Another possible explanation for the unexplained ‘fair’ I saw on Saturday on Parker’s Piece (see yesterday’s post) is that I had in someway contravened the city’s reality checkpoint.
The reality checkpoint is the imposing iron lamppost in the centre of Parker’s Piece. It is said to be the oldest electric streetlight in the city, erected some time in the mists of the nineteenth century and still throwing out a ghastly light.
So why is it known as the reality checkpoint? Nobody is sure. The name was painted on it in the early 1970s and refreshed periodically thereafter (as you can just make out in the photo above). Various theories have been advanced, but, to me most plausibly, it is said to mark the outer limits of the ‘reality bubble’ of the university. University students (not to mention teachers) are said to live in a ‘reality bubble’, cut off from the real world (they used to be called ivory towers, but you don’t hear that so much any more). To pass over Parker’s Piece was to enter, or perhaps re-enter, the real world.
As a student, I used to venture beyond the reality checkpoint from time to time, almost always in search of the spicy potatoes they used to make (perhaps still make) at Fagito’s on Mill Road. Those potatoes were real enough, but it seemed like a long way to go, into a different city. Now I live way out beyond Parker’s Piece, beyond Mill Road even, in a part of the city no tourist or student ever sees; where you need reality checkpoints of your own invention.