March 2014

Welcome to the

March 2014 Rissington Rag

Random Views and Relevant News
from your Favourite Lowveld Lodge ...

To unsubscribe, click the link at the bottom of the page
when you have finished reading the Rag
if you REALLY don't want to receive it ever again

A Day in the Life of an Hotelier after 20 Years of the ANC

An unusually political start, so if you are not interested, skip to the next paragraph. Twenty years into democracy and, despite our fabulously high occupancies and our never-ending optimism for this beautiful country of ours, Rissington has suffered a somewhat trying couple of months. If you were in any way affected by it, we can only apologise and blame a higher authority.
Step forward Mr Jacob Zuma! Our country is suddenly falling apart on your watch, Mr Zuma, and you don't care! You didn't even have the manners to attend a Memorial Service held in London for your antithesis, Nelson Mandela – a service which had been rescheduled to allow you to be there, but which you chose to spurn in favour of partying with Mad Bob next door, to celebrate his daughter's wedding. Perhaps you were afraid that the polite congregation at St Paul's Cathedral would boo you, like your own erstwhile supporters! I don't think they would stoop so low, but Rome is burning, Mr Zuma. And you are fiddling. And, in particular, Mr President, you and your corrupt cronies are fiddling the books!
But surely this does not affect us, out here in the sticks? Well, yes, it does actually. Let me give a few examples:
  • All four of Rissington's telephone lines' cables were stolen at the beginning of February, including our ADSL line and leaving us with only a cellphone number and no WiFi. Somebody pulls several kilometres of cable off the overground poles, nobody notices them doing it and it takes eight weeks to get them replaced. For the second time in a year! We now have Internet again. Thank goodness! I am sure, Mr President, that you have permanent WiFi by your swimming pool at the R246 million mansion we built for you...
  • Hazyview sits on one of the country's biggest perennial rivers and yet there is no clean water in the town for our laundry to wash our towels. We have to resort to hand-washing them ourselves in Rissington's beautiful clean borehole water.
  • It took us 4 weeks to get a part to replace our broken pool filter because the parlous state of the currency means nobody wants to order parts from overseas.
  • JJ's cousin Bobo's school is closed because the children from three neighbouring schools invaded it and smashed all the windows and computers. Those neighbouring (government) schools don't have any windows or computers and the children at Bobo's (government) school were outperforming them. So they destroyed it. The education system goes from bad to bonkers.
  • Demonstrators are blocking roads throughout the region to demand basic services, 20 years into 'democracy'. Basic services like homes, clinics, tarred roads without potholes, functional schools, effective policing, water ...
And so it goes on. But never mind. This is still the most beautiful country in the world and now it's cheaper than ever to visit, so let's get on with some happy stuff. Like this great event in history ...

A Light Moment during Kenya's Independence Ceremony, 1963.

I was lucky enough to land in Nairobi on the 50th anniversary of Kenyan Independence and to read a lovely story, that day, in Kenya's superb Daily Nation newspaper.
Apparently, in the dying moments of 12th December 1963, just before the band played God Save the Queen and the Union flag began to descend the flagpole to be replaced at midnight by the proud flag of the newly independent Kenyan nation, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, presiding on behalf of HM The Queen, and Jomo Kenyatta, the new country's President-to-be, were standing side by side. Footage shows the Duke, standing to attention in full naval regalia, alongside a beaming Kenyatta wearing a Savile Row suite, an elaborate kofia hat and carrying a wildebeest-tail fly-whisk. They are surrounded by a host of colourful dignitaries, on a podium in the stadium. Beside them, a giant kudu's head sticks quirkily out of a girder decorated with shields. And apparently ... just at that juncture, in the last seconds of British rule, the Duke turned to Kenyatta and asked him, conspiratorially: “Jomo, are you absolutely sure you want to go through with this?”
Isn't that wonderful?!

The Importance of Good Behaviour in the Kruger National Park

I don't think you need me to tell you about that business with the elephant and the Golf or to help you to apportion blame, but if ever there was a worthy martyr, it was that elephant in musth. We are now finally seeing a new and long overdue respect for elephants from all visitors to the park. And especially from Daily Mail readers. Very long overdue. Elephants are terrifying, huge and unpredictable creatures and now nobody goes within 100 metres of them. It's just a shame that one of them had to die in order to bring these rather obvious thoughts to the attention of an idiotic public.

Anton's and Katie's wedding

And we thought we knew how to throw a party! I promised a couple of shots of the wedding, in Tanzania, of former Rissington Manager Anton du Toit and former Rissington Gapper Katie Brice-Bennett. It was an absolutely amazing bash. Ask me about it in the bar one day and I will tell you tales of fine food, plentiful drinks, in-laws wrapped in blankets and a roasted goat with spectacularly un-roasted genitalia.
Sorry. The goat pictures were censored.

