City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Power cuts disturb more than paper cuts

Written in


Seeing virtually all the Yellow Pages directories delivered to our street still lying there two weeks later, one is tempted to conclude that another business model has finally dissolved. The last couple of years I’ve seen the same thing, presumably as people turn to the internet more and more and to paper directories less and less. Ian Jack wrote in yesterday’s Observer on the sad, slow and apparently inevitable demise of the paper-based railway timetable, similarly.

Yet as I took the photo below it was during a major power cut in Central London. The last time I actually turned to a paper copy of Thomson’s or Yellow Pages was during such an event a year ago. Yesterday I had that same strange sensation of dislocation, as our wireless access – and everything else – was suddenly absent. Still some juice in the laptop battery, but no way of connecting to the internet. One battery-based radio worked, though not the other two or three, and so on. Even for tasks like faceted information retrieval, paper directories might still be useful. As power supplies get more variable, it might be worth hanging on to them.


Some more shots during yesterday’s power cut follow.

I enjoyed the various impromptu signs hastily posted up along Tottenham Court Road. (No printers, therefore hand-written.) In order, the sign on the Rising Sun pub, on Carphone Warehouse, and finally a grammatically iffy yet calligraphically strong offering from the staff at Marks & Spencers. On brand?




Having a haircut might seem a particularly brave thing to do in the gloom, even at Mr Topper:


Next door, the proprietor of the Blue Moon ‘purveyor of adult goods’ takes a break and reads the paper:


The staff at the numerous consumer electronics stores on Tottenham Court Road can only wait for power to flood through their devices again:



Finally, the extinguished traffic lights at Goodge Street cause a series of hasty, real-time negotiations:



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