Happy childhood recalled

Sandra Saer
Sandra Saer

Fond memories of idyllic times with her young children have prompted Arundel author Sandra Saer to publish Star Sandwiches And Moon Custard more than four decades after she first wrote it.

This autumn’s 30th anniversary of Sandra’s SMH publishing has inspired her to revisit a collection of stories she penned for her four children, when small, chronicling the family’s happy years in Ireland.

“We were on a little estate in Co Dublin. My late husband bred racehorses. He looked after the horses, and I looked after the children, so these stories go back a very long way, back to the early 1970s. That’s when the stories started in my mind because my children had such a happy childhood in such a lovely environment in the country. It was peaceful and then sometimes not so peaceful when things happened, but it was such a happy childhood with lots of adventures. We moved to London in 1972 and that’s when I wrote the stories down. The stories have been undisturbed ever since, sitting in my filing cabinet while I waited patiently and latterly impatiently for the right illustrator to come along. It took me decades to find the right person, and then I came across the ideal artist, Sarah Leigh-Wills, whose lovely and sensitively-drawn illustrations perfectly match the text.

“We had quite a tussle at the beginning. She wanted to do everything her way, but because the stories are of such importance to me, looking back to such happy times, I wanted to do everything my way. In the end, we compromised. My main concern is that when you are publishing a book like this, it is of vital importance that we get illustrations that absolutely match the text, and that is what we have done. I am thrilled with the result. I think it works really well.

“There are nine short stories for children aged three to eight. The two main characters are the ones that inspired me really. My eldest is Angus and is Will in the stories, and the next down is Ben who is Charlie in the stories. They were very different then. They are now 50 and 49. Back then, they were little chaps!

“The stories are set in a lovely old house in Ireland, and it is the adventures that we used to have every day, and I think it is quite poignant to remember a really happy childhood. My children really enjoyed their childhood, but obviously some children don’t – and I think it is important to look back and remember. When times are difficult, it can be comforting to look back at happier times.

“I am an editor as well as a writer. Over the years, I have got the stories out of the filing cabinet and looked at them and thought ‘That’s not right!’ or ‘I must tweak that!’ They had been very carefully edited when they went off to have the beautiful pictures done.”

The children are delighted with the book: “They arrived for lunch, and I gave Angus the book. He looked at me and he looked at the book and we couldn’t tear him away from it. He was very, very pleased with it. It is quite something.”

The book is available from The Book Ferret in Arundel; sandramhsaer@gmail.com or call 01903 884968.