I almost can’t believe I am sitting at my computer writing about one of the bucket list items that I almost didn’t include.
‘Why ‘ you ask…
“Well, I thought it may be unachievable.”
‘But isn’t that the point of a bucket list?‘ you may quickly retort. ‘To strive for the things you want to achieve?‘
I think we hold back sometimes and limit ourselves to the bucket list things we want to do AND think we can achieve. We all have things that we really want to do, some of them are outside the realm of possibility; you know the usual stuff – fly like a bird, go back in time, be an invincible spy…etc. But what about the things that are somewhere between ‘read a classic novel’ and ‘visit another planet’; those things on the precipice of unachievable??
When asked the old question “if you could have dinner with anyone in the world who would it be?” my answer has always been Sir David Attenborough. Those of you who know me would know that I have been an animal lover since I was young; I even changed my career path half way through an international relations degree because I decided that my love of animals extended beyond the cuddly fuzzy factor and into the realms of Science.
I had always wanted to be a Vet as a child but later dismissed it as a ‘dream job’. No one really goes after their dream job of course.
Sir David Attenborough’s programs had me asking ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions and ignited my inner nerd. At the end of my second year of Uni I decided to drop out, get a job at a Vet clinic and enroll in a Diploma of Applied Science and Certificate 4 in Veterinary Nursing.
The rest, as they say, is history.
So, when I went looking for how I might go about the seemingly impossible task of meeting Sir David I started at the logical place, Google.
I found threads on how to get a letter to him and I thought that would be a good start. Since meeting a person who is famous and lives in the UK might be out of reach maybe I could settle for an autograph to start.
It was then that I stumbled upon a website that was announcing pre-registration for tickets to see Attenborough’s Australian tour. SERIOUSLY???!!! What are the chances? I registered immediately and secured second row centre tickets to see him in Canberra with a couple of thousand other people. It would have to be good enough, after all it was better than a letter and the possibility of a signed book.
As luck would have it my pre-registration with the event management group meant that I was notified about the one intimate appearance Sir David was doing whilst here. The lunch in Sydney would involve drinks and canapes, 3 course lunch, a signed copy of his new book, an interview with Ray Martin and a photograph with the man himself! Places were limited to 100.
I booked immediately; for me the price was irrelevant yet pretty ‘exclusive’ itself. We were going, it was booked, and I was bursting with excitement.
A couple of weeks later the news came. Sir David had to have a pacemaker put in and as a result the tour was canceled. The event managers would contact us if and when he rescheduled, I was gutted. Naturally I wished him a speedy recovery, but the thought that I had come so close only to have it cancelled was quite disappointing.
We heard a month later that he had rescheduled and it was back on. We had been refunded all the tickets so we decided not to repurchase the Canberra tickets and opted for the Sydney lunch only.
We traveled to Sydney and made our way to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Circular Quay. After taking the lift to the 6th floor, we made our way into the function room. It was smaller than I had imagined, walls on 2 sides and windows overlooking the water where the ferries docked. At the far end of the room were french doors that led onto a rooftop terrace where the Harbour Bridge and Opera House framed the view to the left and right like a postcard.
The sun was out and it was a beautiful day, a far cry from the crisp icy mornings that would usually greet us in Canberra. So much so that husband thought he would soon expire in his suit if we didn’t retreat back into the air-conditioned comfort of the function room.
As we walked in drinks and canapes were served. In my own unique style, I managed to drop a tiny piece of cheese from my tiny cracker onto the floor, closely followed by taking a dainty bite of my rolled duck pancake, causing a piece of duck to fall out the other end into my glass of wine…classy!
After inspecting the beautiful wedding like table settings and our signed book, we met some of the other people on our table, namely Lynn and Kate, mother and Daughter from Brisbane. The trip was a gift for Kate’s birthday. She was super excited and her and I were like a couple of giddy school girls waiting to meet One Direction. OK, so maybe not like that, I’ve seen videos of those girls and rest assured that there was no crying, shaking or waving our hands around in front of our faces while screaming. So I guess nothing like it… Lynn was a bit of a Ray Martin fan which was adorable. (For those of you who do not know, Ray Martin is a well-known interviewer here in Australia).
Shortly after we took our seats, husband noticed that Sir David was standing around the corner waiting to be announced. A restrained smile played on his face and I think for the first time since I told him we were going, he was actually a bit excited. After much anticipation Sir David was announced. He came in, took a seat opposite Ray and the conversation started. Entrée was served while the first part of the interview was conducted but to be honest I think half of the room forgot all about the food. I listened eagerly as Sir David told stories of his earlier years at the BBC when TV was in its infancy. His stories bore all the hallmarks of a good Attenborough program. Every time he used the words ‘remarkable’ or ‘magnificent’ I think I smiled just a little bigger.
There was a break for main course and then the interview resumed. There were small parts of footage shown and then Ray would ask David about them. At the end of the interview they played a montage of footage with David speaking the words to Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful world’ I found it moving, husband said it was corny…nevertheless Ray Martin said that they had time for a few questions if there were any. I tried not to look too eager and quickly but casually raised my hand.
‘Yes Ma’am’ Said Ray, pointing in my direction.
I stood up, hands shaking, mouth dry and hoping desperately not to stuff up the question I had pre-rehearsed for this precise situation. I paused, briefly noticing that everyone was looking at me, I thought I may actually not be able to speak for the first time in my life.
“Sir David, there are many things you have done in your career that would grace the tops of many people’s bucket lists. I was wondering, what is on the top of your bucket list and equally what are the simple pleasures in life that you enjoy”
Being quite aware that I had asked a double-barreled question, he seemed to focus on the second part only.
He leaned forward in my direction, his elbow on his knee and told me a story of how he was in a hide (camouflaged shelter) in Kakadu, northern Australia, filming the native birds and reptiles just as the sun was setting.After a short time a noise caused the lizards to scatter and the birds to fly away. Just like that, the moment was gone. He said that those moments of observing nature without it even being aware of your existence is what he most enjoys.
Now you have to remember that I could never retell it here with the eloquence that he did but I hope you get the general idea. For me, I found it quite a profound moment to have him telling that story directly to me rather than taking the question leaning back in his chair and answering the room. I don’t think I really heard anything after that, I know that there were 2 more questions, one girl asked if there was anything that he hasn’t yet done that he would still like to. He said that there is a species of Bird of Paradise that he is yet to see. That was nice as it somewhat answered the first part of my question.
I was also glad that I didn’t gush about being his biggest fan ever like one of the other people who asked a question.
Dessert was served and we chatted with Lynn and Kate (who were as excited by the fact that I had asked a question as I was). It was such a nice group of people to spend a once in a lifetime event with.
At the conclusion of lunch we were able to go out onto the terrace and table by table we had individual photos with Sir David. I introduced myself, shook his hand and had a brief chat with him.
We then went inside where Lynn had struck up a conversation with Ray Martin, she glowed as she chatted to him and we hovered until we were absorbed into the conversation about wearing ties to events such as these. Ray turned to me, introduced himself and thanked me for asking a question. After a quick chat we said goodbye to our lunch friends and headed off.
I left with the events of the day playing through my head. It could not have been more perfect. We were so lucky to have had this experience. Remember to keep pushing yourself outside the everyday, even towards the things you think you may not achieve, you never know!!