Life as a short-term resident of a beautiful Central Otago town suits Roger Hall fine.
The hottest, coldest, driest place in New Zealand. That's Alexandra.
I spent three months there, courtesy of the Henderson House Arts Trust, and experienced all three conditions, plus an electrical rainstorm with hundreds of lightening flashes and rain which flooded many nearby houses and shops.
The Plischke house where we stayed was safe from flooding. Built on Bridge Hill on about 1.5ha overlooking the town, the house was commissioned by Russell and Barbara Henderson in 1950.
Ernst Plischke was an Austrian architect who had worked for the New Zealand Government for some years (it largely ignored his plans) and who designed the landmark Massey House in Lambton Quay, as well as a famous house in Wellington for Bill Sutch and Shirley Smith.
To commission him to build a house in Central Otago was a brave move in that era, when the national ethos was to keep down with the Joneses.
Previous holders of the Henderson House fellowship (invitation only) include Owen Marshall, Vincent O'Sullivan, Kevin Ireland, photographers Laurence Aberhart and Peter Peryer, and jeweller Warwick Freeman. Philip Temple is the current holder.
My study had a wonderful view of mountains near and far and the Clutha slid by just below.
Alexandra itself is a pleasant town, population just under 5000, surrounded by sheep stations, orchards and vineyards. The public buildings are built in local stone to blend in with the landscape. A pity then, that visitors to the town via the bridge are greeted with garish and inappropriate signage from The Warehouse and a shop selling electrical appliances.
Round these parts the Otago Rail Trail is big business. Several companies cater for it: hiring bikes, transporting luggage to accommodation, collecting and returning cyclists from and to the airports.
One morning at The Courthouse, our favourite coffee place, I counted 21 cycles propped up outside, and on Good Friday (peak day for the trail) when we cycled the 11km stretch to Clyde, 41 cyclists were coming the other way.
We bought two used bikes and they provided our main exercise, often riding on the trails (additional to the rail trail itself) that run on either side of the river.
One can also ride by the river along the spectacular Roxburgh Gorge for 12km. (To go all the way to Roxburgh requires a boat ride which costs $95.)
We had our grandchildren (11 and 12) to stay during the school holidays, with their parents.
Local attractions they enjoyed included the very steep climb up to the famous clock that overlooks the town, followed by molten cheese rolls at the nearby Shaky Bridge Cafe; the museum and the Aquatic Centre.
A favourite was the Chatto Creek Tavern, which serves huge helpings of pub food, and they loved the donkeys round the back for visitors to pet.
One of the best things about Alexandra is its easy access to so many places in Central Otago.
Further afield was Clyde, by bike, and a day trip to Queenstown to cash in their Christmas present: multiple rides on the luge followed by a long wait for Fergburger's famously massive but tasty burgers (so famous there is a queue out into the street all day every day).
But perhaps the best of all for them was going to the beautiful Ida Valley and having a snow fight. A grand holiday.
A week before our time was up we had a couple of days at Wanaka for the Festival of Colour, the superb biannual week-long arts festival that spreads its venues over most of Central Otago.
A forgotten pleasure of living down south were the miraculous starry nights. (Oh, if only the street lighting could be like Tekapo, which is shielded to prevent light shining vertically.)
February to end of April meant we got the best of the fruit when we arrived and the best of the autumn colours just before we left.
Then, like swallows, we headed back to the warmer north.
Getting there: Air New Zealand flies non-stop to Queenstown and Dunedin from Auckland.