My childhood recollections of Invercargill include a bullock being shot, and burning my feet in a mound of white ash – the logs had long since stopped smoking and the pile of talcum soft ash in the middle of Don’s paddock was too much to resist. It hid orange hot coals underneath. I was five at the time and after the initial intrigue at seeing the bullock shot I distracted myself with other excitement. The scabs on the top of my feet thereafter were a source of boyhood pride and bragging for as long as they lasted. Dead animals, burnt feet and grey skies – pretty much sums up impressions of Invercargill. But mainly grey. And cold. Which is what I expected it to be one October when I revisited the place after a 30 year hiatus and was pleasantly surprised at being able to find something to eat at midnight, and clear blue skies on a mild day when I awoke. But the highlight was the Victoria Railway Hotel in which we stayed. We had tried a few dubious looking places on the road into town but most were only offering single bed accommodation while one was being searched by the police – not a good sign. The Railway Hotel was built in 1896. Its floorboards creaked, the heating sighed and the windows rattled. Staying warm in bed was all about as many quilts as possible. Being escorted to our room up dark narrow stairs by a very weathered old man was pure Dickens. Faded prints added to the atmosphere as did our dining – meals were had in an art deco styled restaurant where we were the only guests. Running the water for five minutes before it was warm took me back to other childhood memories! Invercargill gained a slight gloss above the grey of my childhood memories and if in that part oft he world again I would be making a beeline for that old hotel – though I read it has been recently refurbished. I do hope the floorboards still creak.