BY all accounts the visit to our midst of Sarah, the Duchess of York, was a considerable success - helping to raise the profile of two deserving local charities and, indeed, her own reputation to a higher and more positive plain. Reports coming our way indicate that Fergie was easy-going, friendly and relaxed during her stay - so much so that she didn't even blink an eyelid when at one function businessman Kenneth Siu kissed her fondly on each cheek. The Protocol Department, however, looked at first like it was going to smother her with formal overkill and ruin the visit with etiquette. Though shorn of nearly all royal trappings in Britain, the protocol guys laid on the full works upon her arrival - including police outriders, a half-a-dozen strong Special Branch detail (that's half-a-dozen more than she has these days back home) and even an equerry in splendidly epauletted uniform who looked as if he had come straight from Central Casting (with the gear provided by the wardrobe manager at the Academy for Performing Arts). Yes, siree. She must have certainly felt what it was like to be HRH again. Although Buckingham Palace surely wouldn't have approved. Although in all fairness to Fergie, who is estranged from the Duke of York, she neither asked nor expected the decorum. Fortunately, discreet words must have been whispered. For by the second day the cordon sanitaire had been slimmed down considerably to proportions more in keeping with the low-key and constructive visit. Governor Chris Patten, as the Queen's representative in Hong Kong, however, showed his usual highly-tuned sense of propriety by lunching with Fergie not at his official residence but at the Ritz-Carlton. Otherwise, he may well have found himself eschewing the comforts of Government House for a dingy dundgeon in the Tower of London.