.”
“Oh no!” Natalie was immediately sympathetic. “What about Kayla? You can’t take her with you.”
“I’ll have to,” Keisha replied. “Robbie’s away at field meetings all day today, and Mum and Dad are on holiday, as you know. I’ve no choice.”
“Leave her with me,” Natalie ordered.
“But you’ve got those interviews. I’m supposed to be helping you by taking William, not hindering you by dumping Kayla on you.”
“It can’t be helped,” Natalie said firmly. “Your gran is the most important thing right now. If you can stay till I bring the playpen down, I’ll put them both in it and they can entertain each other while I’m interviewing.”
Keisha looked doubtful. “It’s not very professional,” she said with her marketing hat on.
Natalie laughed. “Whoever takes this job will have to get used to babies, because William will be around at times. I know he’ll have nursery, and Alex’s parents and my mum will pick up some slack. But today just proves you can’t cover for all eventualities. Trust Alex to be out of town, too! Now sit down and catch your breath – I’ll be back in a minute with the playpen.”
Good as her word, Natalie was back in a few minutes, to catch her friend in front of the ornate gilt mirror that complemented the baroque feel of the salon, disconsolately pulling at her curls.
“What a mess I look! Between Lockdown restrictions and having Kayla, I haven’t had a proper hair treatment since last summer – I’ll have to book an appointment uptown when I get a chance. If only you’d opted for the African hair module instead of perms at your NVQs, Natalie! So selfish of you!” She laughed to show she was joking.
“I really wish I had!” Natalie said. “It’s awful that there’s nowhere in this small town catering for your hair type, especially as demand is now starting to grow. Will you take Kayla uptown, too?”
“I’ll have to.” Keisha shrugged as she abandoned the mirror and released her small daughter from her buggy. “And soon, too – her hair is growing so quickly.
“There you are, darling, you play with William,” she said, depositing her in the playpen. “Mummy will be back soon. Natalie, thank so much – I owe you bigtime.”
“Call me when you know about your gran,” Natalie called after her friend, but she was already out of the door. “Right, babies, it’s just us then – for the next five minutes anyway!” she gasped, realising that her first candidate was due and that she hadn’t even smoothed down her own hair. Some advertisement for a successful hair salon owner she was turning out to be!
Both babies behaved charmingly all through the first interview – if only Natalie could have said the same about the interviewee, Daisy, a whip-thin girl of around her own age who looked around the salon that was Natalie’s pride and joy with something approaching disparagement.
“I thought Pretty Polly was ready to open,” she said. “But it looks like you still have your refurbishment to do.”
“This is how the salon is going to look.” Natalie said politely, though inside she was seething. “I wanted an old-fashioned feel. I think it’s more conducive to relaxation. My sleeping partner is an elderly lady and though she wouldn’t dream of interfering with my plans, I wanted it all to reflect her values, too.”
“Oh, right.” Daisy all but yawned in her face, and showed very little interest in anything but her own skills and talents as Natalie took her through the questions she’d carefully prepared. She didn’t ask any of her own, and didn’t so much as glance at the two babies playing happily together in the playpen in the corner.
The same couldn’t be said of the next applicant who came through the door. She spotted William and Kayla, and immediately her nose turned up.
“Will they always be here?” she asked rudely.
“Oh yes!” Natalie said. “It’s part of the ambience, having babies here – I’ll probably replace them every few months as they outgrow their cuteness.”
The woman’s horrified look told Natalie that she wasn’t entirely sure that she was joking, and her interview lasted an even shorter time than Daisy’s.
Natalie sighed as she mentally crossed her off her list. There was just one candidate left on her shortlist – surely she couldn’t be any worse than the first two?
Natalie needn’t have worried – Iris was a breath of delight. At 22, and with less experience than the other two, she’d been the least likely of the applicants, but as soon as she came into the salon, she dropped down in front of the playpen to coo at a delighted William and Kayla.
“Aren’t they adorable? Are they both yours? Oh, no, they can’t be –” she blushed a rosy pink – “they’re obviously quite near each other in age, but they’re obviously not twins…”
“No.” Natalie knelt down beside her. “William’s mine. He’s ten months old – and this is Kayla who’s about to turn one. I’m sorry about this – they’re only here today because Kayla’s mum, who’d offered to look after them both, has been called away in an emergency. But they will be around sometimes.”
“Great! I love babies,” Iris said. “If I hadn’t gone into hairdressing, I would have been a nursery nurse. It was a hard call. But I’ve loved doing hair since I got my first Barbie doll – though it was a hard lesson to learn that a doll’s hair won’t regrow like your little sister’s when you cut it all off.”
She laughed and Natalie laughed with her. This was definitely a girl she could get along with.
“You’ll be needing a haircut, soon, won’t you, wee man?” Iris said to William. “And you, too, Miss Kayla. Oh!” She clasped her hands together. “Maybe they could be my first clients – if I get the job that is,” she added shyly.
“You can certainly cut William’s hair,” Natalie said. “He’ll probably sit better for you than he will for me. But my friend Keisha will take Kayla to her own hairdresser uptown, where they have experience with her hair type.”
“Oh, but I could do it,” Iris said. “I’ve done my African hair module and the salon I worked at in London has given me experience in cutting and treating it. I can do a mean set of braids, too.”
“You didn’t mention that on your CV,” Natalie said.
“I didn’t think to.” Iris looked surprised. “I suppose I take it for granted, along with cutting and perming and colouring and all the other things I do.”
“But in fact it’s a specialist skill,” Natalie said. “One I don’t have – though I’m going to get training in it as soon as I can.”
Her brain worked fast. Iris was lovely, she was well-qualified, an easy conversationalist, and, most importantly of all, she could bring something to the salon that Natalie herself couldn’t offer.
The deal was settled over a glass of juice, William on Natalie’s lap, Kayla on Iris’s. She would start as soon as the salon opened.
Natalie’s phone pinged with a WhatsApp message from Keisha to tell her that gran was settled comfortably on the ward and that she’d be back soon to hear how the interviews went.
Natalie smiled as she dashed off a quick reply.
Found the perfect candidate, it read, And I’ve found the salon’s USP.
Join us next month for more adventures from the Wadhams