Invercargill
Tay Street, Invercargill 1966 (Image: Archives New Zealand/Wikimedia)

One cold day, 25 years ago, I stepped off a train in the very south of South Island, New Zealand, and into the 1950s. The train had come all the way down the coast from Christchurch, people getting off at Timaru, Dunedin and other points, and looking at those of us remaining on with a mixture of quizzicalness and pity. When we reached the terminus, no more than half a dozen got off, into the maw of a bizarre concrete modernist, vaguely Jugendstil station.

The wind ripped. I had a backpack on. The others, hardy white folk in tweed and short haircuts, gaped at me. We live here, they seemed to say. Why are you here?