The A-Z

The trouble with maps is that they have to be updated. This sometimes has to be done at a global level. We rarely have to add new continents or islands any more, although we do have to add them when they arise or erupt; sometimes we have to take them off the map, too.

However, other changes to global maps certainly occur more frequently, such as when what we used to call the New Hebrides became Vanuatu, Kazakhstan renamed its capital, the Netherlands and Belgium agreed to swap bits with each other, or the nation of Kiribati decided that it wanted to be on the other side of the International Date Line and unilaterally moved itself there.


At a national level, town planners and construction engineers do not sit around and consider their work is done, either. Oh, no. They constantly invent Crawley, plan motorways (sometimes ambitiously via an aqua-based route), and plot ambitious rail lines, sometimes actually building them.

On a more local level, planners change street names, sometimes to a more fragrant version, build tower blocks they later knock down, and construct wobbly bridges.

They open and close stations on the underground, too. If I were relying on my A-Z of London, for example, I might fruitlessly try to reach Aldwych station. (See the image below.) Aldwych closed in 1994.


So with all this frantic and frenetic activity, it is no wonder that we supplement the marvellous Phyllis Pearsall‘s A-Zs with electronic aids such as Google maps, Streetmaps, and GPS on our phones.

Back in the day, though, we just had the A-Zs.

Before sat-navs, with Jane talking wisdom and directions from the depths of your car, we drivers were driving with one eye on the road and the other on the A-Z spread out on the passenger seat. Quite possibly turning the book around and about to account for compass angles as we went.

It’s a wonder any of us got anywhere, or got there alive.


The Odeon Leicester Square is still there, but few of the other cinemas shown here…


3 thoughts on “The A-Z

  1. Related — and thought of it because of your comment about turning the A-Z round while driving — fold-out maps. You don’t see so many people turning these round and round in their hands any more. Unless you’re up a mountain.


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