Pylon of the Month - February 2023
February 06, 2023
The fact that this is February's Pylon of the Month rather than January's is because of a mixture of procrastination and busyness. That and the fact that having @pylonofthemonth Twitter provided a daily pylon fix so that the withdrawal symptoms weren't quite powerful enough to galvanise me into action. This pylon comes courtesy of a colleague at work and was taken a day or so after a lovely conversation where he learnt about my interest in electricity transmission infrastructure. It was a cold snap in the UK and with another one upon us as I write this, it seemed like a good idea to juxtapose pylons and frost. There is clearly something aesthetically pleasing about the idea because both Shutterstock (Hoar Frost Pylons) and Alamy (Electricity pylons covered in snow) have plenty of images to choose from! These particular pylons are near Sandford Lock south of Oxford which is notable for having the deepest fall of all the locks on the Thames at 2.69 metres. It's also close to the infamous Sandford Lasher, the scene of a number of tragic drownings. According to this article from Dark Oxford, one of them (Michael Llewelyn Davies in 1921), was the inspiration for Peter Pan. You could visit the pylon (as my colleague did) en route to the newly opened and fantastic Proof Social Bakehouse on a nearby industrial estate.
One of the great things about writing this blog is the serendipitous discoveries I make whilst researching the articles. This month, I stumbled across a short story by L P Hartley, best known his 1953 novel The Go-Between which has the famous opening line - "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there". His much less well known short story, "The Pylon" is a rather strange tale. A quote from near the beginning:
The pylon, then, had served him as a symbol of angelic strength. But in other moods it stood for something different, this grey-white skeleton. In meaner moods, rebellious moods, destructive moods, he had but to look at it to realize how remote it was from everything that grew, that took its nourishment from the earth and was conditioned by this common limitation. It was self-sufficient, it owed nothing to anyone. The pylon stood four-square upon the ground, but did not draw its sustenance from the ground. It was apart from Nature; the wind might blow on it, the rain might beat on it, the snow might fall on it, frost might bite it, drought might try to parch it, but it was immune, proof against the elements: even lightning could not touch it, for was it not itself in league with lightning?
You can read the full story in this online poetry magazine or by getting your hands on a copy of the Collected Macabre Stories published in 2001. There are undoubtedly hidden psychological depths to the story that I might discuss with a literary expert at some point, but I'll leave you this month with another short quote. I shall bear it in mind whenever I read a story about the removal of a pylon from the landscape.
But whereas their grievance against the pylon had been vocal for many years, their gratitude for its departure was comparatively short-lived. They would still say, ‘How marvellous without the pylon!’ but they didn’t really feel it, and after a month or two they didn’t even say it, taking their deliverance for granted, just as when an aching tooth is pulled out, one soon ceases to bless the painless cavity.