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.
Just as they were planning their Lockdown wedding, Natalie went into labour a little earlier than expected and so Polly and Mike are now proud great-grandparents of baby William! But will Alex and Natalie manage to squeeze in their wedding before the second Lockdown?
“Right, that’s the last one!” Jennifer Clark looked up from the pumpkin she was carving, waving the knife dangerously around as she beamed at her mum, Pinky. “I didn’t think they’d take so long, but I think they’re worth it.”
“Oh, darling, they look lovely!” Pinky bent closer to the worktop to admire the dozen large pumpkins that Jennifer had spent all yesterday evening and this morning working on.
Unlike the massive, monstrous creation that was currently grinning wickedly from their front doorstep in preparation for Hallowe’en that evening, Jennifer’s pumpkins were carved with hearts and flowers so intricate that the overall effect was almost filigree. Lit from within with tealights, they would look perfect at Alex and Natalie’s wedding venue.
“Ready?” Jim Clark bustled into the kitchen with Alex, who’d stayed the night at the family home in order to keep to the tradition of not seeing his bride on the morning of the wedding. “We’ll get these loaded into the car and off to the Woodlands.”
“They’ve already phoned twice about them,” Alex commented. “You do believe in taking things to the wire, don’t you, Jen?” he teased his sister.
“A bit like yourself!” she retorted witheringly. “Another week, and you’d have had to forget the wedding altogether.”
“Yeah, wouldn’t have been good.” Alex shrugged. “But it didn’t happen, so now it’s happening – or it will be, if we get a move on, Dad.”
The two men swiftly packed the pumpkins into the crates they’d arrived in, then hefted them easily into their arms and departed, leaving Pinky and Jennifer to survey the detritus.
“We’ll be eating pumpkin soup for weeks.” Pinky laughed.
“Ugh! Not likely!” Jennifer pulled out a bin bag and began scooping up the fleshy orange mess her efforts had left behind. “This lot’s going in the bin, then we’d better get moving, too. It’s nearly eleven o’clock and we’ve all to get showered and dressed to be at the venue at two!”
“Eek!” Pinky shrieked. “Thank goodness your grandma and grandpa have offered to get Ruby ready. I’ll go and get my shower now, then Matty can have his. Where is he by the way?”
“Gone to take some pumpkin to next-door’s rabbit.” Jennifer rolled her eyes. Her 13-year-old brother was animal daft, and even with a dog and two cats of his own, never missed an opportunity to slip over and visit his pal Amanda’s rabbit, Domino.
“Right, well when he comes back, tell him to get showered, and go and get yourself ready, too. Give me a shout when you’re ready for me to pin your hair up – honestly, where’s the hairdresser of the family when you need her!”
Oblivious to the chaos over at her groom’s home, the hairdresser of the family was sitting at her home, enjoying a leisurely glass of bubbly with her friend and bridesmaid Suzi while her mum Carol entertained eight-week old William.
Just then, her phone rang.
“Hello, darling.” Her father Eric’s face appeared on screen. Natalie regarded him, puzzled. It looked as if he was sitting in his front room in Glasgow when he should have been over half way to the wedding hotel. The ceremony was just three hours from now!
“Dad, what’s going on? Why aren’t you travelling right now?”
“Oh for goodness’s sake, Eric.” Carol stooped behind Natalie and nearly poked her finger through the phone’s screen. “What are you playing at?”
“I’m so sorry,” Eric said, and for the first time Natalie noticed that his voice sounded croaky and sore. “I meant to phone earlier but I’ve been up half the night, and I fell asleep again at five and only just woke up.
“I’m not feeling good at all. I won’t be able to come to your wedding.”
His face crumpled and disappeared, to be replaced by that of his second wife Janice.
“I’m afraid Eric may have the lurgy,” she said in her soft Scottish accent. “His symptoms just came on through the night. We can’t possibly travel.”
“And you didn’t think to tell us sooner!” Carol screeched.
“I’m sorry.” Janice looked stressed. “I’ve been on the computer all morning, trying to book him a test. I thought he’d let you know – I didn’t realise he was still in bed.”
“Well, great!” Carol stormed. “Who’s going to give Natalie away now?”
“Mum, it’s OK,” Natalie interrupted before her mum could go off on one of her rants. “Janice, tell Dad not to worry.”
“He’s so upset,” Janice confided. “He was looking forward to walking you down the aisle.”
