What do you value the most?
Do you know that age-old question: what are the first things you would save if your house was on fire? It is such a difficult question to answer, isn’t it – what are your most prized possessions – and one I’ve had to think about long and hard this summer, as an interviewer and videographer came to my home and asked me to show them around the things that matter the most to me. Surprisingly, what I found out after much deliberation is that it didn’t come down to reasonable choices (passport, diploma), or most expensive purchases (macbook, canon camera), but that what I value the most are things that are inextricably linked to my past and speak volumes about the woman weight-loss medicine I have grown into. They are beloved objects that have a story to tell, about me.
Of course, those items we hold dear are going to be very different for everyone because they are weaved into our personal history, our heritage, the corners and nooks of our psyche, the bumps that we’ve known along the road. So have a think as you read this, give yourself a few minutes to really look inwards and try to pinpoint which of your belongings are the most important to you, the ones that would be irreplaceable if you lost them, not perhaps because of their monetary value, but because of the memories they summon; see what your mind and your heart unearth, and let me know in the comments so that we can compare notes.
In the South of France, there are little second-hand markets, car-boot sales and antique shops dotted all around the sleepy villages of Provence where I grew up, and Ardèche where my grandparents live. All through the summer season, from the first mild weekends in June to the quieter afternoons of September, it’s very common to spend the day wandering along the cobblestone streets and browse through other people’s discarded treasures before sitting down at a terrace for a fresh lemonade or an expresso, chatting the afternoon away with the low singing hum of the cicadas in the background and the sun on your face.
As a child, I loved those excursions and from a young age I had my sights firmly set on finding the most delicate vintage jewellery: the art-deco brooches, the pearl earrings, the intricate marcasite rings. In my head as I browsed, I would recite the colours and names of the semi-precious stones at hand like it was the alphabet: agate, amethyst, citrine, malachite, jasper, onyx, jade. You could say that I have a decent little collection of my own now, one that has been lovingly assembled over the years and it would break my heart to lose it. I love owning jewellery that is part of the history of someone else, and when I wear those pieces, I imagine a lavish birthday party in a hotel overlooking the Mediterranean, a riotous evening in the wings of a baroque theatre in Paris, or a busy steam train running up through the hilly landscape of the Alps. I guess in my imagination, it’s always the 1930s.
The second thing I hold dear and want to tell you about today is my guitar: it’s nothing fancy, but its wood is a beautiful mix of red and chestnut, the colours of Autumn, and it has a deep warm sound, like a man’s voice after a life well spent. It has travelled everywhere with me. I actually picked up music quite late in life (I’m saying this like I’m a hundred years old) so when I found this guitar, in the Grande Braderie of Lille in (where I was studying for my Masters), I hadn’t set out to buy an instrument at all. I think it’s fair to say that this is an item that found me.
The story goes like this: I was strolling with friends when I saw the most beautiful man; he was in his 50s and a striking lookalike for Alain Delon (a French actor, look him up). He was strumming the guitar and singing to himself in a soft voice, while friends next to him were chatting and smoking. They had come to the braderie with a couple of blankets on which were sprawled a great choice of records and art books. Without really realising, I walked over and listened to him for a bit, then asked him if the guitar was on sale. It wasn’t. But he asked me if I could play, to which I replied “not really” and surprisingly he handed it over, saying that was good enough reason to sell it to me. I had but 50 euros in my pocket and that’s what I gave him in exchange. Since that day, I’ve been playing and writing songs, learning on my own as I go, and it’s been a wonderful creative outlet so I’m quite grateful for the serendipity.
Finally, for my last pick I want to show you this collection of jackets and waistcoats, all embroidered and handmade to catch the light. That’s because they are stage outfits. It’s not something that I always shout about around here and in fact few friends in London know this but, after I got the guitar a couple years ago, when I grew confident enough to venture out and meet other musicians, I started playing a few open mic nights. That’s how I met Thomas, a talented guitarist and multi-instrumentalist. He found himself at one of the bars I played at one night and walked over to chat after my set; we hit it off instantly. Over the next year and a half before I moved to London, we composed together, recorded two homemade EPs in his attic room, and gave about fifty shows in indie venues.
I have wonderful memories from this time together and even if distance stands between us now and makes it impossible to be a proactive music duo, I cherish looking back at all that we’ve accomplished. What it felt like to walk on stage and share the words and melodies that I had written is indescribable. Our relationship was one of a kind (and strictly musical in case you’re wondering!) but every time I open my closet and these stage outfits catch my eye, it brings me right back and it’s a wonderful reminder of this crazy adventure I embarked on.
Making Spaces: A Video Interview
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the things that are dear to me as much as I’ve enjoyed writing about them. It was actually a really nice exercise to do, and a good reminder that the things I love the most are really all about the experiences I’ve lived; I don’t know if it’s the same for you?
If you’re interested in making sure that everything you own is safe from damage, theft or loss, you can read this helpful guide. Please have a look at the Making Spaces films I am taking part in, also featuring bloggers Kimberly from Swoon Worthy and Susan from Old Fashioned Susie. We’ve all had a lot of fun being involved in this video project, and I hope you will enjoy watching us showing you our favourite things in our homes:
What are your favourite things, the ones that tell a story
about you and would be irreplaceable?
Disclosure: This post is a collaboration between Together Mutual Insurance and Hecticophilia. If you’re interested in working with me, please head to my About page and get in touch.