Thursday, 25 August 2016


Very few of us go through life without at some point picking up something which appears to attach itself to us. I’m referring of course to those odd little objects, pieces of jewellery or shells and stones which mean nothing to anyone else, but a great deal to their owners. They are usually small, easily tucked away – and equally easily lost! I suspect they are collected when we are young, particularly talismans which often have ‘powers’ of some sort attributed to them. Lucky charms may also appear to their owners to hold some kind of influence, magical or otherwise. 
I was about eleven years old when this funny little picture came into my life. Many of my school friends had small items which they were allowed to take with them into exams, and I was desperately searching for something which I could use when my mother suggested this. It was hers, and I must try and remember to ask her where it came from – although it must have belonged to one of her parents. It is a little spherical disk measuring just under an inch and a half (3.5 cm) in diameter. The glass top has a bevelled edge and covers a photograph labelled ‘Sandown Bay and Pier’. The back looks as though the picture was stuck on to a card or some kind of souvenir from the Isle of Wight, and research has indicated that the photo dates from the 1920s – so it’s almost 100 years old! But the appeal comes from two areas where, either through a fault in the glass or the insertion of early holographic strips, a pearly green glow shines out of the picture.

This picture accompanied me to every exam I ever took, right through school to my very last Chartered Accountancy exam. It took on a significance which belied its humble origins. Every time I sat down at a desk, out came the picture to be placed – together with pens, pencils and – later – slide rule and a packet of polo mints at the top of the desk. It travelled around my schools in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, up to North Wales for accountancy and back to London for my final exams. It has survived house moves, storage, relationship break-ups and being lost, only to turn up again when we moved here to Tavistock. I can’t claim to have been influenced in any way by this object, because I didn’t always pass the exams I sat, but it had to be there on my desk and it always returns to me, even after years of being mislaid.

Why do we attach so much importance to such items? I have listened to, and argued in, many debates about superstition and religion over the years, but I hold no conclusive opinions. I have also come across a multitude of different talismans owned by both men and women - all of whom refuse to let them go. The saddest ones are those which end up in charity shops and house clearance auctions, betraying their deceased or impoverished owners by continuing to exist. They have served their purpose and they move on, perhaps to become someone else’s lucky charm.

Whatever your opinion, you cannot deny the attraction of talismans, which have been around for thousands of years. Google the word, and you will come up with hundreds of the things, some incredibly valuable, others priceless – in every sense. Humans are sentimental beings, I conclude with a smile…

A small turquoise and gold brooch, another sentimental keepsake

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