P Posted by Sandra on May 19 2017 0 Comments Dougie Poynter, News

It’s 4:30 am and I can’t sleep. It’s not that usual insomnia involving tossing and turning for no apparent reason. It’s not the ‘Oh my God my heart is going to explode because I’m so wired and uncomfortable in my own skin from the partying’ type of insomnia that I haven’t experienced in six years either. I’m wide awake at 4:30 am because I’m a few hours away from sharing a car and sitting on a panel with the voice of God himself, Sir David Attenborough — later today, we will be previewing his new short film about the conservation of Richmond Park.

Finally I fall asleep. A few hours later I’m standing out front of my house, waiting for the car to pick me up. At 8:55 am, a sleep deprived mess of a Dougie Poynter, complete with a fossilized dinosaur poop in hand, steps into the car — I brought the poop along incase I ran out of things to talk about. At 8:56 am we arrive at Sir David’s house where he’s ready to go with his distinctive white whispy hair, dressed in a navy blazer with khaki pants. He greets me with a beaming smile and a very comfy shake, “Hello”. I remind him that we briefly met on The Graham Norton Show where I first admitted to him that I moved to Richmond after a Google search of his residence, which he thankfully remembers and doesn’t find too creepy.

To rewind a bit, shortly after getting sober and looking for a fresh start, I began to look for a new place to live. I sat at my computer and Googled “Where does David Attenborough live?” I thought to myself, “Wherever Attenborough lives must be the most serene and green place in London”. So after searching for the perfect place I eventually found myself living in Richmond, home of Sir David Attenborough himself. He was right. Richmond kicks ass — the park, the deer, the river, the Mick Jagger… it was the perfect place to move when looking for a fresh start; and today is the day I get to indulge in my adulation for both the park and Sir David.

Off we go on what feels like a surreal dream narrated by my childhood hero; the man behind Planet Earth. Within minutes, I pull out the dinosaur poop fossil. After a quick glance and a study, he tells me that it’s probably not real because dinosaur droppings would fall with a splat much like cow droppings. Sh*t! Five minutes in and, one, I’ve already used my wild card, and two, I’m realising I’ve been duped! Great. My voice gets jittery, my mouth goes dry, my lips are sticking to my teeth and my nose starts tingling. Thankfully he doesn’t seem to notice.

While trying not to sneeze, I ask, “So David, what’s an average day like for you?” “Well”, he pauses for a brief second, “I don’t really have an average day because it depends if I’m on location or not. I’ve just come back from Switzerland filming ants…if I were to tell you why we were there, we would be here until next Tuesday”. He pauses and I prompt him on the fact that he obviously doesn’t know that I’ve been a huge natural history nut since I was about three years old.

As time goes on, the conversation starts to feel more casual and I’m able to find a normal breathing pattern. Thank God! We begin to chat about why we love Richmond and he even debunks the rumor on Mick Jagger breaking into his garden to free the green parakeets, who now live in the park — “It’s all rubbish” he says, “ They escaped from…well there were probably many escapes because they have been a popular bird to have for the past 70 years”. I keep firing off the questions because there is so much I want to know.

“What is your favorite animal?”, a question I’m sure he’s been asked a billions times before. But the answer he gives me blows my mind, “ I don’t really have one” he says, brushing it off. “It depends on who you’re talking to. If you’re talking to a six year old I sometimes say something odd like a Weedy Sea Dragon or something. But if you really want to know what animal actually makes my heart beat faster and my eyes, moisten, then it would be a two year old human baby. I mean that’s the most interesting creature in the world”. I’m blown away by his response. It’s like hearing my favorite band play me its brand new song that nobody’s heard yet, privately, to an audience of just me.

As we pull up to the Royal National Geographical Society I look at my watch and realize our car ride was only 28 minutes long. Bummer. Of all the days for there to be no traffic heading into London, today had to be the day — I’m annoyed with how short the ride into town was.

As we step out of the car I’m reminded immediately that this man is adored by everyone from six year old children to ninety year old grandparents. After the premier of the short movie I join Sir David and Sir Trevor McDonald on stage for a question and answer session on conservation. When I finally have my moment to speak I feel like I’ve missed my chance to make a key point on plastic pollution. Damn! I sit and realise, at that moment in time, I’m sitting on a stage with Sir David Attenborough, my hero, the source behind 90% of everything I know about our natural world.

What a moment it is, I’m soaking up every second. 2:30 pm comes around and the event is over. Sir David comes up to me and asks if I need a lift home which I eagerly accept and immediately bail on my lunch plans with my acting agent.

The car ride home feels different. The anxiety and pressure is off. David has gone from being this untouchable creature to a human being. Even if this man wasn’t known and you were just to stumble upon him in a pub one day you would still be blown away by his kindness, knowledge and passion for all living things. We continue our conversation on the way home where I learn about his passion for playing piano and his love for chocolate.

As we pull up to my house and I am about to step out of the car, I ask him one last question, “What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?” He ponders for a moment, “I don’t think I’ve ever been given much. I don’t remember taking advantage of it anyway! Well, as far as I would do is what you do with your life, whatever you do, be interested in it. I stopped doing things when they got boring…which is how I went into broadcasting when television was just starting in 1952”. I thank him for the advice and his time and walk up the street back to my house. Once I get back inside I sit there and reflect on my day with David Attenborough…what a day.

David isn’t a demigod or Santa Claus. But I can honestly say he is one of the most special people I have ever met.

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