I’m raising a glass as I write this. It’s a very sad glass, but I’m smiling through that nasty prickly feeling you get in the corners of your eyes.
Thousands of pupils at the Lycée Français Georges Pompidou, known in Sharjah as ‘The French School’ will remember Ginny Taylor. And, actually, if you know anyone that works there, let them know that Ginny lost her 7-year battle against cancer last week. They’ll remember her: you’d find it hard to forget that rogueish smile, instant friendliness and, behind it, a thoroughly devil-may-care attitude to life, fun and laughter. Ginny was about as Irish as you’d want to get: an instinctive dislike for formality a lust for life and a woman never more than a step away from the next smile.
The family moved from Dubai to France, to the beautiful village of Larroque in the Tarn Valley, a tumble of terracotta and whitewashed walls that clings to the valley-side, with forests where you can hear the dogs hunting boar as you sit on the patio overlooking the village and wonder at the majestic vista down the valley punctuated by medieval bastide villages. It had long been their dream to live there: the family spent every summer there working on the house and so when Paul announced he was intending to retire from his job as communications director at Dubai Petroleum and that the Taylors were going to decamp to Larroque, it seemed like a dream end to an expat stint.
The news that Ginny had breast cancer came hot on the heels of that decision.
Ginny did what we expected she’d do. Behind that constant smile and dancing eyes was a wiry, tough character you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of. She beat it.
And then it came back, in her head. Thankfully Paul says at no stage was she in pain: miraculously, the most they had to give her for the pain was paracetamol. Unlike in the UK, where they’re still making an awful mess of the decision, the French gave Ginny Herceptin, the wonder drug which helped her make it through to see their two girls, Niamh and Roisin well into their teens.
From offroading on the old Masafi rally route to hilarious dinners together, swimming in the lido and drinking wine as the sun set on Larroque (a sight that would make Terence Conran weep), to barbecues, parties and celebrations (any excuse), birthdays and even helping out with the Bac oral over at the school, we shared an awful lot of laughs with Ginny. We also shared a love of Bali, where the family would go pretty much every year on leave; of camping out in the sands and of the ‘old’ UAE. But our abiding memory of Ginny will be her laughter.
She’s over my shoulder now telling me to stop being bloody stupid. It’s her wake today. So, although we can't be in Larroque with everyone else, we're raising a glass here instead.