Hillary Clinton was in Hanoi yesterday, where Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister, Pham Gia Khiem, presented her with a portrait of her and her daughter Chelsea wearing traditional Vietnamese conical hats called non la. After the ultra-tasteful Obama/Cameron exchange of an Ed Ruscha for a piece by "former hoodie" Ben Eine, this painting, with its puce and gold frame, marks a return to a more familiar sort of international gift swap: the "is-he-taking-the-piss?" present.
* David Cameron is keen to give businesspeople ambassadorial roles, in the hope of reforming British foreign policy around "commercial and business interests". I contacted some senior business figures to sound them out about representing their nation abroad. The response was lukewarm, though Jon Moulton, the boss of private equity firm Better Capital, said: "I'd like to nominate a few of my business colleagues to be sent to such exciting places as Kyrgyzstan." Hilary Devey, best known as The Business Inspector on Five, enthused: "I would jump at the chance to be a British ambassador to Iraq, Sierra Leone, or Afghanistan." Unfortunately, Sir Richard Branson was too busy kite-surfing in the Caribbean to take my call.
* Barbara, Lady Black of No-Fixed-Abode, was dragged to the depths of loneliness by her husband Conrad's incarceration. In a recent column for the Canadian weekly magazine Maclean's, she recalls pondering a Lena Horne lyric one solitary evening at the couple's cavernous Florida mansion: "Stormy weather, since my man and I ain't together". Horne, Lady Black explained, "came to Toronto and sang that at the Prince George Hotel, which belonged to my first husband's parents." (Lord Black is her fourth.) Her reverie was interrupted by the buzzer: a man claiming to be a census-taker was at the gate. He skidaddled upon hearing the barks of her Hungarian Kuvasz hounds, but she had already informed him, not entirely truthfully: "I'm not a US resident... I'm just visiting." Now that Lord Black has been told not to leave the country, her visit may last longer than expected.
* Our sometime correspondent from the Cotswolds, Crispin Mount, writes to tell me of another scandal perpetrated by his local "bumbling shire Tories". Cotswold District Council has been rewarding its public-sector workers with chocolates in return for switching their computers off at night. Naturally, this is seen as an environmental initiative, so the cash spent on the sweets comes out of the council's sustainability budget. "What is most galling," poor Crispin laments, "is that if I want to be 'green' the very same council will charge me £30 per annum for a green waste service. Can I have a chocolate if I close my bin lid? No – just a bloody fixed-penalty notice if I don't."
* Eat, Pray, Love is the bestselling memoir by US author Elizabeth Gilbert, who, after divorcing her husband, Michael Cooper, spent a year globetrotting, in the process finding herself and, eventually, a second husband. A promised companion volume by Cooper, however, will not now be materialising. Cooper had planned to publish his own side of the divorce story – entitled Displaced – with Hyperion books. But, he told the New York Post, the publisher wanted him to "push the book in a more controversial direction, something I was unwilling to do... I set out to write about how, in the wake of a devastating and unexpected divorce, I slowly rebuilt my life by redoubling my already decades-long commitment to humanitarian relief and human rights work." Sounds like a riot.Reuse content