WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Obama mocks toast blooper
LONDON (AP) — A musical miscue cut into his toast to Queen Elizabeth II but President Barack Obama didn't miss a beat.
The president had just raised his glass and had begun offering a toast at a lavish state dinner at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday night when the band, apparently thinking he was through, struck up "God Save the Queen" a tad too soon.
Without missing a beat, Obama kept talking over the music. He praised the relationship between the U.S. and Britain and even quoted Shakespeare.
On Wednesday, he made light of the situation.
Obama told Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as they settled in for a meeting that the band effectively provided a soundtrack for his closing passage.
"It was like out of the movies, where the sound effect kind of comes in," Obama said.
Clegg, who was a guest at the dinner, told Obama the music had added "a crescendo" to his words.
Bangers but no mash?
Obama and David Cameron, Britain's prime minister, served sausages and burgers at a barbecue their wives arranged in the gardens of Cameron's official 10 Downing St. residence to honor retired and active duty service members from both countries and their families.
Cameron quipped afterward about the opportunity he had to "grill" an American president.
As Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron served potatoes and Caesar salad, respectively, Obama and Cameron wandered first to the grills, then to a second station where Obama served pre-cooked sausages, or bangers, and Cameron dished up grilled burgers.
Cameron said the event was a reminder of the debt owed to all service members and their families. Both the Obamas and the Camerons are working in their countries to focus public attention on military families.
"It was also probably the first time in history, as we stood behind that barbecue, that I can say a British prime minister has given an American president a bit of a grilling," Cameron said. "So I'm going to hold on to that."
The royal family can't seem to get enough of Obama.
As Obama and Cameron commanded center stage at an outdoor news conference at Lancaster House, Prince Charles' wife was seen watching from the balcony of her home at next-door Clarence House.
Camilla Parker Bowles, who is also the Duchess of Cornwall, and a few female friends were on the balcony for several minutes before they retreated indoors.
The prince and Bowles were the first members of the royal family to welcome the Obamas on their state visit to England.
Plush toys, jewelry and books were among the gifts exchanged by the Obamas and the Camerons, according to their offices.
The Obamas gave the prime minister a pair of White House Magnolia wood and sterling silver cufflinks engraved with Obama's signature, and Cameron's wife received a sterling silver cuff bracelet also adorned with wood from the White House Magnolia that fell during a February 2009 snowstorm.
Each of Cameron's children received a signed copy of Obama's children's book, "Of Thee I Sing." The two oldest children, Nancy and Elwen, also were given toy scooters while Florence, born last August, got a hand-crafted wooden jigsaw puzzle of the Obama family dog, Bo, and a Bo stuffed-animal.
The Camerons gave the Obamas a modern wall hanging by a London rug company featuring a Union Flag background and patterned with the American Eagle, the Stars and Stripes, flowers, butterflies and the dates of the U.S. president's state visit.
They offered Malia and Sasha Obama charm bracelets with their initials. The girls did not accompany their parents on the trip.
Know the joke about three men walking into a bar?
Obama put his own stamp on the pun as he opened the keynote address of his state visit to England, a speech to both houses of Britain's Parliament.
The fact that he became the first American president to speak amid the grandeur of Westminster Hall was not lost on Obama. The 11th century building has been the setting for coronation banquets, scandalous treason trials and the brief ousting of Britain's monarchy in the 17th century.
"I have known few greater honors than the opportunity to address the mother of Parliaments at Westminster Hall," Obama said. "I am told that the last three speakers here have been the pope, Her Majesty the Queen and Nelson Mandela — which is either a very high bar or the beginning of a very funny joke."
The audience of elites got it — and laughed.
Obama once fueled a firestorm in Britain for comments about BP, so imagine how surprised onlookers and employees were when his vehicles pulled into one of the company's London gas stations to fill up.
British media had slammed Obama for incorrectly referring to BP as British Petroleum after last summer's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. They also had accused him of encouraging anti-British sentiment with the misnomer.
Station workers on Wednesday confirmed an Evening Standard newspaper report that the "big American cars" had pulled in with a police escort on Tuesday. The manager, who cited company policy in refusing to give his name, told The Associated Press that the limousine driver said he worked for the U.S. government.
The manager didn't see Obama and said he didn't realize to whom the cars belonged until onlookers tipped him off after the vehicles pulled away.
The ultramodified Cadillac sedan, known as "The Beast," guzzled 50 pounds worth of gasoline, or about $81, according to the Evening Standard. The total tab for the limo and the six cars it arrived with topped 300 pounds, or nearly $490.
Associated Press writers Julie Pace, Cassandra Vinograd and David Stringer contributed to this report.