Reporter's Notebook : Chilly Weather Stays the Presidential Hand

From Times Staff Writers

When President Reagan and the First Lady, fresh from a balmy Washington spring, arrived Thursday morning at Villa Hammerschmidt, the official residence of West German presidents, plans for the welcoming ceremony called for them to sign the guest book.

The ceremony was held outdoors in chilly, windy weather with temperatures in the low 40s. Nancy Reagan signed the book, but the President declined, saying his hands were too cold.

Despite the cold weather, neither Reagan nor West German President Richard von Weizsaecker wore an overcoat.

"Each president was waiting for the other president to put on a coat," the First Lady said later. She added: "Silly."

Later Thursday, when Reagan stepped out onto a partly covered terrace with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, one of the waiting reporters standing unprotected in a light rain, asked the two leaders to come closer. Reagan politely declined. "This way you get wet and we don't," he quipped.

When the sun appeared fleetingly Thursday morning, Secretary of State George P. Shultz told a television interviewer, "The sun is shining and it's a rare event in Bonn."

Those familiar with life in the West German capital have long since learned that the famous German work ethic is now more myth than reality. But for some of the estimated 3,000 visiting journalists here for the 11th annual economic summit, it was a lesson they learned the hard way.

On Wednesday, the arrival of the U.S. President, the presence of the Japanese prime minister and the impending appearance of four other visiting leaders of the non-communist industrialized world seemed to matter little to those in charge of the government press complex here. For them it was May Day, a national holiday. And on holidays, of course, the press buildings are locked.

Only with the arrival of the first resident correspondents, who hold keys to the building, did the visitors gain access to the complex.

Security is so strong here that occasionally even the authorities get confused.

Traveling White House reporters had their passports collected by U.S. officials to ease immigration and customs procedures, but then were refused entrance to some events because they were not carrying them.

A 12-pound bomb defused in the city's diplomatic quarter Wednesday merely enhanced police jitters. Thursday morning, television crews missed Reagan's arrival at the West German chancery because of difficulties penetrating police roadblocks, prompting Reagan to ask them later, "Where were you?"

West German government spokesman Peter Boenisch, worried about creating the image of a militant Germany, apologized to the reporters and asked for understanding. "These police aren't showing Prussian stubbornness," he said. "They are merely trying to do their job."

Nancy Reagan flew to Rome on Thursday afternoon and said during the flight that she and the President are on a special feast-and-fast diet high in protein and carbohydrates that is supposed to help the body adjust to jet lag.

However, despite the regimen, which started three days before the trip began Tuesday, Mrs. Reagan said she had not caught up on the six-hour time difference between Washington and Western Europe.

"Oh, no, no," she said. "It takes me about a week, and then it's time to go home." The Reagans have used the travel diet for two years, but Mrs. Reagan says, "I don't think it makes any difference. My husband thinks it makes a difference."

Notebook contributors were Times staff writers Betty Cuniberti, Tyler Marshall and Jack Nelson.

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