how to be immortal
Wednesday 13 December 1995
Yet which of us can honestly say we have never craved immortality? Something that will resonate down the years, long after your dust has settled?
Of course, if your life proves to be one of great moment in the arts, science or politics, you may be immortalised automatically. But if you have led a low-key and blameless life, you may have to plan for the post- post-retirement years yourself.
If you are a star of the TV, or film variety, fame can be fleeting. If, however, for as little as pounds 55, you have a star of the huge, distant, exploding ball of helium variety named after you, fame is stress-free and never- ending.
The International Star Registry has already allocated more than half a million heavenly bodies to human ones. Celebrity recipients include Elvis Presley and Raquel from Coronation Street (a gift from Curly last Christmas). Happily, there are still about 14.5 million left, including a limited number of binary star systems (for lovers) that revolve, rather touchingly, around each other and are actually visible to the naked eye.
It should be pointed out that these names have no relation whatsoever to the annotation system used by astronomers, and the chances of Patrick Moore mentioning your star on The Sky at Night are pretty slim, to say the least.
The idea of naming a rose in your own honour may seem comparatively down to earth. However, a good deal more work goes into breeding a new rose than issuing a star certificate, and commercial considerations also have a stake. They want these roses to sell.
Of course, if you happen to have been christened Golden Sunrise or Opal Morning-Dew, then it is conceivable that rose- growers may agree to name their latest creation after you for a token consideration. But if you want them to call an otherwise highly marketable inflorescence, Edna B Willowbottom, then the fee may be somewhat higher. As much as pounds 10,000 in fact - although you may get a cutting or two thrown in.
If you would like to think of future generations strolling down your own boulevard, then you may have something of a fight on your hands - unless you plan to build the thing yourself.
Take the case of those who sought to immortalise Reg Jones. Just over a year ago, a council in Midsummer Norton, near Bath, planned to honour the recently- deceased nonagenerian with a street name. He had worked down the mine, kept the grounds at the local football club and written two volumes of local history. "I'm fed up with the rich and famous having streets named after them," the council chairman, explained.
A cul-de-sac was chosen to honour Reg but the residents were not amused. "Reginald wouldn't be too bad," said one, "but plain Reg is comical." The council lost the battle, and the developer had the final say.
Plaques are another option. The plaque everyone wants is the blue type, handed out by English Heritage at the conservative rate of about 12 a year. But they won't even start to consider you until you are dead. So if you want to be immortalised, you are going to have to do something to earn it.
Alternatively, put a plaque up yourself. Obviously you can't use the English Heritage crest, but apart from that, assuming you own the place, the only constraint is financial.
And remember, don't sell yourself short. Personally, I've always felt that "Man of letters born here" would sit well with my name and dates over 17, The Cheverals, Dunstable. I wonder who's living there now? I'd be willing to split the cost...
International Star Registry (freephone 0800-212493)
National Rose Society (01727 850461)
Ashworth's ceramic plaques (0181-852 2920); Davis Nameplates (0181- 853 5997)
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