My dad grew up in a place called Makino. Nowadays it’s part of Feilding, on the north side of town with Makino Road and the Main Trunk Line running through the middle. Back then it was three houses, and everyone knew each other.
There were gum trees and poplars and arum lilies growing in the paddocks. Dad thought all these plants were native, or not so much native as just part of the landscape. There was no native and no exotic. The houses huddled around the Pakeha Brand Butter dairy factory. A few houses and a dairy factory; that was about it.
Dad was a member of the local cubs. I find that kind of surprising given his left-wing upbringing but the left politics and childhood militarism aren’t totally exclusive. (His father was active in local Labour politics and was one of the first to sign up in Feilding for the first world war.)
The cubs were in town. The movies were in town. Everything was in town. He remembers cold winter nights coming home from town, picking out lampposts to run between. He’d cover three lampposts at a run, then walk a lamppost, then run another three. That’s how he covered the two miles home from cubs or a movie in town.
Last time he can remember running was a decade ago when he still had an office and a desk and a stationary cupboard on Lambton Quay. In his seventies, he tried to run for a bus, but his legs forgot to keep up with his body. He stayed on his feet but missed the bus.
I’m getting obsessed with running at the moment, as anyone close to me knows. Something I know is that for people not doing it, running’s a dull subject. Conversations with my dad remind me again and again of his deep interest in the lives of people around him and his ability to personalise his response to them. It’s a quality I hope I’ve inherited.