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. They’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first baby in September. But first they have to get through lockdown …
After a long, hard day at the family garage where he worked as a mechanic with his father Jim, Alex Clark was looking forward to getting home.
19a Grove Crescent would be an oasis of calm after the day he’d had, of MOT after MOT interspersed with emergency repairs as more and more motorists took to the roads again.
He sniffed the air in anticipation as he opened the lower door to the stairs leading up to the flat. Natalie wasn’t working at the moment, and he’d got used to coming home to his tea on the table – a luxury he’d never imagined before Lockdown days!
Still, they did miss her income … just as he was missing the usual aroma of mouth-watering smells …
Hearing the front door open and shut, Natalie looked up from the computer she’d been hunched over.
“Oh Lord, is that the time? I haven’t even thought about the tea.”
“I should beat you with a big stick,” Alex joked. “What have you been doing all day, woman, while I’ve been out earning our living?”
“Haha! Watching daytime telly and painting my nails, of course.” Natalie joined in his banter. “Actually, that is what I’ve been doing most of the day …”
“You really are turning into a 1950s housewife.” Alex grinned.
“Not at all!” Natalie retorted. “I’d have been beating carpets, bleaching the sink and pushing sheets through the mangle if that was the case. If I wasn’t hiding my head under the blankets at the shame of living in sin, that is!”
“Oh-kay – we’re back on that again, are we?” Alex sighed. “I thought we agreed to wait until life was back to normal before we started planning the wedding.”
“I know we did.” Natalie pouted. “But since this latest announcement that all wedding receptions are off again, I’m beginning to think we’ll never get married!
I just feel if we set a date, we’ll have something to look forward to and plan for, so I’ve been looking up venues online to get some ideas of what we’d like. If we aim for, say, August or September next year, we could book it now.”
Alex sighed inwardly. He wanted to marry Natalie, of course he did, especially since their baby was due in around four weeks’ time, but like most men, he wasn’t too interested in the ins and outs of wedding planning.
However, he knew better than to say anything – her advanced pregnancy was making Natalie increasingly hormonal, and the last thing he wanted was to set off tears in the woman he adored.
“Tell you what,” he said. “I’ll nip out for fish and chips, then we can have a look at some places together.”
“And make a guest list,” Natalie said eagerly. “The venue we choose will depend on numbers.”
Two hours later, sated with fish and chips, Natalie and Alex looked at each other and down at their list in something approaching horror.
“Ninety people!” Alex groaned. “How on earth do we know ninety people?”
“Well if your family weren’t so large …” Natalie retorted.
“Yours isn’t much better!” Alex shot back. “How did I not know you had all those aunts, uncles and cousins?”
“They’re mostly my dad’s side of the family.” Natalie sighed. “But he’ll expect them all to be invited.”
“That’s not going to go down well with your mum. Will she even be happy that he’ll be at the wedding?”
“She’ll have to put up with it. He’s my dad, and even though I don’t see much of him since he moved to Glasgow, he’ll expect to be there. With his new family.”
She reflected on her much younger half-sister and brother, Catriona and Nairn, who, truth to tell, she barely knew.
“I just hope Mum manages to be civil to Janice. And to Dad,” she added. “Oh dear, this is all turning into a bit of a minefield, isn’t it?”
“It is,” Alex agreed. “What’s more, it’s going to cost a fortune. I don’t know that we can afford all this now that …” He bit his tongue.
“Now that I’m not getting full wages,” Natalie finished for him. “It’s not my fault I haven’t been able to work for months, you know. Nor is it wholly my fault that I’m pregnant and can’t go back to the salon until after the baby’s born.”
“I know!” Alex held up his hands placatingly. “And I don’t want you anywhere near the salon.
“I just wish we had a bit more in savings – if we have a wedding on this scale, we’ll be paying it off for at least a year, and we won’t be able to save any sort of deposit for a house.
“I really think we need to wait at least another year after this before we start wedding planning.”
“Or there is another way,” Natalie said slowly.
“Well, what’s most important to you – the wedding ceremony or the reception?”
