Car 5

175
Mrs Madeleine Strickler

Outward appearance

Instant 1960s. Long auburn hair, brown overcoat, left arm across tummy, right hand in "Thinker" position, both resting on top of Acorn computer bag. Contemplates the old gentleman next to her.

Inside information

Freelance editor and journalist. Lived for many years in the Orient, then America, where her children now live. Converted to Buddhism along with her husband. Lives with her father who is sitting next to her. They are visiting a family friend near the Elephant.

What she is doing or thinking

She is remembering a day on the tube in 1957. They were going to a wedding, so she and her sisters were all in ribbons and white. Daddy was in a morning coat. People travelled on the tubes like that in those days. There was an advertising campaign for Heinz on underground posters. Each poster told you which of the 57 varieties a particular Heinz product was: tomato soup, no. 2, brown pickle no. 37. If you collected all 57, you won a Christmas hamper.

Daddy was a freelance journalist: they needed the hamper. She and her sisters ran up and down the cars dressed for a wedding, squealing. They changed carriages at each station, calling like seagulls, "40 is spaghetti in tomato sauce!"

Then they bumped into teenagers doing the same thing. After that, to keep the secret, they whispered or passed notes.

Madeleine can't remember if they got the hamper. But where are the children running now? The white dresses? The top hats? She takes her father's hand.

"This is the last stop, Daddy," she says.


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