Montparnasse. My head was slowly adjusting to the French signs and adverts, to the sound of a not quite familiar language, and the value of prices in a currency I didn’t often use. The same hubbub and background noise of any major transport interchange, blurred by the high roof, but in a slightly different accent.
Then, as we sat eating a bland sandwich at a cafe on the vast concourse, music struck up. A young guy was playing a piano, one that was part of that increasing trend to leave pianos around in public places for people to make their own music. He played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, with all the softness that piece demands. The gentle sounds spread through the station, almost as if they were lifting the spirits of everyone there, elevating them out of the bland, anonymous everywhereness of the station. There was beauty, at last, in the air.
After a few minutes, he stopped, slicing the soothing music out of the air. He picked up his bags and walked back into the faceless crowd. The clatter and trundle and chatter of the station returned to normal, to the same old hubbub.
I was in the middle of eating a sticky pastry, so couldn’t clap. But no-one else did either. It was as if the music had never been played. Later, I walked past the same spot. The piano had gone.