First encounters: Claudia Carroll and Karen Nolan

Claudia Carroll and Karen Nolan on their decades-long friendship

C laudia's always been my best pal, we were at school together, at college together, we lived together, she was my bridesmaid, my daughter's godmother. She's been there for every single important occasion.

We met when I went to Loreto. Claudia was always really effervescent, positive, full of mischief but at the same time, really diligent and hardworking. She did really well in school. She was the perfect combination of fun but also a good, hard worker. She was fantastic at history and science. I lived in Clontarf and Claudia on the Merrion Road, but it didn’t matter, we saw each other all the time outside of school.

Then we both went to UCD – I studied modern languages. After that, three of us moved into a house in Lansdowne Park: we were all working. My mother had language schools, we were all pushed into learning foreign languages from a young age. I grew up in the business, worked in that area throughout college. Then I set up my own business: Claudia was there every single step of the way, encouraging me along. It wasn’t an easy task, but she always saw the positive side of everything.

I was in my late 20s when I pitched for the franchise for International House Dublin. Claudia was with
me in London; I was so nervous. I was the youngest person to have the affiliation and one of the only
women. It went from strength to strength – we're having the 15th anniversary of the school this year. Now I'm studying to become a chartered director with the Institute of Directors. I don't see myself ever not working.


Claudia and I lived together until I got married, used to go on lots of girlie holidays together; we were in Los Angeles, Spain, Mexico – and we still have lots of breaks together.

On my first pregnancy, I got pre-eclampsia and ended up in Holles Street hospital for 10 weeks. Not a day passed when Claudia didn’t come in, bringing me post and magazines.

Claudia was a very successful actress, acting in the Gate and the Abbey as well as having her job in Fair City . But I wasn't surprised that she became such a successful author: as soon as she took up writing, she applied herself from that moment on. Her new book, Me and You , is dedicated to me.

Claudia and I are still pals with a lot of the people we were in secondary school with – and now my daughters are in Loreto on the Green. Caroline’s 14 and Isabel is 10 – she’s studying speech and drama at the Royal Irish Academy. Claudia’s very much involved in their lives, has them spoiled absolutely rotten. We’re always going to pantos and shows. She’s hilariously funny – all of her family have an amazing wit.

Claudia hasn’t got a bad point. We’ve never had a cross word in 35 years.

My family adore Claudia, she’s an honorary Nolan.

Karen and I became pals at school in Loreto on the Green. I remember her first day: we were eight. It was very unusual to have a new girl then; we'd all been together since kindergarten, and had formed our gangs. I remember feeling sorry for her. It's difficult to come into a group, especially a group of tweeny girls who've been together so long. But by the end of that first day, everybody in the class was Karen's friend. She was kind and very generous: she lent me her markers and whispered me the answer to a test. We were mates from then on.

I've no children and no sister, but I've always said, I've Karen, and she was always nicer than any sister.
In UCD, I did business studies, a course Karen should have done. She went back to do a business Masters when her daughter was one. But I'd gone to Betty Ann Norton's [theatre school], and knew from a small age that I wanted to be an actress.

When Karen and I and another friend, Christine, moved into a house together after college, my wardrobe trebled. We stayed together for eight years, through several moves. Karen’s a fantastic cook, which I’m not. The only time I’ve ever approached being a passable cook was under her tutelage. I’d look in the fridge and say, oh nothing there, let’s order a pizza. Karen would look in and see two tomatoes and a bit of cheese and whip up something.

I remember the time Karen went to London to pitch for the International House franchise. She was only a young thing, in her 20s, and I was so proud. Later, I was in a play in the Gate when Michael Colgan invited us all out for a drink. I said I couldn’t go because my friend was up for the Dublin Businesswoman of the Year award that night.

The next day he asked me how she got on – I said “She won!”. I think it’s the only thing I ever said that impressed him.

I always had a dream that I wanted to write. I read a lovely quote from Maeve Binchy whose cousin Kate played my mother in Fair City – who said, you've got to be brave. Karen said, get your three chapters out there, what's to lose? I was in Fair City for 14 years, wrote my first three books in the dressingroom, between takes. I loved acting and I loved writing, but it came to a point – something had to give.

I started writing full time in 2006/2007, when I got an American book deal. It is hard work – but the women I admire most in the world are people like Karen who work, are in full-time education and have children. Karen’s daughters are beautiful girls . . . they’re my little pets.

Me and You is the first book dedicated to Karen. It celebrates friendship – who better to dedicate it to?