The Wadhams: Meet The Family

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 family life with wife Natalie and toddler son William in their flat above Pretty Polly’s, the hairdressing and beauty salon which Natalie runs. Now they’re expecting twins, the flat is too small – but Natalie’s gran, Julia, has come up with a solution.

The ring of her mobile phone interrupted Pinky Wadham just as she was leaving her home for her regular coffee and catch-up with Carol, her daughter-in-law Natalie’s mum.

She was looking forward to the break – her small daughter Ruby had been a little brat all morning. Pinky often wondered why women in their late forties and early fifties chose to get pregnant. She thought perhaps they should speak to mothers like her first, surprised by an unplanned baby just as her three elder children were finding their feet!

Not that she would be without Ruby, she reflected, as the four-year-old ran up the hall to give her mum one last sticky-fingered hug before dancing back to her dad’s charge in the kitchen.

She dug her phone from the bottom of her bag just as it stopped ringing! A missed call showed her elder son Alex had been trying to reach her. Quickly she called him back, juggling house keys, car keys and phone expertly as she walked down the drive.

“Hi, Mum,” Alex said. “I just wanted to let you know we heard from the solicitor. We got the house! And as we aren’t in a chain, thanks to Natalie’s gran, we can go ahead with setting a moving date.”

“Brilliant!” Pinky squealed. “Alex, I’m so happy for you. You’ll be in before the babies are born.”

“That’s the plan,” he agreed. “I’d better get back to work now, since Dad’s skiving this afternoon.”

Pinky could hear the grin in her son’s voice. He knew full well that with Ruby around, his dad would be working harder than he ever did in the garage that was his pride and joy.

She rang off, and got into the car. She and Carol were not going to be short of things to talk about today!

Pinky arrived home two hours later, ears ringing.

“My goodness,” she said to mum Polly, as she gulped down another much-needed cup of coffee in her mum’s small kitchen, having sneaked in to Mike and Polly’s granny flat without alerting Jim or Ruby to her return. “I’m beginning to wonder if Alex and Natalie are doing the right thing accepting Julia’s offer of a house-share with her.

“From what Carol says, the woman’s an absolute belter. Selfish, inconsiderate, scheming, cold, demanding – and these are just the things I can repeat in polite company.”

Polly laughed at her daughter’s despair.

“She can’t be that bad. Natalie must have inherited some of her genes, and that girl is a delight, through and through. Remember that Julia is Carol’s mother-in-law, and Eric’s mother – the same Eric who deserted her when Natalie was little. It’s not surprising there is bad feeling there, but we shouldn’t let it colour our judgment.

“After all, if she’s going to be such a close part of Alex and Natalie’s life, living in the annexe next door, then she’s inevitably going to be part of ours. We should really get to know her,” Polly finished decisively.

“I have already been thinking that,” Pinky admitted with a sigh. Her life was so busy that there was not much room for dinner parties, but she had the feeling that Mrs Julia Jameson would expect introductions to be formal. “And so I’ve texted Natalie and asked her to invite her grandmother along for Sunday lunch this weekend. Jennifer is free, so she can meet us all.”

She drained the last of her coffee and stood up.

“I’ll go and break the news to Jim,” she said. “And warn Matty not to make plans with Amanda for Sunday.”

“I’ll help with the cooking,” Polly offered. “Don’t worry, darling, it will all be fine. I’m sure Julia’s bark is worse than her bite, just as Aunt Clara’s was. Everything will work out.”

Despite her mother’s reassurances, Pinky felt nervous as she surveyed the dining-room table all set out for Sunday lunch. With Mike and Polly along with Julia and her own family, the chairs were squeezed more tightly together than usual, and she wondered if she should have set daughter Ruby and grandson William at their own small table.

But no – they were part of the family and if Julia wanted to be part of it, she would have to get used to the happy, noisy mayhem that was the Wadhams/Clark clan.

The doorbell rang, surprising her. Normally Alex and Natalie let themselves in.

“Did you forget your key, darling?” she asked as she opened the door.

“Er, no …” Alex started, then ground to a halt under the withering stare of the steely-eyed, white-haired woman beside him, who was holding out her hand to Pinky.

“Julia Jameson.” she declared. “I do not enter other people’s homes without warning, Mrs Clark. I would never have allowed my son to do so either. Even now, he rings the bell before entering my house. Not that he visits often,” she added, a tad bitterly.

