I decide not to talk to her at first. Partly because she is sporting a full-length, fully-done-up raincoat, in hearing-aid beige. Partly, if I’m honest, because it’s the start of a thirteen hour long-haul flight to Johannesburg. And being frightfully British, there’s always the outside chance that she may just be returning from the World Talking Championships. The final reason for not saying hello, is that she’s asleep. Well if a pre-take-off snooze is good enough for a gold medallist in a mac, then it’s good enough for me. So I slip into what I hope will be a quiet slumber.
I awake to find her reading my book. Not browsing the outside cover, but reading the thing. She has even picked up at chapter sixteen, exactly where I had put it down. The cheek! The very cheek! What to do? What to say? Should I summon the cabin crew with a poke of the bell button (overeacting to the felony surely?), or should I swipe my credit card phone, calling the police? Instead, I rather nonchalantly lean forward to the seat pocket in front of me, to pick out another choice of reading. And that’s when I find my book. My actual book, as opposed to the one which I have recently accused the fine woman of pilfering. Two people, sat next to each other, long haul, reading the same chapter of the same book, bought in different locations (it transpires).
“What are the chances of that?”
I ask, with all of the warmth and forgiveness I can muster. And so begins an entirely charming conversation. Which lasts for twelve and three quarter hours. Not really, but it was enjoyable none the less.
Seriously though, what are the chances? On the one hand, it’s remarkable. On the other, it isn’t. Because how many books, good books, actually go on sale, in English, in these airports far from home? How many are by internationally renowned authors? I reckon it boils down to a couple of hundred. Or five if you’re shopping in Santiago.
This has been the most incredible week. In the last three cities on the Whistlestop Tour, I have been hosted by three of the most fantastic people I have met in years. Matt Jones in Sydney, Dash (just Dash) in Kuala Lumpur, and Houghton Wan in Hong Kong. From the minute we met, we got on. They picked me up at the airport, hosted me for meals, and gave me a terrific insight into their country and entrepreneurial culture. All of them are working to make Global Entrepreneurship Week a success, and involving hundreds of other organisations in the process.
What are the chances of travelling to the other side of the world and yet meeting an individual with whom you could certainly become firm friends with at home? On the one hand it’s remarkable. On the other, it isn’t. There’s something about The Week (connecting people across seventy five countries, to have ideas and make them happen), which attracts a cetain kind of person. It’s easy not to engage. Everyone’s busy. But when you do, it’s amazing the kind of kindred spirits you meet. If you haven’t got on board already, there’s still time – Global Entrepreneurship Week is almost ready for take off!