Friday, 2 December 2011
The Foyer has landed
It’s in a Sydney airport shop where I’m woken up from my sleepy daze by a female assistant asking me where I’m going back to. ‘Oh London’, she says when I answer, ‘that’s such a cliché choice to live. You should at least be up north and have a Cheshire accent.’ Arena Foyers would have loved that.
It turns out she had spent a year in Solihull – a place which, I seem to recall, has a roundabout with flowers in a desperate attempt to be mistaken as a garden city.
‘I can speak English when I’m drunk,’ she proudly asserts. Which is very English.
I ask her why she is working in the shop, and she talks to me about her love for makeup and how she is a ‘struggling artist’ paying for her passion for make up palettes through a day job. She looks, in the most polite way, as though she stuck her head in the mouth of a cement mixer when she got up, and was now sporting strange white patches around her mouth and eyes. Maybe she didn’t care that much for artistry in a shop full of mostly tacky gifts.
When I come to pay, I work out I’ll probably have 10 dollars spare by the flight, which I can either give away to the Rotary appeal, or the person in front of me. I slide the note across the counter top, in a gesture of someone wanting to believe in her dream.
On the first leg of the flight home, I have that moment everyone waits for – when someone from cabin crew comes over and announces ‘we have another seat for you’. The surrounding passengers watch in some jealousy as I’m lead to the promised land of an upgrade. A seat I can sleep in. Maybe the manager from Atlantic liked my presentation back in Sydney. I take the opportunity to read a few chapters from the book presented to me by Mark Bolton from The Ladder, and I am struck by the connection in its approach to developing team values and the focus on qualities in Open Talent. It’s too good a coincidence. In the right chair and headspace, I tap out my paper on the Qualities Framework like it’s been waiting for this moment all along.
Unfortunately, my trip in the promised land only lasts up to Hong Kong, before being cast back to economy. My seat companion for the final leg is a determined young lady returning home for xmas after trying to get some post law degree experience working in Australia, all be it only in a retail shop. It’s that ability to be mobile which many people aren’t able to experience during their transition to adulthood. It’s a precious investment, and one which is already lifting her out of the more closed network of her upbringing. Similar to the makeup artist, she might feel in that period of living when the future hope feels far away from reality, but in the end, as I remind her, in a Yeats / Gunn kind of way, we always arrive as someone by not standing still.
And finally, we do. To a cold London, rising in December sunshine, with a fountain of emails pouring from my phone.