The things we value, and the stories we treasure

Eventually we reach an age where we've seen it all before.

Another party leadership spill, another Beatles tribute show, another dumb Trumpism, another Christmas.

Ho hum.

There is an ever-present danger of drifting in an endless sea of Facebook flotsam, so we all need something genuinely exciting to keep us hungry for life and sitting up for more.

This week I am genuinely excited by the promise of Shepparton Art Museum's Collector Roadshow later this month, where experts will be on hand to offer their opinions on the value of our hidden treasures.

This has made me scratch my chin to the point of irritation as I ponder what items I should take along to be scrutinised.

Should it be the set of silver dinner forks handed down to me by mother's grandmother? Or should it be my treasured Famous Five postcard sent to me by Enid Blyton in 1963, thanking me for my kind donation of two shillings and sixpence for her children's ward at London's Great Ormond St Children's Hospital?

Then there's my grandfather's gold watch and war medals, my uncle's 1925 Hasselblad camera, and a piece of broken pottery I found on a school trip to an old Roman settlement in the Mendip Hills of Somerset, England.

Each of these items could mean a retirement in the Seychelles with a James Bond view across the beach.

On the other hand there is a remote possibility they could be entirely worthless and I have been dragging them around for more than half a century for no reason other than sentiment.

The process of cataloguing my treasures has been an interesting one.

What do we really treasure, and why? I think most of us already know the things we would throw in the car when the world explodes — and I bet they're not the expensive things.

Today, photos are often the most precious items in the family because of their visual connection to our past.

In the days before photos, people treasured clothing, a lock of hair, a toy, or a piece of pottery or jewellery. They would be mostly worthless at auction or to anyone else. But to a particular person they became a powerful talisman to a long gone person or time. And they often hold the deepest stories.

I wear a rose gold ring once worn by an old Scottish lady we called Nan who cared for my mother after her mother — my grandmother — died in childbirth on the family farm outside Edinburgh. The story goes, the ring belonged to Nan's husband who died on the Somme in 1916 and this was the only thing that came back to her from the carnage. Nan stayed with our family all her life and wore the ring until she died about 50 years ago. It was worn by my mother until her death, and now it circles my wedding ring finger. But the story deepens: I found out two years ago it has a German hallmark.

Naturally, I will take the ring to the SAM Collector Roadshow, but it will stay on my finger.

I already know its value.