Ordinea Zilei interview in English

Published 9 January 2017

Arabella McIntyre-Brown left British civilization for the tranquility of a village in the Carpathians… and found happiness


Stories about the Romanians who “run away” to the wider world to make their mark in foreign lands, we hear everywhere. But today’s story is about a British writer and journalist for whom a village in the heart of the Carpathians is home. Arabella McIntyre-Brown emigrated to Transylvania, and here, in a half-built cottage on a mountain slope, she found happiness.

“Every year I spend in this country I learn more, explore, make new friends. I like the traditional events of the country where times merge and I give the impression that the actual age of childhood gather in one event. I have wonderful neighbours, people tolerant of my foreign origin, and that the concept of ‘neighbour’ ensures that everyone around is involved in resolving any problems. I love my place in the mountains more and more: it’s a place where I feel at home, where I always feel welcome after every trip, whether I’ve been in Kathmandu, San Francisco, London or just Lidl supermarket in Zarnesti. Getting back home intoMagura is the best thing of all, “said Arabella McIntyre-Brown, in an interview for the newspaper.

In recent years, something like 200,000 Romanians moved to the UK while from the UK only a few thousand Britons came to Romania wishing to settle here. Most chose Bucharest and other major cities; only a few have discovered the special atmosphere of the countryside. Writer Arabella McIntyre-Brown is one of them.

She took this decision after some deaths in the family, but the truth behind the departure of England is rooted in a difficult childhood. At the age of 50 years, just when she was beginning to enjoy some success as a book editor and author, she sold her house in Liverpool, abandoning city life and her business, and threw herself into the maze that is Central Europe. She left all that was familiar and moved to Romania to live her life in solitude.

So, in 2010, Arabella McIntyre-Brown ‘came home’ to this part of the world surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains; at the time all her friends in England could see on Google Maps was a green blanket thrown over the whole area.

The decision to move from a British city to an unfinished cottage in a mountain village could have been a disaster. The author was over 50 years old, had no steady income, no pension and no backup plan. Despite all the signs that suggested she would fail miserably, today she says without reservation that she discovered the secret of happiness here. For her, paradise is the Transylvanian village of Magura, which sits at the altitude of the UK’s highest mountain peaks.

Using her experience in rural Romania, Arabella began writing a book that is sincere, entertaining and humorous. What began as the story of her move from a large British city to a remote Carpathian village, ended up as a veritable love letter to Romania.

All Publishing Group published this book in November 2016. Asked how she came to work with a Romanian publisher, the British writer replied simply: “I have lived the dream of all writers ­– I was invited.”

Arabella got involved with a project for Scoala Altfel (Otherwise School), with Silviu, a Romanian friend. “Silviu told me his cousin worked at All, and introduced us. In November 2015 we met at the Gaudeamus book fair, and at the beginning of 2016 Anca sent me an email that I won’t forget: ‘Have you ever thought about writing a book? We’d love to publish it.’ Let’s all get such messages! I answered pretty quickly explaining that I was more than half way through writing a book about life in my Transylvanian village … So we met, I finished the book, the All team went to work, and the result is now a reality in bookshop windows,” says the British writer.

And as rural Transylvania magic has charmed author profoundly, there is no doubt that the book “From Liverpool to the Carpathians” will win the hearts of all Romanian readers.

The author, however, is modest when talking about her project. “I hope the title will be successful, of course. It would be great to be a bestseller, but I’m not a household name in Romania and news about the book spreads more slowly in this situation. Readers tell me that they love it, as once they start to read it they can’t put it down. This is the most beautiful thing for an author to hear. I’m not looking for fame – I really like my solitary life and I’m horrified by stories of stars hunted by journalists and fans. I love my solitary life in the mountains,” says Arabella.

Although only recently published, the book is already successful, and in the Top 100 books being sold in Romania; it is oviously arousing the interest of readers eager to discover Romania through the eyes of a person “adopted” by our country.

“… A kind of guide for their own solitary journey – if you have the courage to venture on such a road,” Sir Ranulph Fiennes says in his foreword to the book.

The British writer is hoping that a British or American publisher may take on the book in its original English version. “In fact, I originally wrote the book for international readers, as a more accurate description of the qualities and character of Romanians, and a picture of the daily life of rural Transylvania (the Americans and British only know certain things about Transilvania and I don’t mean the recipe for ‘zacusca’). But Anca from All insisted that Romanians would be fascinated by the way they are perceived by foreigners,” says Arabella.

At the moment, she is working on several projects. “It is not the best way to complete a book, but I have too many ideas as to focus only on one. The next project is a children’s story to be published next summer, then I have a crime novel to finish. The action takes place in the south of England and in Transylvania and I hope it will be an unusual detective story,” she said.

Jokingly, she blames Romania for too much peaceful happiness. “It’s blissfully quiet and peaceful and I have time and space to think and write, so it should be a good place for creativity. But there’s so much going on outside my window – animals and birds to observe, like the pair of jays who bring up a young family every year in the trees next to my house – and clouds to watch. Don’t laugh: cloudwatching is a serious business (there is a famous Cloud Appreciation Society based in the UK) and missing a good cloud can be infuriating. Last week I was down in Zarnesti without my camera and saw some of the most spectacular clouds I’d even witnessed. So having all this wonderful life outside is very distracting.”

Arabella McIntyre-Brown was born and raised in West Sussex, England. At 19 she went to London where she lived for 11 years, and then moved to Liverpool for the next 20 years. In 2010 she moved from Liverpool to Magura village, near Bran, which she now calls home.

For about ten years she was a journalist, but in late 2000 she left the post of magazine editor and in less than a year published her first book, “Liverpool: The First 1,000 Years.

In 2003 she published her first children’s book – with illustrations by 30 local children; 20,000 children were given a free copy of the book. In total she wrote nine books and published several by other authors.

In 2005 she had to face several deaths in the family in a span of 14 months, starting with her sister and ending with her mother. Unable to work or take a decision, the only thing she could do then was to sell everything and move to Transylvania.

Din Liverpool in Carpati” (Editura ALL, 2016) tells the story of an extraordinary adventure to get established in Romania, with all the beautiful and contradictory elements involved in this radical change in the life of Arabella.

Romanian original here