We’re delighted to bring you the continuing adventures 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 wife Natalie and baby son William in the flat above the antique shop his grandfather used to own. They’ve now bought the flat and shop, converting it to a hairdressing and beauty salon run by Natalie.
“Pass me the spark plug wrench, son, will you?” Jim Clark stretched out a long arm from under the bonnet of the vintage BMW he was working on.
Alex obliged, raising his own head thankfully from the computer where he was wrestling with invoices that he hoped would be settled by Christmas.
“Wouldn’t mind one of these for Christmas,” he said, patting the silvery bonnet lid, as his father finished off his final tricky task.
“Me, too.” Jim grinned. “But I’ll settle for a bottle of malt and some warm socks, as usual. Which reminds me, I still need to get something for your mum. Are you all organised with Natalie’s gifts?”
“Nice and easy this year,” Alex grinned. “We’ve agreed just one gift each – though we’ll spoil the wee man, of course. I can’t wait to see his face on Christmas Day when he sees all his presents.”
Jim forbore to mention that at 16 months, William would probably still be more interested in the wrapping paper than its contents. Every generation had to learn that for themselves!
“The kids deserve a great time after last year’s let-down,” he agreed. “Ruby is wound up like a top at the thought of presents and parties and Father Christmas.
“Your grandma Polly has been trying to tell her about the Nativity but she’s having none of it – just keeps presenting her with Santa stories to read and demanding she sings Jingle Bells with her.”
Alex laughed. “Well, at three, she has some excuse. But she can’t be more excited than Natalie is about William seeing Santa for the first time at the nursery party tomorrow. She’s even taking the afternoon off from the salon to be there.”
“Ruby’s full of that, too!” Jim chuckled. He and wife Pinky shared the day-care of his daughter and their grandson, and they both attended the same nursery.
And, proving he wasn’t immune to the thought of seasonal celebrations, he added, “I’m going to go along earlier than usual to pick them up and see their faces when Santa appears. Your mum is leaving off her place early so she can be there, too. Don’t see why Pinky and Natalie should get all the fun…”
But at the salon later that afternoon, Natalie’s face was a picture of anything but fun when her friend Keisha dropped in to deliver some bombshell news.
“Santa’s tested positive!” she wailed plaintively. “The nursery staff told me when I was picking up Kayla. They just heard the news. And nobody knows anyone who can replace him.”
“What?” Natalie nearly dropped the small basin of dye she was mixing for her client’s hair colouring. “Surely they have somebody they can ask?”
“Nope.” Keisha shook her head. “They asked me if I could suggest anyone, but I can’t think of anyone who would do it at such short notice. The kids are going to be so disappointed.”
“And not just William and Kayla. Ruby will be heartbroken if Santa doesn’t turn up. Her faith in Christmas will be ruined for ever,” Natalie declared dramatically. “We have to do something.”
She eyed her client, patiently waiting for Natalie to begin her ministrations, and sadly decided she couldn’t just abandon her to her greying roots, even for the sake of sorting out her little son’s first real experience of Santa.
“I’ll get on the case as soon as I’m finished up here. We must know someone who could play Santa.”
“I know who I’d like to play my Santa.” Her client chuckled. “Daniel Craig!”
“Oh, he’s a lovely James Bond,” the lady in the chair next to her agreed. “But I have to say I didn’t enjoy the latest movie so much – all that angst and soul-searching he was doing. James Bond, cutting up apples for a kid’s snack, I ask you. He’ll be putting out the bins next, and painting his walls Farrow and Ball grey in between seeing off the villains.”
Her neighbour nodded beneath her foils.
“I get enough of political correctness and this new wokery business at work every day,” she agreed. “I don’t need it in the world of make-believe too.”
Alex knew he should have been suspicious that Natalie was up to something when he was greeted from work by the tantalising aroma of steak pie wafting from the kitchen of their small flat. It was his favourite meal, usually reserved for a Sunday when both busy parents had some time to devote to cooking.
“I thought we were having fish,” he said, sniffing the air in appreciation like a Bisto kid, as his grandma Polly might have thought if she could see him.
“I decided you deserved a treat,” Natalie smiled, before hastily confessing. “It’s not home-made. I got it from the butcher’s down the road.”
“Smells great, anyway.” Alex grinned. “But why do I ‘deserve’ a treat all of a sudden?”
“Because of what you’re going to do tomorrow. And it’ll help fatten you up for the outfit, too. Santa has to look the part.” Natalie mused.
