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Life fails to fit the nice neat pattern;Opinion

I HOPE you all enjoy the free gift that you'll be getting with this, my last column of the second millennium. To mark this auspicious occasion I've tried to arrange for each and everyone of you to receive a copy of Sir Cliff Richards' splendid rendition of The Lord's Prayer sung to the tune of Scarlet Ribbons. I haven't actually heard this record myself but I've just been out and ordered 142,000 copies in the earnest hope that Britain will end the millennium with Cliffie at number one.

Don't get me wrong. I'm no great fan of Sir Cliff and I actually left the Church of England some while ago but I do think it would be a very salutary, educative experience for us all to recognise that history is not neat and life frequently fails to fit the pattern.

That great Elizabethan Sir Walter Raleigh lived on into Jacobean times and had to be executed, Queen Victoria didn't stop reigning at the end of the 19th century, like she should have done, and I would like it very much indeed if our final image of the 1990s was not Princess Diana, Nelson Mandella, The Spice Girls, Dolly the sheep or Viagra but Cliff singing slush.

This was the decade that discovered girl power and laddishness, the decade of the internet and cybergeeks, of boy bands and grunge. Nevertheless I think it vital that the last hit of our century is not Backstreet Boys belting out This Song's Crap And We Dont Care or Cher intoning Do You Believe In Sex After 40? but Cliff.

Up until recently I had tended to dismiss Cliff Richard as a remarkably well-preserved has-been desperate for a hit by any means but now I salute him as one of the few intellectuals working in British pop. Cliff's brave decision to set the Ten Commandments to Roll Out the Barrel may seem naff but in fact he is making a statement about the arbitrariness of specific dates and that the more we look for significance in life the more we will be confronted by its sheer inconsequentiality.

When our grandchildren and great grandchildren come to study this period in history they will expect that the song which played out 1999 will at least sum up the decade that went before, if not the second millennium. But not if I have anything to do with it.

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