Recession Road: Angel of the North
If we had done this road trip without stopping to gaze at the Angel of the North, near Gateshead, we'd probably have (rightly) been lynched. It would be like going to New York and being a bit too busy to look at the Statue of Liberty, it's just not on.
Up close, the Angel is a breathtaking sight. It's an everyday part of the landscape for Zoe McManus, who is standing beneath the wings with her two excitable labradors, Belle and Elmo.
Zoe, 32 - from nearby Birtley - is clutching her mobile phone, waiting for a call to see if she's got a new job. At the moment she's working part-time for a tanning salon, but wants a full-time position. "It hasn't been easy," she says, but the aluminium firm she has applied to has recently been hiring quite a few people, she adds.
She used to own a café, but sold it three years ago and is now glad she got out while the going was good.
The tanning business she works for has struggled in recession, she says. The owners have seven shops in the north-east but are closing down five of them - although luckily for Zoe, the one she's employed at is staying open.
Having a sunbed and getting their nails done is perhaps a "luxury" fewer people can afford at the moment, she says.
Let's hope she gets the news she's waiting for.
Since our last post we had to put in a few miles. Sadly we had to whizz past Durham, where we had hoped to meet reader Gavin Lloyd Payne, who works near the A1 there.
He e-mailed us to say he had recently completed a move, during which he had to knock £18,000 off the price of his house to make the sale. But he then went on to buy a repossessed property for nearly £20,000 less than its valuation price. As mentioned in an earlier post, this recession business is often swings and roundabouts.
You can read an explanation of our Recession Road series here. Words: Paula Dear; Images: Phil Coomes.