“Um.” Unsure which part of the woman’s tirade to respond to, Pinky seized on her introduction. “So nice to meet you, Mrs Jameson. But, please, call me Pinky. Come in and meet the rest of the family. We’re all in the sitting-room.”

Julia Jameson bowed graciously, but did not respond with an invitation to use her first name. Instead she graciously processed in front of her granddaughter and grandson-in-law down the hall to the sitting-room, where a buzz of chatter came from behind the open door.

Discerning Ruby’s not-so-dulcet tones, little William slipped from his mother’s hands and intertwined himself between his great-grandmother’s legs to reach his partner-in-crime, almost knocking the old lady off her feet in the process.

Jim’s strong arms reached to save her – but Julia Jameson’s pride was dented, and it showed in her face and her words.

“Really, Natalie, can’t you control that child?” she exclaimed.

Natalie flushed, and Pinky had to bite back a withering retort. Luckily, Polly was on hand to smooth things over in her usual gentle way.

“Hello, Julia,” she said, standing up and holding out her hand. “I’m Polly, Alex’s grandma. It’s lovely to meet you. We’re looking forward to getting to know you and to hearing all about your plans for the new house.

“Multi-generational living works so well in this family – Alex will have told you we live in the granny flat here. And before, when the children were younger, we lived in the main house while my husband’s aunt Clara occupied the granny flat.

“We were so glad to have her around. She brought Mike up, and was like a second granny to the children.”

“Hmm.” Julia looked disdainful. “I expect she felt like an unpaid babysitter. I’m certainly not going to be taken advantage of in that way – not with William nor with the new babies when they arrive.”

“We won’t expect you to!” Natalie declared, and Pinky was glad to see her daughter-in-law standing up to her grandmother. But what a shame that she had to.

Polly ignored Julia’s rudeness.

“I’m so sorry my husband Mike is not here to greet you yet,” she said. “He fell asleep watching the football highlights, and I thought I’d leave him be for now. But he’ll be down in time for lunch.”

“Was he not aware I was coming to meet you all?” Julia asked snippily.

“Yes, of course,” Polly replied smoothly. “But he sleeps poorly at night these days, and I like to let him rest when he can. Now do meet the other members of the family. This is Jennifer,” she indicated to her elder granddaughter, who waved a hand from her seat on the sofa and said, “Hiya.”

Julia looked affronted. “In my day, young people stood to greet their elders,” she said.

Jennifer was unfazed. “I’m sorry, but I’m probably as tired as Grandpa,” she said, nevertheless standing up and shaking Julia’s outstretched hand. “I did backshift on the ward last night and had to stay late.”

“Jen’s training to be a geriatric nurse,” Natalie explained to her grandmother, who nodded her head graciously.

“A worthy occupation. I myself never worked, but if I had, I think I would have trained as a doctor. Did you not have the necessary qualifications?”

Before anyone could respond to this sweetly-disguised put-down, fifteen-year-old Matty jumped up from his chair.

“Hi,” he said in his deep voice. “I’m Matty, Alex’s brother.”

“You do all go in for nicknames, don’t you?” Julia laughed lightly. “Pinky, Matty, Jen, Alex. I’m surprised you don’t call poor little William Billy. I myself never called my husband anything other than Robert. One should honour one’s parents’ choice of name, don’t you think?”

And having successfully insulted every member of the family, Julia sank gracefully into sofa indicated by Jim, ignoring Ruby’s carefully rehearsed pleased-to-meet-you, which her mother had feared she would refuse to do.

But she was on her feet again in an instant.

“Is that a cat?” she asked, pointing a trembling finger to the sofa opposite, where Milly – or was it Molly? – peeked out from behind its back. “I can’t abide cats. You’ll have to remove it.”

Pinky sighed and raised her eyebrows at Matty, who obligingly swept Milly up in his arms and took her off to join her sister in the kitchen. When he returned, Tyson was at his heels.

“You don’t mind dogs, do you?” he asked innocently.

Julia sniffed. “Not if they’re well-behaved. We had a dog when I was young – but it was a proper dog. A Golden Retriever. My father wouldn’t have stood for a little lapdog like this.”

Tyson grinned and wagged his tail, unaware that his Jack Russell breed had just been mortally insulted.

There was a short silence. Even Polly could think of nothing to say. What an unpleasant woman Julia was. Jim came to the rescue.

“Alex has been telling us all about the new house,” he said. “We’re looking forward to seeing it. It’s grand that you each have your own front door, and that you’ll have both privacy, and family around in time of need.”