Rissington Wildlife

I thought of putting in a picture of a monkey, looking cute in a tree and having just swiped the last of our mangoes, avos or guavas but I thought that would be a bit twee. Suffice to say that we see monkeys every day, our mongoose population (slender, dwarf and white-tailed) continues to swell, our red duikers are well, Lionel the Leguaan had his first run-in with a rather overzealous Rusty the other day, the birds are abundant and the zebras are back. So, instead of a monkey picture, here's a shot of Rusty chasing monkeys. You'll just have to believe me.

Rusty, Rissington's newest canine addition
I mentioned that we had rebuilt two of the dams in the main Rissington donga (dry river-bed) in the hope that we might flood them and lure back a couple of hippos when the water levels rise after the rain. Well, no hippos yet, but you didn't know we had a dam this big did you?

A hippo-free dam
And for those of you who have had enough of flood-talk, especially in the UK - thanks to James Delaney, who tweeted it - this is one of the most fabulously sardonic pieces of writing I have ever seen, from The Daily Hawk, entitled The African Union: We Cannot Ignore the Plight of Berkshire Any Longer. You can read it HERE and I URGE you to do so! It is brilliantly funny.

One Fed-up Scotsman's Answer to a TripAdvisor Review

But before I go there, in case you can't find us on the dreaded site any more, we recently applied to have our TripAdvisor category changed from B&B, which we aren't, to Specialty Lodging (whatever that bizarre American concept might be), which appeared to be the nearest thing to what we are. For the record, my first five requests, over a two-month period were completely ignored. When, in the sixth request, I threatened them with a follow-up to my viral Sunday Times piece, I received an email within ten minutes confirming that our category would be changed within 48 hours. It was. In 12 hours. So perhaps TripAdvisor is listening to us after all. And perhaps they are just a little bit frightened.
Here, just for the fun of it, is a reply from the owner of Crags Hotel, Callander, Loch Lomond, to a bad review. Sadly it has been taken down but it was good while it lasted.
The Review of Crags read as follows, and the hotelier's reply is below it:
Stay clear of this hotel, was the worst experience ever. Very poorly managed, extremely disappointed: (Was a nightmare from very beginning as they double booked our room and continually lied to us about the booking. Our friends came all the way from England and were very disappointed as their booking was wrong also......will stay clear of this hotel and advise everyone else to!!!!
Stayed February 2014, travelled as a couple
AlexScrivenor, Owner at Crags Hotel, responded to this review, 5 days ago
Valentine's Day has always held a special place in my heart... it was the day I first kissed my last girlfriend... who I then proposed to three valentine days later... and since she became my wife we have systematically, and quite deliberately, forgotten to mark the occasion.
However from henceforth I will remember Valentines as the miserable day that I had the misfortune to meet you, your husband and your friends from England! And the 16th Feb will now be called 'Hatchet Sunday' in memory of the review you left us.
Before I reply I should make something clear...My doctor has told me that I must control my anger levels... he has told me that I must visualise my anger as a wicked demon that lives in a deep dark pit, and there the demon must stay. Instead of giving free reign to my anger, I have been attempting to be more understanding... less 'Basil' like... so I will attempt to be as understanding as possible... I am getting quite good at it... at my last appointment my doctor called me an 'empathy machine'!
So, in spite of my desire to rage against this review, I will attempt to be balanced...let me try and set the record straight... I understand that you are angry with me... To arrive at a hotel and be told that you can't have the room you booked is frustrating! I get that! That is why I gave you a free bottle of wine... and £15 off the room... and a free night's stay in March! (I was contemplating also throwing in a wee hug for you both... but I felt there might be health consequences!) You see I understand... I appreciate that having been given a different room you then felt the need to lock yourself away in your room and become incoherently drunk... it's not my choice of behaviour... but needs must.... Horses for courses, etc!
However, here is where things become difficult for me... I have struggled to understand why you then felt the need to go on a drunken rant through the hotel, threatening customers and shouting abuse... (hmmmm)... I also... have tried to understand why your husband wanted to drag me outside for a 'kicking', as he put it... (hang on a sec, do I really need to try and understand this sort of behaviour)... and the massive hole in the wall of my hotel? The one you kicked with your size 7 clodhoppers... must I try and be understanding that (I feel the anger rising... ).
And the crowning cherry on the 'Cleveland Steamer' that was your visit... was the fact you gave me fake credit card details... so that when I tried to process payment for your outstanding bill of £400 it was declined... (I feel myself crumbling under the injustice of it all! My grip on reality is loosening... I am teetering on the edge of the great pit... and there, below, in the inky depths... lies... the demon!... he is coming!) Do you know what... I think my empathy jet is flying on vapours!!! I think 'Mr understanding guy' has just been told to pack his bags and leave the building... escorted by the police! In... exactly... the same... way... that you and friends were escorted by the police out of my hotel! Must I still try to empathise with you?
No... no no no no no no no no no no no no I don't understand any of it! Do you not think that there are one or two teeny weeny details that you omitted from your review... did you fail to recall 'twixt the instance of your arrival and that of your department that you and your husband went on a criminal rampage through the streets of Callander the like of which we have not seen wince William Wallace had a 'city break' in Carlisle! (however, to your credit you did refrain from rape, for which the menfolk of Callander thank you) Did it really slip your memory that your husband was charged with threatening behaviour, criminal damage and breach of the peace?
You wrecked valentines day for my customers and staff.. you wrecked my hotel room... you tried to attack me... you refuse to pay your £400 bill ... the police charged you with crimes, which will no doubt be dropped... And then... you write this review...
One star out of five for location? ... What did Callander ever do to you?
One star out of five for rooms? Well, now that you have kicked all my walls down, I probably agree!
One star out of five for value? May I courteously remind you that you didn't actually pay a single, tiny penny! Despite having sat in our restaurant, gorging yourself on wild boar and pinot grigio at my expense! £400 of my money which I will never retrieve... pursuing you for recompense through the small courts would be as fruitful as pursuing a turd down a toilet!
In conclusion... you have ruined me! You have set my therapy back some six months...You have stripped me of my greatest strength... my compassion... I will be, forever, a 'Basil'.
One last thing... in reference to the last line of your review 'we will stay clear of this hotel'... I think the restraining order will ensure that remains the case!
Good for him, I say! As I think I may have said before (maybe too many times ... ) there is a limit to how much we hoteliers can take. Scottish police confirmed the story and that a 45 year old man had been charged with vandalism.

