Sunday, 16 December 2007

A Nice Green Leaf: Pylons and Porticos

Pylonsjpeg By Emma Townshend

Going for one of those amazing winter walks at the weekend where the light is extraordinarily clear, I thought a lot about landscape and focal points in the distance - maybe because I'm currently reading a book recommended by Alain de Botton, about all the infrastructure you see in a landscape. This Field Guide by Brian Hayes is an American book, but still manages very well to make me curious about every piece of rusting metal I see dotted around the English countryside. Pylons, water towers and grain silos are all explained in great detail, as are motorway junction interchanges, and telephone wires.

The so-called "Pylon poets" of the 1930s were mocked for writing
poetry that seemed to praise the scourge of the National Grid spreading
itself across the hills and valleys; Stephen Spender, W.H. Auden and
Louis MacNeice all got tainted with the brush  (even though Spender's
original Pylon poem doesn't seem all that straight-forwardly enthusiastic if you read it now).

But it reminds me of our current national debate about wind farms. I
absolutely love the idea of a landscape which combines respect for our
architectural heritage, with a delight in what is to come - and for me,
wind farms and pylons are exciting: a gorgeous, exhilarating sight. But
to listen to some Radio 4 phone-ins, you'd think I was completely
alone. Now I've got Brian Hayes, though, I know there must be other
people out there who like pylons.

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