I think I've reached the bit they mean when they say it's grim up north. Industrial, built-up, ugly. And that's just the women. Baboom. After another night with Jane and Toby (charming company, delightful kids, soft bed, running water, porridge for breakfast) a damp van was a bit of a shock. But the sun rise was stunning, on a pretty cliff-top just outside Hartlepool, reclaimed from industrial use.
Hartlepool was probably quite attractive some time in the mid-19th century. Now it's charming centre proved to be somewhat elusive, scared off by dual carriageways, superstores and cinemas. Its enough to drive you to drink. If you can find a pub that's still open.
On the other hand, I came across the most inventive use of a garage I've seen: a chip shop.
I don't know what the food's like, because by 7 o'clock it's all shuttered up. Clearly the people in Hartlepool like their chips early.
I surfed at the Headland in Hartlepool and at Seaton Carew. The Headland beach is nice enough, despite its ex-industrial backdrop. But Seaton Carew is the ugliest beach I've seen so far! It's edged with a wasteland of dirty sand peppered with rubble and broken glass. At the southern end, a steel works spews smoke and container ships steam in and out of Teeside.
I'd heard that the white water fizzes with the pollution - and it's true! After the wave has long gone, there's the sound of popping bubbles, like sitting in a freshly-poured glass of Coke. With probably similar effects on your teeth. I tried not to swallow.
My board has finally been repaired, so I've returned to test the limits of Jane and Toby's excellent hospitality (more soft beds, more running water, no porridge). The local pub is filled with men in plus-fours, and you have to join the leek club before you take a leak.
I'm heading south again this afternoon, and hoping to surf The Gare tomorrow, if it's working. Then on to Yorkshire.