Is it an ear? Is it ambergris? No, it’s just a big lump of tar

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The vile weather has brought many things to me. Leaky windows, localised flooding in the garden, muddy boots tramped around the house (for some reason the concept of taking them off at the door has passed my offspring by) and the certain knowledge that my once-waterproof jacket is no longer up to the job.

I could have entered a wet T-shirt competition many times over, but I fear that would have caused other dog walkers all manner of conniptions.

It’s bad enough that my dog steals other dogs’ balls (tennis). Imagine what judgmental owners would mumble into the gales if I then stripped off to prove quite how unprepared I was for the winter.

Anyway, it was while walking the dog on such a day that I came across something on the beach.

I’d like to say it was a piece of flotsam or jetsam – but I can never remember quite which way round these go. And really, who cares if the thing I found was chucked overboard or merely fell off a vessel?

What was it? An ear. I bent down to nudge it with a stone, not wanting to actually touch someone else’s lost appendage but deeply compelled by the grossness of the moment.

Had my husband been with me I would have made him do it, but I was alone save for a stranger farther along the tide line and I didn’t want to ask him as I was in full wet T-shirt mode.

So I poked it and flipped it over and discovered to equal measures of disappointment and relief that it was not actually a human ear, but a rubber-like substance formed around a mussel shell in the shape of an ear.

Even better, as I garnered the courage to pick it up in a handy dog poo bag (luckily still empty) I remembered an article about a man who had found a big lump of sperm whale vomit, ambergris, worth £40,000 on a beach.

Remarkably, it’s used in perfume-making. Maybe this is what I had in my bag – the key to an awesome 2014 full of holidays and new sofas.

But alas, one check with the Natural History Museum and I realised I probably had some tar.

The problem is that I need to set it alight to be certain!