I went to University in Aberystwyth. Happy days, mostly. I moved around a lot. At one point in 1990, I was living in Bath Street. Just checked it out on Google’s Street View. The side of the road I lived on hasn’t changed all that much:
When I first moved to Aberystwyth this street sheltered behind the mighty King’s Hall, a venue now famous mostly for having hosted the only Led Zeppelin gig where the audience remained seated throughout the performance – many with their arms crossed. The King’s Hall didn’t just appear large in the local cultural history. It was a massive building too. It shelted the buildings behind from the sea, which can be quite fierce. With the King’s Hall demolished in 1989 and replaced with… a car park, suddenly my old house was exposed to the sea. I moved into this place in January 1990, when the winter storms were at their worst. The following week, all the front windows blew in.
After the windows had been replaced, we carried on our student lifestyles in much the same manner as students have done since time immemorial. We partied hard, we studied hard, we kept the bills down by various means. One of these was agreeing how much electricity we would spend. Since my window was right by the street light you can see in the picture, I took to sitting on my bed at night (and sometimes throughout the night) with the curtains open and reading by the light of the publicly funded lamp.
It wasn’t the best light to read by. The colour was a bit wrong really. Sometimes it flickered and sometimes it burned too bright. In fact, even with the curtains closed I could not get my room properly dark. Yet I was grateful for it. I sat there reading Kant, Hegel and Marx through the long winter nights, listening to my window rattle in the wind.
One night, the wind was really strong. My window was rattling much more than usual. I wondered vaguely whether it was safe to sit beside it. Then, all of a sudden, during a particularly enjoyable passage in Hegel’s Phenomenology Of Mind, an odd creaking noise came from outside. Looking out, I could see the street lamp rocking backwards and forward (the one in the picture above is new) in the way that street lamps should not. Instead of retreating from the window, I sat there watching it. It seemed to be positioned at a different angle from earlier in the evening.
Between the house and the church there is a lane. Looking at the Google Street View of this lane, it seems obvious that not only has the street light been modernised, it has been moved too. It used to stand right next to house, so that its lamp was immediately outside my bedroom window. What’s the point of putting it by the church instead? Who is going to be sitting on the church roof reading the German Philosophers?
Why would a local authority move a street light? Well… … there was a lull in the wind and I returned to my reading. Then a very powerful blast indeed seemed to sway the house itself. It was accompanied by the sound of creaking and squeaking. I confess I ducked away from the window. However, nothing came crashing through. Not even the light! Suddenly the room was properly dark.
When I looked out, the street light seemed to have disappeared. The pole was still there but the lamp gone. Yet I could see some light cast on the pavement. I went downstairs and outside to investigate. The whole thing – post, lamp and cover, was intact. Incredibly, it had swivelled on its seating through 180 degrees! It certainly gives you an idea of how strong the wind was. The lamp was now poking into the lane. Instead of a window between it and my bedroom, there was now a brick wall. Thus it remained. The council did not change it back. The landlord refused to put a new window into my bedroom. One window was enough, apparently. Was it easier to sleep in my bedroom? It didn’t make any difference to me! I never slept there.