Queen kept on call as her guest holes up in the Palace

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The Independent Online

* Of all the world leaders to set foot in the UK over the years, few have been quite so unadventurous as China's hardline President, Hu Jintao.

Although it's customary for foreign dignitaries to take part in cultural events during a state visit, Hu Jintao has refused any extra-curricular activity during his three-day tour.

In an apparent effort to avoid the human rights protesters that greeted him yesterday, he'll avoid all shopping trips and public tours, and instead remain within a few hundred yards of Buckingham Palace.

It's a nightmare scenario for the Queen, who is required by protocol to remain at home whenever a guest is at the Palace.

Since Jintao is scheduled to leave the building just four times, she will need to remain "on duty" for the entire 72 hours of his visit.

It couldn't be more different from China's last such visit, which saw former leader Jiang Zemin tour the Globe Theatre and Greenwich, and sing karaoke with John Prescott. He also visited Cambridge, and several London boroughs during the four-day visit.

Hu Jintao will go no further than the Royal Academy in Piccadilly. Buckingham Palace says his itinerary was limited by the "short length" of his stay.

* Despite his chirpy bonhomie, Jamie Oliver's big mouth can sometimes get him into all sorts of trouble.

Channel Four has received several complaints over the latest episode of Jamie's Great Escape, in which he stayed at the Farfa monastery in Italy.

Some viewers were upset to see the TV chef over-sleep morning prayers and sneak off to ring his wife during a period of silent meditation.

Others reckon Oliver dropped a couple of mighty "clangers" during the stay. Upon making the monks a meal, he claimed "it don't get much holier than that", before admitting "I don't even know what religion I am. I think I might be Church of England."

He also announced "food is my religion and the dinner table my altar", and when invited to say grace, said: "For what we're about to receive may God be truly thankful."

Catholics aren't alone in being offended. The Italian embassy has already complained that the series stereotypes their homeland.

* Andrew Motion recently lectured at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He was accompanied on the visit by Sarah Miano, a comely, twenty-something blonde who now shares his life.

"Andrew and Sarah have been together for a couple of years now, but they looked to all the world like a couple of love-struck teenagers," I'm told. "They were incredibly touchy-feely, and when Motion spoke about the sensuality of Keats, she giggled like a schoolgirl."

There is growing speculation that our Poet Laureate could soon invite Miss Miano, a former student at the University of East Anglia (where he taught), to become the third Mrs Motion.

She shares his passion for fly-fishing. He, meanwhile, is a vociferous supporter of her fledgling literary career.

* Last week, I discovered that the cash-strapped BBC had chartered a helicopter to follow David Blunkett around town for an entire day following his resignation.

They aren't the only newsmen whose use of choppers has caused trouble, mind. On Saturday, Sky News had a cameraman hovering over the Beaufort Hunt's opening meet at Badminton.

"Because of the racket it was making, the hounds couldn't hear Ian Farquhar, the huntsman, and were in danger of running off and doing something terrible to foxes," reports one follower.

"As excuses for killing foxes go, it would certainly have been a good 'un. Unfortunately, they also made a herd of cattle stampede through a fence in a nearby field. After several frantic phone calls, the cops finally persuaded them to buzz off."

* The actor Nigel Havers - who takes pride in being a quintessential English gentleman - has made a shock admission. He is a compulsive liar.

Asked how he negotiates the treadmill of Hollywood interviews, Havers admits telling porky pies to pass the time.

"You shouldn't believe anything actors say. It's all bollocks," he says. You have to make something up, you know? I just make up old bollocks. I just lie."

He's not the only one, either. "Michael Gambon told one journalist that he was gay, but changed his mind because it hurt so much. So don't believe a word I say. You can imagine doing interviews hundreds of times in a week. It gets boring. To spice things up, I'll just lie."

One can but wonder what his father, the late Lord Chancellor Lord Havers, would have made of it.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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