BY KAREN BYROM
We’re delighted to bring you a new series 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…
If you missed the first instalment of our new series, read it here, then come back and enjoy instalment 2 below…
It was a typical morning at No. 19a Grove Crescent – as usual, Alex was up with the lark and whistling as he showered, while Natalie lay in bed, duvet pulled firmly around her ears. She was emphatically not a morning person!
Sadly for her, Alex refused to make allowances for her reluctance to rise.
“Come on, lazybones, rise and shine!” he yelled, coming back into the bedroom. “It’s a beautiful day and there’s plenty to do!”
“Like what?” Natalie grumped, one eye squinting against the light as her tousled head emerged from the bedclothes.
Alex paused, considering.
“Well, you could get online and start looking for ideas for decorating the spare room,” he said. “It won’t be long now before we need it.” He threw himself on the bed and tenderly rubbed her slightly swelling stomach.
Natalie snuggled her head into the crook on his elbow. “Halfway there already. And I’ve finally stopped feeling sick.” She sighed, and reached for the small black and white photograph on the bedside cabinet. “It looks more like a baby and less of a blob now, don’t you think? Should we have asked if it’s a boy or a girl?”
For the hundredth time, Alex gazed at the printed outline of his progeny-to-be, trying to make sense of what looked for all the world to him like a deformed tadpole.
“I don’t think even the radiologist could have told us, looking at this! We’ll just have to paint the nursery in blue and pink stripes.”
“Uh-huh!” Natalie shook her head firmly. “It’s going to be light grey – that’s what all the books recommend for a baby’s nursery.”
“Grey! It’ll look like some dreary old industrial office. I was thinking more a cheerful yellow. Or white – that’s always a good blank canvas.”
“I want grey,” Natalie said firmly.
“Well, I don’t,” Alex said equally obstinately. “Grey is a depressing colour. It will make me feel I’m at the garage 24 hours a day. Talking of which – ” he jumped from the bed. “Better get a move on or I’ll be late. What are you going to get up to today?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Natalie considered. “Shopping downtown, a trip to the cinema, maybe I’ll meet Jan for lunch. I wish …” She sighed. “I’ll probably Facetime the family then go online like you said, and look for grey paint.”
“Yellow,” he retorted.
“Grey!” she yelled at his retreating back as he exited the bedroom. “Honestly, how can anyone be so stubborn!”
Two hours later, with Alex gone to the family garage – still open to motorists with emergencies – Natalie banged down the cover of the laptop with frustration.
Grey, white, yellow, pink with blue polka-dots – she wasn’t going to be able to buy paint today or any time soon if the websites she visited were anything to go by. The best had put her 987th in a queue of people all eager to do home improvements.
Sighing, she gazed around the tiny flat. She and Alex had been so lucky to be offered it at a bargain rent, and to get moved in just before lockdown, but there was no denying it needed plenty done to it. The previous tenants’ taste had stretched to the exotic and the sitting-room walls were a profusion of tropical flowers that did actually hurt the eye if you gazed at them long enough. She and Alex’s bedroom was painted a vivid purple, and the bathroom was done out in oranges and yellows. At least the suite was white, she reflected with a slight shudder.
The plan had been for Alex’s large and noisy family to pitch and help them redecorate, but that had been put on hold, of course…
Never mind – just the thought of the happy household at No. 23 Elderslie Terrace was enough to lift Natalie’s spirits. An only child, she didn’t even have her mum to turn to at the moment – she’d Facetime her in-laws-to-be group, she decided. Alex’s sister Jennifer could always cheer her up.
One by one, their faces appeared on the screen as they picked up their phones and tablets – 17-year-old Jennifer in her bedroom, Alex’s mum Pinky in the lounge, his grandma Polly beside her, holding wriggling toddler Ruby. Grandpa Mike was nowhere to be seen for now, and of course Jim was at the garage with Alex. But even young Matty appeared on screen – it looked like he was in the kitchen – and from the state of his face, he’d been raiding the chocolate biscuit barrel!
“Natalie!” Pinky smiled in pleasure while little Ruby jumped and down in her grandma’s lap. “What a nice surprise. How are you?”
“Bored!” Natalie said honestly. “Fed-up! And I want to kill Alex!”
“What’s he done?” Jennifer asked gleefully just as Matty finished chewing his biscuit and spluttered though a mouthful of crumbs, “Why?” and Polly exclaimed “Oh dear!”
“One at a time,” Pinky counselled as Matty disappeared from view and returned waving a wooden spoon. “Me first, I’ve got the talking spoon!”
“Not fair!” Jennifer wailed “You were in the kitchen.”
“Snooze, you lose.” Matty grinned. “Natalie, look at Tyson …” He moved his phone so she could see the small Jack Russell sitting patiently by his side. “Do you think he needs a haircut? I think he does, but I can’t take him to the groomers, and Dad won’t let me use his clippers and – ”
“Never mind Tyson – ” Jennifer interrupted.
