Ambassadors and presidents at Bookfest

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AMB at Bookfest green hatOne of each, anyway. After a lively talk at the 2019 Bookfest in Bucharest, came an entirely unexpected bonus. I was still signing books at the UK Stand, where I’d been one of their special guest authors, when the buzz went round that the President was on his way. I thought it might be worth hanging around a little longer.

The British Ambassador, Andrew Noble, noticed that I was lurking in the background (hard to be inconspicuous in the hat I was wearing), and was kind enough to introduce me to Klaus Iohannis, Romania’s very tall President.

In response to Mr. Noble’s brief outline of my story as a British migrant, the President’s response was short and sweet.

‘Impressive!’ he said as he shook my hand. Then, to my great surprise, he recognised me. “Is it possible that I’ve seen you in a documentary?” he asked. “It’s possible,” I replied.

Ambo, Pres, AMB

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Latest interview in vocea.biz

Journalist Ioana Nicolescu’s latest interview in online journal Vocea.biz is here, but below is a rather bad translation (Google Translate + me):

img_1236-me-writing-in-snowBritish writer Arabella McIntyre-Brown has lived for six years in a village on top of Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania, and is committed to never leaving Romania. She bought a house in Magura village and moved there permanently in 2010. This month she has published a book about her life in Magura, which she wrote over several years. “It’s been a while since I published a book, I think eight years. It’s great to get back into the world of books. How did I realize I should write a book about my life here? It’s simple – it’s Transylvania, and people from outside the country are very curious about this place; Transylvania is one of the most romantic names in the world.

“For years I’ve been writing notes about my life here – not regularly, but occasionally I’d put my thoughts on paper. I remember the first time I heard the sound of the scythe as it cut the grass and saw people scything the meadow, it was like a ballet. In the book I wrote a little about my life in England, for readers to understand where I come from and why I make this parallel between Romania and Liverpool. I write mostly about my life in the village, about animals around the house, about my cats, about the rhythm of life here, in the heart of the mountains,” she said in an earlier interview for Vocea.biz.

She says that many foreigners do not believe that Transylvania is a real place. “I get the impression that people believe Transylvania is a mystical realm, like Ruritania, or Avalon in the legend of King Arthur, because they read about it in a book. When they hear that I really live there, they’re amazed, and ask me How is it possible? How is life there? Are there vampires?” says Arabella, laughing.

She says that the brand of “Transylvania” is very strong, one of the strongest tourism brands in the world, and surely the most famous brand name in Romania: everyone has heard of Transylvania.  Romania gets rather negative publicity, and this is often the perception of foreigners. Romanians are aware that the outside world does not have a good opinion of their country. “People are fascinated but know nothing about Romania. The stories that we hear in the UK are quite negative. For example, when I moved from London to Liverpool, people said I was crazy, because the country had a negative perception of Liverpool. In the case of Romania, the world does not know what is actually here and make assumptions based on limited information. They get their information from the right-wing press, which appears to be ignorant of anything outside the UK. It’s very similar to what Liverpool had to put up with for years.

When I first went to Liverpool and Romania, I noticed that in both places, people apologised for the city, for their country. Romanians and Liverpool residents are proud of their birthplaces, but at the same time are aware that the outside world does not have a good opinion of them, so they asked: ‘You like it here?’ Obviously I really liked it, I’d just bought a house there,” said the British writer.

Once local people learn about her story, the first question they ask  is “Why did you move here?” After finding out that she’s been here for six years, they ask “How come you haven’t left yet?”

“Why ask me that? For years the foreign press and even the media in Romania said that the country is ugly and that its people are lazy and dishonest, which is a colossal stupidity. This is the level of intelligence of the British tabloid press and their readers; this very distorted image of Romania has been absorbed here and has destroyed people’s confidence over the years,” said Arabella.

She mentioned what she first knew about Romania. “Immediately after the revolution, I heard about the execution of Ceausescu; I even kept newspapers from that day because it was something shocking. I didn’t know anything much about Romania – it wasn’t generally discussed in the UK outside specialist circles. I met my first Romanian in Liverpool – a young man who helped to illustrate one of my books – and his parents, both doctors: wonderful people. I first came to Romania in 2003 to do a short course in Zarnesti. It has changed a lot since then. What I remember is that people were very eager to know that we were enjoying ourselves and we liked it here. It was superb. We were taken by horse and carriage up to Magura and I felt great, as though I had gone back in time to 1960s’ Sussex, where I grew up. I went home after the holiday, but the next year I bought a house here,” said Arabella. The decision to move here came after some tragedy in her life. Several family members died within about 14 months, first her sister, then her aunt, and her mother. “I became overwhelmed – it’s hard to describe what happened, but I was not able to think straight; I couldn’t work, so there was no way to pay my bills. I realised that I had a house in Romania and I could move here, so I sold the house in Liverpool and in July 2010 I settled here, “said the writer.

