Friday, 31 March 2017

Flawed characters - and why I love them.

Ever since I wrote my first novel – and even before that, when I was writing short stories for women’s magazines – I’ve loved to make my readers laugh and cry, often at the same time. My early novels were romantic comedies, so you might think that the laughter would be understandable but why would I want my readers to cry? Well, I couldn’t seem to help myself.

Funny moments
And sad ones!
Let’s face it, life is never all fun and laughter, neither is it ever all sad. For a story, and more importantly the characters, to feel real, and for the reader to be really engaged in what’s happening, I instinctively felt the need to have moments of pathos in the rom coms. And in the novels I’m writing now, which are marketed to be light, cosy stories, there are inevitably some episodes to make my readers chuckle, moments to give them that warm and fuzzy feeling, but I still can’t resist including some moments of sadness Without these emotional ups and downs, I’m sure you’ll agree, a story would be very dull and flat.

Even the animals in my stories have to be sad sometimes!

In the same way, to my mind a character who is all good or all bad is not only frankly unbelievable, but can also be dreary and boring. I’ve occasionally been criticised for creating a plot line where my heroine behaves in a way that some readers might find reprehensible. Not all the way through the story, of course! – or it would be difficult to root for her as a heroine. But I can’t bear to write – or read – about people who seem to be faultless and perfect, whether they’re secondary characters or the main protagonists, heroes or heroines. It’s just not realistic. 

We're all capable of being a bit naughty sometimes!

I’ve lived for a long time, and so far I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t have any faults, or who doesn’t occasionally behave in a way that others find unacceptable – but that doesn’t mean they’re horrible people, or that I don’t like them. After all, in real life I don’t stop liking my own friends if sometimes I think they’re being a bit daft, or doing something I might not do myself. And I’d hope they feel the same way about me!

So I won’t apologise for the fact that my basically nice, ordinary, heroines, have flaws just like the rest of us. They have problems in their lives, as we all do – otherwise there would be no story. They’re dealing with pain, loss, trauma, loneliness, fear, unhappiness of some kind – otherwise there would be no happy ending to hope for. So if they never stepped out of line – got drunk, swore at somebody, kissed somebody they shouldn’t, lost their temper, acted childishly or selfishly or stupidly – they’d be ridiculously unrealistic and personally I wouldn’t be able to believe in them or even like them very much!
Nobody likes a goody-goody!

Just as, if I’m reading crime stories, I like a villain to occasionally betray an unexpected human side – perhaps showing tenderness to their mum, or a puppy, despite being a killer – so I like my heroines to show that they have their faults, make mistakes, but can still come good at the end. Laughter and tears, people being kind and unkind, good and bad, happy and unhappy – we want to feel something when we read a story, and for that to happen, it has to be believable.

So my latest stories might be light, they might be easy reading, but I certainly hope nobody finds them dull or unrealistic. I’m always pleased when people say they laughed out loud at a funny part or cried at a sad part. But the readers’ comments that please me most, are those that say they really sympathised with the heroine and could understand how she felt. Yes, even if during parts of the story she wasn’t very sensible !

The paperback edition of THE VETS AT HOPE GREEN will be published by Ebury on 1 June 2017.
 Meanwhile it's being serialised in four digital parts on Amazon: Parts 1 to 3 available now, Part 4 available on 16 April.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

When do we buy books?

The other week, I was looking at the statistics for those of my earlier books that I self-published, and those I re-published that were originally with my first publisher. Having downloaded December's figures I could now see the trends for the whole of last year - and I started comparing my sales and Kindle Lending Library loans, month by month.

And it started me thinking about my recent books, being published by Ebury, and the time of year each of them has been published. Is there a time of year that people read more or buy/download more books? What's the best time for a book to be published? Or does it actually make any difference, as these days the digital edition will remain available, presumably, for ever?

I'd always thought most people (including me!) read the most when we're on holiday. Away from the constraints of work, and other responsibilities, with time to sit on the balcony or lie on the beach or whatever you do to relax when you're away from home - surely that's when we finally get the chance to read some of those books that have been languishing on our to-read pile, or on our Kindle, for ages.

On the other hand, perhaps in the summer months people are more likely to be outside, doing their gardening or going for healthy walks in the sunshine, whereas in the depths of winter they might spend more time snuggling down on the sofa with a good book. Is that actually still something most people do, or is everyone much more likely to be watching TV or on the internet?

