Reality Checkpoint


Are there any Dabblers who have personal acquaintance with the reality checkpoint unearthed in today’s unusual wikipedia article?

Reality Checkpoint is the name given to a large lamp-post in the middle of Parker’s Piece, Cambridge, England, located at the intersection of the park’s diagonal paths. The name comes from an unofficial inscription which has been painted on the lamp-post since the early 1970s. The lamp-post is also believed to be the oldest electrical lamp-post in Cambridge.

There are numerous theories as to the meaning of the name. A few include:

1) 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 lamp-post marks the end of the ‘reality holiday’ as they walk back to central Cambridge – back into ‘the bubble’.

2) The name arose because the lamp-post forms a useful landmark for people crossing the park at night—perhaps inebriated or in the fog—since it is the only light for hundreds of yards.

3) 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 just a few hundred metres away.

4) The post being situated in the middle of two walking paths that intersect, anyone walking whilst not tuned in to “reality” will likely collide with the lamp-post, hence “reality checkpoint”.


The age of the original lamp-post is uncertain. However the post above the dolphins was torn down by American GI’s celebrating VJ Day, the end of the war with Japan.

One report claims that the name was first painted on the lamp-post by students from the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology (now Anglia Ruskin University) under the guidance of one of their teachers.

It has been repeatedly repainted since then in response to removal by Cambridge City Council or obliteration by graffiti.


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About Author Profile: Worm

In between dealing with all things technological in the Dabbler engine room, Worm writes the weekly Wikiworm column every Saturday and our monthly Book Club newsletters.

5 thoughts on “Reality Checkpoint

    January 11, 2014 at 15:40

    Don’t think it was there in my day, but if it was I probably wouldn’t have noticed. Or I might just have forgotten. I remember ‘Jet of Blood’ was a popular graffito around the campus, also ‘The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction’. A Reality Checkpoint would have been very handy…

      January 11, 2014 at 16:04

      Obviously they have a better class of graffiti in Cambridge than elsewhere…

    January 12, 2014 at 19:27

    Typical lack of entrepreneurship by Cambridge council. They have obviously never been up Friedrichstrasse and observed the frenetic activity around Checkpoint Charlie, rent-a-Trabant, soviet era Russian uniforms for sale (made in Taiwan) trips to that-hotel-that-was-featured-in-the-Jason-Bourne-movie, spot the pimp etc, mountains of tourist dollars are being generated by the spivs, I mean small business people.

    Checkpoint reality could feature rent-an-Allegro, second hand gowns and mortarboard for sale (made in Mumbai) trips to the scene of the Cambridge footlights, excursions to darkest Harston or the Cherry Hinton industrial complex, the possibilities are limitless.

      January 12, 2014 at 19:44

      I would wholeheartedly endorse this development

    January 18, 2014 at 22:49

    Missed this post on the day, Worm – but yep, I do have a personal acquaintance with the curiosity lamp post. Nothing to do with inebriation or fog of course.

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