Nine years today…

8th July 2010

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My poor little car rolled into Magura, loaded to the gunnels, bringing me to the village as the newest resident. We trundled across Europe for 8 days, after leaving London SE1 on 1st July, taking the scenic route and having adventures in six countries.

The house was nowhere near ready, even for camping in.

And it was years before every room was habitable. But I had my books and other comforts, and I acquired cats.

IMG_6939First, skinny kitten Hobbs, who blackmailed me for biscuits and tins of food.

Then she became Mama Hobbs, producing three kittens in May 2011. Mouse, Buster and George grew to become handsome and all bigger than their mum. Officially the happiest cats in Romania.

I only survived thanks to my neighbours, who have been kind and tolerant of the odd English writer in their midst: they’ve fed me, entertained and helped me since I arrived.

There have been furry souls in need of rescue:

…and members of the neighbouring family, and occasionally a new and beautiful friend.


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There have been visits from friends, strangers and family over the years, the strangers becoming friends, of course.

But every day there is beauty all around me, in every season, wild and domestic, rain and shine.

This is indeed a little corner of heaven, my stake in Transylvania.Stake_AMB 3D render with shadow

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New cover reveal

Here’s the beautiful cover for the English edition which will be out very soon. Created by Anjanee at 17 Studio Book Design, it captures some of the key elements of the story of why I moved to Romania, and why I’ve stayed.

Stake cover 564kb

There’s Bran Castle, my local fortress, the ubiquitous chickens, the archetypal Romanian haystack against a snowy mountain backdrop, and one of many cats who play an important role in the story.

The black birds figure strongly, both observed in nature, and as metaphors for the dark events that triggered my escape from the UK.

It was important that – despite the Gothic pun of the title – the overall impression was of light and beauty, since the place I now call home is a corner of heaven.

Not-my-dog, not a lover boy

Poor Papi. I thought he must be the Big Daddy of Laica’s pups, as they cohabit next door.

But Laica has had two pups, and my neighbour Emilia tells me that the father is clearly NOT Papi but my uphill neighbour’s dog Haiduc. One pup is white with black splodges – a bit of a giveaway…

As soon as I get some pix of the puppies, I’ll update you.

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Haiduc, the big beautiful boy up the hill

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Laica, new mum. Aboutthe same size as Haiduc, both Mioritic/Carpathian Shepherd mixes, so I bet their puppies are glorious…

English edition out in a few days!

I can’t show you the whole cover yet, but here’s a teaser…

A Stake in Transylvania - Version 2

 

I’m delighted with it and will be so proud to show it off, take it with me everywhere, till I bore people to death with it. ‘Shut up, Abbs, we’ve seen it 99 times… Yes, we love it too, now go away…’

The book, A stake in Transylvania, will be out in digital form first, as an ebook for all you digital readers around the world. A couple of weeks later on, I’ll have the first printed books in the boot of my car and winging their way to readers in UK and elsewhere.

I’ll post links to online and physical shops here on the blog, so you’ll be able to get your hands on a copy easily and efficiently.

Lover boy is back

Papi, not-my-dog who vanished in the pursuit of love, eventually came back. He was beaten up, scarred and limping – presumably he’d been doing battle with younger, stronger dogs for the favours of whatever luscious girls they’d found in the village.

But he was home, he was alive, and has since recovered. Here he is, lounging in the sun at the end of this winter. Looking tiny besides Laica!

IMG_6771 - Version 2Now, in fact, he has his very own wife. Now adult, Laica has been on a chain for two years since she was only a few months old. She was released over Christmas, when I got the chance to tame this vicious biter (wouldn’t you be angry and ready to bite if you’d been on a chain 24/7 since your childhood?) with a couple of dog chews and some gentleness. She is a sweet dog, full of energy and enthusiasm, always hungry, always longing for love. And now, very pregnant… Papi is about to become a father. Watch this space…

Crow and cat get their own book

Dahlia’s Pet Detectives (Dalia si micii detectivi) will be in the spotlight at the end of next week (Thursday 31st May, Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd June) when my new book is launched at Bucuresti’s Bookfest (Romexpo).

