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10 January 2013

Cliff Richard and the dogs of love

"I'm not gay," says Sir Cliff Richard, 72
Today I was trying to explain to a small group of lively and interesting students who work at a major multi-national company in Khimki how the word “bachelor” is used.
     I said that if you were talking of a 70-year old man and described him as “unmarried” that would be taken as a purely factual, morally neutral statement, whereas if you said he was “a bachelor” you might be thought to be implying that he had, shall we say, question marks over his sexuality.
      The liveliest and most intelligent of these people is a sparky woman who, like most Russians of her sort, is extremely interested in the subject of rich men, marriage and, if it can be managed too, romance. I was getting the feeling that she was not entirely following me on the subject of elderly, wealthy bachelors, despite the fact that her English is excellent.
     I decided to give an example. Had they heard of Sir Cliff Richard, I asked? Yes, of course. I tried them with the song “Bachelor Boy”, but that rang no bells.
Sue Barker, 56, the "dog" he rejected thirty years ago
     So I described the way in which millionaire “Move It” man, Cliff, was rumoured to have started dating Sue Barker, the attractive tennis commentator, some years after she had won the French Open in 1975, at a time when Cliff was still an eligible 40.
     She was said to have been keen, but when he seemed to want to be “just good friends” with someone as “fit” as Sue Barker many people took that to mean that he was not so much “unmarried” as a “bachelor”.
     “Do you see the difference?” I asked.
     “I don’t understand,” said my bright student, who had been paying close attention. “Why he wanted to marry a dog?”
     “A dog?” I said, aghast. “I never said he wanted to marry a dog. What are you talking about?”
     “You said he wanted he wanted to marry sobaka.”
     “Ahhhh! Sue Barker – sobaka!”
     (Собака, pronounced sabaaka, is Russian for “dog”, and I had pronounced Sue as Su rather than Syu as a Russian-speaker naturally would have.)
     The whole room collapsed into helpless laughter. Even before we had all quietened down, my student asked me with a sly grin if there was any chance that I could get hold of Sir Cliff’s telephone number for her.

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