My love affair with Rye began more than 30 years ago. I had known about it from historical novels read in my teens and from history lessons concerning the Napoleonic wars, but never made it down here. Then one fateful day I came on a trip with friends from London, and it was love at first sight.
I thought at that time, and on subsequent visits by myself, just to be here, walk around and feel all my cares and worries fall away, how much I’d love to live in this fantastic spot. But work, family and other commitments made this wish seem as unattainable as finding the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow. You know it’s there, but your chances of getting your hands on it are practically non-existent.
And there was an additional twist to this wish. My antecedents were Russians who fled the revolution in 1920, but the language was always kept up in the family, and the Russian word for paradise is pronounced ‘Rye’. So apt, I thought, this is such a heavenly place. Work took me abroad for many years, but when the time came to retire, there was no doubt in my mind where to settle, as the crock of gold was suddenly within reach; you just have to wish for it really, really hard.
Unsurprisingly, my living in ‘Rye’ has been the source of much amusement among my Russian-speaking friends and former colleagues all over the world. For some it came as a nasty shock to hear (in Russian) that “Alyona is in Rye now “, as for a moment they thought that I had died. Even those who do not speak Russian have heard the joke and invariably ask me “How are things in paradise?” when we Skype.
I don’t know whether I’ll be admitted into paradise when the time comes, but for now Rye is all the paradise I need. Moreover, my neighbours and the new friends I have made here are angels – as one would expect, of course.
I’m still the new girl on the block, but after a year I have not had a moment of regret. In fact, I find myself increasingly reluctant to leave the place even for a day and always catch the first possible train back when I have to go elsewhere. After all who, in their right mind, would want to leave paradise?
The author is a former interpreter and correspondent for the BBC Russian Service
Image Credits: Rye New library .