7 February 2003

Ullswater The Nelson’s 2

Mrs. Nelson was the complete opposite to her husband. She was small and little dumpy and as he was shy, retiring and of few words, she was vivacious, talkative and a happy chirpy person. Yes, they were complete opposites but they did seem happy together.

Dorothy Nelson was said to be a doctor’s daughter and “below stairs” gossip was of the opinion that “she married him for his money”. True or not I have no idea. Surprising what small boys pick up from adult conversations.

One of my Saturday jobs was burning the weekly rubbish in the large coke fired central heating boiler in a building just outside the back door to the mansion. It was called the boiler room. The rubbish was mainly cardboard, newspapers, envelopes and other flotsam and jetsam put out during the week. I used to enjoy this chore. I am convinced Mrs. Nelson used to hide little treasures in the rubbish. She knew I collected stamps and foreign envelopes began to appear, once a Japanese layered and lacquered plate with a chip on the edge, a pinned foreign butterfly in a wooden show case with a damaged side wanting to be glued and many other things, some long forgotten but all treasures to a boy. Overseas magazines and coloured prints. Never in quantity, just one or two each week. She would sometimes come out and ask if I had found anything interesting today and I would show her. She would express surprise and smile. I wonder, did she sow the seeds of my interest in all things overseas and influence my later decision to become a sea-going Radio Officer?

The Nelson’s had no children and looking back it was a pity, Mrs. Nelson would have made a wonderful parent.

Excepting during WW2, which lasted from 1939 to 1945 the Nelsons, would go overseas to warmer climes for the duration of winter and arriving back with the onset of spring. Usually this was a meandering world cruise calling at many ports and they would return loaded with treasures from all those far off places. Our first years at Sharrow Bay coincided with WW2 and their winter trips were curtailed but after cessation of hostilities in 1945 they resumed their winter trips.
Mr Nelson’s hobby was collecting walking sticks during their travels and he had a large collection which stood in a custom made rack in the front door hallway by the entrance on the right hand side. One from each country visited. More than one was procured from each country and the best one retained and had pride of place in the hallway rack. There were one hundred holes in the rack and almost all of the holes were occupied. Three sticks I remember vividly, a carved Ebony sick from somewhere in Africa, a patterned glass one from I think Japan and a beautifully carved Maori stick from New Zealand. No mass-produced souvenirs here, these were the real thing and I believe many were or became expensive collectors items.

Mrs Nelson’s travel collecting interests were dolls, she too had a large collection again all handmade, all perfectly proportioned and the clothing beautifully made. And again many collectors’ items among her collection, not usually procurable in England.

I will make mention of these collections again later and their fate.

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