This is the peak time of year for charity auctions, and last week was particularly busy. It began on Monday with the Global Gift Foundation Gala hosted by Eva Longoria at the Four Seasons in Park Lane, and a star-studded gathering supported Ms Longoria by bidding £404,000 at the auction. On Thursday it was back to earth in the Crypt at St Paul’s Cathedral - a magnificent venue for a function, but a very difficult one in which to conduct an auction. This raised £17,600 for Baby Lifeline, a charity supporting the care of pregnant women and new born babies all over the UK.
Friday turned out to be a night to remember. At Grosvenor House, over 1,000 people turned up to support the legendary Sir Magdi Yacoub OM and his Chain of Hope charity. Despite being 79 years old, he continues to devote his life to saving children with heart disease. He sets up ‘missions’ that send out three heart surgeons supported by a team who work flat out around the world for 2 weeks and on average save 20 young lives. A mission costs £50,000, and twenty people in the audience each donated that amount to have a mission named after them, so that the auction in all raised £1,783,000. This magnificent sum is a quiet and at the same time loud acclamation of one of Britain’s most remarkable human beings, and brought back memories of the many auctions I’ve conducted over the years for Sir Magdi; our first, over twenty years ago, was with Princess Diana who signed tablecloths for £5,000, and raised £115,000 - a record for me at the time.
Saturday night was the turn of the Caron Keating Foundation set up in memory of Gloria Hunniford’s daughter who sadly died from cancer a few years ago.
Over the weekend I read a remarkable book, A Tour of Bones, by Denise Inge. Denise sadly died of inoperable sarcoma when she was only 51, but managed to put together this beautifully written book on the reflection of mortality. The book's subjet is not one which would make you rush to the nearest bookshop, as the main theme is a tour of charnel houses, but at the same time, you are given an insight into how this lady felt about facing death. Richard Charkin, the distinguished publisher of Bloomsbury Books, launched A Tour of Bones last week at St Martin-in-the-Fields. I wish them luck, as this book deserves a wider audience.