His words were a gentle reminder that Alex and Natalie were doing the old lady as much of a favour as she was them by funding their move to a larger house.

“We’ll need some help doing it up, Dad,” Alex said. “Being fairly new, it won’t need much, but we’ll want to decorate William’s new bedroom, and the nursery for the girls – ”

“Alex!” Natalie shrieked. “We weren’t going to tell anyone.” But her remonstrance was lost in the cries of congratulations from the family at the news that the expected twins were girls.

“Identical?” Pinky asked eagerly.

“No,” Natalie said. “Thank goodness for that. It will be hard enough having two babies without not being able to tell them apart.”

Julia had clapped her hands over her ears. What a noisy family they were.

Still, she was glad to hear the new babies would be girls. William was such a tearaway. Girls were so gentle… she glanced at Ruby, who was now rolling on the floor in a mock fight with Tyson. Well, maybe not.

But before she could voice her disapproval, a new face appeared in the room. The old man looked as if he he’d just woken up. His wispy grey hair was dishevelled, and his eyes looked heavy. His shirt was buttoned all awry and she could see a glimpse of his bare chest. She flinched as he sat down beside her.

Polly noticed, and for once the Wadhams’ matriarch dander was up! But before she could rush into her husband’s defence, Mike spoke.

“Hello,” he said gently. “I know we must have met, but I can’t for the life of me recall your name.”

“It’s Mrs Jameson… Julia,” she said. “And we have not met. I’m Natalie’s grandmother.”

“Natalie?” Mike looked towards his wife for elucidation.

“Alex’s wife,” Polly said, indicating her granddaughter-in-law and glaring at Julia Jameson as if daring her to say anything out of turn.

But Julia surprised her.

“Natalie is my granddaughter,” she said. “And you must be Alexander’s grandfather. I am very pleased to meet you, Mr Wadham?”

“Please call me Mike.” Mike chuckled. “I haven’t forgotten my own name yet, though I can’t promise I won’t forget yours. What brings you here today?”

As Julia began to explain about how she, Alex and Natalie were buying a house with a granny annexe attached in the neighbourhood, Mike beamed.

“We did that, didn’t we, Polly? With… was it your mum, Gwen? I can’t remember.”

“It was Aunt Clara,” Polly said gently.

“Oh yes.” Mike’s eyes filled with sudden tears. “I miss my Auntie Clara.”

Julia reached over and patted his hand.

“I miss my parents. And my son, who lives miles away. And I miss my husband, Robert, too, so so much. But we are lucky, Mike, to have family still around us.”

Her smile embraced not just Natalie but Alex and William, who had jumped onto his father’s lap.

The family were stunned into silence.

“Who is this woman, and what have you done with Julia?” Alex whispered to Natalie, who was as surprised as any of them.

Polly looked over at Pinky and inclined her head to the kitchen.

“I’ll give you a hand with the lunch, shall I, dear?” she asked.

Pinky took the hint and soon mother and daughter were enjoying a few precious minutes to themselves while the pots bubbled merrily on the hob.

“So Julia does have a heart,” Pinky said warmly.

“She is being lovely with Mike,” Polly agreed. “I knew there must be a softer side to her somewhere. I wonder what has brought it out.”

“No one could be nasty to Mike.” Natalie had joined them in the kitchen. “And I think… I wonder if, from some little things she has said, whether my grandad had a touch of dementia.”

“She knows how to handle him.” Jennifer had sidled in, and gave them the benefit of her wisdom as a carer for older folk with memory loss. “And she can be as horrible as she likes to me, as long as she’s nice to Grandpa.”

“You know,” Polly said consideringly, “I think her nastiness might be a defence mechanism. I think we need to give her a chance, for her own sake as well as Natalie’s.”

Natalie smiled.

“if you make her feel half as much part of this family as I do, it will be a job well done.”

The Wadhams/Clark female circle was complete as Ruby barged in.

“I’m hungry!” she roared and from the sitting-room they heard a loud tut.

“Such bad manners,” Julia was saying. “don’t you think so, Mike?”

“It will be baby steps.” Pinky grinned. “But I think she’ll be part of the family eventually.”

Join us next month for more adventures with the Wadhams clan.

Find more lovely fiction in My Weekly magazine, in newsagents and supermarkets every Tuesday. Subscribe to have your copy delivered, or take out a digital subscription and save even more money!

My Weekly Magazine Subscription