The girl next door meets the piano on the street
By Brenda Tremblay ~ Posted Tue, 07/14/2009 - 6:56am
Western New York native Stephanie Finney is studying in London. She had a funny thing happen. In her own words . . . (post by Steph Finney) Okay! Here's the story. So yesterday, I went for my haircut, which was on Portobello Road. I'd never been there before, but there's a market on the street on the weekends that is relatively famous. During the week there's still plenty of random shops full of bric-a-brac and antiques and trendy stores trying to pretend they're not as mainstream by opening a shop in a less touristy sort of area. It's the first time that I felt like I was experiencing London the real city, and not London the university town or London the tourist trap. People who reside in the area, not dressed for impressing or for touring but just living their lives. Sitting on their stoops, having a beer with their neighbor, yelling down the street to one another. Peddling their fruit and veg or handbags or lamps or whatever...or people just hanging out watching everyone pass by. I loved it, I was afraid of it. It was heady to say the least. As I toured down the street trying to find my new stylist, I came across this... Yes, a piano. Sitting outside, near the sidewalk. Just chilling out. The red writing that is barely legible says "Play me! I'm yours!" The chair says something equally welcoming like "Have a seat!" I grinned ear to ear when I realized I had come across one of London's street pianos that John and I had read about in the news. Here's the website with more information about the project if you're curious: http://www.streetpianos.com/ Basically, the City of London set up around 30 pianos all over London for the next month or so. Their website says "Why is it that when I go to the laundrette I see the same people each week and yet nobody talks to one another? Why don’t I know the names of the people who live opposite my house? Play Me, I’m Yours was designed to act as a catalyst for strangers who regularly occupy the same space, to talk and connect with one another...Disrupting people’s negotiation of their city, the pianos are also aimed to provoke people into engaging, activating and claiming ownership of their urban landscape." Their aims worked. Three little girls were sitting at it, plunking away, trying to play some clunky rendition of Hallelujah, giggling in near hysterics, while people sitting at the lunch counter just out of the line of site in this picture laughed and sang along. I hung out for awhile, and finally...well...couldn't resist. When they got up to go, I took a seat! I haven't played in years, and really the only thing I can plunk out these days is a badly improvised Frankie and Johnny, and...well...a fair rendition of No Holly For Miss Quinn by Enya. It was the last thing my Dad helped me improvise on the piano before he moved out, and was a special memory for me. For some reason the ability to play that song stayed with me even after my 'repetoire' from the piano lesson days of my youth escaped me. So...I sat and I played. And I even gathered a bit of a crowd, despite the occasional slipup. But the best part was...o man, and this was just the best...as I played, I saw a man who'd been quietly eating a sandwich at the counter opposite me out of the corner of my eye as he got up, snuffed out his cigarette, threw his 'rubbish' in the bin, and...as he walked by... ....casually slapped a 50p coin onto the piano!! At first I couldn't figure out what had just happened. But eventually, it sunk in! I GOT TIPPED! Someone tipped me for playing the piano on Portobello Road in London! <----- I can't believe I even get to WRITE that sentence down!! I finished and received a smattering of eager applause before I relinquished the chair to someone else. I headed down the street with my 50p securely in my pocket and a smile plastered to my face as the tinkling of Chopsticks played joyfully by a man who couldn't have been any younger than 80 followed me down the street. Sometimes life is Just. Freaking. Cool.