The Royal Diary: Alpaca therapy for crowd

On the face of it, the Queen does not have much in common with an alpaca. For starters, she's a British monarch and alpacas are a South American camelid.

And even though the Queen is an ''animal lover since childhood'', according to her own website, alpacas doesn't rate a mention among all the horse talk.

Yet, when Canberra alpaca Honeycomb waited near Commonwealth Place for the Queen's barge yesterday, there was something monarchical about it.

Honeycomb - who is a pet therapy alpaca - was drawing a steady crowd of well-wishers, young and old. But the eight-year-old (about 40 in human terms) was super serene as people patted and prodded him, merely letting out a small warble in response.

His ''dad'' Nils Lantzke agreed Honeycomb has a royal vibe. ''I reckon he's got quite a regal look about him,'' he said, noting his long, dignified neck.

''We're not what you'd call rabid monarchists or anything like that,'' Lantzke explained. ''But any heads of state, it's nice to welcome people to Canberra.''

Long and short of it

AS those who have tried to catch a pleb's view of the Queen will know, one waits a very long time for a very short glimpse of Her Majesty. This creates all sorts of issues and opportunities for the general public.

English-born, Canberra-based Rebecca Travers, 26, has never seen the Queen in her native Britain. So the current trip is the perfect opportunity to touch base. ''I couldn't not,'' the 26-year-old said yesterday on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.

But Travers was less certain about what to do with her English flag during what turned out to be a 90-minute wait. Would she be lynched by angry Aussies for showing her true colours?

Ergo, Travers devised an ingenious plan of hanging her flag (which she usually reserves for the soccer) over the side of the lake. This meant it would be hidden from public view but perfectly visible to the passing Queen. You can't fool Britannia.

Kids' cubby time

WANNIASSA schoolchildren, Thomas and Laura Cooper-Logan (11 and 7) had the binoculars out and were definitely excited to see the Queen yesterday as she passed by the National Library. But they weren't excited by her lateness. ''We were bored,'' Thomas said.

So, the brother and sister built a Royal cubby house to pass the time. Made out of some nearby sticks, it was an impressively sturdy-looking structure. Topped with a couple of Australian flags, it was also highly patriotic with strong public art overtones. Who said children these days spend too much time playing computer games?

Curtsy courtesy

CURTSYGATE has preoccupied protocol worriers and political nitpickers over the past 24 hours. But again, according to the Queen's website, Julia Gillard didn't do anything wrong at the airport on Wednesday. Royal.gov.uk says that ''courtesy'' (not curtsy) is the simple order of the day.

If you really want to get traditional about it, this is the drill: ''For men this is a neck bow (from the head only) whilst women do a small curtsy. Other people prefer simply to shake hands in the usual way.'' This puts Gillard in the protocol clear. But it does beg the question: if you take out men and women, who exactly are ''other people''?

House gets spruce up

THIS evening, the Prime Minister's hob nob for the Queen is going down in the Great Hall and Parliament House is almost ready for its close-up.

Department of Parliamentary Services Secretary Alan Thompson says that maintenance staff have been pulling out all the stops since the visit was announced, ''We've been working pretty hard at getting the building looking spiffy.''

As Thompson understands it, HMTQ and PP will only see the building as they arrive from the north and only visit the marble foyer and Great Hall.

But just in case, staff are not simply doing a quick whip around with the vacuum cleaner and Mr Sheen in the designated areas. ''Our aim is to have the whole building looking really good,'' Thompson says.

Given all the preparations, it would be helpful if people could go easy on the place before the Royal couple turn up. ''It's all clean, don't mess it up!'' Thompson pleads.

What to expect today

JULIA Gillard gets another attempt at the blessed curtsy when she meets the Queen in the morning. Tony Abbott will be desperately trying to regain his childhood accent when he also meets with HMTQ (I was born in London, Ma'am! Way cooler than Barry!)

Connected Canberrans stress over what cocktail dress, lounge suit and service uniform they should wear for the PM's reception. The invite lists all three under ''dress''. Presumably the Protocol Gods will be OK if you just pick one.