And what about actually buying books? Again, I normally make sure my Kindle is well stocked up before I go on holiday (so much easier than carrying enough books for a fortnight in the suitcase!).

But then again, books are still a favourite present for Christmas, so perhaps that's when sales really peak.

So there were a few surprises in the statistics for my self-published Kindle books. The best months for downloads last year were actually May and November - so that might tie in with my theory about buying in time for summer holidays and again before winter sets in. The worst months were August, February and October. Flicking back through my records for previous years, I discovered that December too, was usually one of the worst years for downloads . . . but of course, as these are Kindle books, people wouldn't be buying them for Christmas presents, and were probably too busy doing their shopping and preparations, to read much themselves!

I realise the situation is different with physical books, so it was very interesting that the first of my new books with Ebury - 'Oliver, the Cat Who Saved Christmas', was published in hardback in October of 2015 (not a good month according to my research with Kindle books but of course it was published for the lead-up to Christmas), and then it was re-published in paperback in November 2016 - and has sold well. Obviously the title was the attraction at that time of year, and the fact that the hardback edition sold well, suggests lots of people bought it for presents.

The follow-up, 'Charlie, the Kitten Who Saved a Life', was published straight into paperback in August last year - again, not a good month according to my other stats - but I'd have thought a paperback at that time of year would do well, for summer holidays - and it's a holiday story too.  It hasn't matched Oliver's sales yet, though, but of course other factors could be at play here, such as the market trends peaking and changing.

The sales of my latest book 'The Vets at Hope Green' will be particularly interesting as, while the paperback is being published in June  - surely a good month, pre summer holiday reading! - the digital version is being released first in four parts, as a monthly serial. Part 1 came out in January and has sold really well. Bearing up my theory about snuggling down with a book in winter?  So how will the February, March and April instalments compare?


I'm sure the lovely people in the marketing department of my publishers know exactly how to target the publication dates of various books, and I'm fascinated to know whether these decisions normally work out right. If you're a self-publishing author, I'd love to know whether you think about the month of publication at all, and whether you find it makes any noticeable difference to sales.

And as a reader, when do you buy, download, or read the most books? Does the time of year make any difference?

Happy reading!


Sunday, 8 January 2017

We all need our dreams

'We all need our dreams'. That's what Sam, the heroine of my new book 'The Vets at Hope Green' says to her boyfriend near the beginning of the story when he thinks she's being unrealistic - and she repeats it, much later, to her grumpy boss. On both occasions, Sam's expressing a wish for something she realises she might never have: a different lifestyle, a home of her own, a dog ...  And on both occasions, those men in her life seem to be scoffing at her for not being realistic.  
I won't give away the plot by telling you whether any of Sam's dreams come true, but her habit of imagining a different life for herself is such an important element of the story that it set me wondering: do we all have these ideas in our minds about what we'd like to happen in our lives? Is it a good thing, or does harbouring fantasies that might be unrealistic, about 'better' lifestyles for ourselves, actually stop us from enjoying the here and now?

I guess dreaming about our futures is more common in younger people, near the beginning of their life's journey. Let's face it, by my age, most of us have either achieved what we hoped to, and feel content with where we find ourselves, or we're beginning to run out of hope that we'll have time to get there! And of course, each individual's dream will not only be different from everyone else's, but they'll differ in how modest and achievable, or ridiculous and unlikely, they are. 

Speaking for myself, as a younger person I never dreamed of being rich or famous, nor of achieving any kind of greatness (so that's just as well!). I certainly never dreamed, as a child, of getting married and having a family - that ambition only surfaced when I actually met my husband-to-be, and from then on, having a family and looking after my children pretty much took precedence over everything else for a long time. If I had any dreams for the future at that stage, it was probably to see all three daughters happy and settled in their lives - which, thank God, is going well! - and to be free of financial or health worries.

As for travelling the world - a common enough dream these days - when I was young, hardly anybody even had foreign holidays. So my younger self would be gaping in amazement at the amount of travelling I've ended up doing in my very much more mature years. We couldn't do it when we were young, so we're trying hard to make up for lost time.
Career-wise, my only real ambition was always to be a writer. What kind of writer, I wasn't very sure. I thought I might be a journalist, but instead I worked as a secretary, and wrote in my spare time. It wasn't till relatively late in life that I finally became a published novelist, and I'm constantly having to pinch myself because I'm so thrilled that this particular dream came true. 

