Meeting David Attenborough is a pretty overwhelming situation for many to be confronted with, but BBC wildlife presenter Lucy Cooke found it more difficult than most.
Having spent her childhood watching his documentaries, inspiring her to pursue a career in wildlife, she became a snivelling heap of hysteria when she met her hero at a London Zoo event a few years ago.
After earnestly telling the veteran broadcaster “what a profound effect” he’d had on her life, she began to cry.
“As I tried to speak, my voice became a sort of high-pitched semi-squeal and my body shook with waves of heartfelt sobs,” wrote Cooke in a Telegraph column.
“It was the kind of crying generally reserved for being brutally dumped. Horrified at myself and unable to comprehend what was happening, I blindly continued – each word shuddering and squeaking more than the last.
“Sir David, bless him, tried his best to calm me down, while attempting to gently winkle his hand out from my sweaty death grip.”
While London Zoo security watched on with concern, Cooke attempted to rectify the incident.
“'I don’t know why this is happening,’ I stammered. ‘I’ve met tons of famous people, everyone from Gandhi to…’ What? WHAT? What was I saying?” she added.
“My brain had clearly totally disengaged from my mouth. As a TV director I may have filmed lots of famous types, but it’s not the kind of thing you boast about unless impersonating a media toad of the highest order.
“Plus, and most horrifyingly, I have of course never met Gandhi. How could I? Gandhi died over twenty years before I was born.”
At this point, a “terribly diplomatic” London Zoo minder waded in and steered Cook away from “the great man”.
“So that was it, my great meeting with my hero; ruined by tears and lies,” she said.
However, although it took her a while to recover from the incident, Cooke went on to launch a blog entitled Amphibian Avenger, leading her to present a series on the National Geographic and then the BBC’s Talk To Animals.
“So despite the shame of that night, I believe something positive came out of it,” she said. “Ironically, the chance to fill David Attenborough’s venerable shoes. I just pray that if I ever have to meet him again I manage to keep my cool.”Reuse content