An A - Z
of London

Capital Numbers

An alphabetical guide
to London

A is for 'orses
B is for Bow Bells
C is for 21st Century
D is for Dome
E is for Escalator
F is for Fog
G is for GLC
H is for History
I is for Information
J is for Jellied Eels
K is for Keeping Safe
L is for London Transport
M is for Money
N is for Nightbus
01 for London
P is for Plague
Q is for Queen
R is for Red Route
S is for Streets of London
T is for Thames
U is for Underground
V is for Villages
W is for WestEnders
X is for Charing X
Y is a Year in London
Z is for Zoo

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01 for London

One of Londonís most potent symbols was always the 01 phone prefix. In line with its national status, London took the premier easiest-to-remember code, and the rest of the country put up with the leftovers. For example, Consett in County Durham took the insignificant 0207 prefix, while Bodmin in Cornwall was lumbered with 0208.

Then in the 1990s came an explosion of fax machines, second- third and fourth- phone lines, particularly in the capital. This forced an expansion of the phone numbering system, brilliantly mismanaged by OFTEL. They first assured Londoners that a split into 071 and 081 areas would be perfectly sufficient, then that the less-than-memorable 0171 and 0181 codes were urgently required, and finally that 0207 and 0208 were absolutely necessary.

Londoners have needed new stationery three times in ten years, and many businesses around the capital still have out-of-date phone numbers engraved prominently on their shop-fronts. Meanwhile in Consett and Bodmin, the behind-the-times shops now display current London numbers.

In the 21st century, mobile phones are a permanent phone plague in the capital. Half the population appear to have a slab of plastic permanently glued to their ear, whilst the remainder stumble blindly through the streets typing text messages.

The pavement text-messager is a threat to everyone around them, suddenly slowing their walking speed to a snailís pace, bumping into other pedestrians and stepping out in front of traffic. Meanwhile grown adults are often seen desperately searching through their pockets or bags, trying desperately to stop their phone from playing any further notes from that loud embarrassing ringtone they just spent three pounds to download.

The mobile phone keeps bus passengers constantly entertained as they are forced to listen in on one half of a really loud conversation as a long-term relationship breaks up spectacularly in public view. Train passengers ring their families at ten-minute intervals, providing regular updates on how late the train is and would you please video EastEnders for me? Meanwhile on the underground, the barrier of sixty feet of earth provides a welcome sanctuary from phone signals. However, itís hard to miss the sudden dawn chorus of beeps when your tube train emerges from a tunnel, and hard not to laugh when someone starts up a call only for the train to plunge straight back into a tunnel again.

One sad casualty of the mobile phone invasion has been the terminal decline in the capitalís network of red telephone boxes.

Once there were queues of people waiting to stand inside a smelly cubicle, lose coins and read dodgy adverts for Miss Whiplash and friends. Now the payphones stand silent, despite the fact that calls cost a fraction of the price of mobile phone tariffs, and so the capitalís prostitutes must look to the internet for self-promotion.

Where Londoners once fought so hard to keep the traditional red telephone boxes on the streets, now they contribute to their demise by dialling 07 for London.