“Oh no!” Realisation dawned on Alex even before his young wife had explained the nursery’s predicament. “Natalie, I can’t.”
“Why not? You’ve got the beard,” Natalie pointed out.
“It’s not white, though, is it? And I can’t act. And even if I could get away with fooling the kids, I can’t get off work – we’re so busy, and I can’t ask Dad to cover for me. He wants to see Ruby’s face when Santa appears …”
His voice trailed off as he realised that Santa wouldn’t be appearing. It was a dilemma, sure enough.
“Hmm.” Natalie pondered. “I know! Jim can do it himself. With his height, he’ll make a very imposing Santa, especially once we stuff him up with cushions.” She smiled. “It’s a win-win – Ruby gets to see Santa and he gets to see Ruby’s excitement at seeing Santa.
“Watch the pie, will you? I’ll just nip over in the car and ask him now. Face to face is always better.”
But Jim Clark was no more keen to play Santa than his son had been, despite his wife Pinky adding her pleas to Natalie’s.
“Ruby would know right away that it was me,” he objected. “She may be only three, but she’s not daft. And I wouldn’t put it past her to pull off my beard to prove she was right. That would go down a storm with the other kids, I don’t think.
“Can’t Robbie do it? Kayla’s young enough to be fooled by him – and even if she babbles on about Dada the older kids won’t pay much attention to a baby.”
“Keisha and I already asked him, but he flat out refused,” Natalie confessed. “He says Santa can’t be black as it would confuse the kids. For goodness sake, in this day and age, Santa can be anything – in fact,” she turned to Alex’ grandmother, who’s wandered down from her granny flat to say hello. “he could even be a woman. Polly, you could do it, couldn’t you?”
“Me?” Polly Wadham blinked in astonishment. “But Santa’s a man.”
“He doesn’t have to be,” Natalie declared. “Not nowadays. And if you don’t want to wear a beard, we can introduce you as Mrs Claus – the kids are all familiar with her.”
“Hmm.” Polly pursed her lips. “I don’t want to let you down, dear, but some things should be traditional. You need an older man to play Santa Claus. And actually, I think I might know just the person …”
“Dad can’t do it, Mum,” Pinky looked alarmed. Her beloved father Mike’s Alzheimer’s might still be mild, but playing Santa would definitely task his capabilities, and would certainly cause him extra confusion.
“I wasn’t thinking of your dad – though he’d have been wonderful a few years ago.” Polly smiled wistfully. “No, I think James would do it.”
“James Ewing would be ideal,” Pinky agreed. Her mum’s old friend James still carried a not-so-secret torch for Polly and would do anything for her and her family. “Mum, phone him now, and see if he’s free…”
Natalie looked around the nursery’s big playroom and sighed in contentment. The lights had been lowered and a huge Christmas tree sparkled in the corner, while LED penguins, reindeer and snowmen lit up each window. Home-made paper-chains and children’s charming Christmas drawings decorated the ceiling and walls.
The children themselves sat tightly together on the floor in front of the tree, their excited chatter fading into awe as the faint sound of sleigh bells grew increasingly louder.
At the back of the group, William and Keisha wriggled on their mums’ laps, while right at the front, red-headed Ruby sat up straight and tall, stiff with excitement at the thought of Santa and the presents he’d bring.
From his position at the back of the room, where he’d snuck in just a few minutes, ago, Jim shared their wonder and joy.
“This is what Christmas is about,” he whispered to Pinky and Polly, who’d declared she couldn’t miss the happy occasion involving as it did her granddaughter, great-grandson and old friend.
“Wait till you see the Nativity play Ruby and I have been rehearsing,” Polly whispered back. “Young Amanda next door has been helping – it involves her pet rabbit and rather a lot of soft toys.”
“Ssh!” Pinky said, as Santa appeared, large, jolly, fat and white-bearded, and booming out “Ho! Ho! Ho!” just as Christmas demanded.
From her seat on the floor, Natalie sighed in contentment. Despite her best efforts, he might not be a politically correct Santa, nor a woke one, nor even Daniel Craig as her salon clients would have liked – but he was here for her son to meet and that was all that mattered.
Ruby was skipping back to her seat with glee when William’s name was called. Eagerly he toddled up to Santa’s knee – then with a wail turned and buried his face in his mother’s skirt, more than a little uncertain of this red-suited dude with the big booming voice.
Well, there was always next year to introduce him to the fun that was a visit from Santa!
Join us next month for more adventures from the Wadhams clan.