It’s my third children’s book published by Booklet Fiction, and the second set in the village of Hay, which looks amazingly like Magura…

If you read Floss the lost puppy, you’ll recognise the village of Fân (Hay) where Dahlia and Chip are neighbours and schoolmates of Thea and Tudor Thimble. A completely new story, but set in the same Transylvanian village, high up in the Carpathian Mountains.

Dalia cover

I have a Pinterest board devoted to pictures of cats like Onyx, and crows like Gossip. So you can see what Dahlia’s friends look like as you read their adventures…

I’ll be waiting to meet you on the Booklet Fiction stand on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at midday, ready to sign your copies. Come and say hello!

Read more about Dahlia and her friends here!

Undogged

 

Papi, or Not-My-Dog, has vanished. Along with Codita, his canine friend up the hill, Papi has not been seen all week.

The last time he went missing, he’d been down in the valley chasing sheep with his girlfriend. A neighbour said the farmer who owned the sheep tried to spear Papi with a hayfork, but missed him by a whisker. The farmer complained to my neighbours, Papi’s owners, and threatened to charge them for any sheep killed.

Stupid damned dog! He has a fabulous life, free to roam, fed by three households, friend to all, and left to snooze in the grass for much of the day. He is only required to chase off foxes and birds of prey, and warn of strangers coming close.

The sheep-chasing incident got him chained up for two weeks, and only by a lot of begging did I persuade my kind neighbour to liberate him. But if the fool dog has gone sheep-chasing again, it’s very possible that this time he and Codita didn’t escape the wrath of the farmer. We may never know.

So my visitors’ companion on long walks, my loyal friend who chased off unwanted dogs and cats (and bears and wild boar who came too close), and the familiar black-and-tan figure who came to greet me when I drove down to the house – Papi may be no more than fond memories. Of course he may just be off on a spring jaunt, and might be back, exhausted, starving and happy…

Papi leads the way home

Papi loved taking visitors on walks around Magura

Just discovered a wonderful review

Copywriter and lifestyle editor,  Georgiana Ciofoaia reviewed the book on her blog back in March 2017, but I’ve only just come across it. Scroll down for an English version, or read the whole review on Georgiana’s blog.

“Cu un subtitlu copleșitor – „Cum mi-am găsit fericirea în inima Transilvaniei”, cartea Arabellei pare o mostră de laborator a României. Scrisă cu acuratețe și migală, povestea este una actuală, modernă, sinceră, vie.

Descrierile jurnalistice dezvăluie o Românie în oglindă cu toate frumusețile și imperfecțiunile ei, cu generozitatea și drumurile imposibile, cu livezile bogate și oamenii ei. Fiecare pagină are o poveste de spus. Iar Arabella reușește (cum oare?) să spună poveste fiecăruia, croind-o pe-a ei.

Scrisul Arabellei cucerește. Desenarea unui echilibru plăpând ține loc de intrigă însă fiecare capitol are sursa sa de comic, tragic sau extraordinar.

Ce îmi place cel mai mult este puterea imaginilor pe care Arabella McIntyre – Brown reușește să le deseneze în imaginația mea

Enciclopedie a vieții la țară, ‘Din Liverpool În Carpați’ este o colecție de povești reale despre case și construcții, despre vecini amabili și generoși, despre profitori lacomi, despre natură și etapele ei, despre muncă, despre sărbători.”

“With a stunning subtitle – ‘How I found my happiness in the heart of Transylvania‘, Arabella’s book is a laboratory sample of Romania. Written accurately and scrupulously, the story is real, modern, sincere, alive.

