IN DIFFICULT TIMES, TURN TO THE STARS
So dark, the night -
no spark of light,
no wavy signal from a star,
shining purely from afar
to brighten up the navy sky.
And here am I, eyes upturned,
needing stellar comfort
after the doubts of the day,
seeking a way..
but wait -
yes, look, there is one star:
a friendly wink.
Now, I think
all will be well.
(c) Sandra Saer
During the lockdowns, if possible, we had to find positive ways to pass the time not easy. But I am a writer and poet. So, I wrote!
During those lockdowns, life was a daily struggle. If we ventured out, it had to be with masks on. We couldn’t hug our families and friends, for fear of infection...Ah well, things may be better tomorrow. Let’s hope so. In the meantime -night things on -
- and that became the title of my memoir.
NIGHT THINGS ON (ISBN9780956859174) is not just the story of my long, action-packed, colourful life. It also documents significant happenings, including the war-outbreak upheaval in 1939. My father lost his lucrative Manchester job, forcing us to leave a luxurious house in Crumpsall for a small village cottage in Flintshire, North Wales.
After school in Wrexham and Chester, a thorough grounding in journalism at the CHESTER CHRONICLE, followed by becoming the first Press and PR Officer of Chester Zoo (self-appointed!), and travels through the UK and abroad, I eventually settled down in Arundel.
There, I became involved in two major Campaigns: One, to have removed the gate, illegally erected across the car park of Caen Stone Court, where I live; the other, to restore the great Bishop George Bell of Chichester to his rightful place in history (at least, we have succeeded in that one!).
Towards the end of the book, I wrote of the traumatic events which occurred during 2021 and 2022, especially as they affected me and those round me.
You can order them from bookselling outlets anywhere, or from my website.
The book costs £15.00 (ISBN9780956859174), (The cost is high because this is a heavy book! crafted from the finest materials.)
NIGHT THINGS ON has been beautifully presented and printed by St Richard’s Press, Chichester – wonderful colleagues to work with! It is in paperback, but on best art paper, with a substantial cover, shown below. It can be bought from Gardners Books (I have already received orders from them) OR direct from my website here.
Sales of my book are beginning to pick up, with unsolicited comments from readers, a great encouragement:
‘ Spellbound!’ ‘An absolutely fantastic read.’ ‘I love the way you write – as if you are talking to the reader – magic! ’.
Exciting news this week:
Nielsen BookData have now added the front-cover image of NTO to the details already listed on their website. This means the many ‘consumer markets’ they serve can upload the cover, too. This led to Waterstone’s immediately adding the image to the details already on their main website. Now, any branch of Waterstone’s (or any other bookseller) can now order the book!
All I need now is those requests coming in!
Here is the cover.
According to the Gregorian Calendar, 29 August 1987 fell on a Tuesday. On that memorable day, I published COLDWALTHAM: A Story of Three Hamlets. That day marked the start of an Enterprise which David Holloway, a former distinguished Literary Editor of the DAILY TELEGRAPH, called my ‘garden-shed industry’.
Thus, we have now celebrated more than 30 years of publishing under the SMH imprint! Not bad for a chiefly one-woman band, if you’ll excuse the immodesty!
Our books have concentrated on country matters, Christian thoughts, Poetry and memoirs..
‘You can’t use up creativity.
The more you use, the more you have.’
Wise words, indeed, this time from Maya Angelou, in
Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989) by Jeffrey M Elliot
'I know Why The Caged Bird Sings'
For those of you who missed this, the first volume of Maya's autobiography,
as dramatized by Patricia Cumper, and broadcast
on Radio 4, is available on the BBC's iPlayer
I couldn't resist re-publishing Roy MacGregor Hastie's SIGNOR ROY. It took four years to get together the finances and carefully re-edit the book, for a paperback edition, £8.00, plus non-obligatory £2.00 for UK p&p.
All kinds of local, national and international connections supported my desire to publish my brother’s book, with the hardback long being out of print. It was launched at Arundel Co-op, after its refurbishment, in February 2014.
The Co-operative News (distributed globally, in print and on their website) used a major feature on SIGNOR ROY in their issue devoted to 2012’s Year of the Co-operative Then, in their 23 August issue 2017, they published another illustrated feature on the book. An Italian edition was published by Alasdhair MacGregor Hastie, Roy's son, and my Godson and nephew.
SIGNOR ROY is a fascinating story. As a respected journalist and commentator on international affairs, Roy writes on significant political and social history of the time (not just in Italy), some of which has remarkable implications today! Roy's determined efforts to bring prosperity to 'his' peasants (which he did!) is lightened in the text by very amusing interludes.
Some time ago, I read in THE LADY magazine that 'New research by Vetsure reveals a third of dog owners over 55 are likely to confide or seek comfort in their pet'!
If only Fred, the family dog, was still around! We communed daily and often, inside and outside our old Sussex cottage; even more, when the children had left home. I also communed with Thely (Othello), another lovely dog at my son's parents-in-law's former home in Cambridge..
Here are two photos you may like.
In 1961, Michael Ramsey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, went to Chichester Cathedral to dedicate the newly-rebuilt Arundel Screen, in memory of George Bell (1883-1958), one of the most outstanding Bishops of Chichester. (And, in my book, and in that of the 2000+ who signed a Petition to have his name cleared and his greatness reinstated, a Bishop forever to be remembered.)
On Wednesday, 8th October, 2008, another equally special occasion, the recently-retired Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, visited Chichester to declare open George Bell House.
