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 toddler 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.
“And here we have the wine cellar …”
Natalie Clark resisted the urge to giggle as she peered over the eager estate agent’s shoulder to take in a room that was almost bigger than her bedroom at home, lined with shelves for bottles that were sadly empty at the moment.
Through a succession of doors in the large kitchen, they’d already been shown a utility room that included a doggy shower, a boot room and even a room kitted out for arranging flowers, with deep sinks and cupboards full of vases.
She nudged her cousin-in-law Eleanor, who was less successfully masking her sniggers.
“I’m sure your dad would love a wine cellar,” she said.
“Oh yes!” Eleanor snorted. “It’s on his list of must-haves, along with a billiards room and an orangery.”
Natalie flicked through her phone for the schedules of the houses they were scheduled to visit.
“Believe it or not, the next one does have an orangery!” she exclaimed.
“I don’t know what Mum and Dad were thinking about, picking out this lot. They’re all so big and fancy.”
“Well, they can afford it,” Natalie said wistfully. “And it’s great that they’re settling here close to Grandma Polly and Grandpa Mike now that they’re retiring. And that they’re trusting you to find the perfect house for them.”
Eleanor grimaced. “I can think of better ways of spending my precious days off.”
Alex’s cousin was a paediatrician in a busy hospital ward, but she had nobly agreed to do some groundwork for her dad Jonathan and mum Ann’s proposed move back to the UK in a few weeks’ time.
“But I haven’t a clue about houses,” she’d confided in Natalie the night before as they bonded over a bottle of wine. Living in another town as she did, Eleanor and Natalie were just getting to know each other, but were fast becoming firm friends.
Eleanor had even elected to stay over at the Clark’s little flat for a couple of days.
“I know it will be cramped,” she agreed when Natalie pointed out that her in-laws, Pinky and Jim, had more space. “But I’d love to spend some time with you, Alex and William.”
“I’d have thought you’d have had enough of kids at your work,” Alex had joked, but Eleanor was insistent.
Together, she and Natalie had gone through all the house schedules Jonathan and Ann had sent links for, and set up appointments for half a dozen of the more likely ones. Then Eleanor had begged either Natalie or Alex to come with her.
Alex had cried off. “House hunting is more your thing,” he told Natalie. “I’ll take a day off from the garage and have some quality time with William while you and Eleanor get on with it.”
Natalie suppressed an inward sigh as the estate agent ushered them back through the front door of the imposing house with wine cellar.
She might have had a giggle, but how she’d love a house like this! Eleanor’s presence in the flat only emphasised just how small it was, with William’s toys strewn everywhere, and surplus supplies for the salon stashed in every available space.
She’d felt so lucky when they got the chance to buy it, but at times she couldn’t help hankering for somewhere with more space. And a garden …
“And this gate leads to the orchard.” The second estate agent had led them around the beautiful Georgian three-storey detached house, which was Natalie’s favourite on the schedules, and out into the gorgeous manicured garden.
A riot of roses assaulted her senses with colour and fragrance as she stepped along the crazy-paved path to peer at a genuine small orchard of pear, plum and cherry trees.
Along the way, she stopped to admire the koi carp in the fish pond, the lanterns and Buddhas in the Japanese section and the beautifully painted summerhouse positioned to catch the late evening sun.
“It’s beautiful!” she exclaimed.
“Gorgeous,” Eleanor agreed. “I can see Mum spending loads of time out here – she loves gardening when she gets the chance.”
“And when it’s raining, she can sit in the orangery.” Natalie laughed.
The glass roofed addition to the original house was certainly impressive – Natalie could imagine it filled with houseplants and books.
“That one is certainly a contender,” Eleanor said once they’d shaken the estate agent’s hand and were on their way to the next viewing.
“I loved it!” Natalie agreed warmly. “But let’s see what this one brings.”
The next house was a complete contrast, a very modern five-bedroom bungalow on the outskirts of town, designed to give stunning views over the surrounding countryside. At first glance, the walls seemed to consist entirely of windows!
