Diary

An extraordinary equestrian row has broken out over the elegant paces of the famous Lippizaner white stallions. The Anglo-Austrian Society, which has brought the Spanish Riding School of Vienna to Britain for sell- out performances every four years since 1969, has been rushing out adverts in the past week alerting the public that its next UK performance will be November 1997. Why so much advance notice? The society has been outraged by the publicity put out by an upstart American rival, Entertainment Inc of Florida and Las Vegas, currently making its first national tour of the UK with 15 stallions and a "Wonderful World of Horses" entertainment show, complete with lights and music. Anthony Fessler, general secretary of the society, which also organises the Vienna Boys' Choir tours and worthy educational exchanges, says it has complained to the Press Complaints Commission and the Advertising Standards Authority about what it considers to be misleading publicity, trading on the Spanish Riding School's fame. I tell him I have purchased five tickets for Thursday night's Wembley Arena performance. "You fell for it," he groans. He has bought a ticket, too: "Have to see what they're up to."

So who are these brash American imposters who have dared to jazz up hundreds of years of tradition, turning grand prix dressage into horse dancing? Gary Lashinsky, the producer/owner, says he first saw the (Vienna) Spanish Riding School perform in Chicago in 1964, and in classic "can do" style set up his own operation. He went to the Pieber Stud in Austria, where the Lippizaners are bred, and from 1970 built up his business near Orlando, using Austrian trained staff (although the riders wear red coats instead of the dignified brown of the Spanish school).

Mr Lashinsky has been so successful that a troupe of his is stationed permanently at Vegas. "Our show is a theatrical presentation, geared to family entertainment, like Holiday on Ice, but we still do all the grand prix movements". He says his advertising did not mislead (I suppose I am just dopey). But my heart warms to his enthusiasm: "We take care of our horses better than most people take care of their children. Oh God, it takes six to eight years to train them, and then they're priceless, you never let them go."

Hostilities with the Spanish Riding School are not going to die down, however. Mr Lashinsky intends to return in Spring 1997 - six months before the next official visit of the Spanish Riding School - and annually thereafter. Is Britain big enough for both of them?

Another brash interloper is about to surface in Britain to ginger us up. This diary had hoped to catch up with the positive-thinking Bruce Gyngell, Margaret Thatcher's favourite media man. He's the one, remember, who received a handwritten apology from her when the breakfast pioneer TV-am lost its franchise because of the bizarre workings of her government's 1990 Broadcasting Act.

Mr Gyngell, with his wife, Kathy, and children, retreated to his homeland of Australia to run Channel 9 and sunbathe his wounds away. Last month, at the grandiose World Summit on Children's Television that he'd helped to set up in Melbourne, he dramatically announced that he had quit his job and was coming back to England.

There are persistent rumours that Mr Gyngell will become chief executive of Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television. But his infectious optimism is also well suited to any start-up - which makes him ideal to run the new Channel 5. Anyway, welcome back, Bruce. Hope you are still wearing pink shirts: good colour coding for the incoming tide of champagne socialism.

It's the hottest day of the year so far and I'm gloomily standing in my kitchen contemplating an insipid, slimy packet of chicken wings for the first time in my life. As a working mother, I've grown to hate the whole business of family catering, but the seductive power of good writing always gets me going. The Independent's wonderful cookery writer, the restaurateur Simon Hopkinson, had penned such a loving piece pleading with readers to cook real chicken broth that I decided to go for it. My husband urged me on, reminiscing that the last time he'd tasted real chicken soup, with globules of fat floating in it, was when his Welsh grandmother's cook made it for him as a child.

But by the time I'd bought the chicken wings, I'd lost the Indy's recipe. All I could remember was that you had to boil the wings, with an onion studded with cloves. I added celery and a potato, which produced a horrible watery mess. So I added two vegetable stock cubes, and hunted for instructions in a long unused cookery book, which advised me to add "golden dumplings" just at the end. While it all boiled away we were having a spring clean in the garden, burning huge piles of wood, which went on long into the evening. The soup, eaten around the bonfire, vanished in seconds.

Unfortunately, you can never satisfy a family: they want more next week. Simon Hopkinson is a dangerous man.

I wouldn't want you to think I went hungry this week, so yes, I did manage to fit in lunch: with Richard Stott, the pugnacious editor of Today. This embattled middle-market tabloid is the fifth and weakest paper owned by Rupert Murdoch. It is also suffering disproportionately from News International's great paper shortage: while the Times has surrendered its media page, Today has been forced to dispense with entire feature sections, and its print run has been cut by 15 per cent. Mr Stott was clearly well known at L'Epicure in Soho, a quiet, Fifties time-warp eaterie where every dish appears flamb with alcohol.

Despite his paper's difficulties, Mr Stott has a bustling, impresario touch and respects talent. He is also, touchingly, slightly stage struck. After Clifton College, he longed to follow his sister on to the stage but was talked out of it by a friend, the director Peter Wood. What really hit home was Wood's observation that one of his drama school contemporaries had landed a great job: as the talking clock on ITV.

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