WestEndExtra

The independent London newspaper

Underground thoughts

14 June, 2019 — By The Xtra Diary

Northern line messages

IN the exceptional novel Alone In Berlin, by Hans Fallada, a couple who have lost their son in the Second World War, on the Russian front, decide to fight back against Hitler and the Nazis by placing postcards around their city of Berlin.

The postcards implore their fellow Germans to wake up and see the evils of the regime. It is a moving story, one of courage, heroism, and deep, deep tragedy.

Diary’s thoughts turned to this book when stepping onto a Northern line train at Tottenham Court Road, as someone, anonymously, had left scores of little envelopes containing messages on every seat…

Being the tube, most of the passengers steadfastedly ignored them but with the multicoloured envelopes catching the eye, and being inquisitive, Diary had to see what they were.

Were they a modern day version of Fallada’s 1947 tale, warning us all of the perils of Brexit, of a Boris Johnson government, or something else overtly political? Were they a piece of clever guerrilla advertising?

Were they the work of some born-again evangelists, leaving us promissory notes of a life in Nirvana if we repent?

Were they a token, offering 50p off a soggy sandwich or grotty burger somewhere in Soho?

Nope: nothing of the type, and with no details as to who put them there, and Diary checked, they were scattered in their scores on every carriage of the train, it remains a mystery…

So Diary tentatively opened one of the cute envelopes, a British racing green colour, and inside, on quality card, was this legend: “No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying. And if you are the one who isn’t trying, just because your path is different doesn’t mean you are lost.”

Another, this time in royal blue, said: “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. Nurture your journey…”

With no fears now of the packets containing anthrax, calling cards to the nearest Scientologists outpost, a voucher at a processed meat purveyors, or anything else Diary doesn’t fancy interacting with, it became a bit of a time-passing game to read more.

A silver envelope told me: “Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” At this point Diary turned back to reading a book. While some were sweet, and others insightful, it had become rather sanctimonious. But thanks to the mystery card leaver for your up-and-at- ’em slogans. Diary hopes you had fun doing this.

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