Sir Cliff heads to NZ in New Year
It was some surprise when our chief reporter asked if anyone was keen to interview Sir Cliff Richard.
Sir Cliff's publicist contacted us with the message that the singer has plenty of fans in our patch.
I raised my hand without hesitation.
I admit he was before my time but I've always considered the 72-year-old pop legend something of an enigma. A legend in Britain but hardly known in the United States. And perhaps due partly to his religious persuasion and lifelong bachelorhood.
He hits our shores in January for a series of shows and assures me there won't be time for a holiday. He reiterates his work ethic throughout the interview.
Celebrating his 54th anniversary in the business, Sir Cliff is indisputably Britain's greatest hit maker.
No other UK band or solo artist is even close to equalling his 123 hit singles or can claim to have occupied a place in the charts for the equivalent of 20 years.
So with trepidation, I prepare myself for the 15 minute phone call to Barbados.
It is 8.30pm island time and Sir Cliff is a week into a month-long stay in the Caribbean.
He says he is preparing for another tour but gives a jovial response when I ask where the band is.
"I'm singing along with the CDs."
He can't name a favourite song but does have an answer to a question supplied by reader Anne Whitt.
"It's hard for me to pick one out, there's been so many; if somebody came from Mars and asked me what I do I would play them Devil Woman."
There's no talk of retirement.
"I have never thought about retirement; I've left myself wide open, every time I do a tour I think what am I going to do next time."
Reader Melissa Little asks what Kiwi wine he enjoys.
Marlborough wine is favoured, including Cloudy Bay.
"Since you were last in New Zealand, Christchurch experienced a devastating earthquake; how do you feel about returning to Christchurch?" Janet Johnson asked.
"I'm feeling very good about it; I assumed we were not playing Christchurch, we've always played Christchurch, and I am so happy we are going there," Sir Cliff replies.
Mel Jones asks what advice Sir Cliff would give to anyone wanting to break into the entertainment industry.
"I can only quote what my dad said to me; when I made my first record Dad asked if it was what I really wanted to do and said to do it to the best of my ability."
(Another voice comes on the line, I've got a minute left).
We need to talk about Timaru.
Sir Cliff recalls playing Timaru but there have literally been hundreds of small towns.
"When we come to towns we don't usually get out and visit them; unfortunately on tour you don't get to see the country which is one of the horrors of rock'n'roll."
My 15 minutes is up and we bid each other farewell.
Sir Cliff Richard plays Christchurch on January 31.
The Timaru Herald