Marion Talbot

A group of 3 middle-aged people on a wet day in the French countryside
Marion (centre) with her sister Rona and the love of her life, Cam, on holiday in France in 1983. Roy took the photo.

Marion Isobel Talbot, née Girton, was born in 1931 in Forest Gate, London, and lived, in her own words, in a sizeable late nineteenth century house that was typical of the area. She died at the Royal Worcester Hospital on 13 March 2022 after a short illness. She is survived by her two step children, three grandchildren, four great grandchildren and the families of her four nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her husband Thomas Cameron Boyd Talbot (14 February 1922, Wexford - 20 June 2001, Inverness) with whom she built a life first in Plymouth and then Cheltenham, before moving to the village of Eckington where she lived for more than 30 years.

The early part of her life was dominated, of course, by the Second World War. She wrote her own account of her evacuation first to Brentwood and then to Truro. Her sister Rona, my mother, was 6 years older and her memories of the time were dominated by having to look after young Marion. As you can imagine, never mind the bombs, having childcare responsibilites was not Rona's idea of a just world.

That tension is, I believe, the root cause of the fact that throughout their early adult lives, Rona and Marion were not particularly close. It seems incredible to say that as they became so very close from the mid 1960s onwards but there was a period before then when they weren't. As a consequence of that, I am sorry to say that I and my siblings know only scant details of her life at that time. Like her sister, and against the norms of the day when few women did such things, she went to university, in her case, Exeter. Perhaps even more surprisingly for the times, she studied German, spending time in Braunschweig. For a while she taught the subject at a school in Bolton. There was a husband, Neil. There was a time as a secretary at the Independent Broadcasting Authority, there must have been a time when she was also a secretary in the army as I distinctly recall an anecdote about the time when she had to provide a route guide for a military unit to get to Sennybridge in the Brecon Beacons - a precursor to today's Sat Nav - and her amazement that they required directions for the return journey as 'working backwards' was beyond the military mind. There was time as the landlady of a pub with her disasterous and alcoholic second husband, Gordon. And then … there was uncle Cam, and there was Cheltenham, and there was Little Man at Ray's Publicity and Adwise, and there was Orbit Controls, and my siblings and I had two new cousins, Jay and Liz.

One thing I do know of her very early life was that when she was first born, the 6 year old Rona couldn't say "Marion" properly. The best she could manage was "Mazion" - which is why Marion was known by so many of us as Maz. As I grew up, Aunty Maz and Uncle Cam were as much a fixture in my life as Mum and Dad. This came primarily from the holidays we had together in Pembrokeshire, which I've written about separately. We would spend Christmases and Easters together. Once we'd all grown up, Mum, Dad, Maz and Cam went on a succession of holidays together around continental Europe, days that I think were among the happiest for all of them.

A large bookshelf
My own bookshelf - a fraction of the size of Marion's collection. It includes the one book that in 50+ years of being asked 'have you read …' I was able to answer 'yes I have read Ben Macintyre's Double Cross'

For the last 20 years or so I have made a living in the field of standards development. That is, the process of creating documents that are the authoritative source for how to do certain things. In that line of work, attention to detail is of paramount importance and innate pedantry is a career-defining necessity. And how does one become a pedant? How does one notice that the correct punctuation mark there is a semi-colon and not a comma? How does one learn to compare with and to be appalled when people 'compare to'? That to use the word enormity to mean the large size of something is itself an enormity? How does one recognise the elegance of a precise sentence, the power of using the mot juste, the value of Latin and Greek etymology? By jolly well having it drummed into you from birth by your aunt, that's how.

How do you end up being slightly obsessive about reading and collecting good books? By being asked "have you read …" and "what are you reading?" on every posisble occasion.

A 14 month-old , bottle in hand, approaches an elderly lady who has her arms out to greet her A very happy ederly lady enjoys holding the baby in her lap
Ella, Donnie and Freya visiting Maz, December 2021. Photo by Bekki

Maz was loved by us all, a love that extends to the younger generations. My own children saw her as an important part of their lives, providing an elder ear and counsel as a counterpoint to Debbie's and my day to day parenting. My daughter made her own way to visit Maz last year and, just after last Christmas, all the younger members of my family and I visited Eckington - we were determined that Maz should meet her great grand niece Freya before it was too late.

My brother Julian wrote and delivered the eulogy on behalf of the Archers which contains more memories of Maz. The last of her generation, as much a defining part of my life as my parents, siblings, wife and children. Thank you aunty, thank you for so very much.