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World Politics

Obama has learnt to talk British

Diary: The US Visit

A head of government's White House welcome is a sober affair. Guests, including diplomats, children and the occasional TV actor – Hugh Bonneville and the "Lady of Downton" Elizabeth McGovern – gathered on the South Lawn barely before the sun was up. The ceremony included a 19-gun salute, while platoons from every branch of the US military were on parade. They even had Red Coats from the American Revolution. So the humorous tone struck by Barack Obama on the podium was relieving. The US and the UK speak the same language "most of the time", he said, before attempting phrases not familiar to most Americans (and perhaps a few Britons, too). He was "chuffed to bits" that David was here and couldn't wait for their "natter" in the Oval Office.

Bring on the bison – the chef's special

It was hotter than a June afternoon in Bournemouth in Washington, which made the choice of dishes at last night's gala state dinner mildly inappropriate. Held in a giant marquee in the White House gardens, the tables featured menus that heralded "winter harvest" as the theme of a gastronomic indulgence composed by the President's executive chef, Cris Comerford. The main dishes included crisped halibut followed by bison Wellington. Then, for afters: "Warm steamed lemon pudding with Idaho huckleberry sauce with newtown pippin apples". In the sommelier department, diners were offered what were summarily described as "American wines". Well, there are plenty of those, many of them excellent and some even summery.

PM deserves a good grilling

If the hot dogs at Tuesday's basketball game in Ohio weren't enough, Mr Cameron can cook more on his new Engelbrecht BBQ Grill, the official gift from the Obamas. According to the White House, it is "an American classic, the wood and charcoal burning grill is customised with American and British friendship flags engraved into the utility shelf". The Brits came with a "customised Dunlop table tennis table complete with UK and US flag bats". The special relationship is safe.