20th April


For about a month, every morning on my way to the paper shop, I heard a piano being played when I passed a particular block of flats. It was a 1970s block, worn and shabby, with a door at the common entrance that badly needed a new coat of paint. I had a sense, probably from the handwritten labels taped onto the entryphone system, that many of those flats were occupied by people who didn’t stay long: students, maybe, or workers on short-term contracts. But for those four or five weeks, on a daily basis, I heard piano music drifting from an open window on the ground floor, and I thought this gave the building grace and grandeur, a kind of permanence and solidity that it otherwise lacked.

I have no idea who the player was, because although the window was slightly open there was a grubby blind that was always pulled down so I couldn’t see in. But whoever it was, he or she was very good. Often I heard the same piece of music – not stopping and starting, but flowing with confidence and sensitivity, as if on each occasion the player was trying to extract ever more feeling from the keys. I didn’t recognise the music and I still don’t know what it was because I’ve not heard it again, even though I listen to a great deal of classical music on the radio. Such a lovely piece. It made me pause on the pavement every time.

One day I went by at a different time, and the window was shut but the blind raised. There it was, a glossy, black grand piano, squeezed into the room like a stallion into too small a stable. There wasn’t space for anything else, apart from an unoccupied piano stool.

Not so long after that, a morning came when the music didn’t happen. I looked: the window was shut, the blind up – and the piano was gone. That great, beautiful creature – vanished. I couldn’t believe it. I felt bereft. It was like being in love with someone, who leaves without saying goodbye before you can tell them. It was like waking from a delightful, heartbreaking dream.

Reader: Kate Molleson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Piano: Kit Downes
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