Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Elusive Haircut and Early Irish Breakfasts

We were on our final leg of our 2008 Ireland golf trip and I still had not gotten a haircut; I had tried twice before we left from Montgomery. On the first try, the operators closed their shop ten minutes early and would not open up for me even though I was a “regular”. I went back the next day and the wait was so long it would have extended into my next appointment. I had no choice but to abort. But not to worry, I remembered getting a haircut in the Newark Airport in years prior. I decided just to defer since we would have a several hour lay over there. When we finally got to Newark, I went to the small shop and made an appointment for ten minutes later and sauntered off to get a sandwich. I was back in ten minutes but someone else had come along. They gave away my appointment even though I was on time. This left me a bit ticked so I was off to Ireland with shaggy hair. Every moment from Belfast to Ballyliffin had been scheduled with little free time, so it was not surprising that here it was nearly two weeks later and I still had not gotten a haircut.

It was a Friday morning and our practice round in the tournament at Ballyliffin Golf Club was not scheduled until noon. Culdonagh Manor, our B&B, was located just a few minutes from Carndonagh so I decided to make a quick trip into this small town to seek out a barber shop or hair salon. A fellow traveler, Bruce Christian, decided he needed a trim so he came along. By the time we got to Carndonagh it must have been around 9:45 A.M. The town was absolutely dead. There was no one moving either on the streets or in the windows of the shops that lined the “diamond” (their version of a town square). I was perplexed. I knew from previous trips that the banks did not open until ten but I thought that the other shops should be open by this time of the morning. Walking up the sidewalk, Bruce and I noticed two signs on shops indicating that these establishments had operators capable of bringing us back to respectability. We decided to split up. Bruce took the downstairs shop and I proceeded to make the climb upstairs to a hair salon located on a second floor. As I reached the second floor and entered the door to the shop, finally I saw people, three people to be exact, three little ladies sitting quietly in a queue (as they say there) waiting to receive their coiffures. None spoke a word. Since it would be quite a wait if there were only one operator, I decided to turn around and leave. But as I turned I came face to face with a young lady who had to be an operator since she had on the typical attire. I inquired how long a wait it would be and she immediately spoke up, “no wait at all”.

She proceeded to take me and the three ladies to separate chairs inside the shop that had not been visible from the small waiting area. She robed each of us up in a fashion I had not experienced before in a smock with arms, no less. Before I could recover from the surprise of getting this strange smocking, I glanced around and noticed there were now seven chairs filled with patrons and seven operators all buzzing away. The young lady that had led me to my chair became my operator. I was absolutely amazed at how quickly this had all taken place. It could not have been over a minute from the time I sat down in the chair until all seven chairs were filled and operators snipping. I asked the young lady the obvious question. Why were there no people in town? “Oh, you came too soon. When you get back downstairs the streets will be filled”. I took her word for this and we struck up a conversation. As she seemed to sound more British than Irish I asked why she was here. “My mum is from here, and after my father died she decided to come back home to live. We all came with her”. She and her siblings, she would relate, all came to this rural area in the northern most part of the Republic of Ireland to be with their mother. “Family is very important you know it gives us a support system to help us with children and the like”. I was delightfully impressed and touched upon hearing this story. I thought of my own two daughters who live many miles away from my wife and me and how they often need such family support.

When I was wheeled around in the chair for smock removal and exit, I noticed Bruce had become one of the seven patrons. His chosen shop apparently had not opened and he had followed me upstairs. I waited for him and we left together. We were both astonished when we stepped onto the sidewalk at the bottom of the stairs. There were people everywhere in the town. It was if someone had rung a bell in a school at the end of the day and all the students were immediately milling about outside the building. It all began to make sense. Our B&B proprietor in Enniscrone had grimaced each time we had requested breakfast at 7:00 A.M. when we were there. The first time he had asked about our tee time schedule in an attempt to convince us that we didn’t have to be up so early. The third time we went through this exercise I asked the Enniscrone B&B proprietor, Jim O’Regan, what time he normally served breakfast. Unbelievably he replied 9:00 A. M.!

The Irish believe in late to bed and late to arise! And they arrive in town in sync at 10:00 A.M.!
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