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Ruby’s Accidental Encounters #2- Amelie

10 March 2013

For all those who envy my global lifestyle and encourage the international adventures, I appreciate it, but don’t forget that I sometimes envy a solid, regular pay cheque. But I’m not about to give up the lifestyle so I’m just rethinking to keep it working and smoother while the larger projects get up. Writing in the morning (magazine articles, copywriting, translation, but no yet to be financial projects!) and projects (tv, books, films, whatever) in the afternoon and cabaret, if I like, at night. Cabaret can be pocket money and writing sort the airfares etc.  My webmaster, Dave at Pilot Media, decided to make me a new site to encourage this and one of the first to compliment was my Swiss based English writer friend ‘Amerlie’ who reminded me of our serendipitous encounter I thought inspiring to share at this moment.

I landed in Geneva about six months into my first OS stint after a cushy writing job in London reviewing everything from books to bath bombs followed by work as a masseuse in ski resorts in Austria, where I worked on my stories and made a short film. When I arrived in Geneva for an editing course, I thought I’d pick up work easily. I didn’t. And the company who were paying for a photo shoot in St Anton went bankrupt and I couldn’t cash their cheque. So by about day three I had thirty francs left and only one shaky student contact.  I wasn’t about to call anyone for help as it I’d gotten myself into the pickle but I did have to call the bank back home to make sure that my card had been paid off properly as there was a mishap with exchange rates- they converted pounds to dollars, then back to pounds, but with the current exchange rate and charged me more and while I had no more credit options, I didn’t want debt.  

‘How’s Innsbruck?’ the guy on the end of the line asked me (this is where my credit card was swallowed). It is soooo nice and comforting to hear an Australian accent.  

‘Oh no I’m in Geneva now.’ I answer, excited by his interest.
‘Oh really? I have a friend in Geneva.’
‘Oh I’ll say hi for you.’ I reply, neither serious nor joking
‘Yes! You should. Tell him I’m sorry I haven’t written.’
‘Sure’ any contact right now could instigate the miracle I need.
‘He’s a professor at the uni.’ And he gives me his name.

I deal with my account, he confirms it’s closed but with no outstanding debt, and we chat for about an hour about music, life, travel and he before hanging up he tells me our conversation has inspired him to seriously consider travelling again next year. As I fall asleep on a pile of cushions (I have no bed yet, but they’re comfy) everything feels slightly brighter.

The next afternoon I hunt down the professor and find his office. He’s not in. I leave a note and pop back. We chat, he asks me if his friend has finished his PHD yet and I can’t bring myself to tell him that I know him as he closed my bank account so answer vaguely. He gives me the number for an English couple I should call- she’s a writer and he’s a poet.

Within an hour of speaking to Amelie, she has arranged for a notice to go up on the UN internal website to borrow a camp bed for me (which has a response almost immediately). We’re meeting the next day.

Even before the second round of coffee at L'Etabli, a cute Spanish style bistro cafe on Rue de la Medicine, I’m talking faster than I have since arriving in Geneva. Traffic isn’t the only thing that goes slowly in this city; I hadn’t realised how slowly I’ve been talking till thriving on the pace of this conversation. We flip between plans, articles, ideas, words, projects, stories, inspirations and coffee.

They are both writers; Amelie is my age, a tall girl with short light brown hair, pale skin and bright eyes also does contemporary dance and Matt, quite a bit older, is a photographer and poet. Amelie was working for a paper that went under and so she stayed on in Geneva. He is looking at getting an exhibition up in Geneva in the next few months and Amelie is working on a series of lifestyle articles she plans to sell to Vogue.
They invite me for lunch to their apartment, pointing out theatres, cheap internet, galleries and Laundromats on the way. The one bedroom flat is an airy top floor in Jonction and has large black and white tiles, French and English fashion magazines spread over the lounge and an old glorious typewriter on a wooden table in the kitchen.

As Amelie’s throwing on more coffee and instructing Matt to put on an inspirational classical CD, she proposes that together we type a list of all possible jobs. And not films and novels and other big projects and ideas that I can still work on but immediate money jobs. ‘Writing on this machine takes so bloody long that it will also give us the impression that you’ve got even more options!’ she exclaims, pulling up her hair in a loose purple scarf, taking a seat and starts striking the keys with her long fingers.

This is what we get:

“And I think..” she pauses to pour more coffee, “ you could pull off being a tourist guide- for Americans- round the Old Town- just make up the stories as you go!” I nod and think ‘what a remarkable woman.’

Amelie pulls out the phone book and we call all the English language schools. I get an appointment! Then we do a tour of all the English/Irish bars and leave my number. One or two seem interested. I’d never thought the idea of a bar job could seem so thrilling! I’d been too freaked out to think so small and practically. We part ways but she invites me back for dinner.

“It’s so good to talk to someone sane!” she keeps saying and while I think she is verbalising it to make me feel, better, I think she’s serious and it does feel great. We drink a glass of French wine, eat a salad from her cookbook she means to publish and talk photography, London scene, theatre, film and magazines. I’m beginning to feel normal again. “I think it’s great what you’re doing. It’s fabulous.” She says and with those little words your stresses start to reform as plot points for a column or an article or a piece of art and my life becomes exciting again instead of scary. We leave Matt and go to Bar Cuba for a delicious cocktail and conversation that sprays me with life and my fears turn into invigorating conflict and awakening debates with my fabulous new writer friend.

This is a dusted off extract from my bottom shelf novel Emerald Visions and Amelie is Romilly Golding who now runs a successful copywriting agency in Geneva.

Once a year or so we catch up in person or online and I’m instantly inspired, delighted and get excited again about words and ideas. Oh and when we chatted last week she showed me this fun site to try:

My new site is Before I allow myself to think about the 40K, I’m going to finish my next article for Rendezvous en France, the French tourism magazine and pitch another one. Let me know if you need some text or bespoke copy! It could help fund the tv show. An update on that next time…