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Sunday, 7 April, 2002, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
No fashion quirks for Texas Tony
Laura Bush, George W Bush and Tony Blair.
George Bush likes to entertain at his 'real' home.
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By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online's political correspondent, travelling with the prime minister
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Texas, as everybody knows, is the home of big hats, big hair and dirt-kickin' cowboy boots.

So there was more than a little nervous anticipation amongst many of those travelling with Tony Blair about what he would wear when he joined President George Bush at his Crawford ranch, just outside Waco in McClennan county.

After all, the precedents were not good. In India the prime minister's attempts to blend in saw him sporting a Nehru suit.

While, in Australia, he revelled in his Paul Smith suits and THAT naked lady shirt.

Understated in black

So, understandably, the question on everybody's lips in Texas was how he would manage to top that while being driven around the Prairie Chapel Ranch by the president in his pickup truck.

Would he follow his host's lead and resort to blue jeans and cowboy boots, or maybe a bootlace tie and rhinestone belt?

Or would he go one better and attempt to out-cowboy the cowboys by spitting out chewing tobacco every few minutes?

As it turned out, there were no questionable fashion statements of that sort to frighten the livestock.

Tony Blair
Tony Blair opts for a black suit during his Texas trip

As somebody once said, a man always looks good in mourning.

In any case, thanks to some filthy weather - thunder, torrential rain and even tornado warnings - combined with the gravity of the talks, there was very little outdoor activity.

In fact, the two men spent a fair amount of time closeted together in face-to-face talks without even a note taker in attendance.

Probably the first chance for genuine R&R came at the end-of-summit dinner on Saturday night.

Downhome dinner

The president and the first lady were joined by their daughter Jenna and around 20 guests.

And Mr Blair was joined by Cherie and their daughter Kathryn and Mrs Blair's mother Gale, who had been holidaying in Florida.

The menu included pecan-smoked beef tenderloin, potatoes Anna, roasted tricolour peppers and asparagus, tomatoes and handmade mozzarella and a pudding of pineapple upside-down cake.

The wine list included a 1999 Gary Farrell Westside Chardonnay and a 1997 Duckhorn Merlot.

Like virtually every president before him, George Bush likes to entertain visiting leaders at his "real" home.

The downhome feel is good for the public image and acts as a reminder of how the man in the White House has not lost touch with his roots.

One-horse town?

And Crawford, population 705, is about as downhome as you can get.

It is all wide, empty, country roads, baseball caps, big trucks and farmers.

And you just know you are going to hear the clang, clang of railroad crossings as you lie in your motel room in the small hours.

But, thanks to the president, there is the Red Bull gift shop which does a roaring trade out of visiting press packs from around the world.

This weekend they had special, "The British are coming" T-shirts prepared for the occasion - although the shopkeeper could not say whether the slogan was a threat or a promise.

It all slightly undermined the downhome atmosphere, particularly when one local wandered over and declared to no one in particular: "This ain't typical Texas, you know."

Still it makes a refreshing change from the White House.

Perhaps Tony Blair should have kept that house in Islington after all.

See also:

06 Apr 02 | Middle East
US and UK demand Israel pullout
06 Apr 02 | Americas
Allies sit down to 'mammoth task'
06 Apr 02 | Middle East
Battle rages in Palestinian camp
04 Apr 02 | Middle East
Bush intervenes in Mid-East crisis
03 Apr 02 | Middle East
EU proposes crisis diplomacy
06 Apr 02 | Middle East
Powell calls on Israel to withdraw
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