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Why is Sir Clive so irresistable?
(Daily Telegraph, 18 November 1998)

He's still inventing gadgets. . . but Sir Clive Sinclair is now more famous for his tangled love life. He talks to Mick Brown

THE burning question about Sir Clive Sinclair is not how he manages to come up with his ingenious designs for electric bicycles and button-size radios. It is how a man who purportedly has "a genius IQ" of 159 can't seem to keep his love-life out of the newspapers.

Sir Clive has been at it again. The tabloid prints have lately been filled with details about the 58-year-old inventor's relationship with a 22-year-old model and erstwhile lap-dancer named Angie Bowness. There have been reports of arguments over nude pictures; marriage plans dashed; of Sir Clive being in tears.

What is going on?

There is, of course, something irresistible about the phrases "millionaire-boffin", "lap-dancer", "balding father-of-three" and "blonde stunna" scattered promiscuously across newspaper pages; particularly when the balding father-of-three in question is Sir Clive. Since his divorce from his wife Anne Briscoe in 1985, after 22 years of marriage, he has been linked with a succession of women, most of them - as newspapers have never failed to remind us - young enough to be his daughter.

There was a 21-year-old actress, Ruth Kensit; the actress Tricia Walsh; Sally Farmiloe (memorably described as "most famous for hang-gliding naked"); and 21-year-old accountant and fellow Mensa-member Bernadette Tynan (IQ 154), to whom Sir Clive was briefly engaged in 1989.

His supposed irresistibility to women has been depicted as one of the great mysteries of the age, to rival the whereabouts of Atlantis or the point of the Millennium Dome. No less an authority on the subject than his friend Peter Stringfellow has stated that the balding inventor has "a smooth way with girls".

Perhaps he does, although in person, Sir Clive strikes you as a rather shy, awkward man; perfectly affable and clearly intelligent but like many intelligent people, someone who knows about lots of things but seems very unknowing about himself.

He lives on the seventh floor of a converted loft in King's Cross, which offers imposing views over the neighbouring gasometers and railway station. On the day we meet, he is wearing a black rollneck sweater which, along with his wire-rimmed spectacles, makes him look - improbable as this may sound - almost swinging, in a Sixties kind of a way, although this is possibly accidental.

He sits down and picks up a roll of Sellotape, which he fiddles with for the entire interview as he quietly tries to put the record straight. It is true that his relationship with Angie is now over, he says. But reports that he had been "in tears" over the parting were "Complete rubbish. Absolute nonsense".

Nor was it true to say that he had got cross because she had posed naked for a photographer. "A perfectly nice picture," he protests. "I hadn't got cross in the slightest. I was just cross about inaccurate statements being made."

Sir Clive met Angie two years ago at Stringfellows, where he had gone as the personal guest of Peter Stringfellow. She performed an erotic dance at his table (charge, £10) and he asked her out. Afterwards, they went to dinner a few times. "She'd won the Miss England contest - she's a very pretty and vivacious girl - and was being pursued by all and sundry."

It was soon afterwards that Angie told Sir Clive that there was a young man who was keen on her. "So I realised she would pursue that, rather than me, obviously."

Why obviously?

Sir Clive twists the Sellotape between his fingers.

"Well, difference in age, basically."

That was the last he saw of Angie for a while, although they spoke from time to time.

"Then, in July, she rang to say that she'd had a baby, but things had not worked out, and could she see me? Simple as that. She just needed someone to turn to in a time of great difficulty."

So his role was more paternal?

Sir Clive sniffs. "Well, in a way. Obviously, that wasn't what I was seeking. I don't know what she was seeking, some sort of help and protection."

Two or three days a week, Angie would come down from her home in Nottingham to stay at Sir Clive's, while pursuing her modelling career. He, it would be fair to say, quietly nursed thoughts of marriage, but the relationship remained platonic.

Jaundiced minds might see in this a case of a young girl anxious to make her way in the world, and find her way into the newspapers, employing the friendship of an elder, wealthy and famous patron. But this is not the case.

According to Sir Clive, he gave an interview to a newspaper about his exciting plans to develop a bicycle that folds to the size of an umbrella. In the course of the conversation, he was asked if it was true that he was seeing Angie. He said he was. Astonishingly, when the article appeared, the compelling details of his bicycle had been brushed aside by the news of his association with the former lap-dancer.

