Sir David Attenborough is my hero. His early television awakened in me a love of all things natural, but in particular my breath was stilled as I watched him hang out with the gorillas in Rwanda. It was 1979 and I was 12 years old. Nine years later, inspired by this remarkable film I followed in his footsteps and visited the mountain gorillas of Africa in Rwanda's neighbouring Zaire.
Meeting Sir David Attenborough has been a longtime dream of mine, though I expect I would be incapable of intelligent speech and the conversation would be rather one sided! Thankfully it seems David Attenborough is never short of something of interest to say or a story to tell, so maybe my muted awe would go relatively unnoticed.
I saw Sir David twice when I lived in London. I lived in Richmond at the time and we shared the TW9 postcode, though I imagine he was 'further up the hill' than I. He was walking about town the first time I saw him, strolling along, hands behind his back, quite happy in his own space and though I desperately wanted to, I couldn't bring myself to disturb him.
The next time I saw him, I was standing at the end of a long, slow moving queue waiting to buy a ticket at Richmond Underground Station. Unbeknown to me, he was quite near the front of the same queue, though close enough to hear me sigh and curse at the delay.
It was aimed at my late departure from home and the frustrations at my own tardiness (aided thereafter by the world that turned all it's efforts to making me miss my train) but I did not realise quite how loud my comment was, nor how well it travelled.
In the moment immediately after it came out, I was shot a look by Sir David that bought shame upon me and left me in no doubt that that particular day was not the time to introduce myself as one of his biggest fans. Nor the day to tell him how he inspired me, and certainly not the day to tell him how much I admired and tried to live my life guided (in part at least) by his example.
Quite a few years later (and surely long enough after our Underground incident for all to be forgiven and forgotten - I suspect it was a rather less memorable moment for him as it was for me afterall) he was scheduled to talk in Melbourne and I managed to get tickets. I was delighted. My hero! He was going to be signing books and I was determined to meet him... but then at the last minute, his appearance was cancelled due to illness and for a third time, I missed my opportunity.
When the announcement was made early this year he was to return for a show at Melbourne's Regent Theatre, I was thrilled. I was not alone. The tickets sold out in just a few short hours and I missed my chance. I was so disappointed, but unwilling to pay scalpers elevated ticket prices, I just had to accept it.
My friend Mal and his wife Marion managed to get tickets and my excitement for them was genuine, particularly when I realised Marion was also a huge fan (she cried when she realised they had managed to get tickets 2 rows from the front). It was to be a special occasion for her 40th birthday and they were both thrilled.
When I received a message from Mal to tell me Marion was sick the night before the show, I hoped with all my heart that she would be well enough to make it the next day. But she didn't get better, she got worse and the next morning they decided she would not be leaving her bed, let alone the house. She would not to make the show and they offered their tickets to me. I didn't want to go in her place, they were meant to go. Not me. I was devastated for them. But they insisted that they wanted me to go and to take their tickets and so the arrangements were made. And that night my Mum and I went and saw Sir David Attenborough.
He did not disappoint. What an incredible man. At 86, he is the world's most traveled person. He has been to the North and South Poles and everywhere in between. He has been on our TV screens for sixty years and in that time the world population has trebled. He is passionate and so so excited to share his stories. He has gratitude for a full and exciting life and is full of praise for the people in his life. Without the cameramen taking such extraordinary footage he admits, there would not have been a show. They captured the magic, he was merely fortunate to be there to stand before them.
He spoke for just on two and a half hours, after which we all gave him a standing ovation, as he stood and nodded his head in humble thanks. And whilst I have yet to meet my hero in person, I do feel as if we sat together and shared a chat. And as expected, the conversation was a little one way, but I'm ok with that... I was a little awe-struck afterall!
Make sure you click on the link below to watch his rendition of "It's a wonderful world." It really is magical.
It's a wonderful world...
Even in hindsight and having loved being able to go to the show, I still wish Marion and Mal had been able to attend. And rest assured, if/when he ever comes back to Melbourne, I will be queueing up to get them (and me) tickets.
*As an added bonus the two nights he appeared in Melbourne were being recorded for DVD, so I'll be keeping my eyes open for that too!