WE ALL keep and treasure mementoes of things, places and events.

Some people collect pebbles from every beach they’ve visited. I don’t go that far but there are a couple of keepsakes which have been with me for many decades.

I know exactly where, and roughly when, I acquired the ceramic black panther pictured above.

I found it at Blackett’s department store in the high street of Stockton-on Tees, my birthplace.

I was not in fact living there at that time; it was shortly after my RAF service, which ended in October 1957, and I was living in London but was visiting my parents and the old homestead.

Stockton High Street was thought to be the widest in the North of England. Two traffic lanes plus bus-stops ran along the outer strips, and in the middle stood the town hall and, on market day, there were two, in places, four, rows of market stalls.

Much of the architecture has changed of course, replaced by covered shopping centres, and Blacketts has gone forever, but the old market still thrives.

I fell in love with the panther on sight and, on impulse bought it it for more than I could afford. Within a year, your ham-fisted columnist had knocked it off its perch and a leg broke off.

It was a relatively clean break and I kept the bits, hoping to mend it or get it mended, some day, not today of course, some other day... I can procrastinate for England, but I was wise not to attempt it as I have little skill in these matters.

Back in London, I met my Josephine and we got married. A little later she was tidying up, went to put something in a drawer and found a rolled-up towel in the back which on investigation proved to contain the panther in its sorry state.

She examined it, and being both confident and competent, decided she could mend it.

Without telling me, she bought a suitable adhesive and did the job — how she found the time I don’t know; both of us were working, and I came home from the office one day and found the panther looking as good as new.

Since that day it has been keeping an eye on us from the top of a tall bookcase.

The other chap in the photo is an (empty now) bottle of Sandeman’s sherry, made in the form of their trademark. It was for sale on this island during a holiday, I would guess about 40 years ago; it may have been an anniversary of Sandeman’s founding or some such thing. He shares the bookcase with the panther.

Josie died earlier this year and we decided we wanted a memorial bench for her.

Thanks to the help of Councillor Karen Lucioni, we now have one; it is on the arm of Ryde Harbour and we chose to have on the plaque something less formal than the usual names and dates — it reads:

Josie’s bench.

You’re welcome!

— and you most certainly are.

In my last article I asked you who wrote “Madmen in authority....” That was Maynard Keynes.

Now, where would you find the words “I often wonder what the vintners buy, one half so precious as the goods they sell!”?