Since arriving in Sunderland, one of my favourite pastimes is buying a £5.70 Daysaver ticket for the Metro and investigating the vast conurbation of Tyne & Wear, getting off at random stations to take photos. Sometimes I don’t get off; I sit and look out the window, read the free copies of ‘Metro’, or just people-watch.

A year ago, I had yet to realise how expansive the Tyne & Wear urban sprawl is – it’s enormous. From Ryhope, in the south, to Ashington (affectionately known as ‘Ashganistan’) in the north, and Ryton, east of Newcastle. Then there’s everything in between – Gateshead, North and South Shields, Wallsend, Jarrow, Whitburn…oh, and two large rivers. You could drive for hours without ever crossing a green belt. The Metro train covers most of this area.

Anyone traversing metropolitan areas by train, such as New York or London, will know the number one rule: don’t make eye contact. Most city dwellers will do anything to avoid visual connection because even a brisk locking of eyes could lead to the most awkward and uncomfortable of situations – small talk. On the Tyne & Wear Metro, it’s different, kind of the opposite – make eye contact with anyone for more than the briefest of moments, and that’s it – you’re chatting, whether you like it or not. It’ll start with a nod and a smile, then an enquiry as to where you’re off to; it can then develop into literally anything – I’ve had discussions about bikes, pet dogs, the dangers of energy drinks, politics, and most expected – the weather.

In the Northeast, like anywhere else, there are ‘rules of engagement’, but around here, it’s simple – Sunderland and Newcastle – never confuse the two; unless you want to end up in A&E, never call someone from Sunderland a Geordie. Not ever, not even in jest. Also, don’t joke or even remark on Sunderland’s relegation from the Premier division in 2017. Sunderland natives are Makem, and football is religion.

These are a small selection of images I’ve made whilst out and about – you may notice that I still need to summon the courage to make formal portraits. Maybe this week?


  1. I just finished a weeks worth of posts of bus “portraits”, from my daily commute days. Using a phone to take these is about as secretive as it gets, since almost everyone else is looking at their phones. This week’s photos are all of people actually doing something other than looking at their phones! I’m looking forward to more of your explorations. And good luck with your explorations of the new WordPress format, it does get a bit more intuitive, but not much.

    Liked by 1 person

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