I almost felt the awed hush of the crowd as he stepped into the grand Hintze Hall in the Natural History Museum London. It was surreal – I had seen him countless times before on a screen yet here he was, David Attenborough, in the flesh. He had a glowing aura about him, a feature which was helped by his bright white hair. David was seated, and people started to make their way towards him. The queue moved forward at an alarming pace and I fumbled in my mind with what to say. How could I convey to someone how much of an inspiration they are to me and my friends? I had still not prepared to say anything when I reached the front of the queue.
The museum staff gave my copy of Life on Air to David as I walked over to the desk where he sat. A bizarre realisation came over me that as I stood, I was taller than him. I looked down on Sir David Attenborough as he read the little note inside the front cover and penned my name neatly on the title page. He was and is still a national treasure, yet he could easily have just been someone’s grandfather. I remember smiling at that thought, then realising that I did not have much time. So, I started off with an awkward hello, then thanked him for being such an inspiration. I told him of my graduation in zoology and that I planned to hopefully go into research for wildlife conservation. Although our conversation was brief, I was still able to hear his distinctive voice. It was almost strange to hear it in person and not from the TV! I also don’t think I will ever forget when he looked straight into my eyes, smiling, and said; “Good!” in response to my plans. Well, if I ever needed confirmation I was doing the right thing, then that was it! David handed me my book and I was abruptly aware of the rest of the queue. I thanked him once again and left, stopping just outside the barriers to watch a few other lucky people have their copy of Life on Air signed.
I have heard stories of people meeting their long term heroes, only to have their perfect image of them shattered. Not so for David. He seemed to me to be as wonderful a man as he is broadcaster and speaker. I really hope all who want to meet him get the chance.
As for me, I’m still pinching myself!