by John Cogan ARPS
The North Tyne ambles by whilst a couple of fishermen cast their lines in the hope of a salmon. These monumental-sized fish occasionally leap and ruffle the midday calm.
Stephen Cram, in his youth known as “The Jarrow Arrow”, leans against the fragile railings and talks about Africa and the changing life of the Masai people of Kenya. He is animated and knowledgeable. He’s been there and gone beyond the normal tourist spots. We listen carefully. He has the easy authority of an intelligent man committed to his subject… and is as slim and loose-limbed as he was back in the day when he was a world class runner. His mobile face switches from serious to laughter and back with the ease of the practiced raconteur. It is one of those easy photo shoots when the subject is relaxed and enjoying the practiced banter of the photographers.
His status as a solid, committed and serious Sunderland AFC supporter has led him into the occasional dangerous situation. He’s an icon of the region and therefore an easy target. Peter talks to him of a time when he (Peter) shared a patrol with Steve’s policeman dad.
There is obvious pride in his voice when the subject turns to his role as Chancellor of Sunderland University. Over the past few years the University has grown into a dominant force in the region ; perhaps not with the same “name” as a couple of its near neighbours but a growing reputation for quality and care. It was and still is the country’s top University for Pharmacy.
Salmon continue to make ripples on the silk-smooth surface of the Tyne. Foam bergs float along; alien species from some intrusive industrial process, agitated by the threshing of a weir up river. The sun is strong and time glides by like the flow of the river and soon the session ends. Steve has other commitments and we four decide it is time to find a suitable place for a meal… we go to Corbridge and eat at the rather aptly named Angel… With my girth this could well be a scene from Pickwick Papers but, thankfully, not recorded photographically.
Pictured: in conversation with Steve Cram, and Steve Cram photographed by John Cogan