Reality Checkpoint

Varsity Handbook 1976-77

Something is happening here but you don't know what it is
The Town
If you walk diagonally across Parker's Piece, from the University Arms Hotel towards the Mill Road/East Road roundabout, you'll pass a single lamp-post at the halfway point, on which the words "Reality Checkpoint" have been etched. Behind you are the colleges, the faculty buildings, and the big shops of the "historic centre". Ahead are the terraced streets off Mill Road and East Road, the small shops where you can buy about everything including a cut-price kitchen sink, and beyond are the housing estates of Romsey Town. There's a pub off Mill Road called the Midland Tavern: the beer is Tolly and it's keg. Try walking in there on a Saturday evening wearing a CAMRA T-shirt and moaning about pressurised beer. You can do it in the centre: you're a Cam U undergraduate, and you can be as eccentric, or arrogant, or just bloody rude, as you like, and it'll be passed of as normal student behaviour. It is normal student behaviour, after all. But you'll find that most people living in Cambridge don't give a damn about students, or if they do, they don't like them much. They might not actually tell you that in the Midland Tavern, but you'll get the message quickly enough. Hence reality checkpoint. So you know which side you're on.

A gas or electric lamppost in the middle of Parker's Piece was requested by residents in 1893 and quotations were sought by the Corporation. Only the Cambridge Electric Supply Company responded and offered free electricity for the first year. It was erected in 1894.

It's said that the name was coined in the early 1970s and that the name was first painted on by some CCAT students under the guidance of a lecturer who was also a councillor, possibly Simon Sedgwick-Jell. Other theories/memories say it was a little earlier and predated his arrival.

In a cam.misc posting Yoble recalled that c1969 when the Mill Road Arjuna organic food shop was being planned, participants would walk home in an "elevated mental state": "one of these scrawled 'Reality Checkpoint' in black paint marker over the lamp post's pale green verdigris faux". Then in the 1970s "students from C.C.A.T. re-painted the inscription in a formal style, gold over black. The curly fish were decorated in brilliant colors, and given bright red lips. Possibly as a Rag Week prank."

A brass nameplate was attached to it by a cam.miscer in January 1998 which lasted until about July.

In February 1999 the County Council started refurbishment of the lamppost, funded by the Cambridge Preservation Society.

English Heritage was considering listing the lamp-post (CEN 2-Feb-1996).

See also:

Cambridge : History