Many years ago, whilst waiting for a flight at Edinburgh airport, I recognised the late Robin Cook, at the time Foreign Secretary.  He was standing at the bar minding his own business.  I toyed with the idea of speaking to him but, as I hesitated, a man went up to him, offered his hand, and said in a friendly way, ‘I’m sure we’ve met somewhere before’. Robin Cook gave him a cursory glance, ignored the extended hand, and replied, ‘No. I don’t think so’. 

The man persisted and said, ‘Are you sure?  You definitely look familiar, I’m sure we have met somewhere’. Robin Cook repeated, ‘No, you are mistaken, we haven’t’.  The poor man refused to be rebuffed and tried again. ‘Are you sure?  I’m really confident we’ve met before’.  This time Robin Cook just said, ‘No’ and turned his back.

As I watched the encounter, my sympathies were with the stranger.  I thought it mean of Robin Cook not to have rescued the man from his confusion.  He only needed to admit to being Robin Cook and to make some joke about people often thinking they’d met him before. 

I couldn’t help but contrast this with a chance meeting I had some years earlier when I found myself sharing a park bench with Douglas Hurd, also at the time a Foreign Secretary, at a school cricket match where it turned out that we both had sons playing in the competing teams.  Once I’d realised my companion was Douglas Hurd, I said hello and he reciprocated and we passed a very pleasant half hour or so chatting about this and that.  I avoided quizzing him on the state of the world since he was clearly enjoying an afternoon just being a dad.  Douglas Hurd was friendly, pleasant and unassuming throughout.  

Some years ago (everything that ever happened to me happened years ago!) when walking along the High Street in Maidenhead, I spotted a familiar person coming towards me.  As we drew closer I desperately indulged in some name-searching, but to no avail.  We drew level and, in the absence of a name, I greeted him like a long lost friend.  He shook me warmly by the hand and enquired after my health.  After exchanging a few pleasantries, we both went on our respective ways.

It dawned on me later that the man who had seemed so familiar to me was Terry Wogan.  How kind of him not to have rebuffed me and to have played along with my erroneous assumption that we were pals.



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