Saturday, December 08, 2018

Spirit of the Aire

My reading of Ben Aaronovitch's latest Rivers of London title, Lies Sleeping coincided with a walk around Granary Wharf and the Dark Arches in Leeds last week. Watching a full and turbulent river Aire following its man-made course underneath the city's railway station, I wondered if rivers really do have spirits or deities of their own - and if so, how the Aire feels about the latest interruption to its flow. After all, the Aire's seen monks washing fleeces in its waters, powered textile mills, used its strength to forge iron - even make putty. And springs along its course have brewed beer in Kirkstall, the city centre and Woodlesford. Since 1816 it has been forced to share its valley with the Leeds Liverpool Canal. But the canal, with its stagnant, managed portions of water, that can only move through locks under human control, is not free like the Aire, whose unbridled rush and flow of water makes it a living thing, such that no-one can enter the same river twice. The Aire moves to its own rhythm and varigates its own depths. Even when forced underground, it has a raw power and strength. The city's life now travels over or around the river that even once gave landlocked Leeds a dock. In our sterile modern world where the only flow worth having is data, the Aire's spirit needs to connect again with the city it bisects.