Some British National Treasures Who Deserve a Blue Plaque
Because how else will we commemorate Brian Harvey running himself over with his own car?
All images by Nick Pomeroy
In May of 2005, Brian Harvey from 90s boy band East 17 somehow managed to run himself over with his own car. Don't try and figure out how, because nobody can figure out how. But the story, according to Brian Harvey, is that he ended up under his Mercedes after eating too many jacket potatoes (three). "They were big," he said, post-accident. "I put cheese on, then tuna mayonnaise and I ate the lot." Then he leaned out of his car to be sick and, scene deleted, reversed over himself with his own car. Listen: it could happen to anyone.
How will we explain to our children that Brian Harvey once ate so many jacket potatoes he ran himself over with a car? Heck, even if you don’t ever plan on having children you’re going to have to have an awkward conversation with someone about that. I have a seven-year-old nephew, and I think he’s at the age to travel with me to that cul-de-sac in Walthamstow and look at the spot where East 17’s chief calamity ran himself over with his Merc. But what do I say to him? How do I answer his inevitable questions? "Who is Brian Harvey?" he is saying. "What is East 17? How do you run yourself over with a car?"
This is where blue plaques come in handy. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the concept of the blue plaque: a blue plaque is a plaque, and it is blue, and English Heritage put them up outside buildings of historical importance, where popular ye olde tyme people lived and worked and died, and where things of significance happened. But the rules on blue plaques are strict: 20 years after the person of repute has taken that final trip under the metaphorical wheels of a Mercedes – then, and only then, can a blue plaque be mounted in their honour. There is a strong chance I will outlive Brian Harvey off of East 17, but will I see a blue plaque celebrating his greatest moment in my lifetime? Probably not.
For this reason – the fact I was idly thinking about Brian Harvey and how he taught the world that it is never safe to get in the driver's seat if you've just eaten three tuna-mayo potatoes – I have decided to compile a dossier for English Heritage, asking them to loosen their strict and frankly insane blue plaque policy, before considering these more contemporary events and persons for inclusion in next year’s plaque round. Here are the blue plaques I would like to see.
LOCATION: Euston Station
LIFE CELEBRATING: Michael Owen
EVENT: That time he had to pay 30p to have a wee
It's high time that we started to sincerely and deliberately forget Michael Owen the footballer – the kid with the phenomenal pace and the unerring finish – and instead embraced his second life, as a spectacularly boring dad with more inoffensive V-neck sweaters than there are stars in the sky.
Because that is who Michael Owen is now. At heart, that’s who he's always been. If you look at a 1997 Liverpool team photo, wee Micky Owen is fading like the family in Back to the Future, soon to be replaced by a man who tonelessly says "banter" and sleeps eight dead hours a night.
Peak Michael Owen has been achieved twice, neither of which occurred on the pitch during his football career, but were instead documented by his incredibly boring Twitter account. First, when Michael ran over a rabbit and came as close to an emotion as he ever will (“Just ran over a rabbit. Devastated.”), and second, when – in July of 2012 – he was forced to piss at the paid urinals in Euston Station (“Succumbed again. Arrived at Euston Station bursting for a wee. Paid 30p to relieve myself. It’s the principle that infuriates me.”).
How are we to remember Michael Owen: for that electric goal against Argentina at France 98? As the man stood next to Fergie like a school kid on sports day, wearing his full kit and ready to celebrate a United title that never happened? Or as a man in a polo shirt, so ready for a piss that he resorted to furiously pushing a £50 note into a change machine while trying not to soil his chinos?
Going on his current form, 100 percent the latter.
LOCATION: ATM, central London
LIFE CELEBRATING: Antony Costa off of Blue
EVENT: That time he pissed on a cashpoint
Speaking of piss, Antony Costa did one once on a cashpoint near Trafalgar Square. The beauty of the Antony Costa cashpoint piss is how forever enmeshed with mentions of his name it is: when he took his Lil’ Antony out on that fateful night in February, 2011, he never knew that his Wikipedia page would be irreparably damaged, that he’d have to go to the newspapers and apologise for pissing.
But there is iconography in Anthony Costa's cash point piss – significance, if you look close enough. Since he dampened that PIN pad back in 2011, 75 percent of his boy band, Blue, have been declared bankrupt; harmless man-child Lee Ryan remains the only financially viable member left. And the piss came at a career trough not only for the Blue – they tried and failed to win Eurovision that same year, their comeback turning slowly, inevitably into a death knell – but for British boy bands in general.
Anthony's Costa's piss was a full stop on the era of Phixx, of Ultra, of Northern Line and V; of World's Apart, of O-Town, of One True Voice, of Upside Down. Anthony Costa literally pissed it up the wall, and got a bit on a cashpoint. Plus a blue plaque would serve as a warning to anyone using that particular ATM that they might want a squirt of hand gel after entering their PIN.
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LOCATION: I don’t know, some fucking wood somewhere
LIFE CELEBRATING: Richard Dawkins
EVENT: That time he saw two dogs 69ing
If my kid cousin asked me to explain what a Richard Dawkins was to him, I would have no choice to explain that he was an old man who once got furious about some honey and who wrote a couple books about it for nerds when he wasn’t embarrassing himself on Twitter. But he wasn’t always like this. He once saw two dogs engaging in a 69.
