Why is Sir Clive so
(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
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
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
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
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.
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
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."
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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,
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
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."