A Jog on Newcastle Quayside

Choppy, bucking river to my left, a steady stream of life to my right and I run dogged against both flows, wedged in the middle, a happy sandwich. Passage and blockage, waves and photons of people. The constant railing stretches forward into forever, miles of more water and noise. The tangy sweat of a fellow runner whips past me, jarring my hip because there’s no space for us both: he spits, nods in apology.

I gain on the famous glass-skinned hulking bar, spilling out drinkers over the pavement so slickly kissed by a shower light as mist. A boy, way past his bedtime, climbs the river-railing, curling his body over the top bar to watch a gull floating on a rocking lump of weed and plastic. His father, beery and arms dark with ink peels him away, the child shrieks and the bird echoes, as though in sympathy.

Dying away, the sounds mingle with the slightly flat chords of my favourite busker, who dresses too young and plays too old. At his back, a soft spectrum offsets his music because the glorious eye shaped bridge is melting through its cycle of colours. Five years now, and never once seen it open.

I slow, and give up, tempted by the sweet yellow sharpness of onions. Push to the front of the jostling students at the burger van. A tight skirted grandmother shrieks, mustard dropping into her cleavage as she balances a cigarette and hot dog in one taloned hand, mobile phone in another.

Now I stroll, dripping, and my path is cut across by sexless goth teenagers, skateboards like scissors on rumbling wheels. Pale delicate faces beneath identical dark fringes, stumbling, picking themselves up and embracing, tic-like. The light bending low above the river hangs on by fingernails, will not yet let the signs of the pubs, packed tightly as cards, see it away until the morning.

The bridges continue, mismatched, too many, like a toddler showing off with a lego set. The favourite one is up ahead, darkest green, splattered with pats of white bird dirt, like the Tyne itself, dressed in torn netting and curving into two perfect arcs.

Bleeding down from the road, cars punch brief bullets of music at the crowds on the pavement, each one a new overloud wound. Onions are replaced by a miasma of cheap aftershave, good perfume, and hair products, tipsy sweet. Identical blonde girls sway to their next love-portunity, linking arms, screeching, one uncaring until the morning that she is a bride-to-be.

Steph Thompson