Neighbours were already accustomed to her eccentric presence and received her with open arms. “Few people in the village spoke English, but I knew a little Romanian – very limited, but it was okay; one of my neighbours is a teacher at the village school and speaks English, so I have someone to talk to if my Romanian language fails. I’m something of a hermit, I like to be alone, I do not want to be disturbed. If I do not see anyone for a week, and it’s just me with my cats, it’s okay. What I love is that the rural world is full of life, of nature; it’s not always silent, but the sounds are animals and birds, not the sound of city traffic,” she said. Life here reminds her of her life as a child in the famous English country landscape. “I loved animals, and was given a piglet – we were friends even when she was fully grown and had piglets of her own.

“I think the reason I feel at home in Magura is that the earth itself is made of the same elements: chalk and limestone, and both places have the same animals and plants. I immediately felt something in the air here, I was back in my element.

“Another reason Magura is an ideal location,” she added, “is the cost of living. I heard recently that the fifteenth century house where I was born was sold for over two million pounds. My home here cost 1% of this price.

“I’m very lucky,” said Arabella.

TEDx and Vocea offer evidence

A couple of stories have appeared today, in the TEDx Brasov magazine (which has a link to my TEDx talk in May) and Vocea.biz. Thanks to Tibi Ruczui, Ioana Niculescu and Miruna Tudor.

This piece follows on from my TEDx talk in May, about creativity, imagination and innovation.  “Imaginaţie, creativitate, inovaţie. Toate reprezintă acelaşi lucru, corect? 
În realitate, de fapt, sunt trei lucruri total diferite.” Astfel şi-a început Arabella, englezoaică de provenienţă, discursul….  Read more 

arabella-mcintyre-brown-from-financial-times

A piece in today’s Vocea.biz, about the launch on Saturday. “Cu o pălărie mare tip joben și o pană prinsă chiar pe mijloc, Arabella McIntyre-Brown atrage imediat privirile publicului care s-a adunat la târgul de carte Gaudeamus ce are loc în acest weekend la Romexpo în București. „Din Liverpool în Carpați”, cartea pe care o lansează astăzi, este despre viața pe care o trăiește într-un sat din inima Transilvaniei, Măgura, despre oamenii de acolo, despre animalele din sat, despre natură și despre liniștea sufletească pe care Arabella a găsit-o aici, în România, unde dorește să rămână….” Read more

img_0446-1-768x527-iniculescu

Photo: Ioana Niculescu

 

The truth for The Truth

adevarul-blog-interview-23-10-16Here’s this weekend’s interview, on the blog of Adevarul, in Romanian… (and below, in English)

 

Arabella McIntyre-Brown, an English writer established in Romania: “At first, I chose Magura village, not Romania”

by Livia Lucan-Arjoca (Roșca)

Arabella McIntyre-Brown, writer and journalist who lived for 20 years in Liverpool, has for the last six years been in Magura, Brasov County. Sufficient time to write the book “From Liverpool to the Carpathians: How I found happiness in the heart of Transylvania” – a love letter to Romania’s qualities and flaws, a story of rediscovering herself, full of English humour. For Arabella McIntyre-Brown has found the secret of happiness in the simplicity of rural living in Transylvania and wrote the story with passion, talent and contradictory emotions, in a manner so authentic that it melts the hearts of Romanians. The whole adventure of her settling in Romania is in the book “From Liverpool in the Carpathians”, which will be launched in November at the Gaudeamus Book Fair, at Editura ALL’s stand.. Until then, this is how life is in Magura, seen through the eyes of an Englishwoman enamoured of Romania.

You say it was  love at first sight when you first came to Romania. Several years have passed since you moved here: what has changed in your perception and what has remained the same?



I’m still in love! At first I was here in Romania mainly because that’s where Magura was – I chose the village, not the country. But as the time has flown by and I have explored a little more, got to know people here, and made friends, I have come to love Romania as a whole. I get very defensive when I hear anyone running the country or Romanian people down, and get quite boring about the qualities of both… Some things about Romania drive me crazy, but every country I’ve been to (including Britain) has its weak spots. And if things drives you crazy, it means you must care. My visitors, without exception, have been surprised and charmed by Romania: friendly strangers, a warm welcome, new friends, and a beautiful countryside. A little piece of paradise.

What does an ordinary Magura day look like?

