Sunday 18 March 2018

The 46a along York Road is the route to a world of dreams

Children's author Sarah Webb
Children's author Sarah Webb
Author Marian Keyes
Return: Julie Parsons. Photo: Tony Gavin

Julie Parsons

When you "jump on a bus to Dun Laoghaire" - the 46a of course - it'll take you down York Road, home to three of the winners in the Irish Book Awards. Sarah Webb (pictured), who won for children with A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea, Marian Keyes (pictured below), for popular fiction with her novel The Break and me too. I won for crime with The Therapy House. You'd have to say York Road is a road full of dreams.

Of course Dun Laoghaire is no stranger to writers. There's a plaque on the East Pier which remembers Samuel Beckett, who lived just off the 46a route, in leafy Foxrock in a beautiful house called Cooldrinagh on Kerrymount Avenue. I often stop at the plaque and pinch myself that I share the sea air with such a genius.

Author Marian Keyes

I have to pinch myself too as I toil up the York Road hill and pass Marian Keyes's gate. I think of all the wonderful stories that have poured out through it. Life and love, happiness and unhappiness, sadness, regret and ultimate redemption.

Stories with a sense of humour, essentially Irish, spreading their wings and flying from York Road around the world.

Sarah Webb's gate, too, hides a prodigious talent. A writer who's a watchword for creativity and focus. She writes for adults, young adults and children, and has inspired the generation of young writers to come.

I hunch over my desk, looking out on my neighbours' back gardens and plot, plan and scheme from page to page, until the bad guys are banged to rights and order is restored to my fictional world. Not that it's always fictional.

The Therapy House has real elements of Dun Laoghaire's past when it was a Protestant town, with four Protestant churches and Protestant shops and businesses. Most is gone now.

York Road Presbyterian Church is still in use, but the road's Birds' Nest orphanage, where footballer Paul McGrath spent his early childhood, called The Haven in my book, has been converted into apartments and offices.

I sit in my study every day. I know that up the road Marian and Sarah are doing the same. We're all dreaming, scheming, making it up and writing it down. Maybe it's the vigour of the sea air. Maybe it's Dun Laoghaire's friendly tolerance. It accepts us for what we are. Or maybe it's just because writing is what we do.

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