| Tony Blair and George Bush. (AFP)
Trimdon (England), Nov. 13 (Reuters): US President George W. Bush welcomed Tony Blair down on the range in Texas. Now the British leader could be returning the favour by taking the world’s most powerful man to the pub.
The President is set to visit Blair’s home in Trimdon (population 5,000), a sleepy former mining town in the far north of England — or so locals believe.
“There’s nowt (nothing) to do round here, but he would get a warm welcome,” said George Owens, 52, who works at the Trimdon Colliery and Deaf Hill Working Men’s Club. “I’d serve him a pint — I admire the way he stood up to Saddam.”
Police and Blair aides refuse to confirm that Bush will come up north when he visits Britain next week.
But the Trimdon rumour mill went into overdrive today, with people at odds over which lucky restaurant or pub would get the presidential seal of approval. “He was supposed to be coming here but they changed their minds at the last minute,” said a barmaid at the Trimdon Constituency Labour Club, a no-nonsense pub and social club where Blair celebrated his 50th birthday in May.
“We don’t mind though — with Blair living round the corner, we’re not easily starstruck.”
One taxi driver said police helicopters had been buzzing the area and local newspapers said teams of FBI agents had been seen, taking notes and photographs.
Favourite for a presidential visit is the Black Bull pub, where the most popular tipple among the locals is a pint of dark beer called Trophy Special at a bargain £1.82 ($3.06). Bush could try a local speciality, the stotty cake, a type of flat bread roll.
The last US President to visit the northeast was Jimmy Carter in 1977, who delighted locals by greeting crowds with the traditional soccer cry of “Howay the lads!”, which roughly translates as “come on team”.
Trimdon, which once helped power Britain’s Industrial Revolution with its “black gold” coal, is no stranger to state visits and the glare of the world’s media.
Blair, who represents the political area of Sedgefield in parliament, had dinner with French President Jacques Chirac in November 2000 near his northern home.
The pair ate local lamb and British cheeses and drank French wine. Chirac was pictured sipping the local beer.
Local newspapers said the visit was a certainty and that Bush would spend time at Blair’s house, a heavily guarded four-bedroom house called Myrobella, surrounded by simple terraced houses and rolling fields dotted with horses and sheep.