| President George W. Bush pretends to throw a soccer ball during a visit to a school in Sedgefield. (Reuters)
Sedgefield (England), Nov. 21 (Reuters): George W. Bush won few friends in London during his state visit to Britain but can be sure of a warm welcome if he ever returns to the Dun Cow Inn in this quiet northeastern town.
The US President had lunch at the inn with Prime Minister Tony Blair before flying back to Washington at the end of his three-day state visit — the first to Britain by a US President. As Bush digested his fish, chips and mushy peas and the presidential entourage swept out of town towards the airport, the pub’s landlady Mishy Rayner reflected on the visit from the world’s most powerful man.
“He seemed thrilled to be here,” she said as the pub prepared to open its doors to the public again. “He was lovely and mixed with everybody. He looked really well and is very good looking in real life.”
“They were very appreciative and seemed to enjoy it,” she added as staff arranged daffodils and irises in vases on the dark wooden tables in the low-ceilinged, traditional pub.
Bush’s lunch was just one element of a highly choreographed final day to his visit.
After bidding farewell to Queen Elizabeth in Buckingham Palace in the morning, he flew north to take tea with the Blairs at their house in County Durham, where Blair was raised. From there, Bush was driven 5 km to Sedgefield, the heart of the area which Blair represents in parliament. The pub lunch was followed by a trip to local sports field where he watched local children showing off their soccer skills.
Some 300 protesters turned up in Sedgefield to voice their anger with Bush but there were also plenty of people on hand to welcome him. “I want President Bush to keep the faith,” said 39-year-old Kelly Smith, a Texan who lives in Sedgefield and runs an American-style coffee shop in a neighbouring town.
“He is committed to ensuring our freedom and these protests upset me personally as an American and emotionally as someone who lives here,” said Kelly, wearing Stars and Stripes ear-rings and carrying a large US flag.