“London is tough. As in: hard on people. As in grimy, and decaying, and beautiful. London gets under your skin and changes your life. Everyone who’s lived there is a Londoner. And people have lived there for thousands of years.”
But it’s also about London itself. The place as a person. Who would London be if it were alive and thinking? A good person, or a grim?
And beneath it all, Effra is also about the lost rivers. Because this part is true (if nothing else): London was once home to dozens of fine rivers, all flowing in to the wide old Thames. Over time London was built around them – and then over top of them. But they’re still there. They truly are.
Fleet Street? The Fleet river. Wandsworth? The Wandle. Holburn viaduct? A viaduct over the Oldburn river. And of course the Effra, flowing still beneath Brixton’s Effra Road.
The names are still there, and the waters are too – worming beneath the city, emptying into the Thames and passing slowly out to sea. Yet something was lost to London, a long long time ago, when its sparkling country streams were bricked over, buried.
And loss changes you…
As Peter Ackroyd put it, in London: The Biography: “It has always been said that enchantment is bought in the burying alive of great waters, yet the purchase may be a perilous one.”