Nine years today…

8th July 2010

Magura110

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.

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…

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

I live in a fairytale

It’s true: I know it, and am grateful every day. My brother Charles and his family came to Magura this month for their first visit, and he was utterly bewitched by the place. He told all my neighbours that it was magical, like a fairytale. And not just the beauty of the landscape, but the survival of so many traditions: folklore, traditional dress, time-proven skills, food and the whole way of life.

Roxana & girls singingHe was fascinated by my neighbour Viorel’s skill with the scythe (I’ll post a video later), and was captivated by a happy moment when Viorel’s wife Roxana and a little chorus of children stopped on their way to a village wedding to give us a preview of the song they would sing for the bride.

I love it here. Wouldn’t you?

Too hot and sticky? Watch this!

For all of you suffering from heat and humidity, watch these two videos of yesterday’s gentle thunderstorm over a Carpathian mountain village in Transylvania, and bask in the calm, cooling greenery of my home. Aaahhhh…

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Weeds and cholesterol

19095332_1601402143267072_3596137347554648961_oHere’s my piece in the first edition of the new print magazine OZB (O Zi Buna). The English-language mag, well-illustrated, is produced by a British-Dutch-Romanian team for Romania’s international community (aka immigrants / expats) and is a lively read. Get stuck in – if you’ve got a story of your own, or know of one that needs telling, get in touch with editor Douglas Williams. And if you can distribute copies (they’re free), let him know that, too.

Here’s my piece on food, wild and otherwise. I’d love your feedback…

Simon’s Cat explains my year

If you don’t know Simon’s Cat, prepare to fall in love.

Here he is, the furry pillock, scampering through a year. He could very easily be Arabella’s Cat and has characteristics of all four of mine, but looks most like Buster.

Simon Tofield is the genius animator, cat lover, observer and entertainer. English, too. You can find out all about Simon and Simon’s Cat here.

This is largely how a year goes chez Arabella. Enjoy.