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  • I heard the piano notes of Moondance drifting through Melbourne's Bourke Street Mall one Saturday afternoon and followed the sounds to Terry. I couldn't decide who had the most character: him or the piano he was playing. Both were a treat!

    Terry had a straggly beard, faux bow tie t-shirt and grey plait of hair emerging from a crooked black top hat with feathers. The brown wooden piano was old, worn and weathered, and split in places. It was hard to imagine either had once been shiny and new.

    But the music was wonderful and although Terry's face had a look of focused concentration, his fingers danced across the keys and created a joyful air to the whole scene. Clearly these two friends knew each other well and had a story or three to tell. I was captivated.

    I noticed a laminated request list that was taped to the end of the piano. The handwritten heading identified them as 'Songs older than me', and I studied the three columns of typed song titles closely but didn't recognise anything.

    The song list at the other end was more familiar and I shyly asked if he could play Love Her Madly. "Good song," Terry replied with a smile. "A good one to play after Moondance." He pulled out a folder filled with sheet music inside plastic sleeves as equally weathered as the piano and started playing.

    A little crowd was gathering now. People were listening, pointing and smiling, and taking photos.

    A man asked Terry if he could play a request. "This is my final song," he said. "My permit only goes til 4pm." Moments later someone else arrived and requested a song. "I've gotta get out of here," Terry replied. "Gotta bring my van in and pack up or I'll be in trouble."

    Sadly there would be no time for me to talk to Terry and find out his story. I dug $5 out of my purse and put it in the tin can next to his piano and left as soon as I heard the final note of my request.

    I didn't want to see Terry packing up and driving off in his van. Instead I imagined him wheeling his piano into one of Melbourne's nearby little laneways, his crooked hat still on his head, and magically disappearing into another era.

    * Audio: Terry playing Love Her Madly.
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