24hourlondon is go, go, go

Before 24hourlondon was an iPhone app, it was a twinkle in Horatio's eye.

It was born when I was working as a sub-editor at The Daily Telegraph and the office had moved from Canary Wharf to Victoria. Sub-editing news meant late finishes - usually around 10pm - and there's nothing like the catharsis of a deadline to make you want to have a drink and talk about whatever it is you've just delivered to the next day's breakfast tables.

We'd get to the pub at around 10.15pm only to discover that closing time was looming and have time for one or two drinks at breakneck speed before being thrown out by someone burly, tired and unfriendly looking. Couldn't blame them: they had a job to do. But the whole experience was less than relaxing which was, after all, supposed to be the point.

And yet we were in central London. The Tubes kept going for an hour and a half longer and wouldn't it be great, we moaned (because sub-editors can do that to international competition standard at the drop of a pork-pie hat), if we could have found somewhere that stayed open later? There we were, a bunch of journalists, adrift in central London near closing time, with the motivation and supposedly the skills to find things out and yet we were seemingly perpetually unable to do that.

Where to start? Some pubs had their opening hours on a website but at the time (about four years ago) this was by no means usual - even now only about two-thirds of the bars in 24hourlondon's database have a website - and, anyway, you have to know the names of the pubs to be able to look them up. The late-openers weren't corralled anywhere.

And if we were having this problem it seemed safe to imagine that other people were too.

In fact, who hasn't lived or stayed in London for any length of time without trying - and probably failing - to find a late-opening bar? You know they're out there somewhere... but discovering where is like trying to re-find a much-longed-for dream you once had. This app comes freighted with the burden of so many nights brought to a desultory close by dragging around half-familiar locations on the promise that somewhere your mate went to several years ago might be open late. Only to discover that - ta da! - it isn't and you've lost the will to live, never mind continue your quest.

I originally thought of 24hourlondon as a website but then realised that as soon as you posted the salient info online someone would nick it.

Then apps came along and I thought "Avast there, you software lovelies" because I was moved by the spirit of Horatio. And for some bizarre reason he was talking like a pirate.

One thing led to another, and eventually 24hourlondon was born. It's for when you're in the pub, the pub's shutting but you don't want to go home. It locates you and tells you what's open late nearby. And - importantly - the info is kept up to date.

I've decided to blog about the app, the issues surrounding the business and London as a 24 hour city because that's what I do. And because it's a good subject.

I've been struck by the number of friends, family and acquaintances who are surprised when they visit the capital that the Tube shuts when it does. Unless they've lived here they are generally under the impression that London is a city that never sleeps, such is its alien mystique. Pumping heart of the country etc.

But it's not a city that never sleeps. Large tracts of it doze off when it's least convenient. And leading a civilised life - by which I mean one in which the things you need are at your finger tips - in London is something that takes skill and low cunning. I hope that 24hourlondon will become part of the armoury of tools that makes Londoners' lives more civilised. Because God knows we need it to be.

I'm determined to find out why the Tubes shut when they do and whether there's anything we can do about it because, frankly, it's inconvenient. Here's a page with a petition on it to keep the Tube running all night, which would be useful for shift workers, those who keep unusual hours from time to time and people with friends who don't live next door to them.

And that would be... all of us.

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