London — The pound note, evergreen symbol of British sterling, is being buffeted by the winds of change. The last notes will be issued on Dec. 31. By the end of next year, they will no longer be accepted.
To this nation of shopkeepers, as Napoleon once described England, news of the demise of the pound note as legal tender is about as base as suggesting that Frenchmen should change the tricolor, or asking Americans to give up the eagle as a symbol of the nation's strength.
Until now both the pound note and the pound coin, introduced 18 months ago, were accepted. But starting in 1986 the gold-colored coin will be sovereign.
It's not a popular choice. ''A horrid little button,'' one member of Parliament called it.
''It's a bloomin' nuisance, is what I call it,'' says a village news agent. ''My night safe only takes notes. It doesn't take coins.''
Apart from the bankers on Threadneedle Street, tailors are about the only other people who may welcome the news that the pound should assume a new form.
British change, unlike the much lighter American dimes, nickels, and quarters , weighs a ton. The heavy, round, milled coin is likely to wear a few more holes in coat and trouser pockets.
So why did the chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, tell an unhappy House of Commons that he was going to impound the pound?
Economy is the overriding reason. In less than a year crisp, newly printed pound notes they look as though they have been through the mill. The coins will last 40 years, and they cost a fraction of the price to produce.