The Wadhams: What’s In A Name?

Pastel illustration of young mum smiling at sleeping baby boy in her arms

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 pregnant fiancée Natalie in the flat above the antique shop his grandfather used to own. Just as they were planning their lockdown wedding, Natalie went into labour a little earlier than expected …

A soft mewl from the Moses basket in the corner of the sitting-room of their little flat brought Natalie from her light doze on the sofa, where she’d settled for a quick mid-morning nap.

Tenderly, she bent to gaze at the little bundle securely cocooned in the heirloom shawl that had been worn by grandmother Pinky Wadham when she was a baby. Knitted by great-gran Polly, it had served all the Wadhams’ children and grandchildren. It even had its own photo album, with pictures of babies from Pinky’s elder brother Jonathan down to her younger daughter Ruby proudly displayed.

Now Ruby was two years old and already an auntie – though she, like the rest of the family had so far only seen the baby on Facetime.

The little one stirred, snuffled and emitted a light snore. Good, Natalie thought – she could go back to sleep for a little longer. She’d been in and out of the hospital in just a couple of days, and still felt tired, sore… and, truth be told a little anxious at this whole new responsibility she and Alex faced.

Just as she pulled the throw back over herself, a light rap at the door brought her back to her feet. She hurried to answer it before the baby could be disturbed.

“Only me!” Alex’s sister Jennifer beamed with delight from behind the fluffiness of a large toy hippo. “They asked me in to work today, so I’m just downstairs. Margery said I could take my break now, so I thought I’d nip up. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Of course not.”

Natalie had been expecting Jennifer to appear at some point. She’d worked at the antiques shop below the flat as a Saturday girl for two years, and now that she’d left school, she’d been picking up extra hours there while deciding her future plans.

“You’re our first official visitor,” she said, greeting Jennifer with an elbow bump.

“Am I really?” Jennifer was wide-eyed with excitement at the honour.

“Well, Mum’s been round, of course,” Natalie acknowledged. “She wanted to move back in for a week or so, but Alex and I agreed we’d prefer to get on with things ourselves. She’ll be over later this afternoon. To tell me what I’m doing wrong, no doubt,” she added with a wry smile.

“Where is Alex?” Jennifer looked around.

“He’s gone to help out your dad at the garage for a couple of hours.” Natalie settled back down on to the settee and indicated Jennifer should sit on the armchair. “He’s officially on paternity leave, but Jim’s so busy just now. And me and the little one are fine on our own for a wee while.”

Her words brushed over Jennifer, as did the implication she should take a seat. Already she was over by the Moses basket, gazing down in awe and wonder at her new baby nephew.

“Oh, Natalie,” she breathed, “he’s gorgeous. Oh, please, can I hold him?”

Natalie looked around as if the walls might have ears or eyes.

“OK – but go and wash your hands first. There’s sanitiser in the bathroom, too. And don’t tell your mum,” she called after Jennifer’s retreating back. “She’s officially next in line for a cuddle.”

In the time it took to sing Happy Birthday twice, Jennifer was back in the room and cuddling her nephew close.

“He’s so sweet,” she cooed. “And he smells divine. Oh, I could eat him up.”

“He’s so noisy!” Natalie countered. “and he doesn’t always smell so divine, believe me! Do you, smelly Simon?”

She wriggled her nose fondly at her offspring.

“So you settled on Simon as a name then?” Jennifer asked. “I thought Alex wasn’t that keen.”

Natalie sighed. “He was OK about it until Mum put him off.”

Natalie’s mum Carol’s tactless reaction to the news her first grandchild would be called Simon had been to hoot with laughter and declare that they were saddling him with the nickname Simple Simon for the rest of his life! What’s more, she’d been calling him Simple Simon since the day she picked him up for the first time.

There was no malice intended – she genuinely thought she was being funny, but the joke was wearing thin and truth to tell, she’d put Natalie off the name now, too.

“We’ve still got plenty time to register the birth, so we may change our minds,” she confided now.

