I lived in Sunderland while I was at University there.
It was a light and stormy night.
The problem with The City is the lights. There are too many. You see streetlights, headlights, neon lights, strip lights, home light, fire light. Cities are no longer ever in complete darkness, somewhere there will be a light on.
I’m drunk.\ It’s four AM, and I’m staggering out of university, drunk. Not, I hasten to add, drunk on alcohol, but on lack of sleep. They don’t sell coffee in the computer room and I’m debating buying a thermos flask so I can actually do the 24 hour thing. So I walk across the courtyard, the rhythmic tapping of my umbrella against the flagstones charting my progress across what the institution dubbed “University Square”, which is odd, since it has five edges. I return my swipe-card to the security station, reclaim my deposit, and walk off campus.
Just beside the carpark is a hill. It’s just a slope that goes down to the Quayside, and then into the River Wear. As I stand at the top, and watch the lights flicker in the reflection of the tar-black water, my eye is drawn upstream to the massive green ediface of the Wearmouth Bridge. Along with the football statium, that bridge is Sunderland’s most famous landmark. There are 119 steps from the top to the bottom - enough to almost kill the average overweight computing student on the way up - and I walk across it almost every weekday.
There is no noise at all. Not a single engine, nor boat, nor person can I hear.
I walk past the student nightclub - never open this early on a monday morning - and pace past copses and along the pavements threading my way towards the bridge walkway