I practise the piano in a room at the front of the house. People walk past in the street all the time, and I’ve always been amazed at how few of them turn their heads in the direction of the sound, or appear to notice it at all.
I mentioned this recently to a concert pianist colleague and his wife. ‘Talk about not noticing it at all!’ they burst out. ‘A little while ago, we had to move a grand piano into an upstairs room, using a crane. The crane was in the street, with the grand piano swinging in a harness above the pavement, and people were walking underneath, not even looking up!’ We discussed this kind of behaviour and concluded that either it is a proof of the curious anonymity of London life, or else the passers-by are all like Lane, the butler in Oscar Wilde’s ‘Importance of Being Earnest’. Lane is laying the table for afternoon tea while Algernon is playing the piano in an adjoining room. The piano playing ceases and Algernon enters. ‘Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?’ Lane: ‘I didn’t think it polite to listen, sir.’