“Great! We can have a name party, like we did when Ruby was born.” Jennifer grinned. “Between us, we’re bound to come up with something. Oliver’s a lovely name …”

“So lovely that half the baby boys in the country are called it,” Natalie countered. “No, we have a couple of other ideas up our sleeve. Anyway, never mind that now. Tell me what you’re up to. You hinted that you had plans when I saw you the last time.”

“I do.” Just freshly turned eighteen, Jennifer should have been getting ready to go and study history at university, but had decided against it. “I’m deferring my place at St Andrews for a year and I’m going to work at St Francis’s.”

“The care home?” Natalie was astonished. Jennifer had shown no interest in a career working with old folk before now.

The younger girl flushed slightly. “I know, it sounds mad. But Natalie, ever since all this trouble with Covid started, I’ve wanted to do something to help. I’ve watched all those news reports about old people not getting their family visiting, and worse, even dying alone, and I need to do something.

“I’m young, I’m fit and I’m lucky to have my own grandparents living right above me. But when I think that they could be in that situation, it breaks my heart.”

“So you want to pass something on …” Natalie nodded in understanding.

“I knew you’d get it,” Jennifer exclaimed. “Mum and Dad aren’t too keen – they think I should get on with my studies. But I’m not changing my mind, and I’ve applied to be a care assistant at the home.

“I’ll get training on the job and though I’ve no experience, I have kind of played up looking after Grandma and Grandpa …”

“Like they need looking after!” Natalie scoffed. Octogenarians they might be, and Jennifer’s grandpa had had his share of ill-health, but Mike and Polly Wadham were now as fit as fiddles. “What are they saying about it?”

“They both think it’s a good idea,” Jennifer said. “Grandpa jokes I’ll be a natural as I’m used to looking after old things in the shop.

“I’m hoping I’ll still be able to put some hours in there,” she added. “Grandpa’s so proud that although he no longer owns it, he still has a family connection through me being there.”

“Now,” she changed the subject as the baby began to whimper and his mother took him into her own arms to feed him, “what about the wedding? Is it still on for October 31?”

Natalie sighed. “Truth to tell, I haven’t thought about it. This little one arriving so unexpectedly had thrown any hope I had off getting things organised.

“I’d love for it to happen, especially now numbers are up to thirty and we can invite a few more folk without breaking the bank. But I don’t see how I’m going to find time to plan it.”

Jennifer grinned impishly. “Leave it with me! Ceremony, reception, photographer, flowers, cake – I think I can manage to organise that little lot, especially as I won’t be starting at St Francis until I get my disclosure, which could take weeks. Consider it sorted! All you have to worry about is your dress! Right, back to work I go – ” She leaned over to drop a final kiss on her nephew’s head. “Tell Alex I’ll see him later.”

She whirled out the door, leaving Natalie to smile happily as she nursed her baby.

Jennifer was a force of nature. This wedding was going to happen. But before they said I do, she and Alex had to settle on a name for their son.

The faces of the various Wadhams and Clark households were a picture as Alex and Natalie held up the baby in front of their laptop for them all to admire.

“We’re coming over tomorrow, Mum,” Alex said, to Pinky’s delight.

“Oh, I can’t wait to see him! If only I could hold him. Your mum is so lucky, Natalie. But I’ll be next!”

Natalie cast a warning glance over at Jennifer, who smirked but only said, “I can come and pick you up if you like.”

“Not likely,” Alex growled. His sister may have passed her driving test, but he wasn’t entrusting his precious son to her motoring skills. “We’ll be over around eleven and you can finally meet William in person.”

“William!” the family shrieked in unison.

“What happened to Simon?” Pinky asked.

“We’ve decided we prefer William,” Natalie explained. “It’s a lovely name, and we can shorten it to Will.”

“Or Bill!” Alex’s younger brother Matty interrupted gleefully. “Silly Billy, ha-ha!”

Alex and Natalie glared at him, then turned to each other and sighed. It looked like they were back at square one.

Join us next month for more adventures with The Wadhams: The Next Generation.