Two of Bishop Rowan's special guests were Mother Angela and Sister Jane, two Anglican Sisters. (see photo to the right)
Why am I telling you this?
Now we go back in time again, to 2003. when a small package arrived in the post. It contained an exercise book crammed with small handwriting, accompanied by pony-camera photographs which had been glued tightly into the book. A note read: 'Would you like to publish my story ? Sister Jane.'
I went on to read a beautiful, heart-warming account of an Anglican Community's life and the devoted but joyful way the Sisters lived it. And of course I published it.
SURPRISED BY JOY A History of the Community of the Servants of the Cross This is a beautiful, heart-warming account . On the back cover, I quoted from the Rt Rev'd Eric Kemp, Bishop of Chichester, 1974-2000, and the Community's Episcopal Visitor:
...an admirable and encouraging story. I have known the Community since 1974. It has given long years of faithful service to the church, in various ways. The Sisters have been faithful to their calling, through many changes forced upon them by circumstances.
As the publisher of Patrick Moore's WITHIN THE GLADE Poems for Children of all ages! I represented him in May 2013 at The People's Book Prize awards ceremony in London. He had been nominated as a finalist and, sadly, having died in 2012, could not be there himself.
It was a glittering, glamorous evening, held in the Stationers' Hall of The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers in the City. Before the reception, I was filmed, talking about Sir Patrick, our long friendship, WITHIN THE GLADE and my own work as a poet and writer.
I met Patrick when I worked at the BBC, PR-promoting their books. We became friends when I worked with him on media interviews for two editions of The Sky at Night.
The friendship lasted almost forty years. When my four children were small, Patrick invited us over to his Selsey home where, in great excitement, they walked round the garden with him, peering through the telescopes and getting a master stargazer's guided tour. What an adventure!
Although he had no children of his own, apart from two 'adopted' sons, to whom he was devoted, he loved the company of small people (and big people, for that matter!). It was, first, for children that he wrote the poems in WITHIN THE GLADE.
However, I purposely sub-titled his little book (his only book of poems) 'A collection of poems written to amuse Children - of all ages' because, as with Edward Lear's Nonsense poems, like 'The Owl and the Pussycat', they have an appeal for readers aged nine to ninety. My own memories are of Patrick as a man.
I could chat with him on many subjects, usually unconnected with the stars! He asked me once "Do you like avocados?" "Yes," I said. "And what do you make your sauce with?" he enquired. When I got to garlic, he said, firmly "I hate garlic!" I parried with "You should eat garlic. It's very good for the heart".
He looked me full in the eye and said, with a smile "There's nothing wrong with my heart". Nothing else needed to be said. He was so kind, so friendly, so hospitable, so generous with his time, and with the garden he threw open for Selsey events, especially those in aid of cats! S.S.
As a long-time published poet and lover of other people's poetry, too, I am totally committed to encouraging people to write poetry. For me, it is the greatest, most versatile, and most accessible art form.
On the front flyleaf of WITHIN THE GLADE, the late and great Sir Patrick Moore's poems for Children (of all ages!), I incorporated a mini-lecture!
The poems (we compose), whatever our age, could never have been written by anyone else They are ours, out of our own thoughts: unique. However, they should be written not just because we have to, but so that they may be read by others It is the sharing of our thoughts that give them universal value.
If our poems are good enough (and we can work on them to make them so) then others will enjoy them - as they will, without doubt, enjoy Patrick's own special offerings...
They are lovely, lively, happy events. One springs easily to mind. I gave two mornings of Readings and Workshops at ACE - Arundel C of E Primary School. I began by reading from WITHIN THE GLADE. Suddenly, there were children all round me. They snatched the book from my hands (I didn't mind a bit!) and read poems for themselves. In the second part of each session, they wrote poems for me. All had merit; some were extremely beautiful as well as original.
On the second day, I noticed a little girl tucked in the corner of our room, trying not to be seen. I asked her to come over and read a poem. Reluctantly, she got up and stood beside me. "You don't really want to read, do you?" She shook her head, hard. At break, suddenly I found her standing before me, eyeball to eyeball (I was sitting). Then, firmly, she said "I've unzipped my lips"!!! I made a guess at what it meant. After break, Hannah was the star of the writing session. She was helping other children with words and phrases. I might just as well not have been there!
Hannah made those two days so rewarding for me. The fee was nothing compared to the sense of success I felt; the ultimate compliment for my work.
Another compliment was a second request from the Head Teach of ACE (one of the top primary schools in West Sussex) to go back in February and give more Poetry (and Prose) Workshops, to two groups of children, aged 7-9 and 9-11. Fantastic fun, with lovely poems - and prose written by the children!
Let me know if you would like to book a Poetry Reading and/Poetry Workshop. I don't charge the earth!
For more than two decades, I worked and re-worked a series of eight plays, based on, and inspired by the Eight Beatitudes, momentous teachings by Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. While the Ten Commandments tell us what do to, the Beatitudes are somewhat more laid back: do this, and you will be OK – you'll be lucky.
This Spring, I received excellent media coverage for this project, and encouraging support from the Chancellor of Chichester Cathedral, who is exploring the possibility of putting on one or two plays in the vicinity of the Cathedral, perhaps in Vicars' Hall.
This would now be in 2024 on 3 October, Bishop George Bell's anniversary, giving more time for rehearsals..
If you are interested in taking part, please contact me as soon as possible, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on tel. 01903 884968, or mobile: 044747 603492. S.S.