THIS IS the first of a new weekly column from reporter Barbara Fisher in which she may chew over current news,  reflect on past assignments or simply indulge in some lively chat and comment.  Join in by e-mailing

It was great to meet author Fay Weldon at Brunel University the other week after she was grilled, Parkinson-style, by vice-chancellor Chris Jenks.

The famous writer told me she preferred the informal chat on stage rather than the usual lecture format as it meant the interview could spring off in all sorts of directions and the audience were more likely to feel part of it.

She added: "These days people want to be involved. Perhaps we should have issued them all with a red button or something!"

Still flushed from my brush with an icon, I was amused to read an article by Max Hastings headed: We ALL have our Forelock Tugging Moments.

He described the moment you are introduced to somebody important and are reduced to gibbering something idiotic like "Did you have cornflakes for breakfast?" 

According to a study published in scientific journal Neuron, when we meet anyone we rate higher than us in the pecking order, a specific area of our brain lights up and awakes a sense of deference which can cause us to act pretty oddly.

He had such a reaction when he met Princess Diana, and mine, I confess was when I was unexpectedly introduced to my ultimate hero, Nelson Mandela at RAF Northolt,  who was returning home after a knees-up with Ken Livingstone in London.

Our photographer was invited to snap the great man but I was told under no circumstances could I speak to him.

However, Mr Mandela had other ideas, and undeterred by  my sycophantic smile he came over and shook my hand.  Did I say something momentous, show my admiration for his courage in changing the course of history, or congratulate him for his courage and patience?

Of course not. My brummie accent, very diluted over many years in London, suddenly returned ten-fold as I mumbled: "Did you have a noice toime?"

FOOTNOTE: Am the last person in the world who doesn't know what a podcast is?