And I think that's the whole point: although I hoped for it so much, I never actually expected it to come true, so I enjoyed the dream but got on with my life anyway. I guess it's fine to have these fantasies and dreams, as long as we're happy enough, in our way, without them coming true. It's only when longings and dreams take over from our real lives so much that we become miserable if they're not happening, that it can turn into a problem. 

I worry about contestants on TV talent shows who say, when they're voted off, 'But it's my dream! It's all I ever wanted to do!' - as if the depth of their passion should be enough to make the judges vote for them. Sadly, we don't all get what we want, and I think children should be taught that, if we want them to be happy in life. Without a combination of talent and luck, desperate ambition and longing simply aren't enough. 
So should we all give up our dreams and just settle for what we are, what we have? Surely not! Dreams, ambitions, hopes for the future are wonderful, aren't they, as long as we can recognise that they might not happen. And meanwhile, old-fashioned though I'm sure it sounds, I do think we should try to be content with what's good in our lives already, whether it's good health, a happy family, a job that doesn't actually make you totally miserable - after all, those modest blessings that we often take for granted are desperate dreams for many, many less fortunate people in the world. Starving, homeless people in war-torn countries would be at a loss to understand someone crying hysterically because they didn't win a TV talent show, wouldn't they!

What were your own dreams when you were growing up? And have any of them come true? I'd love to hear about them!

'The Vets at Hope Green', Part 1 - 'Escape to the Country' is published as a digital part-book on 19 January. Parts 2 to 4 to follow. 
Order here  from Amazon now.
The paperback edition of the whole story will be published on 
1 June.

Happy dreams! 

Saturday, 6 August 2016

My friend Charlie (by Oliver the Cat)

(This post has been translated from Cat by Sheila Norton)

Hello, all my human friends. I hope you remember me - Oliver the Cat. I live in the pub in Little Broomford with my human, George. If you've read my story 'Oliver the Cat Who Saved Christmas', you might remember that after my very exciting year when I saved Christmas for the humans in my village, I found myself a new little friend. His name is Charlie and he lives with one of my favourite families in the village - Julian and Laura and their human kitten, Caroline.


When I first met Charlie he was a tiny little kitten, hardly big enough to get out of his bed without falling over. His father, Tabby, is a very good friend of mine but I knew he wasn't the kind of cat who would help Charlie as he grew up, giving him the sort of advice about the bewildering human world that little kittens need and deserve. But I loved little Charlie and wanted to do my best for him, so I kind of took him under my paw, spending time meowing with him and teaching him everything he needed to know. 

As Charlie began to grow up I soon realised he was a little cat with a lot of spark and personality. He could be a bit cheeky, but I overlooked that, guessing that he'd grow out of it as he matured and settled down. After a while he sometimes became frustrated by me continuing to treat him as a little kitten - even though, as far as I was concerned, that was what he still was. To be honest, I think I'd always have referred to him as 'Little Kitten' if it hadn't been for what happened last summer.

Everything changed for Charlie then, and I can definitely say that after it all, he wasn't a Little Kitten anymore - he was a very special cat, who ended up saving the life of the human he loved most in the whole world - his half-grown human kitten, Caroline. I have to admit that even I, with all my years of experience of the human world, have never been through the kind of trauma that Charlie endured during that time. But somehow, despite it all, he's still the same loveable Charlie he always was. I'm a very proud cat to count myself as his friend, and I hope you will all enjoy reading his amazing and exciting story.

'Charlie the Kitten Who Saved a Life'

With lots of love and purrs -   
                                       Oliver x                                                                                                                                                                   

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Currently Catless. (But maybe not forever?)

With my second ‘cat’ story soon to be published, I’ve been asked by several people whether I’ve got a cat myself. It’s a fair question. Some might wonder how someone who doesn’t have their own cat can possibly know enough about them to write this kind of book – especially as my stories are told from the cat’s point of view!

