Nick Dunning: ‘‘I appreciate the peace of being here’’

After living in London for many years, actor Nick Dunning appreciates the calm pace of life in Dalkey

‘Lise-Ann and I came here 12 years ago from London; we wanted a place to bring up our two children. A lovely thing happened when we first came; people dropped in notes, inviting us to Christmas parties. It was great to be welcomed, a tradition that would never happen in England. Ours is a very little street, everyone nods and says hello.

“On our wedding day I took my best man swimming in the 40 Foot, a christening of sorts. Part of the joy of living in Dalkey is being near the sea. That and the people, of course. I swim a lot, go through phases of swimming in the 40 Foot. There was a time when Lise-Ann and I went there every single day, particularly during the summer.

“I’ve done a few of the Christmas swims and they’re horrendous. Seeing the other blue faces takes away some of your fear but anyone who says it’s wonderful is lying. The pleasure is in the sense of exhilaration when you come out of the water.

“The ease of access to town is great, only 25 minutes on the Dart to Tara Street and a few minutes walk from there to the Abbey or Gate theatres. I spent years on the London Underground so I just love travelling past the sea on the Dart. At the moment I’m rehearsing in the Abbey so I’m on the train every morning. The mornings I’m not on the train I go to the gym in Dun Laoghaire on my bike.

“I like the local pubs, restaurants and small shops, places like the Select Stores, where you can get organic and local produce. And of course we love The Tramyard Market, a huge area in the middle of Dalkey where trams used be kept and serviced. It’s now a farmers’ market with fabulous restaurants which we frequent.

“I was brought up in the centre of London, in Muswell Hill and South Gate and The Oval. Though I adore London it gets to you after a while so I really appreciate the peace and bliss of being here. Killiney Hill is the eighth wonder of the world. I go there to walk our dog, a white Bison Frize called Poppy, she’s absolutely gorgeous.

"We got Poppy on the recommendation of (actor) John Kavanagh who said a Bison Frize would be great for the children; good-tempered, kind and loving. John's not feeling too well and we want him back on stage – and back Bison Frize walking too. Going up Killiney Hill people always say hello. It becomes a habit and I have to stop myself when in London. Grumpy Tube travellers would think you some sort of menace to society.

“I’d like to make a plea for a bit of creative innovation in Dun Laoghaire. I hate seeing all the empty, closed shops. I’ve heard it described as Monaco to the front, Beirut at the back. Dun Laoghaire needs a people project of some kind. If they were to get a few actors involved we’d sort it out in five minutes. Bureaucrats think in straight lines, artists think in spirals and tangentially – all the things I was told not to do at school and now do to make my living.

“Once a year a cherry tree blossoms in our garden, blooming for 12 days only. It’s another thing I love about Dalkey. I really think I’ll have to be carried out of here.”

In conversation with Rose Doyle

Nick Dunning will play Sir Toby Belch in the Abbey Theatre's first production of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in 30 years. It opens on April 25th