A moment with David Attenborough

A brief chance to thank the legendary broadcaster for his amazing lifetime's work

A moment with David Attenborough
20th February 2008 Jane Tomlinson

Last night I dreamt me and Moth arrived in New Zealand and met David Attenborough, who was expecting us and greeted us like old friends. He took us to see an elephant seal colony… Fantasy perhaps, but today part of that dream came true…

I met my hero, David Attenborough, at a book signing at Borders in Oxford.

When last week I told my children Cleo, 18, and Rupert, 14, that he was coming to Oxford they both leapt at the chance of meeting this Great Human Being. They have been brought up on a diet of David Attenborough and have also been inspired by him. Cleo started queuing at 1.30pm and managed to get sixth from the very front of the queue. Splendid work, Cleo! By the time I arrived at 3.15pm a long, long queue snaked between the aisles of books.

At 3.30pm light applause signalled the Great Man’s arrival. I found myself spontaneously clapping vigorously and heard myself whooping out loud, thrilled to be breathing the same air as David Attenborough.

We had our books and DVDs at the ready for signing, and cameras, of course, to record the precious moment.

And then the moment came!

Rupert and me meet the Great Man

I had so much I wanted to say to him, but tongue-tied and heart a-pounding, it was all I could do to thank him for his life’s work and for being a constant inspiration to me. He looked at me and smiled and softly said ‘it’s a pleasure.’ I wanted to tell him how he had inspired my travels, my paintings, my now insatiable interest in the natural world and natural sciences and for being such a bloody decent human being. But words failed me.

We shook his hand.

Surely one of Cleo’s proudest moments? Certainly one of mine.

I was moved so much by being in the presence of this great teacher that after we stepped away from the table it was all we could do just to stand there and look at him. He reminded he a lot of my own wonderful dad.

We watched other people share their magic moment with him. One six-year-old girl who had clearly also been brought up on a diet of David Attenborough, opened a container of cakes she had baked and decorated and offered one to him which he took, delightedly.

This ordinary man’s extraordinary talent for communicating and sharing his passion for the natural world is why we love him so much. There’s no one who does it better.

And when I got home I cried.