August 2012


Many years ago Bradford based poet, writer and showman Glyn Watkins was stood on top of a Calderdale hill with his girlfriend, admiring the view, when the following conversation took place:

Glyn: Isn’t it a lovely view?

GF: Yes, apart from those man made monstrosities ruining the landscape!

Glyn: What! You mean the electricity pylons?

GF: Yes.

Glyn: What about the dry stone walls?

GF: Pardon?

Glyn: They’re man made, and the have more ecological effect than pylons; and anyway, you use electricity, don’t you? And you wouldn’t have any without pylons!

GF: Why do you have to turn everything into an argument!?

Glyn found the relationship was disconnected soon afterwards; but he did develop a lifelong interest in pylons, the unsung symbol of modern life, and for over 20 years has been producing Christmas cards with images and poetry about pylons. This exhibition contains shows the result

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This is from my exhibition.

Pylons are the physical sign of the ‘National Grid’ . Without them we would still all have coal fires, wet battery radios and linen meat safes instead of fridges.

We need pylons. If you do not like the look of them then you are probably middle class and aspire to a fashionable view, and can probably afford a house out of their sight but you will still depend on them. Even the latest fashion for solar panels depends on there being a ‘Grid’ to feed electricity to.

That being the case I think we should celebrate pylons as a vital and powerful symbol of the life we live, not a life that has never existed for most of us.

The National Grid was created in the 20’s and 30’s as a means of joining up the country’s power stations and electricity users. It also stores electricity and makes it much easier to avoid black-outs (without it the power to make Spitfires and the like would not have been there for a lot of the last big war).

The look of pylons was thought about, and Reginald Bloomfield RA was consulted about it. He designed The Headrow in Leeds, was a famous architectural critic, and is now forgotten, even by the RA. What he designed has changed as pylons have got bigger but they still give a human dimension to a wholly human made landscape.

Pylons also remind me of Christmas trees, and while I sometimes need beer to help find an image and poetic line for pylons, I have managed for over twenty years.

The exhibition is the result.

I have finished the mounting for the exhibition. It was fairly hard work, but it did include use of a rubber mallet, the hearty swearing that always goes with heavy hammer use, and showers of sparks like a roman candle while I was cutting the mild steel plaster beading with a mini-angle grinder; and I set fire to nothing, not even me; but I did ware the disc out and then discovered I had no replacement, so I had to finish with a hand saw.

The only framing failure was the last picture, where the glass cracked. I still have twelve framed pieces, including one framed as a plaster beading pylon, and the cracked one will join them if I get a frame after hanging the rest today. I am not labelling them until tomorrow, and have not decided what price to put on prints and, possibly, cards. This exhibition is a first step. I may not take another, but as such it is not a ‘private view’ type event; it cannot be with the gallery space being on the way to the toilets.

Official opening is 16.00 tomorrow. I will be there, and will probably be talking. I intend being there the same time on Saturday, but not for long as I have grass to cut for money and if I can do that Saturday night I am free to go to the Priestley Shield on Sunday.

The interview on Radio Leeds with Andrew Edwards was really enjoyable; it always is with Andrew. The link is to the web repeat and is available until about noon on the 15th August 2012. My bit is 35 minutes in.

Am due on the Andrew Edwards show on Radio Leeds after 15.30 today to talk about the pylons exhibition at the Sparrow Bier Cafe.

I have not read 50 Shades of Grey, any need for that kind of thing was sorted out in the 90’s by reading Black Lace and Nexus(?) books about that kind of thing, which I did until I got really uncomfortable about rape seemingly being allowed in books pretending to be written for women. So I have no need to join the infected, but the whole Harry Potter like hoo-haa reminds me of the P.G. Wodehouse short story Best Seller, and the ever shining Rodney Spelvin (who got a dedication in my first book, along with John Lillison and: A Woman Who Knows.

Sometimes a book grabs people like Spanish influenza, there is no explanation and no cure; you just have to hope that when it is all over the world can recover.

I am learning just how skilful picture framing is when you have to do more than one.

I went to try and buy some mounting board yesterday; which took me past the Delius pub; where old friend and ex-employer at MacRory’s: Ian Austin was overseeing this year’s Ginger Fringe Festival.

Went back to the Delius today after a day of more framing. It was good to see old friends. Deny is still playing, and got a 2.1 from Bradford Uni.

I could have stayed longer, but that would have involved borrowing money, and in the contest between bed and more beer, bed sometimes wins like Usain Bolt now!

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