Those of you who’ve read previous posts on here will know the answer. I’ve been privileged to share my life with three cats in the past, but no, sadly at the moment we are a catless household. Our last cat passed away four years ago at the ripe old age of 15. He was a chocolate Burmese called Charlie, a real little character and yes, I thought of him often when writing my new book Charlie, the Kitten who Saved a Life, but my fictional Charlie is a young tabby, despite sharing a few of our own Charlie’s cheeky characteristics!

Life is hard for a cat author!

We lost our previous two cats in traumatic circumstances. Misty, our lovely Devon Rex, died in a road accident outside our house. And Oscar, Charlie’s brother, a lilac Burmese, went missing along with Charlie after we moved house. Both boys were microchipped and we eventually got Charlie back after two weeks’ absence but never saw Oscar again. So the fact that Charlie survived into old age, eventually dying in his sleep at the cattery while we were on holiday in Australia, was of some comfort by comparison. But still, of course, the end of the human-pet relationship is always tough. We’ve had two dogs during our time, as well as the three cats, and it’s never easy to lose them, no matter what age or what the circumstances. As well as our own shock and grief at learning about Charlie’s demise when we came home from holiday, we felt bad for our family who coped with the news and kept it quiet from us while we were away, and bad for the cattery staff, especially the girl who’d found him.
Our grandson as a baby, with our Charlie cat

So, over the years I learned a lot about cats’ behaviour, and their interaction with us humans. In fact, I’m currently writing a series on my Facebook author page ( which I’m calling Charlie’s A-Z of Humans, describing what Charlie the Kitten might think about us!  Luckily I also still have ‘access’ to a few cats – not least those belonging to two of my daughters and their families: lucky black cat Freddie, and black and white kittens Winnie and Wilbur.

Winnie and Wilbur

But for now, we’re remaining catless – and dogless too, for that matter. Why? Well, now we’re both retired from the day jobs, like a lot of retirees we’re doing a fair bit of travelling and holidaying before we become too aged and decrepit to do so. Most of us ‘oldies’ rarely, if ever, went any further than their nearest bit of British coast when we were younger. (I remember once, as a schoolgirl, getting a postcard from a friend who was in Cornwall with her family, and being absolutely amazed that anyone went so far away for their holidays). In a way, I wish we’d been able to get the ‘travel bug’ out of our systems at a younger and fitter age, but it wasn’t within our means so we’re trying to make up for lost time now. And we don’t want to start a new relationship with a furry companion, only to end up putting him or her into a cattery all the time. The fact that we weren’t there with Charlie at the end of his life has influenced this decision a little, but it’s not just that. When I do get another cat, I want to spend as much time as possible enjoying him.

So is that a ‘yes’ for a future four-legged newcomer to the Norton household? Let’s just say I find it very hard to close the local paper after looking at the pages from the Cats’ Protection League showing pictures of cats needing loving homes. And yes, I’m one of the many who drool over cute kitten pics on Facebook. So I’m certainly not ruling it out. I’d be quite happy to end up as a mad old cat lady!

Meanwhile I’m happy to have, at least, written another book narrated by a cat. Charlie, the Kitten Who Saved a Life, a sequel to Oliver, the Cat Who Saved Christmas, will be published by Ebury on 11 August 2016, in paperback and ebook editions. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon, where you can already pre-order:

Charlie hopes you will enjoy his story!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Is your man doing too much for you?!?

Anyone who knows me well will probably think the title of this post must be a joke. A man doing too much for me? Am I joking?! Well, bear with me ... because it's not a joke, and in fact I think it's quite important that some of us women start thinking seriously about this, sooner rather than later.

I've said some of us, because I'm sure there are plenty of women to whom none of this will apply. Those who aren't in any sort of marriage or partnership with a man, for a start. Possibly most younger women - (although read on anyway, because I'm willing to bet some of it will still apply to you). Those whose partner is less able, for whatever reason, to take care of things than the woman is. Those who are just very strong, independent women who do absolutely everything for themselves. And if you're nodding enthusiastically now, confident that this last category includes you - good for you. I thought it included me, too, but recently I've been taking a more honest look at what goes on in our house and yes, I have to say: he's started doing too much for me. And I don't think I like it.

