I have cherished this papier-mache orca my son Lewis made me when he was about seven, for twenty years. I love it and it has been in every study I’ve had since. He was in school in Amherst, America at the time he made it. It seems to sum up our life together, mine and his. I’ve long been obsessed by whales. I’d seen a pod of orca on a trip with Lewis to Vancouver Island, the year before, and I’d stayed on a Native Reservation in Canada with him when he was at toddler, too. The 70 year-old islander we lived with told me his astonishing whaling tales and they stayed with me forever (finding their way into my novel, Fred and Edie, and various stories). I’ve even swum with whales – mothers and calves, humpbacks - in the Caribbean. It’s like floating silently next to a jumbo jet that might at any moment roar into life and flick you into outer space: thrilling and terrifying in equal measure.
This is a lucky bunny my gorgeous niece Lotte made me, to wish me luck, when my novel of the same name came out. She’s very talented and quirky and this knitted bunny is one of many wonderful things she’s created over the years.
The other things I’ve treasured are little drawings, especially this brilliant elephant by Felix, aged about three.
I love this Annoushka necklace, a birthday gift from my friend Geraldine. Geraldine and I have shared twenty years of friendship, extraordinary travels and some heartbreak too. She’s a hugely generous friend, took me diving for my fortieth birthday (this time I swam with sharks and turtles) so this beautiful present - the eyes are rubies, and it’s covered in diamonds – is one of the most precious things I own.
What I’ve kept is mostly about my children I realise. So the last thing is from my adopted daughter, who came into our lives when she was fourteen. This little glass necklace I call ‘Baby Poppy’. She bought it for me with her own money when we were on holiday in a glass-blowing studio in Devon. She knew I’d been admiring it, and I was touched that she noticed. It means a lot.
I actually have a box – the box I’d grab in a fire – and it contains all the things I feel are essential. Documents, old love letters, a Valentine from my husband, the children’s drawings. I could survive with that box (here it is). I’m not a hoarder, not at all. I do have some collections: Chie Mihara shoes, red lipsticks, but I also love to throw things out, let things go. I have a good memory, and I feel loved.
Jill Dawson’s latest novel The Crime Writer is published by Sceptre.