Men who run away from home

Cover: The hundred-year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared Keep an eye on your menfolk.

In the space of five months I have read five books on runaway men. It all started with The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and that should have been it.

But books on runaway men just keep on coming:

Like The hundred-year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. This Swedish novel plaits together two strands of a centenarian’s escape from his retirement home: his memories of his colourful (and incendiary) past and his current adventures as a one hundred year old escapee. In typically Scandinavian style, some seriously weird events take place, and at one point all that kept me reading was curiosity as to how the author would pull the whole thing together, which he does.

Cover: Instructions for a heatwavwHot on its heels (as it were) is the latest Maggie O’Farrell, Instructions for a heatwave. O’Farrell has quite a following among book club ladies, after her very successful The hand that first held mine. In this novel, the man who runs away is offstage the whole time. It’s really about the effect of his defection on his wife and children.

I’m quite partial to this sort of “figure-ground” writing, it’s like that gestalt picture where you can see both a vase or two profiles, depending on your focus at the time. There is a bit of a mystery in O’Farrell’s book as well, but its strength lies in its superb characterizations. However, let us not get sidetracked here. It is still a book about a man who goes walkabout.

I have only read one novel in my life where a female character just ups and offs. It is Delia in Ladder of years by Anne Tyler. Surely there must be others, or are women just slow off the starters’ block in the runaway game?

Te Kete Wānanga o Wai Mōkihi – South Library

How South Library got its Māori name – Te Kete Wānanga o Wai Mōkihi

The Waitaha people would have known this area first, and then came Kāti Mamoe and, later, Kāi Tahu. Beckenham circuit was traditionally used by Māori as a mahika kai or a place for gathering food. The only remaining area of the marsh today is the Beckenham Ponds, formed from natural springs in the nearby Beckenham Park.

The swamps draining into the Ōpāwaho River were called Te Kuru and the upper reaches of the river at Spreydon bore the name Wai Mōkihi after a smaller pā located there called Ōmōkihi meaning ‘place of the flax staff rafts‘. These craft were used by Māori to cross the river before a bridge was built. They are temporary watercraft constructed by binding together reed shafts and forming a very able means of travel over short distances.

The river contained different types of eels (tuna), tūere (blind eel), kanakana (lamprey), native trout (kōkopu), small freshwater crayfish (kōura), tidal herrings (aua ā tai) and whitebait (inaka). The people of this area were known for their abilities in aquaculture and night fishing. Māori fisherman did not carry lights, but speared eels by listening for them. The hills close by would also have been home to moa and weka.

When Europeans came to the area, they changed the Ōpāwaho to the Heathcote River. Captain Joseph Thomas, the Canterbury Association’s surveyor, named it after Sir William Heathcote, who was a committee member of the Association in England.

It is Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori – Māori Language Week and this year’s theme is Ngā ingoa Māori – Māori names – so we are bringing you some of the stories behind the Māori names of our libraries.