“You don’t have the spoon!” Matty roared.
“I’ve got the talking hairbrush!” Jennifer waved an oversize paddle brush in the air. “And I want Natalie’s advice about my hair, it’s more important than –”
“Mum! Tell her I’ve got the spoon!” Matty shouted indignantly.
Overcome with laughter, Natalie could only wait until Pinky had picked up Ruby’s fairy wand and waved it threateningly in the direction of her elder offsprings’ screen faces.
“Both of you, come into the sitting-room and we can take turns having a civilised conversation without taking Natalie’s ear off.”
“OK,” There was a joint response then the sound of tramping feet as Jennifer and Matty disappeared, to reappear with the familiar sitting-room walls behind them.
“I’ve still got the spoon!” Matty yelled gleefully, as his sister made a swipe for it.
Natalie held up her own spoon in reply. “Matty, don’t touch Tyson’s coat. It’s not too bad honestly – at least he’s not a poodle or a Shih-Tzu.”
“A what? Did you swear?” Mike had appeared on the screen behind Polly, and his innocent remark had the whole family dissolved in laughter again.
“It’s a breed of dog, Grandpa,” Jennifer explained, snatching the talking spoon from her brother. “Natalie, do you think I’d suit a fringe? I was thinking I could try it out.”
“Jennifer, don’t touch your hair,” Natalie warned. “Remember what happened last time.”
Jennifer blushed, remembering the disastrous time she’d tried to turn her red locks blonde. “OK, but I’m fed up of it.”
“What have you all been up to?” Natalie asked.
Solemnly, the spoon was passed from hand to hand.
“Walking Tyson and playing on the computer,” Matty said. “But Mum’s making me do schoolwork, too.”
“I’m not doing any studying,” Jennifer confided. “The exams are cancelled, but hopefully my teachers should recommend good grades for me. Me and Grandma have been knitting – ” In confirmation, Polly held up a pair of pins from which dangled a delicate lacy square, destined to be a scarf. “Hey, maybe I could knit something for the baby – I’ve got a couple of balls of yellow wool.”
Natalie groaned. Was the whole Clark family fixated on yellow?
“I’ve been baking,” Pinky said. “I made a chocolate cake this morning. I wish you could have some.”
“Oh if only I could bake!” Natalie exclaimed. “But Alex can’t get flour anywhere.”
“Oh no, and I’ve just used up the last of mine!” Pinky exclaimed. “Or I would have given Jim some to pass to Alex to give to you. I didn’t know you enjoyed baking, Natalie.”
“Oh, yes, me and Mum loved to bake,” Natalie confided.
“How is your mum?” Mike yelled. No-one could abuse him of his impression that you had to shout at the screen to be heard.
“Still quarantining in the hotel since she managed to get a flight back from Durban,” Natalie said. Her mother had been travelling abroad when the coronavirus outbreak struck. “She’s hoping to get back to her own house soon. But I still won’t be able to see her,” she added disconsolately.
“No, you mustn’t take chances,” Pinky agreed. “Never mind, darling, this can’t go on forever – we’ll have such a party when it’s over.”
“With orange juice for you!” Jennifer teased. “Unless the baby’s here by that time!”
At this outrageous suggestion that lockdown would go on so long, Jennifer was roundly shouted down by her own family, and Natalie signed off, laughing and feeling more cheerful than she had in a long time. The present situation wouldn’t go on forever, and she and Alex had all the time in the world to sort their home and build their little family. Time to get back online and queue again for that grey paint…
Then her phone rang…
Teatime rolled round at last and Alex came home from work, peering around the front door, an expression of mock anxiety on his face, hands clasped behind his back, hiding something.
“What have you got there?” Natalie asked.
“Peace offering?” Alex shrugged. “To make up for our wee colour clash this morning.”
“Flowers?” Natalie guessed.
“Better than that!” Alex produced his booty with a flourish.
“Flour!” Natalie squealed, and dived into her fiancé’s arms, nearly bursting the precious bag of flour in the process. “Where did you get it? Oh, never mind – you’ve got it, that’s the main thing. I can make a cake for Mum now!”
“Your mum?” Alex was bewildered.
“Yes, she called at lunchtime. She can’t go home as her tenants can’t move out of her house yet – they’ve nowhere to go. She’s been quarantined, so there’s no danger of her bringing us the virus, so she can come here. Isn’t that great?”
“Great,” Alex echoed.
They’d just got their own home – and now they were being asked to share it…
Join us again next month, June 11, for more adventures with The Wadhams: The Next Generation.
We hope you’re enjoying this new series of Life & The Wadhams – look out for an instalment every month. And of course, don’t forget you can read the very first Wadhams story from 1961 here.
You can also enjoy more of E.M. Holland’s original stories from the 1960s in Life and the Wadhams, The Best of the 60s, a collection of 30 stories following Mike and Polly from their days as newly-weds to parents of a happy family of three. It’s available for our shop now!