According to Sir Clive, "Angie was concerned about this because her ex-boyfriend didn't know anything about it. She was afraid it would cause trouble."

Pursued by newspapers "left, right and centre", Angie agreed to be interviewed by the Daily Mail. "Having caused her the problem in the first place, I was anxious that she should do as well out of it as possible," says Sir Clive. "She asked me if I would pose for a picture, and I did, because I hoped it would help her career."

He was also - although he omits to mention this - quoted in the piece to the effect that he was "very dramatically in love with Angie. I have never felt as strongly about anyone - except perhaps my wife."

Thus was unleashed on the world the full measure of Sir Clive's affections.

We shall pass quickly over the ensuing News of the World interview with Angie's "hunky old flame" (he warned Sir Clive that he might end up frittering away his fortune "on Viagra to keep her happy"); we shall skim the matter of the nude pictures, which subsequently appeared in the Sunday Mirror, and the wholly erroneous reports of tears and tantrums. Suffice to say that Angie is no longer staying at Sir Clive's.

"I didn't say you can't stay here any more or anything like that," he explains. "But it wasn't really going anywhere in terms of developing as a relationship. It was, I suppose, just a bit difficult for me emotionally. But that's not been a heartbreak, or anything like that."

Yesterday, in the Mirror, Angie paid tribute to Sir Clive's gentlemanly conduct - "He didn't use lots of words that I'd never heard of" - but spoke of the gulf between them. "I like pop music like All Saints. All I could find in his flat were classical CDs. And I like to watch TV, but he prefers to read books."

Gratifyingly, they remain on friendly terms. Angie is pursuing her modelling career while Sir Clive is pressing on with his designs for a collapsible bicycle.

Whatever the facts of the matter, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Sir Clive has not come out well from all this. Photographs of his beaming face alongside pictures of an erstwhile lap-dancer dressed only in a bustier, or less, serve only to reinforce the idea of him as some sort of party animal. (One is reminded of previous reports of Sir Clive disco-dancing at a Mensa social, "with the vigour of a prawn plugged into the mains", and, bizzarely, arriving at one convention "dressed as an armadillo" - a charge he categorically denies.)

He insists his pursuits tend to be more cerebral; and he is not a lap-dancing enthusiast. "Not at all. I like seeing pretty girls, but I find it rather too . . . in your face."

Nor would it be true to say that he only goes out with younger women. "I have gone out many times with older girls. One of my greatest friends is a woman in her 70s; I see her more than anyone else, but no one writes about that."

But it is younger women he has fallen for. "Yes." Sir Clive twiddles with his Sellotape. "And that, no doubt, is because they're attractive."

Men naturally fall for young women, he says, "otherwise the human race would die out. Obviously, we are biologically intended to find women attractive - young women in particular." He beams at the irrefutable logic of this.

But Sir Clive - how can we put this? - is not exactly Brad Pitt.

"That's true. But one of the funny things with very pretty girls is that, a lot of the time, men think they won't have a chance with them, so they don't ask them out. I do ask. And, sometimes, they come out with me. Quite often, they come out with me." He pauses. "Probably out of curiosity, or something."

There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong in an older man seeking the affections of a younger woman. But in Sir Clive's case, each enterprise seems to be tinged with tragedy.

Perhaps the truth is that he is a bit of a romantic idealist. It's there in his determination to make the world a better place through his inventions, and in his love of Yeats and Housman.

Sir Clive ponders this. The truth is, he says, that he doesn't particularly enjoy falling in love. "It's a bit of a distraction. It's not something that's happened to me an awful lot, thank goodness. I mean, I like having friends, knowing people. But falling in love is a very disturbing process . . . "

When you ask him when he has been at his happiest, he replies immediately. "I loved it when the children were young. That was a very happy time . . . But I feel very happy now."

None the less, he says that if he is honest, he would quite like to share his life with someone else again.

A psychologist might say he is attracted to impossible situations precisely because he knows that nothing will come of them. "Well quite. They probably would say that, and it may be so. I don't know."

So, come on, Sir Clive; why not find yourself a nice, intelligent woman of 55 and settle down?

"Ha, ha!" He looks slightly nonplussed at the prospect. The Sellotape twiddles nervously between his fingers. "Poor woman. Well, if it happens, it happens. But I'm not about to plan it."

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