“Hmmph!” Carol snorted as Natalie ended the call with reassurances to her stepmother that everything would be fine and she’d send loads of photographs. “I might have known he’d let you down at the last minute. He always does. What are you doing now?” she carried on, as Natalie picked the phone up again.
“Calling Rhi,” Natalie said. There was a wobble in her voice, but she quickly mastered it. Her dad didn’t sound too ill, and she wasn’t going to let his absence spoil her day. As Carol had so tactlessly pointed out, she was used to him letting her down. “There are two spare spaces at the wedding so at least I can have my other best friend and her partner there now. Silver linings and all that …”
She bent to pick up her little son, burying her face in his soft cheeks so that Carol and Suzi wouldn’t see her sudden tears.
Back at the Clark/Wadham home, time ticked on but pandemonium still reigned with the discovery that Matty had gone missing! By now he should have been showered and dressed in his best man’s outfit, ready to support his brother on the most important day of his life.
Grandpa Mike had just been despatched to the garden fence to call to their neighbours to see if they knew where he’d gone when he suddenly appeared, muddy and breathless with a tearful Amanda in tow!
“Matty! Where have you been? Oh never mind, get in the shower right now.”
“I can’t, Mum, I have to help Amanda. Domino’s gone missing. We’ve been looking for him for hours but we can’t find him. We have to keep looking.”
“Oh no!” Pinky shook her head firmly. “I’m sorry, Matty, but it’s your brother’s wedding day. You can’t spend time chasing down a rabbit.”
“But, Mum – !”
“It’s OK, Matty, I’ll get my dads to help me look.” Amanda sniffed bravely.
“But – ”
“Matty! Shower! Now!”
Matty gave in – Pinky very rarely raised her voice but when she did, he knew she meant business.
But despite a good wash and scrub up, and the finery he donned, he still looked miserable as they set off for the ceremony. Not even his brother’s best-man present of a grown-up pair of cufflinks could cheer him up.
Pinky sighed. Carol had just phoned with the news about Natalie’s dad. She crossed her fingers that nothing else would go wrong.
The small room where the wedding was to take place looked beautiful. The hotel had created a central aisle with half a dozen chairs on either side, and had closed the curtains and dimmed the lights so that the pumpkin lanterns shone beautifully, casting a soft glow on the small assembly of guests gathered to celebrate Alex and Natalie’s big day.
The groom stood proud and tall at the top of the aisle, Matty by his side, bravely smiling though his eyes still looked miserable.
Pinky, Jim, Polly and Mike had just sat down with little Ruby, waving to Natalie’s and Alex’s friends opposite them, and wondering where Carol and baby William were, when Carol herself dashed in and unceremoniously plonked William on Pinky’s lap before running out again.
Pinky raised her eyes at Polly. Before she could say anything, music began to play.
But it wasn’t the strains of Ellie Goulding’s As Long As I Love You that rang out. It was the theme tune to South Park!
“Oops!” Matty started guiltily as he pulled his phone from his pocket and answered it, despite his mother’s frantic signals to turn it off.
“It’s Amanda!” he yelled, turning to his family. “She’s found Domino – he was right at the back of the holly bush.”
He turned back to his phone just as Alex firmly plucked it from his hands and turned it off.
Then both brothers beamed with joy, though for very different reasons, as the correct music rang out and Natalie began to make her way up the aisle on the arm of her mother. Bridesmaids Suzi and Jennifer followed a demure distance behind.
How lovely and appropriate, Pinky thought, wiping a tear from her eye. Carol might be the most annoying woman on the planet but she’d brought up her lovely young daughter single-handedly, and it was right and fitting she should be the one to give her away.
She clasped Jim’s hand tightly, remembering their own wedding day, when her father had whispered words of love and encouragement as he released his only daughter at the altar.
Mike, though, wasn’t thinking of that day. His mind had travelled back all the way to 1960, and to another bride who had walked down the aisle to spend the rest of her life by his side. Small, red-haired – just like her daughter Pinky – and more gorgeous, loving and kind than anything he’d ever deserved.
He turned to her, white-haired now but still, in his eyes, the most beautiful woman in the world, and bent to kiss her gently. At the front of the room, his elder grandson prepared to make his own life-long vows to his chosen bride.
If Alex and Natalie were half as happy as he and Polly had been, they’d be a very lucky couple, he decided, pulling out an oversize hankie and pretending to blow his nose. Very lucky indeed.
Join us next month for more adventures with Life and the Wadhams: The Next Generation