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. Mike and Polly Wadham’s elder grandson, Alex Clark, is settling into a new life with wife 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 is about to open as a hairdressing and beauty salon, in partnership with Polly…
“So tell us a little more about Pretty Polly’s, Natalie.”
Jackson Jones’s tone was clear and friendly and Natalie, at the other end of the phone, swallowed her nerves as she gave her answers to him and the thousands of listeners who tuned in to his local lunchtime radio show.
Her friend Keisha, with her skills in marketing, had done a brilliant job in securing her publicity for her new salon, and she was determined to make the most of this opportunity.
Soon, she’d told Jackson about the months she’d spent converting the antiques shop to a small salon that would serve the hair and beauty requirements of its clients.
“I want to appeal to all ages,” she explained. “I could never have dreamed of opening the salon without the support of my husband’s grandmother – in fact, it’s named after her.”
Listening to the radio in her own small granny flat at No. 23 Elderslie Terrace, Polly Wadham smiled and silently cheered young Natalie on. She knew her granddaughter-in-law would make a success of her new venture – in fact, she was going to be her first client when she opened her doors tomorrow. And she’d insist on paying, no matter what Natalie said.
Her husband, Mike, looked up from his paper – the couple were old enough and old-fashioned enough to prefer their news in print.
“That voice sounds familiar,” he said.
“It’s Natalie,” Polly reminded him.
“Of course!” Mike beamed. He might be getting increasingly vague, but the much loved head of the Wadhams’ clan still knew the importance of family. “What is she talking about?”
“Ssh!” Polly said. “I can’t hear her.”
“And so, I’m really looking forward to tomorrow,” Natalie was saying.
“All the PPE in place, and the confidentiality agreements signed?” Jackson joked. “I imagine you hear all sorts of secrets in the hairdressing salon.”
“Sometimes.” Natalie laughed. “But more often, I’m hearing people’s plans for the weekend, or where they’re off to on holiday, or where they’ve been.”
“So lots of long silences then.” Jackson chuckled. “As none of us has been anywhere or done anything for so long.”
Natalie laughed along with him, and the conversation finished easily, with him promising to send his mother and sisters along to Pretty Polly’s as soon as she had a spare appointment.
For contrary to Natalie’s fears, the salon was booked out for weeks!
With “freedom day” still a few days away, she hadn’t been able to hold an open evening. But word had spread out from her family and friends, and the news that her assistant, Iris, was an expert in African hair styling meant that quite a few of Keisha’s friends had booked in, too.
Iris was even making special visits to the care home where Keisha’s granny lived, to style the old lady’s hair.
At the garage where he worked as a mechanic with father Jim, Alex Clarke grinned proudly as Jackson Jones extolled his young wife’s praises to his listeners.
“She did a brilliant job, didn’t she, Dad?”
“Absolutely, she did,” Jim affirmed. “And she didn’t sound one bit nervous, either.”
“She’ll be glad it’s over though.” Alex had seen Natalie unable to eat her toast that morning! “Now she can relax – till tomorrow, at least.”
“We’re not too busy here,” Jim said. “Why not take the afternoon off, and you can both do something with her last day of leisure?”
Alex didn’t need telling twice. He was stripped of his overalls before his dad had finished speaking and was soon on his way to join Natalie in the park, where she’d taken herself with baby William to recover from her moment in the spotlight.
Soon they were strolling hand in hand around the duck pond, Alex’s hand firmly on William’s reins as he tottered at the water’s edge.
“What’s up, Nats?” Sensitive to her every mood, Alex sensed that, despite the success of her interview, something was bothering his beloved wife.
“Oh, it’s nothing … only, Alex, Jackson made me think! What am I going to talk about to clients tomorrow? The weather? The pandemic? The life events they’ve missed?”
“The holidays they’re planning? The weddings they’re going to? Their triumphs and tragedies through this past year?” Alex countered. “Don’t worry, Natalie, everything will be fine – if nothing else, you can keep them entertained with stories of this one!”
He bent to take William up in his arms, his chubby legs having given out at his efforts to catch a duck, and the happy little family wended their way home to the flat above the salon, for a perfect evening of peace and quiet celebration before Natalie’s big day.
As promised, Polly was Natalie’s first client.
The elderly lady leaned back in her chair and gave a sigh of bliss as Natalie expertly massaged her head before moving on to rinse her hair in water that was the perfect temperature.
“It’s so lovely to be pampered like this,” she confided as Natalie warmed the shampoo in her hand before applying it to her scalp. “I really feel I can relax for once.”
“Have you been feeling stressed?” Natalie hid the surprise in her voice. Not that Polly might have felt stressed, but that she was willing to talk about it. She always wore such a determinedly cheerful face.
“Oh, it’s just things with Mike, you know,” Polly said as the water flowed around her. “He’s definitely getting more forgetful every day. This morning, I had to remind him that the milk lives in the fridge, not the washing-machine.”
Her chuckle was sad, and Natalie’s heart went out to her. What must it be like to slowly lose your partner of over sixty years to forgetfulness and age? Fresh at the beginning of her own marriage, she just couldn’t begin to imagine it.
“Is it getting a bit much for you?” Natalie asked gently.
“Not at all!” Polly’s eyes opened sharply. The soporific quality of the warm running water had dented her defences, but now she remembered where she was and who she was talking to. “And please don’t say anything to anyone, Natalie. Mike is fine – most of the time, anyway – and I don’t want Pinky worrying about her father.
“She has enough on her plate with her job at the school, and young Ruby to run after. Not to mention that Matty is getting to the awkward age.”
Natalie grinned. Matthew Clark – Alex’s younger brother – had just turned fourteen, and was all gangling limbs and squeaky voice at the moment. Yet he was young for his age in many ways, happy to play his computer games and to walk his dog Tyson, and still thick as thieves with Amanda next door. She couldn’t imagine him giving Pinky much hassle.
“Maybe not,” Polly agreed when Natalie voiced this. “But Jennifer is a worry. She should be getting ready to go off to university this autumn – she’s already deferred a year, but none of us can get her plans out of her.
“I’d hate to see her give up her academic dreams – she always wanted to study history, you know, but now all she can talk about is her job at the care home. I know she loves it there, but I do hope she’s making some sort of plans for the future…”
As Polly nattered on, Natalie suppressed a chuckle. It seemed Alex –and Jackson Jones – had been right. Her clients would never have nothing to chat about – and she would keep Polly’s confidences, of course, knowing that sharp-eyed Pinky would already be sensitive to her mother and father’s needs.
But she, too, wondered what Jennifer’s long-term plans were. Alex’s eighteen-year-old sister was a constant visitor at the flat, drawn by her sister-in-law’s easy friendship and the charms of her little nephew. But Polly was right – she hadn’t talked much about her future lately.
Maybe it was time to draw her out…
But meanwhile, she must concentrate on her current client, who was now obviously keen to change the subject from her family worries.
“So, Polly,” she said. “I know you’ve not been anywhere this year, but do tell me about your favourite ever holiday…”
Join us next month to discover just what Jennifer is up to in more adventures from The Wadhams.