Cambridge – Reality Checkpoint

This is from my visit to Cambridge with Nathan a couple of weekends ago and it’s a lamp post. But not just any lamp post, this is Reality Checkpoint which has managed to acquire its own Wikipedia page. And not many lamp posts have managed to gain that sort of accolade, so I felt the need to take a photo of it. It’s located at Parker’s Piece, which has its own heritage as being one of the places which can claim to be the home of the rules of football. But that didn’t happen when the lamp post was hanging around, as this iron centrepiece of the park dates from the last few years of the nineteenth century.

The reason for the name is unclear, with Wikipedia quoting three different options:

(i) It may mark the boundary between the central university area of Cambridge (referred to as the “reality bubble”) and the “real world” of townspeople living beyond. One is warned to check one’s notions of reality before passing. For students at Cambridge, who walk out to Mill Road across Parker’s piece for an evening in the “real world”, usually including a visit to one of Mill Road’s selection of pubs, the lamppost marks the end of the “reality holiday” as they walk back to central Cambridge – back into “the bubble”.

(ii) The name arose because the lamppost forms a useful landmark for people crossing the park at night – perhaps inebriated or in the fog – since it is the only light for over a hundred metres.

(iii) When drunk, students and the general public are reminded to check they are able to walk like a sober person before passing the police station at the edge of Parker’s Piece, hence a “reality check”.

I have no idea which it is, but the middle one rings true to me and alcohol or drugs was likely involved in the whole arrangement. The reality (if we can excuse my use of that word here) is that one student wrote it on the post in the 1960s and future generations of students kept up that tradition.

The lamp post was listed in August 1996 to further cement its reputation in the history of Cambridge and here’s the official text:

Lamp standard erected in 1894, renovated in 1946, and refurbished in 1999.

“Cast iron. Square-section plinth and base with inscription panels to each side. South west side with access hatch. Top edges with waterleaf decoration. Base of shaft with four intertwined dolphins. Plain shaft of circular section carries four candelabra lamp holders by means of scrolled wrought-iron stays. Glazed cages of inverted conical section.”

At the bottom of the lamp post is one of the little artworks from Dinky Doors that are in numerous places around Cambridge.