As I live in the countryside, it usually depends on the weather. The year round, the day begins with breakfast for my four cats and the dog, then my breakfast as I listen to the news on BBC radio online. In winter, that’s followed by trudging out to the woodshed for logs (usually having to dig the snow away from the door first) so I can light the soba in my study. There’s no central heating here. Between early May and October the soba is usually unemployed, and I can have breakfast outside in the sun. Then it’s straight on to the computer: I check emails and Facebook messages and try not to get sucked into Facebook for more than five minutes (usually I fail – I’m so weak). Then it depends what work is to be done. There’s no routine, which is the best and the worst thing about the freelance writer’s life. I may have an English text book to edit, or a press release from a corporate client to turn from Google Translate English into real English. It’s pleasant work – all my clients are adorable, and I enjoy the editing process which is much less of a hassle than writing. In warm weather I’ll have lunch in the garden, with the mountain ridge of Piatra Craiului as a backdrop, then I might do some work on one of my blogs, have a sneaky peek at Facebook, or settle down to some focused writing. There’s a children’s book in the pipeline, a crime novel being plotted, and a book on how to deal with loneliness. Too many ideas! If I’m in the mood, I can write till midnight or later and collapse into bed for a great night’s sleep (if the dog isn’t going mad, barking at invading bears or wild boar). If I have visitors, I cook for them and have a good conversation and some laughs over supper, maybe watch a DVD or play cards. But I love my solitary evenings, too. Time to read, if I’m lucky, or listen to drama on the BBC.

The most recent book you wrote is “a love letter” to these places, but it is also the story of you rediscovering yourself. What are the lessons you have learned sine you have moved to Romania?



The first lesson is that it’s okay to start a new life after 50 – change is good, even if it’s a challenge. I’ve learned to let go of some fears and longings that no longer mattered; and that living alone is, truly, delightful and enriching when you discover that being alone is not the same as feeling lonely.

Do you miss England? How you manage that feeling?



Of course there are times when I long to be in England, such as bluebell time (late April) when the oak and beech woods of my childhood were carpeted with drifts of British bluebells, flowers of a soft madonna blue that reach deep into my heart. But one of the reasons I love Magura is that it’s so like West Sussex, where I was born. This is a home from home.

You left behind, in England, lifetime friends. Do you have friends in Romania?



I have more friends here than I deserve, that’s for sure. Most of my friends here are Romanian and only a handful are British expats. I’ve always had friends around the world, and have never been one to live in an expat community. Of course I miss my UK friends and family, but I see them when I go back, they come out to visit, and we keep in touch on Facebook, by email and Skype – technology drives me mad, but it’s absolutely brilliant at at making the world a very small place.

In Romanian villages, women cook. Did you learn to cook like a Romanian? Which Romanian food is your favourite?



Romanian cooks take a great deal of time and effort to prepare delicious food – I’m far too lazy to take such trouble! With one of two exceptions – I make zacusca every autumn, which takes some time, but it is SO delicious, it’s well worth the effort. I love cooking for friends, but am mostly vegetarian so make satisfying, rich and delicious vegetarian and vegan food which goes down very well. Since moving here I’ve also become a cake maker and a jam and preserve maker. I have a large elderflower tree in the garden, a huge mirabel tree, and five sour-cherry trees. But I don’t make tuica… Visinata, yes, and my own secret liqueur from a local, natural and seasonal source, which is always a hit. I grow some vegetables, mostly green leafy veg, beans and peas, as well as berries; I’ve also planted lots of fruit trees – I’ve had three apples from one so far…

How do you now perceive Prince Dracula’s story?



I’ve always known the difference between Count Dracula and anything historically accurate… I worked on a theatrical production of Dracula in London, and share an important date with Bram Stoker, but have never been an all-out fan of Gothic fiction. What I’ve learned about Vlad III is fascinating, and I enjoyed a book called The Historian – up to the very disappointing ending, anyway. Vlad got about the Balkans, even if he didn’t set foot in Bran Castle.

What is your message for the Romanians who want to leave Romania for England?

The British are not, on the whole, as open and emotional as Romanians. We keep our hearts guarded until we know someone well. But we’re not cold and unfriendly – be patient. Stay away from the east coast, which is where most of the bigots live. The UK is full of warm and friendly people, intelligent and kind, so don’t let some ignorant, fearful bullies put you off the British as a whole. Go to Liverpool, find a pub called Peter Kavanagh’s, and say hello to the landlady, Rita Smith. Say Arabella sent you. You’ll get a warm Liverpool welcome…

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If you’re wondering about Rita and Kavanagh’s pub, you can discover more here.