A Potted History of Lamp-Posts

I’ve written many times about the lamp-post I can see from my bedroom window and the surreal relationship my tics have with it.

But lamp-posts and I have a long history. It’s a history I hadn’t given much thought to previously, and certainly haven’t yet written about. The story of my history with this particular piece of street furniture came up during a conversation with Leftwing Idiot’s mum, Liz, the other evening.

We’d started talking about the letter I’d written to my gran that I’d posted at the start of the week. I told Liz about some of the things I used to do with my grandparents and mentioned that my granddad and I used to go on walks together.

On these walks we’d often look out for broken lamp-posts. He’d write down their identification numbers in a book, and then we’d go and report them to the Council at their local offices.

As a child I used to enjoy these walks a lot, though I was less enthusiastic about queuing up to report the broken lamps to the weary-looking council workers who all knew my granddad well.

Then when I was at university, lamp-posts came up again. My dissertation was about various different types of mapping and included a section on mental mapping. The dissertation got lost a long time ago but one phrase from it has stayed with me ever since, ‘Wonky lamp-post.’

Leftwing Idiot read my dissertation and he found this line hilariously funny. He still mentions it from time to time.

After University I had an artist’s residency with a group of researchers looking into sustainability in twenty-four-hour cities. They were focussing on two test areas, one in London and one in Manchester. As part of the work I created in response to their research, I walked around both test areas and counted the numbers of particular features – trees, bin bags, hanging baskets, traffic lights…. and lamp-posts.

The researchers also gave me 3,625 photographs they’d taken in the course of their work. I went through every single one of these doing yet more counting. I looked for and counted everything from windows and railings to flip-flops and tandem bikes…. and lamp-posts. This task would’ve been unthinkable without my slightly obsessive tendencies.

I found a total of 1,350 lamp-posts, 421 of which were in Manchester. The image above represents these – it’s cut out of some of the photos they appeared in.

And then of course there’s my most recent involuntary dalliance with lamp-post.

Looking back I can see that lamp-posts are more deeply entwined in my personal history than I’d ever realised. But perhaps what’s even more interesting is that I can trace my obsessive tendencies from my granddad’s genes forward through my life, my art work, and many, many lamp-posts.

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