The last few days have been infernal. I’ve got my NCTJ exam on Wednesday, and have literally spent my entire week in self-imposed house arrest, forcing myself to read McNae’s Essential Law For Journalists from cover to cover (with notepad and highlighter frantically clutched). The furthest I got from McNae’s was taking out the recycling. Life has been hell. And while all this has been happening, London seems to have been alight in splendid things to do; ice skating, nights out, markets, even the tour-stop of the exceptional Spanish Riding School of Vienna (performing at Wembley).
I had the great pleasure of being taken to a performance at the actual School at the age of fourteen. The summer week I spent in Vienna was magical; almost surreal, lakes and boats and spare ribs all around me, from what I can recall. And even though I got a cold, it was one of my most memorable summers (this was only that June – plenty was to come). Horse-mad girl-child that I was (and still am), I couldn’t think of anything better than the Spanish Riding School; I’ve still got the ticket, badly dogeared and abused, lying about in a drawer somewhere. The performance was a dream. What made an even greater impression on me was the sweetness in which it was all conducted. Treats were given after every jump; the horses were continuously stroked and reassured by their uniformed Austrian riders, who I had expected to be stern and correct in every movement, like your usual competitive dressage rider. Not so. The horses were treated with such innocent candour, like they were being gently coerced into every step. It was pretty overwhelming. There was simply not a second’s stress to the performance, no judging, no scrutiny of the smallest details. Just art, and history, and excellent horsemanship all come together in one beautiful performance.