Róisín Quinn said the best thing about having a hair appointment on Monday was feeling “you were part of something special”.
“I feel a million dollars – and I look a million dollars, at least my hair does,” the Sligo woman reported happily after emerging from Salon 2.
“The minute I opened the door I could feel the excitement,” she added.
Anthony Kilcoyne, owner of the Sligo salon, could feel it too. Throughout the morning his staff were treated to a steady flow of treats from local businesses and clients, delighted to have them back, as yet another milestone in the reopening of society was reached.
“They have been sending us coffees, sandwiches, some of the ladies brought cakes with them and we have got dozens of text messages, saying ‘great to have you back’,” he said. “The atmosphere is like we won the lotto.”
At the Wall Street Barber Shop in Mohill, Co Leitrim, the booking app has been red hot in recent days but some clients have been taking a more personal approach. Proprietor Michael Wall explained that some of his older regulars just rocked up expecting the traditional walk-in service.
"One man arrived this morning on his '68 Massey Ferguson tractor," he said. His colleague, Deaglan Molloy, spotted the tractor approaching, dropped his clippers and raced outside to be of assistance.
“So that man made his appointment without getting off the tractor,” explained Wall. He and his colleague were “feeling the love a little bit” as old friends of all ages arrived for some badly needed personal maintenance.
“We’ve missed them all. The chat in here never gets too emotional – it might be about the gear box going in the van but we have missed it,” said the barber.
Laila Sergejeva-Kornaszewski, owner of Laila Valentino’s salon on Bridge Street, Carrick-on-Shannon, is also conscious of the emotional attachment many people have to whoever does their hair. She spent all of last week ringing 2,100 clients trying to slot everyone who wanted an appointment in.
“Actually I still have over 100 to call,” said the Latvian-born hairdresser who has been in Co Leitrim for 16 years. Like Kilcoyne, she is adamant that no matter how long the waiting list, she will not subject her staff to marathon shifts just to clear the backlog.
"My staff come first and they have been off for 5½ months so will get tired," said the salon owner. "There will also be social anxiety. We hairdressers are very social creatures but we have been at home for a long time and sometimes it is hard to keep talking." But the chatter in the salon was what first struck Elaine Fallon from Cootehall, Co Roscommon, when she arrived for her appointment.
“It is super exciting to be here. The sounds of chat and the phone ringing non-stop is the sound of normality. I missed this. I missed the social interaction and the sense of pampering. I love my family dearly but it was great to get away this morning.”
One man in the queue outside Michael Masterson's barber shop on Main Street, Carrick-on-Shannon reckoned he was taking his life in his hands by being there, and that was not a reflection on Masterson's skill with a scissors. Nigel Moran from Leitrim village was bringing his two-year-old Noah for his first ever haircut and Noah's curls were on a scale of Shirley Temple cuteness of which most mothers would be fiercely protective.
‘No, my wife doesn’t know we are here,” Moran confirmed sheepishly.
“But it’s in his eyes. All the curls don’t have to go... yes I know. I could be in the garden tonight.”