Journalistic descriptions reveal Romania in the mirror with all its beauty and imperfections, generosity and impossible ways, rich orchards, and her people. Every page has a story to tell. And Arabella succeeds (how?) to tell a story to everybody…

Arabella’s writing conquers. The drawing of a delicate balance keeps an intriguing place, but each chapter has its source of comedy, tragedy or the extraordinary.

What I like the most is the power of the pictures that Arabella McIntyre – Brown manages to draw in my imagination.

An encyclopedia of country life, From Liverpool In The Carpathians is a collection of real stories about houses and construction, about kind and generous neighbours, greedy profiteers, nature and its seasons, work and celebrations.”

 

La multi ani, România!

Romania’s National Day – 99 years since the union. A day of pride and warm emotions, some regrets and many wishes for a brighter future.

Lots of posts on Facebook today have been wishing that Romanians abroad would come home and help drive their country forward; other posts by the diaspora around the world are about remembering the good with great fondness and regretting the frustrations of a country with such potential and so many rare assets, thwarted from development by its own government…

One of the most common comments I get from readers of this book is that my enthusiasm for the country reminds readers of what they love about Romania, and so many wonderful aspects that they’d forgotten.

It’s not a sentimental book, but it seems to prompt strong sentiments in those who read it. A good book to read on 1st December…

 

I’ve just brought out another book, this time for children aged 7-10. It’s a sweet Christmas story, based on truth, set in a village rather like mine, in the Carpathian Mountains. I’m donating my author’s royalties to two fabulous charities: Eli Pet Transport, and Romanian Animal Rescue, which do so much amazing work to rescue and save dogs and cats. So every copy you buy will help a homeless dog or cat– do buy lots!

Floss cover 2.jpg

Book going cheap for Black November!

Din Liverpool in Carpati-2-final-smallGrab the chance to get my book cheap, in time for Mos Craciun, with the lovely discounts at librarie.ro! The online bookshop is almost giving the book away – a lifelong present for the cost of a couple of coffees. How could you resist?

Readers have said:

“…extrem de sensibilă în fața miracolului naturii, împovărată de un trecut cu lumini și umbre, frământată de griji cotidiene, o femeie despre care cred însă că nu e conștientă de farmecul pe care-l posedă fiind timidă și în prea mare măsură rezervată.”

“You lend us your sharp eyes and understanding. You make us understand ourselves better, you make us better understand you. You give us importance by understanding us better than we sometimes do. Your book gives us hope in a world where we have lost heaven.

A real painter in touch with the pure essence of things and beings. I found myself immersed into a dialogue with you, dear Arabella, about solitude, the energy that comes from living close to nature, the joy of being present to the sounds of the forest.”

I simply love the way in which it is written, the fact that the words can make me actually SEE/FEEL your world, is just brilliant!”

I’ve appreciated both your humour and your self-irony or the finger pointed at various strange characters you’ve come across … I got carried away…”

“The book is unlike anything I’ve read, full of emotion, in which the author puts her heart out for you, so it’s impossible not to be moved. And the language is so normal, alive, it’s like a friend whom you haven’t seen in a long time.”

“I had a ‘white’ night last night. I couldn’t take my hands off your book. It made me laugh, it made me cry or both at the same time. Regardless of what this country has been giving you, I am sure I speak on behalf of all of your Romanian friends when saying: “Thank you for what YOU give us.”

“Honest, deeply sensitive, beautifully expressed. What a fabulous book this is.”

“…the quality of your writing is top-notch and I adore the naturalness of your use of metaphor: ‘longing for dreamless oblivion cradled in the city’s roar’, ‘I’m a molecule on the skin of the earth’ and your precise punctuation, which gives your writing such a lovely flow.”

“Really, it’s wonderful – you’ve basically opened the door to a different way of seeing and understanding Romania.”

“…fascinating, and it reads just as you talk, flows so naturally. … Your chapter on Ginny was painful to read,  powerful and compelling as the reader joins you every step of the way as you navigate the darkest of times.”