I’m an English writer and teacher living in Transylvania, 3,500 ft up in a remote Carpathian mountain village. My name’s Arabella McIntyre-Brown, but call me Abbs.
I was born in a West Sussex hamlet called River, and now I live in a village whose Romanian name translates as Hill. Both River and Hill are built on calcium carbonate – chalk downs in Sussex, and limestone mountains in Transylvania, so I felt instantly at home on my first visit to Hill, seeing all the same flora and fauna – except that Hill also has eagles, bears, wolves, chamois, ravens, lynx – and no rabbits.
For eleven years I was in London – for the last three at Camden Lock, which was a pretty special place to work, hidden away from the city alongside the rural corridor of the Regent’s Canal.
I moved north to Liverpool in 1988, right at the nadir of the city’s fortunes. I lived there for 20 years, long enough to be a part of its renaissance, leaving at the end of its remarkable year as European Capital of Culture. While there I fell into journalism as editor of business magazines, winning a couple of awards before I quit to write books.
The first reached No.2 in Liverpool’s Waterstones over Christmas 2001, beating Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Delia and Ali G. Unbelievable. I admit to standing in the shop watching people taking my book off the shelf and having to restrain myself from offering to sign it for them.
Anyway, after eight books as an author and several more as publisher, I’d had enough of urban life, and the year I hit 50, I decided to go back to my childhood, in a manner of speaking. I’d found a house in Transylvania, in this village which not only looked and felt the same as my childhood home, but was a bit of a timewarp, with horses and carts and scythes and whathaveyou.
The loneliness project came about in April 2011, during a phone conversation with my brother-in-law, Ran Fiennes; what he said that day was that he admired my ability to live alone and love it, in the urban security of Liverpool, let alone the Carpathian mountains, remote from friends, family and everything familiar. ‘If you could explain why you don’t feel lonely, Abbs, that would help a lot of people.’ The idea took root, and nine months later, here we are.