Day 168 - Marion (1st person I approached)
June 17, 2014 - Marion didn’t hesitate to say yes when I asked her to chat. I noticed that her shoes, tights, skirt, coat and scarf were all bright, colourful, and coordinated. I remarked how lovely and colourful her outfit was.
“Oh thank you. I feel that colour invigorates me. I like wearing bright colours, it feels good,” she said.
Marion was born in the mediaeval town of Chepstow in Wales.
“My father was in agriculture, though not farming. He owned a lot of property that had farms, and had tenants on the land. He always corrected us when we said he was a farmer. ‘I’m a landowner’ he would say. We lived in a 16th century house that had been in the family for generations. My parents were classists, and regarded themselves as better than others based on wealth. I felt they were unnecessarily snobbish about it. I was definitely the black sheep of the family. They voted Conservative and I voted Labour. And I made no secret of it either,” she said. Marion has an older brother and sister, and had a twin brother, who passed away.
After finishing secondary school, Marion moved to London, England to attend London University.
“I enrolled in a social studies program. I was always interested in social studies. Although I didn’t know what I wanted to be or do,” she said. In her first year at university Marion met and fell in love with a fellow student.
“He was from Pakistan of Persian descent and was Muslim. We wanted to get married, but my parents wouldn’t give us permission, so we had a Muslim wedding. As soon as I turned 21 and didn’t need my parents permission, we got married again at the Registry office,” said Marion.
“Some people had a hard time understanding why I wanted to marry him. We lost some friends and I lost a few family members as well. We were in love and it didn’t matter.”
Marion and her husband were both adventurers.
“In our third year of marriage, we decided to shake things up a bit. We moved to Toronto, Canada. It was an opportunity to get away from the class system and the attitudes and behaviours that came with it. We were young and tried to live outside the box,” she said, with a big smile. Within four years of being married, they had three children.
“I was a stay-at-home mother, and my husband had been studying to become a barrister when we met at university. He hadn't finished his degree when we left for Canada, she said. Within a year of being in Toronto, another plan came to fruition.
“I was looking for the next adventure and had wanted to go to India,” she said. "I took the children with me to Pakistan. My husband was going to wrap things up in Toronto, and then go back to England, complete his degree, then we would all go to India. It didn’t quite happen that way though,” she told me.
“Travelling alone with three children was perhaps not the wisest idea. We landed in Dhaka (formerly romanized as Dacca), and from there we boarded a train to Chittagong, which took 14 hours. My husband’s brother met me and the children in Chittagong and we went to Shamshenga, which is where we were to stay. One of the worst cyclones to ever hit East Pakistan happened on November 12, 1970. The Bhola cyclone. We were lucky that we were not staying in the Dhaka area. We were further inland and in a solidly built house as well,” said Marion (*Fact Check - see link below)
In March of the following year, a revolutionary independence war was becoming increasingly violent. The war pitted West and East Pakistan against one another, and lasted for nine months resulting in East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh.
“Because of the war, my husband decided to stay in Toronto to see what happened. As things got worse, he wasn’t able to travel to Pakistan, and I wasn’t able to get out. We were staying with some of my husband’s family in Shamshenga, which is in the Sylhet region. It’s known for the tea that is grown there,” said Marion.
“One night in September everyone went to bed, and when I got up in the morning, the family had left. They hadn’t said anything at all. I found out later that they had fled in the middle of the night and made their way to the Philippines. I never saw them again. The only people left there were the tea pickers and staff. I was very scared, and hurt that they would just leave. But I also understand that with my three children, we would have been a liability,” said Marion.
“I didn’t know what to do. People were dying and the rebels were getting closer. I had met a woman that lived nearby who taught me how to play Mahjong. She worked for the World Health Organization, but she too had left. A couple of days later, this little old man that I had never seen before showed up. He didn’t speak English but he knew my name, and he kept saying this woman's name over and over. He wanted me to get in his car with him. I decided that I had to trust him and sure enough, he drove us to Chittagong were we were able to get a train to get out. My friend had sent him to help get us. We flew back to Wales. I just needed to be somewhere safe, and with my family. I still feel guilty about taking three children on that trip, but of course I didn’t know what was going to happen.” Marion said.
After spending three months in Wales, Marion and the children returned to Toronto and her husband.
“He had given up the apartment we had in preparation for him going to England, but in the end he didn’t go or finish his degree. The money he was going to use for England, he wired to us to fly out to Wales. So we were back to square one again. But we were together and we were safe,” she said. They rented a hauling vehicle, packed up and drove across Canada to relocate to Vancouver.
“The sense of adventure inspired us to move. A new start. The climate was better, it has mountains and the rain reminded me of Wales. The weather in Vancouver is quite similar to Chepstow,” she said. Marion and her husband parted ways after 23 years of marriage.
“The children were all grown up and I decided to go back to London. I was working at Harrod’s and was settling in. Then my mother got sick and I went back to Wales to spend time with her. I met a Welsh man and fell in love. We got engaged, but in time I just knew it wasn’t right for me. I had been in the UK (United Kingdom) for five years and missed my children. I wanted to come back to Vancouver to be near them. So I broke off the engagement and came back,” she said. Marion maintained a good relationship with her children's father, until he passed away some years ago. She met and married a Canadian man and they took a vacation back to Wales to show her husband her birthplace.
“The house I had grown up in had been sold after my parents died, and it was now a hotel. We made a reservation to stay there, but I didn’t tell them it had once been my home. When we checked in, we went to our room, and wouldn't you know it, it was the room that had been my bedroom as a little girl growing up,” said Marion. Her second husband passed away six years ago.
“There’s always going to be a little bit of the young girl in me,” said Marion. Her great grandmother used to play the harp and as a young girl, Marion played piano.
“I like to learn about things. I’m in no way a musician, but I play the piano and I play the harp as well. I have two harps, one is fairly utilitarian, just for learning on. And then I waited eighteen months for a harp that I had custom built for me in Japan. Every winter and every summer the strings on that one break. The strings on the utilitarian harp don’t break and they’re both made of mahogany. But the one from Japan is made from Japanese mahogany and it’s affected by the humidity. I do enjoy playing them.” I asked Marion what she had been doing when I asked her to chat.
“I was playing mahjong, on my iPad,” Then Marion picked up her iPad and showed me a picture.
“I waited for this as well. It took me over two years to decide to get her. This is my little dog. She’s a Shih-Poo, a cross between a Shih Tzu and a Poodle. Her name is Bronwyn. It’s a good Welsh name.” #notastranger
*Fact Check - http://wxch.nl/1iFC1NI