My guest today is the author of heart-warming love stories, written with humour. Sheryl Browne lives in the UK and likes to spend time on boats. She has a soft heart for her pets and in my book, that makes her a good person. Welcome, Sheryl.
1. Do you celebrate Christmas?
I think if we didn’t we would never pause to draw breath. Christmas is the one time we cross everything off the agenda with a view to relaxing. It’s time for stopping and reflecting, I think. It can be a time of sadness, remembering those you’ve lost. That in itself, though, is a reason to celebrate, cherishing the memories, enjoying what you have; realising that many people the world over don’t have so many things we take for granted. It’s definitely a time for giving thanks, in my mind, and counting one’s blessings.
2. Have you ever spent Christmas alone?
Yes, once. My son was very young at that time and had gone to his dad’s that year. I lived a long way away from family, so spent the day on my own. I was fine with it, plenty of indulging and reading to do, but I did experience an overwhelming sense of sadness as the evening drew in. Some people are alone and lonely all the time, something else we should remember when we feel like garrotting the family, rather than stuffing the turkey on the big, frenetic day.
3. Have you ever had a non-traditional Christmas dinner? What did you have?
Does a sea-food raclette party count as non-traditional, followed by a chocolate fondue? I have no idea how the ceiling ended up covered in chocolate sauce, but I think we must have had fun!
4. What are your thoughts on gift giving?
Oh, dear…To be honest, I think Christmas should be a time of giving, but I would much rather people set a limit on the amount spent. It’s difficult when you have children not to want to provide them with the latest in gadgetry and cool footwear, especially when you think they’ll be under peer pressure at school, but so often people end up in serious debt. We tend to give fun but thoughtful gifts that don’t cost the earth.
5. What was the most fun activity you’ve done at Christmas?
Charades!! Boring?? Not a bit of it. My partner stuffed a pillow up the back of his jumper and walked around hunched swinging an arm in front of him until we were hysterical with laughter one year (cue frenzied barking from the dogs). ‘Elephant!’ we kept screaming. ‘Mammoth!’ Noooo, he was a … camel???
6. Do you have stockings either at Christmas, or on St. Nicholas Day?
Christmas morning. It’s a tradition carried on from my mum. We weren’t a well-off family (six siblings in all meant there were a lot of mouths to feed and stockings to fill). She always filled our stockings, though, in the wee hours. The little surprise presents were always precious, but the orange, nuts, and chunky chocolate tucked in the toe were the best.
7. What was the best gift you ever received at Christmas?
A bike! I was all grown up at the time, but I so wanted a traditional ladies’ bike. My partner bought one for me. It was the last Christmas I had with my dad (we knew he was poorly). My partner hid the bike at a neighbour’s and presented me with it after dinner, a proper bicycle with a bell and a basket and little roses on its frame. My dad’s face was one of pure joy. I think that was because he thought I was with someone who would look out for me.
8. What was the worst gift you ever received at Christmas?
A peg bag. Say no more.
9. What do you do with gifts you don’t like?
I take them to the charity shop. There are so many now, it’s not really a chore to do.
10. What was the best homemade gift you ever received?
A ceramic mouse made by my son. It’s so cute, I just adore it. Where I go, house-move wise, my mouse goes with me.
11. Have you ever given a homemade gift? Tell about it.
OK, this is quite sad. My father gave me a slip of paper before he died. On it was the quote, ’Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day’. He wasn’t particularly religious or generally demonstrative, so… You know. Anyway, I penned that up in italic script and framed it for my brothers and sisters. They did appreciate it.
12. What would you change about Christmas?
Christmas is way too commercialised for my liking. I love to see the twinkly lights, particularly coming home on a dark night, but I do so wish people wouldn’t put them up in November. Seeing the shops full of Christmas stock as early as September and October… Well, it just pressurises people to spend more, I think. But then, I suppose that’s the idea.
13. What would you keep the same if you could?
I’d like to keep everything the same (except maybe the commercialisation).
14. What is your favourite Christmas music or song?
A Winter’s Tale by David Essex. I think the fact that I drooled over him as a teen had something to do with it.
15. What do you like best about Christmas?
Walking my dogs and watching animated films in front of the fire after dinner.
He’s coming down the chimney. Quick! Look obedient!
16. Any additional thoughts about Christmas?
I wish everyone could be as privileged as we sometimes forget we are.
And here are some of Sheryl’s novels. You’ll enjoy them all.
Romantic Novelists’ Association
Sheryl is a Loveahappyending Lifestyle Author and Feature Editor.