A competition to find Britain's next electricity pylon has been won by a design that reflects the customer's complex relationship with energy use. Drawing on organic influences and conveying a proud and arrogant approach to power, the new pylon resembles an enormous, extended middle finger.
"To be honest, we were surprised by the number of phallocentric entries", exclaimed Hans Schneider, the competition's founder. "A more sensitive judging panel might have taken offence, but fortunately, we're German." The judges wanted to choose a design that transmitted their power both literally and figuratively, and are delighted with the winner. "When we saw this digital image, my heart leapt. It perfectly sums up how I feel about our customers."
But not everyone has embraced the finger. "Is this what we want to see in the countryside, a long string of pylons giving us the bird?" asked Nigel Broad, an electricity user from Halifax. "I find their pylons as insulting as their attitude. I'm angry, they leave me no choice but to switch to one of the other suppliers that they own, or occasionally just turn off the heating."
Broad has formed a protest group to oppose the new pylons. "As a group, we want to pour water on these plans, even though a lot of us are on meters. We've had a number of candle-lit vigils, the electricity prices have made those incredibly popular." In a surprise move, the winning designer has backed the protesters. "I realise my concept is insensitive now, I only submitted it as a joke. I met Schneider to ask him to reconsider, but when I told him to pull my finger, he just giggled."
Schneider is defiant. When asked, he denied that the new 'Impudent Pylon' would spoil the view, "we can't see them from our offices in Europe", he explained. "Everyone takes a bit of time to get used to new designs, new tariff structures or massive, massive price hikes, but our customers need to be wary of complaining too much. If we meet too much resistance, we'll have to think twice about maintaining a supply to them: we're quite prepared to flip them off."