“I’ve seen a dog & bitch indulging in full 69. Males of many species including Drosophila lick female genitals before copulation.” – Richard Dawkins, 2014
I’m still not sure what was going through Richard Dawkins' mind when he thought, ‘Hmm, I really need to win this point, here. I reckon I’ll tell a rando on the internet that I saw two dogs locked in a sex move’. But I’m glad it did. As with Michael Owen before him, it’s time we stopped thinking about Dawkins as a respectable professor or a leading atheist thinker, and instead as a doddering old man who once stood and watched two dogs lick each others’ lollipops for, what, ten, 15 minutes? The only way to do that is by burying a blue plaque in some mud – or perhaps nailing it to a nearby tree – right next to where it happened.
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LIFE CELEBRATING: Amy Winehouse
EVENT: Death :(
There’s no doubt that Amy Winehouse dying was a totally sad thing and a massive shame. Which makes Camden’s collective effort to honour her passing in the most Camden ways possible even more excruciating. People light candles, put them in wine bottles and plant them next to trees in Camden Square. They stand outside her old house and sing that Mark Ronson song. They are making a bronze, beehived statue in The Stables bit of the indoor market. The only way they could be more Camden about this is if they fashioned a canoe out of a skanky old leather jacket, filled it with club flyers and sent it – burning, Viking burial-like – down the canal while that bloke made a chorus of clicking little bird sounds until it finally sank.
Camden, you are the fucking worst. You are a carpet that someone spilt a Jägerbomb on so forcibly that it became sentient. You are a dirty-fingered man with a rat-tail who insists on calling himself "Smeg" and spends his evenings trying to sell an eighth of weed to school girls. You are the embodiment of pigeons pecking sick out of a bin.
You don’t deserve a blue plaque. But, lucky for you, Amy Winehouse has earned you one. Please pose and light candles by this in future.
LOCATION: Marathon route, about mile 13
LIFE CELEBRATING: Paula Radcliffe
EVENT: That time she did a shit around the marathon route, about mile 13
Paula Radcliffe is a former world champion distance-runner who boasts world and Commonwealth gold medals, an OBE and a BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. She also shat herself mid-marathon once, on TV.
So how best to mark Paula’s career? With a blue plaque installed at the marathon finishing line on The Mall, saying something like, "Paula Radcliffe once ran down here, rolling her head all the while in that way she does"? Or one halfway around the London Marathon course, near some bins, reading "Paula Radcliffe once deuced out the side of her running pants somewhere around here; just shat right on the side of the road like it was nothing, and still went on to win"?
I'll trust your judgement.
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LOCATION: London street, unnamed
LIFE CELEBRATING: The Tango Man and the eardrums he inadvertently perforated
EVENT: The Tango advert
Adverts in the 90s were better than they are now. I might be slightly biased given I was a child in the 90s, but it's still an irrefutable fact.
Best of all those adverts was The Orange Man, an advert for Tango that sees a gigantic, greasepaint-wearing bald dude run down the street and double-hand slap a Tango-drinking man into a state of refreshment. I still vividly remember this advert. And I still vividly remember running around the playground at school slapping people over both ears. And I still remember, vividly, being sat down for an impromptu assembly, where we were all told we couldn’t do The Tango Man Slap any more because some kid at a nearby school had both his eardrums perforated in perfect unison by the forceful vacuum of being clapped around the ears. For all of those tiny eardrums, pinging around their skulls like maize kernels exploded into popcorn, this plaque is for you.
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LOCATION: Middle of Big Brother house, Borehamwood
LIFE CELEBRATING: Kinga
EVENT: That time Kinga enveloped a bottle
Some moments just define a generation. The moon landing. John F Kennedy’s assassination. That time Kinga put a wine bottle up herself in the Big Brother house.
Here’s the thing: you never actually see Kinga stick a wine bottle up her – not as you remember it. It starts innocuously enough – it is 2.49AM; Kinga points to a wine bottle and asks, “Shall I stick that up my fanny?” Then, as with any great illusionist, you only see what you think you see: Kinga puts one leg stoically up on the sofa; Kinga approaches her own nightgown with a wine bottle, holding it by the punt; Kinga pulls the face you pull when you step on cold tiles with bare feet.
All signs points to Kinga putting a bottle up her – but, other than the shell-shocked, post-explosion horror expression of eventual winner Anthony, you never actually see it go in. You just imagined you did. You remember you did. But you didn’t. Go to any pub with anyone of the Kinga generation and ask them to describe the scene, and they’ll all have their own false graphic memory, of pants yanked down and brace-yourself expressions. If that isn’t worth a blue plaque embedded in the AstroTurf garden of the Big Brother house where she went and finished herself off, then what exactly is?
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LOCATION: A sad, jizzy sofa inside the Ecuadorian Embassy
LIFE CELEBRATING: Julian Assange
EVENT: That time he hid from his responsibilities for two years
YEAR: 2012 – Present
I like to think of Julian Assange holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in full bored-man beard, wearing pants and a vest and surrounded by old Pot Noodle cups that double up as ashtrays, with a slush of Daily Stars littering the floor in front of him. Even he’s bored of playing Candy Crush now. He watches Jeremy Kyle once in the morning, and then again when it repeats on ITV2, shouting along when Jeremy says, "PUT SOMETHING ON THE END OF IT."
This is his life now, occasionally sweeping out onto the balcony to see if anyone still remembers he’s there, slowly working his way up to eight wanks a day. Sometimes he’ll do an e-mail, but it’s about as often as he showers. He basically lives inside the vista of detritus on the dashboard of a builder’s van, and I just reckon drilling a blue plaque into the wall next to him might wake him up a bit.
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