Rik Mayall.jpg

London Blues

I was a big fan of Rik Mayall who sadly died last week at the age of just 56. I was 18 when the Young Ones came out and then went on to love Bottom and The New Statesman but, above all, the character Flashheart in Blackadder, which I thought was an act of pure comedy genius.
Anyway, the shock of his death came with an additional surprise when I found out that he lived just down the road from us in Barnes, South West London. I had no idea, though I gather he was often seen jogging in the streets as indeed he had been the day he died. A great loss to the nation.
In London, the former homes of famous people are often marked with blue plaques showing who lived there and the relevant dates. This is a scheme founded in 1866 and now run by English Heritage. It has been copied in many other towns and cities all over the world and somehow these plaques add depth and resonance to a property. With London you truly begin to realise just how many famous people have called this great city their home for some part of their lives.
I was delighted to be walking down a street near the Royal Albert Hall the other day and saw the former home of the comedian Benny Hill marked with just such a plaque but with nearly 900 plaques all over the capital you can pick your subject and walk in some famous steps.
How about visiting Karl Marx’s old place in Soho or Churchill’s home in Kensington? It seems there is some monetary value in having a blue plaque on your home as well. The flat in Montagu Square, Marylebone, above the basement flat where John Lennon and Yoko were famously photographed naked for their 1968 ‘Two Virgins’ album cover, has just come on the market for an astonishing £2.75M – but importantly, it sports the blue plaque between its front windows!
One of my favourite areas is Mayfair where there are some surprising former residents like Florence Nightingale and Nelson. But I like 23 Brook Street. Here lived two musical giants of their respective times – Frederic Handel of ‘Water Music’ fame and equal and opposite on another scale, Jimi Hendrix. Before his death in London, Hendrix apparently released green parakeets from this house which have gone on to colonise large areas of South West London and add a splash of bright green and a tropical flavour to the city.
It is of course too early to think about it but I would love to see a blue plaque on Rik Mayall’s old home. His final film was made here in the Algarve in the weeks before his premature death – maybe that deserves a plaque somewhere – to Rik Mayall – a uniquely talented, funny guy.