I was in London the other week catching up with some friends. After lunching at the Borough Markets, they suggested we take a leisurely walk along the Thames to check out the amazing architecture and art at St Paul’s Cathedral. Little did I know they had a sneaky plan. Little did I know I was being set-up as a pawn in their desire to hear piano music on the sidewalk.
London, like other towns around the world, has installed a bunch of upright pianos around the city. They’re located in popular areas such as Millenium Bridge and Soho Gardens, and they’re free for the public to play. Given London’s habit of grey drizzle, I’m not sure how long the pianos would last but sure enough, as we walked up the Bankside Jetty and onto Millenium Bridge the familiar object became larger and larger. I found myself trapped by three friends who forced me onto the piano stool. Not really sure what to do, I let go of my bag and found myself paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II with God Save the Queen. I guess old habits die hard and even though Australia has had its own national anthem 1984, many Australians are still fond of Betty Windsor.
What a great idea: providing instruments in public spaces for the public to play! We already provide public furniture, amenities, maps, light posts; why not instruments?
I’ve been spending the last few days in New York City, enjoying the great summer they’ve been having here. When I was here earlier in the year, one of my friends suggested I visit The Baseball Center NYC to try my hand at batting against their automatic pitcher. Unfortunately I ran out of time so the much-anticipated visit had to be delayed until my next trip to New York.
Earlier this week, with view to escape the warmth and humidity outside, my brother and I decided to see if we had what it took to be baseball stars. We arrived at the centre, paid up for a one hour session, and headed downstairs to the cages. I wasn’t sure what to expect. When they mentioned cages, I immediately thought of chicken cages, so I was much relieved when I saw they were about five metres wide and eighteen metres long. At one end was a large green machine housing a basket of balls and an automated pitching arm; at the other end was a triangular marker on the floor.
My brother went first, adjusting his helmet before entering the cage. Boom. The machine threw a ball and it hit the padding attached to the fence. Boom. The machine threw another ball and it hit the fence again. Kenneth was determined to properly hit the ball. The next time he connected, and connected, and connected. After about twenty balls, he had got the swing of things, connecting most balls, and now trying to work out how to direct the ball. Some went way up, others hit the side fence, a few hit the ground before bouncing up. Oh, and that sound. That metallic ping when the bat connected with the ball!
After about twenty minutes, it was my turn and I was nervous. Kenneth got the hang of this so quickly and I didn’t want to be shown up by his natural ability with racquet sports. It took me a few more goes than him before I connected but found the feeling fantastic when I did. Gee, it was good; seeing the ball move towards you, taking a swing, connecting, hearing the ping, and seeing the ball get air.