Inside, light airy rooms enhanced the impressions of light and space. The girls wandered around in awe.
“And here is the en-suite for this bedroom,” the estate agent said with a flourish.
Natalie gasped. This was the fifth bedroom they’d entered, and every single one had had its own ensuite, in addition to master bathroom and the cloakroom on the first floor where the magnificent lounge was also sited.
“Imagine a bathroom each!” She sighed.
Eleanor grinned. “It would have saved Alex’s blushes this morning.”
Her cousin had come whistling out of the shower wearing just a small handtowel around his waist, oblivious to the fact that their guest was already up and about, and enjoying a quiet cup of tea with Natalie in the lounge.
“I’ve never seen him move so fast,” Natalie agreed, laughing at the memory. “Ooh, look, Eleanor, this one has a Jacuzzi bath …”
“There’s also a hot tub out on the decking,” the estate agent put in.
Natalie closed her eyes, imagining a fine evening under the stars, she and Alex and her friends Keisha and Robbie relaxing in the bubbles, a glass of bubble by their side, while William and Kayla played happily on the lawn. Perhaps there would be a puppy there …
She was rudely awakened from her daydream by a poke in the ribs from Eleanor.
“Time to move on,” her cousin said. “We still have two more to see.”
Dinner was over, William was sleeping peacefully in his cot, and Alex’s sister Jennifer had joined them for the evening to catch up with her big cousin Eleanor.
The two girls had much in common, though Jennifer’s interest lay at the opposite end of life’s scalemto Eleanor’s, and she was just at the beginning of her training as a geriatric nurse.
But tonight they weren’t talking shop – Jennifer was too eager to hear all about the houses they’d been to see.
“They all sound great!” she enthused. “So much better than my wee bedsit at the halls.”
“You love your bedsit,” Natalie pointed out. “And you’d be lost in those big houses.”
“But what about you?” Jennifer asked. “Wouldn’t you like to live in one of them? I know Eleanor thinks the Georgian one will suit Uncle Jonathan and Aunt Ann best, but which one would you choose?”
“I think she’d go for the modern villa,” Eleanor guessed.
“Nah! Too many bathrooms to clean. Can you imagine – ” she turned to Jennifer – “there were seven! You’d have to clean one every day off the week. Without a day off!
“And those windows – William would have them covered in sticky fingerprints and I’d be washing them all day long.”
“Well, what about the wine cellar house?”
“I’d like that one!” Alex put in his twopenny’s worth as he took a swig of wine from the one bottle that had graced their worktop.
“Yes, too much!” His wife gave him a friendly push. “No, by the time we paid the mortgage each month, we wouldn’t have anything left to fill the fridge, never mind a wine cellar.
“Though we could always sublet the flower room, I suppose.” She grinned.
“So that leaves the Georgian house,” Jennifer said.
“It was my favourite,” Natalie agreed. “But you’d need staff! The garden alone is a full-time job.”
“It was stunning,” Eleanor pointed out.
“But too pristine!” Natalie exclaimed. “Where would you put a swing or a chute or a seesaw? And with William around, we’d have to get rid of the pond.”
“So that leaves ….?” Jennifer asked.
Natalie looked around her own little space. All day long she’d been assailed by conflicting feelings about her own home, but she knew now that she did not want to be anywhere else.
“Here,” she said firmly. “Here, with my family around me.” She leaned over to give Alex a surprise kiss. “We’ll move one day when the time is right and we can afford it, but right now I’m happy where I am.
“Not that I won’t enjoy visiting your mum and dad in their Georgian pile, if that’s what they decide to go for,” she told Eleanor.
Eleanor raised her glass with a wink. “I’ll tell them to put net over the fishpond. I know they’ll need it!”
After a couple of days spent with lively toddler William, she was looking forward to the relative peace and quiet of the children’s hospital ward!
Join us next month for more adventures from the Wadhams clan.
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