What? I hear you cry. What is he, some kind of super-husband who vacuums the mattresses and irons the curtains? Does he cook our meals, do the weekly shop, put on the washing and clean the toilet? Well, no, obviously not. He doesn't do any of those things, and that's partly my own fault because I'm so used to doing them myself, and I carry on doing so, out of habit. So I'm lucky if he just slices the occasional mushroom, under my guidance, and makes me a cup of tea once in a while. But the point is this: if I weren't here, he'd be able to do all those things, no problem. Or not too much problem, anyway. How long would it take him to learn how to twiddle the right dials on the washing machine, or how to put a pie in the oven rather than try to grill it (as he once did when I was away)? I know he can iron. He can hoover. He'd soon learn how to clean the loo and find out where I keep the clean bed linen.

No-one can honestly say they enjoy housework, can they?
Yes, like a lot of women, especially of my generation, the household chores were always mostly my responsibility, and oh boy, over the years, especially when I was working, I admit I've done my share of moaning about that. But since we both retired - he from running his own business, I from my day job but not of course from my writing career, we've kind of shared them - as is only right, in the circumstances. Well, OK, to be more accurate, I still do most of them but he helps a bit more. So why the hell, you must be wondering, am I now saying I think he does too much for me?

I don't just mean that he does the gardening, and the DIY - although yes, he does. I used to get far more involved in both of those than I do now. I was pretty good at wallpapering, although I say so myself, and I regularly mowed the lawn in a long garden we used to have, with an ancient push-mower. Now, though - well, he's a lot stronger than me. And he has more time, too, these days, that's my excuse - I have book contracts, with deadlines, I can't be expected to wield lawnmowers and paintbrushes for God's sake! But if he weren't here, I'd have to take up the brush again, fair enough. Or pay someone to do all that stuff. Or move to a house with a smaller garden!

If someone gets satisfaction from doing a job, far be it from me to take it over from them!
No, it's not those things that concern me. It's that since we've been retired, there's been a gradual creeping takeover of the other things I used to do myself. Booking holidays. Arranging things like boiler service, household appliance repairs and services, looking on-line for new things we need for the home. Comparing deals with utility companies, insurance companies - even sorting the car insurance for my own car. These days I don't know how to deal with simple problems with our boiler or television because he sorts them out. When I realised recently that I don't even know where he - yes, he - gets the replacement filters for our Hoover, it finally occurred to me that this has gone too far. I'm losing control, and it worries me. If he suddenly disappeared, I'd have trouble sorting out those of our financial arrangements that he controls, because ... he's been quietly doing it on his own. Don't get me wrong - I'm grateful! I like not having to organise my own car insurance, for example, because let's face it, it's a boring job and I'd rather write the next chapter of my new novel. But at the same time, it leaves me feeling vaguely uneasy.

I've discussed this recently with some of my female friends who are of a similar age to me - and have been shocked to hear that some have relinquished even more than I have to their men's control. Some don't know where their husbands keep important papers. One has never put petrol in her own car. One or two don't even know how to access their joint bank account on line, don't pay their own credit card bills, don't even access email, believe it or not. All of these things seem quite incredible to me and fill me with horror, but am I, God forbid, headed in the same direction?

Household accounts - definitely not my favourite thing, but of course I'd do them if I had to ... wouldn't I?
And if you're a woman in her thirties or forties reading this, and thinking smugly that this kind of (how I hate the word) dependence, only happens to us, the older generation, and will never happen to you, think again. Because I really do admire the way you run your careers as well as your homes and your children's lives, and the way your men cook, clean, change nappies and come home early for school open evenings. But even so, I've heard some of you making those joking references to blue jobs and pink jobs, referring for instance to taking out the bins or getting the children's tea, as if we were still living in the pre-gender-equality years of my youth. Yes, I realise you're just joking about it - for now. But please don't be too confident that it'll always feel like a joke. Before you know it, he'll be buying the Hoover filters and you won't have a clue where to get them from!

OK, it's not the end of the world, is it, if someone loves you enough to insure your car for you. But I actually do think there's a serious side to all this. If any of us - young or old, male or female - can say we're not sure how we would manage certain aspects of our lives if our other half wasn't there to do it for us, then we're potentially setting ourselves up with a problem for the future. Or, perhaps worse, potentially setting up a worry for our children because one day we might not be able to cope on our own. And as a mum who hates her daughters being worried, that's an unacceptable scenario for me. So I think I need to get a grip on those Hoover filters - and a few other things too - before I finish that novel. Take a look at what your man's doing for you, ladies, and be honest with yourselves. In some ways, we all know it'll never be enough! But on the other hand - is it actually too much?

