There are 30 pearls on the string, uniform in neither colour nor shape. They slip through my fingers like a rosary as I chant my litany of memories. The 2 green pearls represent the envy I felt when my sister gave birth to the two children I could never have. The black ones represent the loss of loved ones. The irregular freshwater or baroque pearls – depending on how you look at them – represent the times that things didn’t go according to plan and went completely pear-shaped and the brightly coloured, almost iridescent ones represent the wonderful holidays we have been lucky to have abroad in exotic places. I note with sadness that the black ones are more frequent now. In between are the plainer pearls untinged by sadness or excitement but happy nonetheless. I count my blessings.