The Antiques Roadshow expert passed the necklace of rough stones slowly through his finely manicured fingers and held it for a moment in the sunlight for the television cameras to pick out the subdued orange and yellow hues.
“Many viewers will be familiar with polished amber jewellery, but what we have here appears to be an example of unpolished Lithuanian amber jewellery..but I’m not sure…perhaps you could tell the viewers the story of how the necklace was found……”
As his son began to relate the little of what he knew the old man, hunched in the wheelchair stared up at the necklace; remembering.
He remembered leaving the cell and climbing the stairs to stand in the middle of the road stunned at the Armageddon destruction. He had shuffled aimlessly along the road through a haze of smoke and dust, a bewildered ghost, one among many.
Some time later, desperate for water he had entered a building that had escaped total destruction; the sound of glass crunching under his feet as he stepped through the wreckage sharp in his memory.
On the floor of the house he found a horrifically burned body, the right hand a grotesque claw appeared to have been holding something. The arrangement of the stones on the floor suggested a necklace, the connecting string having been burned away. Nearby, in the charred remains of what had probably been a chest of drawers there was a metal box; not unlike a biscuit tin his mother would have at home. Opening it he found photographs: formal family groups, individuals posing, children. One in particular caught his attention; a young girl, standing against a wall – probably of the house he was standing in – looking into the camera, smiling in the sunlight. Smiling at him.
He had gathered up the strange almost weightless pieces of stone and placed them in the tin box and left the sad house of death. Later at home he he felt compelled to restring the necklace. He then placed it in the box and closed the lid and tried to forget.
“….and my father left the house and was eventually rescued and repatriated. He was one of the few British prisoners of war to survive the atomic bombing of Nagasaki…”
“What an amazing story. And this is the actual box?”
“Yes, it is.”
The presenter carefully put the necklace to one side and spread the photographs, sepia and black and white images, on the blue felt table cover to allow the television camera to show viewers the happy family scenes and the the young girl standing against the wall. She was smiling at them as her fingers played with a piece of jewellery around her neck, the smooth polished amber stones glinting in the sun