Half the town centre had been turned into building site for the new Tyne Tunnel: bare earth and missing trees, red plastic signs and metal fences. Pedestrian this way said a sign by the post office, as if I was the only person stupid enough to walk. There was an empty shop with Woolworths written above and stickers on a window saying No Deposit, Pay Weekly, Take Home Today, though the only person inside was the one behind the till. Women with cooking-oil complexions dragged canvas shopping trolleys and pushchairs. Men hung around metal benches, dead-eyed, smoking cigarettes.