I used to enjoy Chopin all day long when it was raining outside and the stove was warm. But recently I’ve abandoned the serenity of Chopin’s piano for the calming voice of Blindboy talking delicious surrealism on a velvet podcast that young people love to hug.
And I’ve come to the realisation that Blindboy is maybe one of the most gifted writers of his generation; influenced by Flann O Brien, Kafka and Luis Borges.
But because he’s a popular icon for young people, many established critics and literati haven’t quite caught up with his deft style; his surreal images and the compassion driving his hilariously contorted narratives.
I know it’s not possible to squeeze a donkey into a car, but that is the genius of Blindboy
It was a short story he read on stage about a man who finds a donkey being abused on the highway by a cruel master that converted me. In the story the man buys the donkey and squashes him into his little car to take him home.
I know it’s not possible to squeeze a donkey into a car, but that is the genius of Blindboy; he stretches the conflict to such an extent that he can realise images as vivid and wonderful as an etching by Goya.
So we end up with the enormous head of a wounded donkey in the passenger seat gazing at the driver, like a mythic Christ that the driver wants to take care of.
Driving home the next morning I was still fascinated so much by the storyteller behind the plastic bag mask that I forgot to get petrol before heading up the motorway towards Naas.
I was cruising along thinking about donkeys until I almost ran out of juice somewhere in Kildare. So I took an exit towards a filling station and stopped to put €50 of unleaded in the tank before going inside to pay.
The trouble began because my iPhone was encased in a large shockproof cover which I got for Christmas, and no matter how I tried to double-click the side button to activate Apple Pay, it wouldn’t work.
The young man behind the till wasn’t amused. He wondered why I did not have a credit card in my wallet.
I said that the whole point about paying with the phone was that you could leave the cards at home. So he suggested I simply take off the case.
“That requires a tiny Allen key so I can’t open it right now,” I said.
He looked at me like this was a scam and he just hadn’t yet figured it out. I even suggested that he look at The Irish Times to assure himself that I was an honest citizen and that I could phone him the money when I got home. But he said without embarrassment that they didn’t stock The Irish Times.
“Maybe you might call the manager and let me speak to him,” I suggested, hoping that perhaps the manager might be a little closer to my own age. But apparently, the manager never works on Sundays.
His face lit up with excitement, hardly daring to believe what he had just heard
And then for no reason at all, I mentioned Blindboy.
“F**k it,” I said, “I mean I only did a gig with Blindboy last night and I’m just trying to get home.”
His face lit up with excitement, hardly daring to believe what he had just heard.
“Oh yeah,” I said, taking my cap off, and regretting I hadn’t taken it off much sooner; “me and Blindboy are like, well, you know, we did this gig in Waterford and it was, like, amazing”.
The young man looked deep into my soul and said: “Maybe you could call him.”
And I had an image of Blindboy on the line passing his credit card numbers to this lanky boy, just to save my ass, but somehow I knew that wouldn’t work.
“What if I called my wife?” I suggested.
We were brothers and he was taking a stand against the cruelty of an empty petrol tank
“Yeah,” he said, “whatever”.
Because I was cool now. Although at first, my wife wasn’t answering. And then when she gave him her details they didn’t work on the machine and we had to do it again.
But nothing mattered now because I wasn’t just an old man in a cap anymore. We were brothers and he was taking a stand against the cruelty of an empty petrol tank, and in solidarity with a broken bewildered human distressed on the highway. I suspect he might even have been a subscriber to the Blindboy podcast.
And if I did have Blindboy’s number I would have texted him just to let him know that he had inadvertently saved yet another old donkey’s dignity.