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. After the arrival of baby William, they finally managed to have their Lockdown wedding, and are now making plans for Christmas.
Alex Clark had never been so glad to get home to 19a Grove Crescent, where his new wife and baby son awaited him after a long hard day working at the garage. It seemed everyone wanted their vehicle checked over and MOTed before Christmas – Alex was just surprised that Santa hadn’t turned up to have his sleigh serviced.
“It’s because people are on the move at last,” his dad Jim said wearily as they finally shut up shop. “Everyone’s taking the chance to go and see their family at Christmas – and who can blame them?”
Alex didn’t – but he was glad that he himself wouldn’t be going any further than the big old family home at No. 23 Elderslie Terrace, where his parents, brother and sisters lived in an extended family with his grandparents, Mike and Polly Wadham. He, Natalie and baby William, along with Natalie’s single mum Carol, would be their guests on Christmas Day – and he couldn’t wait. Much as he loved his cosy little family unit, he was looking forward to spending time with everyone, showing off William to his doting great-grandparents and grandparents, and generally chilling out with a beer and good company, in the warmth of indoors!
He closed the door of the flat gently behind him, and sniffed the air appreciatively as the smell of lasagne wafted down the tiny hallway. He found Natalie in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches to a salad garnish.
“I’ll lay the table, will I?” he offered, after a long, satisfying embrace.
“All done,” Natalie said softly. “William settled down early, so I’ve had the chance to get properly organised, for once. Just go through, and I’ll serve up dinner in a moment.”
After a quick peep in the bedroom to gaze at his button-nosed son, fast asleep in his cot, and a visit to the bathroom to wash his hands and face, Alex wandered into the sitting-room, where he discovered to his surprise the lights were dimmed, candles were lit on the tiny table, and his favourite music was playing through Alexa.
Hmm? What was Natalie up to?
“That was so good!” Alex pushed his plate away and sat back, hands on stomach as he contemplated his pretty wife. “What’s for afters?” He winked suggestively, and Natalie laughed.
But a light wail from the bedroom foiled their romantic plans, and soon they were cuddled up on the sofa as Alex had planned, but with a 12-week-old gurgling bundle of joy between them.
William regarded his father sleepily then extended a podgy hand.
“Look!” Alex was enthralled. “He wants to hold my hand.” He allowed the baby’s fingers to curl gently around his own, large work-roughened paw and gazed at Natalie with shining eyes.
She wasn’t quite sure her son’s action had been deliberate – but she wasn’t ready to let an opportunity slip.
“Aw, he loves his Daddy,” she said softly.
“And I love him,” Alex declared unashamedly. “I can’t imagine life without him.”
“No,” Natalie agreed. “You two have such a special bond. I bet you can’t wait for Christmas morning, to wake him up and show him all his toys.”
“It’ll be the best Christmas ever,” Alex agreed. “Us all together, for the whole day.”
“There’s something about fathers and Christmas,” Natalie went on. “They get all mellow and gooey about everything – even my dad … He always made Christmas extra-special for me.”
Oh-oh! A warning light went on in Alex’s head.
“When he was around,” he said shortly.
“He’s sorry about that now,” Natalie went on. “And he’s so sad he missed our wedding. He wants to make it up to us, and he is dying to see William in the flesh, not just in photos and on Facetime videos.”
There was no point in any more prevaricating. “He wants us to go up to Glasgow for Christmas,” she finished in a rush. “And… I’d really like to.”
“But – but what about my mum and dad?” Alex expostulated. “What about your mum? They’re all looking forward to William’s first Christmas. And they’ve hardly seen him in recent weeks. Why should we go trailing up to Glasgow just because your dad has suddenly remembered he has a first family!”
The baby jumped in Alex’s arms and he lowered his voice immediately. “Sorry, Natalie, but it’s just not on.”
She looked back at him steadily.
“I get it. You love William and want to be with him as much as possible, watching him grow from day to day. And you can – and so can your mum and dad, and my mum, even if it’s got to be outside again after Christmas. But Dad has never even seen him – and this might be his only chance till spring. And that’s so far away.
“Oh, Alex, can’t you give him a second chance, for my sake? Glasgow’s not that far. We can go on Christmas Eve and come back Boxing Day, then spend the 27th with your mum and my mum.”
Alex looked down at his son. Natalie had neatly exposed his emotions. He couldn’t imagine leaving him, the way Eric had left Natalie when she was still young, but he knew how sorry and ashamed he would be, and how much he’d want to make it up to him if he had.
Maybe Eric did deserve a second chance.
“We’re not supposed to swap bubbles,” Alex said gruffly, but already Natalie knew the battle was won.
Pinky put down her mobile with a sigh that reached her mother Polly’s sharp ears as she was putting the finishing touches to the tree in the living-room, “helped” along by Ruby, her littlest grandchild, who was just two years older than her baby nephew William.
“I take it Alex and Natalie have changed their Christmas plans?” she questioned, removing a fragile glass bauble from Ruby’s podgy fingers and replacing it with a felt robin.
“Yes.” Pinky tried to smile. “They’re off to Glasgow to let Eric see baby William. It’s fair enough, I suppose – but oh, we will miss them on Christmas Day, especially as they weren’t here last year, either.”
Eighteen-year-old Jennifer wandered into the room, yawning. She’d just finished a shift at the old folk’s home where she worked.
“I won’t be here Christmas Day either, Mum,” she said. “Ray and Judy have both gone off sick, so I’ve been asked to cover. Sorry.” She plucked a chocolate novelty from the tree and wandered out again.
“Oh dear,” Polly said sympathetically. “This year really has gone pear-shaped, hasn’t it?”
“The best-laid plans …” Pinky shook her head. “But I may have an idea. Just let me make a couple of phone calls…”
Mike Wadham shook his head as he prepared to leave his annexe flat for the main house downstairs. Polly had been ready before him, and already joined the rest of his family. He could hear her laughter above the sound of Tyson the terrier barking excitedly and the screech of his younger grandson Matty’s voice as declared, “Fantastic! A spider drone! Just what I wanted!”
A spider drone? What on earth was that? Didn’t Santa normally bring Dinky cars and footballs to 13-year-old boys?
And what was Santa doing here anyway? Wasn’t it too early? Confused, Mike looked at the calendar on his phone.
“Yes, definitely early, by two days,” he harrumphed, as he made his way down the stairs. In the hallway he nearly tripped over Ruby as she barrelled along on a shiny new toy trike. From the sitting-room he could hear the voices of the rest of his grandchildren.
What was Alex doing here so early? he wondered. He hoped he’d brought baby William – Mike was longing for another peep at his first great-grandchild.
“Grandpa! Merry Christmas! Come on in!” Matty shouted as Mike peered around the sitting-room door, still a little bewildered.
“It’s Christmas!” Jennifer bellowed.
“Well, not quite.” Polly took pity on her husband as he settled down beside her. “Remember, darling, that Pinky decided to bring Christmas forward by a couple of days so that Alex and Natalie could go and see her dad in Glasgow before the restrictions kick in again.”
“Oh yes.” Mike didn’t remember. His once sharp mind was a little less focused these days. But that didn’t matter as he beamed around at his assembled family.
They were all together again after what seemed like the longest time, and he honestly didn’t care what day of the year it was!
Join us next month for more adventures with Life and the Wadhams: The Next Generation.