There are 'avenues' everywhere. But Gorey has the real thing...
I LOVE Gorey, it may now be revealed, and I have done so loyally and unswervingly ever since last Wednesday.
The onset of this emotion has come relatively late in life. After years of vague affection, regard has finally blossomed to become the full romantic Monty. This amorous declaration is made, not from sentiment born of fleeting obsession, but rather springs from a deep well of respect.
The penny of passion dropped on the day in question during a stroll along The Avenue, in Irish known as An Ascail. It dawned on me that Gorey has an avenue worthy of the name, an avenue of both style and importance. A real avenue goes somewhere, while worth visiting on its own account. A real avenue is an address to be coveted. A real avenue stops just a small fraction short of being a boulevard. Such is The Avenue, Gorey.
Wexford otherwise has a tendency to apply the A word to out-of-the way thoroughfares and residential back waters. Study the map of New Ross, for instance, and you may note the existence of Auburn Avenue. With all due respect to those lucky enough to reside there, Auburn is an Avenue only in the mind of the developer who named it thus. A perfectly pleasing housing estate, it would better have been christened Auburn Close or (at a push) Auburn Villas. An avenue it is not.
Or take Gimont Avenue in Enniscorthy, one of the biggest council estates in all of the county, sitting pretty at the bottom of Vinegar Hill. It has a fine location on the outskirts of town. The well intentioned officials and councillors who christened it thus were understandably anxious to mark the link between the town and its French twin, Gimont. Fair enough.
Addition of the word Avenue had the merit of appending a pleasing French sound - and to hell with terminological exactness. Gimont, Enniscorthy style, is actually a warren not an avenue and should perhaps have been styled Gimont Groves or even (not sure about this) Gimont Meadows, given its proximity to extensive dairy pastures.
Colleague Maria Pepper points out that Wexford Town, up Mulgannon direction, is graced by a discreet and exclusive neighbourhood called Avenue de Flandres. She threatens to some day write up the history of this place where the houses were built long ago to accommodate management staff employed at the nearby Pierce's foundry.
They sound absolutely adorable homes but (sorry, Maria) as there are only half a dozen of them, there is no justification whatever for calling this cluster of dwellings an avenue. The scale is simply not grand enough.
Similar reservations apply to the likes of Greenwood Avenue in Kilmuckridge, Parnell Avenue in Enniscorthy or Griffith Avenue in Kiltealy which are avenues in name only. The latter, in deepest Duffry Country, surely lacks the extended sweep of its Dublin equivalent, a vital artery serving the north side of our capital city. The metropolitan Griffith Avenue, along with the parallel Collins Avenue, are close to being the genuine articles.
New Yorkers surely know all about avenues. The big Apple's Fifth Avenue boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the world, with shops such the renowned Saks department store and all sorts of glitzy boutiques. Now that's an avenue. That's where we may draw inspiration.
It is notable too that some of the snazziest streets in London are not streets at all but avenues, notably Shaftesbury Avenue which runs between Oxford Street and Picadilly. It was named after Anthony Ashley Cooper, seventh Earl of Shaftesbury.
Gorey does not quite run to such metropolitan glamour and we still await the day when The Avenue is re-styled Allen Avenue in honour of the town's own great statesman and philanthropist. Nevertheless, it is a very pleasant place to be, with its well presented mix of retail, professional, municipal and residential strands.
There is even a Masonic Hall. Wider than the average road in the average market town, it is proud and straight, as befits a true avenue. Parts of The Avenue are lined with trees, chestnut trees. And those responsible for creating the civic centre left standing a touch of exotic at the entrance to the new complex in the form of a mature eucalyptus. With its range of architecture across the spectrum from Edwardian domestic to New Millennium commercial, The Avenue has variety, elegance and an enviable air of selfconfidence. Je t'aime.