It's a well-known fact that I have a penchant for newsreaders - BBC newsreaders in particular. So when I discovered that Peter Sissons was appearing at St Mary's Church in Loughton as part of the Essex Book Festival, I had to go.
Imagine my joy at being first in the queue and gaining a second row seat (the first row was reserved for dignitaries such as the mayor and local councillors) before my nerves kicked in. I had been excited about this evening but to find myself nervous was a strange state of affairs. To be honest, I wished I'd sat a few rows back as I felt slightly voyeuristic and quite uncomfortable being so close to this man I had admired from the comfort of my sitting room for so long. If our eyes met I either looked down, uncomfortable, or sat there grinning like a fool. I wanted to appear academically interested and nonchalant but think I managed 'odd-woman-gurning'.
It was an entertaining evening punctuated with little anecdotes about his life: student days admiring Joanna Trollope as 'the best looking blonde in Oxford', or heavier moments describing when he was hit by a machine gun bullet in Biafra. I enjoyed hearing about his life as a child with schoolmates Jimmy Tarbuck, John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney and listened for traces of a Liverpudlian accent.
I would have liked to learn more about 'Peter Sissons the man' but much of the evening was taken describing his wranglings with the BBC. This was clearly a very important chapter in his life and he seems to be still reeling from it. I hope that he received some comfort from talking about his experiences....and I hope that in time he will feel able to look back with fond nostalgia rather than resentment.
I bought his book at the event and duly queued to have it signed. I was almost last in the queue and I wracked my empty head for a witticism or cleverly constructed comment - but nothing. I found myself, once more, grinning wildly but now hopping from foot to foot and completely tongue-tied. Peter kindly wrote in my book 'lovely to meet you' - a true gentleman, not wishing to embarrass the imbecile in front of him.
I'd definitely go to another talk by Peter Sissons - just afraid he might run away in fright. In preparation I think I'll practice my academically-interested-and-incredibly-learned look!