It was only a year or so ago that I finally realised exactly what this piece of metal was, all thanks to my youngest grandson, Andrew. A bit like me, he has always been interested in the great outdoors and when he came to visit me as a little boy, we would always take a walk up the "mountain" as he called it. I would point out all the different trees on the way up and see if he could remember them all on the way back down. I didn't necessarily expect him to take all of this in. It was more about just instilling in him a sense of curiosity and wonder about nature.
Over the years, I hadn't put much thought into fire making and how it was done in the past. All the technological progress in the post-war years really made us focus on the future and newer (and so-called better) ways of doing things. Beyond the stories I told, I had more or less forgotten all about traditional ways of doing things.
Andrew had always been interested in camping and all that business, joining the Boy Scouts as soon as he could. It was here that he learned about traditional fire making, and they talked all about different ways of doing it, including using flint and steel fire starter. A bright boy, he put two and two together and realised that what I saw must have been a traditional steel striker, reduced to the form of a mere amulet.
One day, my grandson called me up and asked whether I'd like to take a day trip through the woods on the "mountain" of old. He said he had something to show me. I had told him tales of my youthful escapades, not least my wonder and disbelief about the older boy's metal talisman, so I was delighted to go out for the day and tell stories like we used to.
After I picked him up from the train station, we went home to my cottage to brew up some tea to take with us in a Thermos flask. It was approaching my seventy-fifth birthday, and to my surprise, Andrew had brought me an early present. I had no idea what it could be, so I tore open the wrapping gladly.