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The DOCTOR Who Saved Christmas

Around this time of year I always think back over my various family Christmases during the years. It was especially moving to see a recent programme on TV about Christmas in past decades - starting with the very austere wartime years of the 1940s and moving on through the 1950s and 60s of my childhood and youth. I have to say, the homes featured in those two parts of the documentary were a lot more upmarket than I, or any of my friends, lived in during those decades! But otherwise they were reasonably accurate and it made me feel quite nostalgic about the 'old days' when we were content without just one or two presents, and when almost everyone I knew went to church at Christmas. Most people didn't overeat or drink to excess, even at Christmas. There really wasn't the money to spare. No TV, no phones, no internet: the family played board games. But that doesn't mean it was perfect, of course - life never is.

There are some lovely Christmases among my memories. The one in 1966, for instance, when I'd just met a new boyfriend at a Christmas dance, had a date with him on Christmas Eve and was wondering whether it was going to last. Four years later we were married and next year it will be 50 years since that meeting. Then there was the first Christmas, in 1975, with our first baby girl, 5 months old when we celebrated Christmas as a little family of our own at last. A year later she was a chatty little toddler and I was about to give birth to her sister, born on 29 December. And another two years on, our third daughter was born on Boxing Day. There were Christmases when my brother and his family were home from Australia, another one when we'd just moved to a bigger family home on 20 December, and recent lovely Christmases with our grandchildren - now six of them - all in the perfect age group for Christmas, still believing in Santa Claus, eyes still wide with the wonder and excitement of it all. And then, of course, there were the ones clouded by not-such-good memories.

Well, we all have them, don't we? Christmas arguments - like most families, we've had a few. And Christmases at sad times, particularly the one that came only a month or so after we lost my dad at the age of just 61. I felt guilty for even trying to enjoy myself, but Mum put on a brave face throughout, bless her. I missed her terribly the first year she wasn't with us either. There were Christmases when it snowed. One when the boiler broke down. One when the cooker died on me, halfway through cooking the turkey. One when I forgot to buy the vegetables. And several when somebody was ill. That would often be tonsillitis with one of the children when they were young, or chest infections, or the all-too-seasonal colds and tummy bugs. But the worst was six years ago when our middle daughter was rushed into hospital.

She'd had major abdominal surgery some years earlier, and that Christmas morning when her problems recurred, her baby boy, our first grandchild, was three months old and we were all looking forward to his first Christmas with us. The rest of the family was gathered at our house, and then came the phone call from my son-in-law. Our daughter was in terrible pain and being very sick. He'd phoned the hospital and needed to take her straight there. Could we possibly come over and collect the baby?

I was so frightened as we drove the 20 miles to their home, I couldn't even speak. It was awful to see my lovely girl in such a bad way. Our son-in-law carried her out to his car and sped off to the hospital, leaving us to take charge of baby Noah. I was pretty sure our daughter would need further surgery, and suddenly Christmas had completely lost its importance as I tried to face the rest of the family without collapsing in tears. We ate the dinner which other family members had finished preparing in our absence, unwrapped presents, played with the baby, constantly wondering what was happening at the hospital. Finally, our son-in-law called, relief evident in his voice. A wonderful doctor had apparently given her a massive anti-inflammatory injection, to be followed by oral anti-inflammatories, and had told them that this was the correct way to deal quickly with her condition rather than leaving it (as had happened that first time, at a different hospital) for days, to escalate to such a life-threatening stage that drastic surgery had been the only option. She was now exhausted but OK, and they were on their way!

Her recovery took time. She spent Christmas Day lying on our sofa, and had little more than soup. But thanks to that doctor's approach, surgery had been avoided and, thank God, has not been needed since. As I've already mentioned, we've had other hiccups at Christmases since, but as a mother I don't think anything could ever match that one for scariness. So having spent a large part of this year going on and on (as we authors do) about my book 'The Cat Who Saved Christmas,' I'd now like to dedicate this blog post to that unknown hospital doctor who, for our family on one special Christmas Day, was 'The Doctor Who Saved Christmas.'  Maybe we'll raise a glass or two to him this year! And may all your Christmases be happy and healthy ones.