19 May being the 90th anniversary of Save the Children, it also seemed an auspicious day to launch the book. Save UK’s Vice President, Gordon Campbell Gray, who also happens to own One Aldwych among a collection of small-but-perfectly-formed hotels around the world, very generously provided the venue, drinks and eats, and some fabulous flowers left over from a visit by Bill Clinton set the room off perfectly. Eglantyne was done proud, while her waste-not-want-not was also appeased. Likewise it was a small but appropriate guest list. Save the Children Trustee Alex Duncan hosted, on behalf of the Fund, among others several press and potential book reviewers, some fabulous supporters of the Fund (including one who had volunteered for over 50 years!), my editors in chief (my publisher and my sister), and a fitting collection of Jebbs and Buxtons, many of whom had been extremly supportive throughout the research and writing process.
Given Eglantyne’s love of the absurd and incongruous, it was also an appropriately surreal evening. My sister arrived looking rather lop-sided, having hastily shoved her going-out shoes in her bag that morning only to find one high-heel and one flat when getting ready for the party. My determindly atheist husband struggled somewhat making polite-chat with the woman from Radio 2’s Good Morning Sunday programme, and my talk was interrupted when I was heckled by my own phone… But the real comedy moment came afterwards when heading for a drink with Rosie Shannon (Save the Children’s Head of PR), Francesca Buxton (Eglantyne’s great great niece), my husband and my sister, and we found ourselves at a cabaret night in a bar in a nearby converted public toilet. It’s true! It was however the perfect creative planning venue – we have now decided that Eglantyne’s life really ought to be made into a film (starring who? Cate Blanchett, Renee Zellweger, all suggestions welcome – and even more if you can name and introduce the backers); that there should be a version of Eglantyne’s story written for children and young people (watch this space SCF schools programme coordinators); and that the current book really should be reviewed in the Times (look out for it this Sunday, fingers crossed…)
All in the anniversary felt appropriately marked and the book well and truly launched – thank you very much to everyone who helped to make it happen. But what touched me most was that the last person to buy a book on the evening wasn’t one of the guests at all, but one of the hotel staff who had been coming in and out to look after us at One Aldwych… as ever, Eglantyne appeals to everyone!