In Memoriam: Incandescence

When I was a young boy, many years ago, the lamps in our street were run on gas. I would enjoy staring out the front window of our house at dusk, watching as the old lamplighter arrived on his bicycle at the street lamp outside our front gate.

I don’t know how old he was, but to me he seemed as ancient as the pyramids. He certainly wasn’t paid very much, for his jacket was dirty and torn and his trousers were held up with string.

He always carried a very long pole, with a hook on the end. At each lamp he’d dismount from his bike, lean it against the lamppost, and with the long pole reach up and pull on a hook just under the lamp glass.

A faint orange glow appeared from the mantle. Then, after a minute or two, it would slowly grow brighter until it shone hot with a yellowy-white light. Once he was satisfied the lamp was properly alight, the old man would climb onto his bike once more and cycle off down the street to the next lamppost.

Technology has advanced enormously since those days, of course. No longer are lamplighters employed to keep our streets illuminated at night. But, for many years after the last lamplighter had retired, it remained common practice to use gas lamps in caravans and mobile homes (trailers or recreational vehicles, in America). There was something very soothing about the soft plop of the gas igniting, the warm orange mantle slowly changing color to a brighter yellow, accompanied by the gentle hissing of the gas. Somehow, it created a sense of wellbeing; a feeling of warm security.

Today, the warm, incandescent electric light bulbs we use in our homes are being replaced. No-one with any sense of responsibility could object to the loss of these energy-guzzling items, but we are utterly complacent in our acceptance of the harsh, ice-cold, deathly blue-white replacements that are being forced upon us.

LCDs, LEDs, curly-wurly monstrosities that resemble the guts of long-dead reptiles glowing with malfluorescence – all designed, it appears, with the intention of turning our once warm and welcoming homes into little better than furnished mortuaries.

Isn’t it time we all made a stand for a better light bulb?

We needed new bulbs in the bathroom. The light fitting is a lovely china antique and housed three ‘candelabra-type’, energy-guzzling, bulbs. While in Lowes Hardware Store recently we saw the ‘latest’ candelabra-type low-energy bulbs. They were quite expensive, but would look good in our bathroom light fitting, so we bought three.

They did look great, but when we flipped the lightswitch they just glowed like anemic fireflies.

A Philips 6TY6 Candle Bulb Just Lit.

At first we thought there must be something wrong with them, but as we stared at these three faint stars in our bathroom heavens they very slowly gained in brightness. Within three minutes the smallest room in our house was ablaze with light.

A Philips 6TY6 Candle Bulb After 3 Minutes

Unfortunately, unless I’m showering, I rarely spend more than three minutes in the bathroom, and I’d like to see where I’m aiming during that time. The Philips 6TY6s had to go.

But where could they be utilized? No amount of brain-racking could produce a suitable venue for these disparate illuminants…

…unless…a brainwave! We can use them in the bedroom of the trailer, perhaps accompanied by a recorded ‘hiss’ for effect? It may just help to recapture that old gas-light nostalgia of bygone days…

Maybe technology hasn’t advanced so far, after all?

3 Replies to “In Memoriam: Incandescence”

  1. I’m with you on hating these bulbs and they don’t work on the dimmer system at all. I (redfaced, yeah, I admit it) have stockpiled on the old incandescents.
    And ps have you broken one of these twirly gigs in screwing it into the holder. I have, what a bloody awful mess.

  2. WWW – yes, and they’re filled with mercury. VERY environmentally friendly!
    Also, I bought a pack of six twirly gigs made by GE. They were guaranteed to last seven years. Two refused to work at all after three weeks and two developed an annoying buzz whenever they were switched on. They, and the remaining two, went back to the shop.

  3. Lovely memories of lamplighters, RJ – I remember them too, back in Hull, just after the war. I also remember my parents moving into a house with gas lamps on the walls – those were a little scary to me though; I was glad when electricity was installed.

    I don’t mind the new bulbs too much, but they do stink when about to give up the ghost…..and they never last as long as advertised.

    I suppose improvements will be developed, in time, and prices may fall….or not!

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