“Natalie, the only thing that matters to me is you and our baby, you know that.”
“Well, in that case …”
The Wadham and Clark family were at home en masse when Natalie dropped in on them the following day. The good weather was holding and they were all out in the garden.
Alex’s mum Pinky was getting on with the weeding while his seventeen-year-old sister Jennifer amused little Ruby by pushing her on her swing, but both abandoned their chores willingly to join Natalie at the large patio table where Alex’s grandparents Mike and Polly sat in the shade of the patio umbrella.
From over the fence, Natalie could hear Alex’s younger brother Matty and his best friend Amanda planning some sort of mischief, and she called over a hello which brought a cheerful hi back. There was a welcoming bark from Tyson, the Jack Russell who was always at Matty’s side.
As Mike ambled off to make tea, Jennifer filled Natalie in on her latest news.
“I’ve got the date for my driving test,” she said. “So in two weeks’ time I’ll be able to take you wherever you want to go.”
Natalie had to laugh at the teenager’s supreme confidence that she would of course pass her test, and that the family’s second car would be entirely at her disposal.
“But won’t you be off to uni soon?” she asked.
Jennifer shook her head. “I’ve decided to defer my place. I know I’ve got the grades and I’ve thought it about a lot, and I think it just won’t be the same starting now. Plus, I’m not sure I want to study history any more.”
“Really?” Natalie was astonished. As long as she’d known Jennifer, her ambition had been to study history or archaeology at university. She looked at Pinky and Polly, wondering if this was news to them, too. “What will you do then? Work in the antiques shop full time?”
Jennifer shook her head. “I have plans, but I need to sort them out in my head first.”
“And you need to discuss them with me, lady!” Pinky said forbiddingly.
Oops – looked like there was trouble looming.
“I’ve got news, too!” Natalie exclaimed, hoping to head it off at the pass. “Alex and I have set a date for the wedding.”
“No!” Pinky was immediately diverted. “When?”
“October the thirty-first.”
A Halloween wedding! How lovely,” Polly said. “The next year will fly in.”
“Not next year, this year.” Natalie sat back, pleased with the bombshell she’d dropped. The heat was definitely off Jennifer now!
“But … you can’t plan a wedding for this year,” Jennifer said. “Guests aren’t even allowed just now.”
“Exactly! Alex and I have decided it’s the perfect way to keep costs down. If we just have your immediate family – that includes you and Grandpa Mike, of course,” she said, turning to Polly – “plus my mum and my dad, and our friends Kev and Suzi, that will be the ten we’re allowed at church.
“I don’t think anyone will count Ruby – though she will be a flower girl, and I hope you’ll be our bridesmaid, Jennifer.
“No one else can be offended that they’re not invited – and Alex and I will be married this year, just as we wanted.”
Amid the stunned silence, Polly began to laugh. “Oh, Natalie, you and Alex are just like Pinky and Jim, and me and Mike before them. None of us had big weddings – we were all far too sensible to want to spend too much money.”
“And too much in love to wait.” Mike had rejoined them outside, and now took Polly’s hand. “Though you had to wait for an engagement ring, didn’t you? I always felt bad about that.”
“You’ve always been an old romantic, Dad,” Pinky said. “Remember how you refused to let me have a second-hand dress – you accepted I didn’t want a big wedding, but you were determined I was going to look like a princess on the day.”
“Oh my goodness, a dress!” Polly exclaimed. “You and your mum will have to start shopping, Natalie. Is she super-excited?”
“I haven’t told her yet.” Natalie grimaced. “I think she might be a little disappointed that we’re not having a huge do – but she’ll come round.”
“Actually you’re going to have more than ten guests,” Jennifer pointed out. “Your baby will be here next month.”
“Oh they won’t count the baby -” Natalie began, then clutched at her stomach as if Jennifer’s words had reminded her that soon she Alex would be a family of three.
“Actually, I think … it might be here before then.” She let out a light groan. “Because this feels like more than a Braxton Hicks …”
Join us again next month for more adventure with Life and the Wadhams: The Next Generation.
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