Coffee and pastries are two of my favourite things. It isn’t so much the sweet explosion on my tongue or the buzzing of caffeine in my head, as the experience of sitting in my favourite café in Vac, watching the world drift by, and listening to the casual conversations taking place around me. If I half-close my eyes, I can imagine the couple at the corner table, his hand on her waist, their eyes locked on one another, as they spin around the tables in a timeless waltz.

Beautiful little waltz for piano and strings’ is what I wrote in my journal in May 2019. Maybe it was the couple at the café who were my inspiration; perhaps a few words overheard during a long walk; a single note that caught my attention at the Budapest Music Centre’s event. Perhaps it was that summer before the world grew silent. Something in the air, like dandelion wishes floating on the breeze that I caught in my hand and brought to life.

The original piece entitled ‘Islands Have Diamonds’ was piano only. I inserted strings and removed them again. I walked. I sat outside a coffee shop in Budapest watching the pigeons pecking at discarded crumbs. I listened. With a deep breath, I set the piece aside and stepped out into an altered world.

When the streets emptied, and the Danube did indeed sparkle like diamonds in the sunlight, I listened to the world with a new intensity. Cafés closed. Boats stopped sailing. And nature spread her wings with even more vibrant colours, thriving, blossoming, remaining constant. I pictured the couple dancing in silence around the tables outside the café, and slowly, gradually, the silence was replaced once again by my beautiful little waltz.

I revisited the piece in January 2022. As with any creative work, I made numerous changes to the string arrangements, and occasionally dismissed the whole piece as ‘garbage’, until, one day, it all fell into place as these things want to do when they are ready. The melody, tension, expectation … the story. Almost in the blink of an eye, it had evolved into ‘Waltz’.

The traffic along the Danube is slowly picking up. People, once again, are sitting outside cafés, eating pastries, and sipping from cups of steaming coffee. Some cafés will not reopen.

Now, when I stand at the castle watching the diamonds on the river’s surface, I remember a time without restrictions and without war, and I remind myself that people continue to dance, and I will always have music.