The Where in the World Competition

These were the six photographs in last month's competition and there a was a great uptake in the hope of winning the prize: three nights, dinner, bed and breakfast, for up to four people in a hillside suite at Rissington (two bedrooms, two recently refurbished bathrooms, sitting room with television, outside shower, air-conditioning, private swimming pool)...
The answers were as follows:
  1. A great little convenience store in the residential area of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. No Al-Fayeds!
  2. Dawn. Venice Beach, Monkey Bay, Lake Malawi – camping not recommended due to ant invasion
  3. The Taal Monument, Paarl – a very beautiful and moving spot to contemplate our varied history
  4. JJ in front of my alma mater, Charterhouse, Godalming, UK
  5. Table Mountain from Bloubergstrand. Curiously, this was a Coloureds Only beach under apartheid
  6. The Gift Shop at the Mtito Andei entrance to Tsavo West National Park, Kenya
The winners are - well what a great surprise but it was all down to the spelling in the end - Pat and Linda Williams. Fantastic. Bring the family!
Here's this month's pic. Where was this picture of JJ and his mate Joshua taken? You can win two nights for two, bed and breakfast, in the best room available on the day of booking.
Get your answer to before 15th April to go into the hat for the prize. And accuracy is everything this time around!

More about Rissington's New Website

One of a selection of great pics on the new website
If you haven't had a look at the new website yet, you should. See it here And if you need new pictures for any purpose, you can lift them from the gallery
My old travel story website is also still up and running on with news of the next book. See below for a quick description. You can follow the Rissington Facebook page by clicking below. LIKE us please and keep up with very occasional relevant news. We promise not to deluge you with religious tracts or motivational junk, Love, Light, Peace or shots of people having FUN and drinking themselves stupid, with their mouths open wide and green tongues hanging out.
And, as always, you can still download Do Not Take This Road to El-Karama (by Chris Harvie) onto your iPad or Kindle. Buy it on Kalahari here or on Amazon here.

On Yer Bike: Our Travels ...!

For the next big jaunt - and the next book - I am off, by road, to Rwanda in May. In a somewhat impromptu decision, I am heading off into the wilds of Africa (where, relaxingly, you don't expect running water or WiFi) with Gapper Tom (aka Tom the Pom) to investigate the mysteries of Africa 50 years after Jomo told the Duke he was absolutely sure and 20 years since South Africa's only truly great leader (ever, maybe with the exception of Jan Smuts) took the oath of office. You can read about the book on my website HERE. It's going to be great. We are going to revisit some old haunts and dip into some new ones, including Rwanda, Burundi, the DRC and the western borders of Tanzania and Zambia.

Low Prices, Happy Faces, Welsh Voices

Sometimes, in the chaos of providing great hospitality, we forget just how beautiful this place is!
We continue to keep our rates down and our menu and drinks prices are also still unchanged. For the latest prices, check the website. In May and early June, the prices are sometimes just stupidly low, so email Hlengiwe and see how generous she is feeling. And remember that we offer a corporate rate for people staying on business and generous discounts and upgrades to returning guests.
Despite the traumas of Zuma's world, our peckers are up and our hospitality is better than ever and, as always, our quest is to satisfy all markets but particularly the Welsh one, so we have a Welsh-speaking gapper for the first time. Says he: Dere aros gyda ni. A siarad Cymraeg gyda fi. There. Eat your heart out, Anne Robinson

Sycamore Garden Suite, looking towards the view
And my Guest Quote of the Month from a feedback form: "I love this place. The food is great and the staff amazing. Nothing too much trouble. I surly come back. I only I wish I had air-conditioning. Well, if you'd paid for it, you'd have got it - the garden suites and hillside suites are all air-conditioned. Then there'd be nothing to be surly about!
Come and see us. It'd be madness not to ...
Chris, who made it to 50, Hlengiwe who liked Tanzania but wouldn't want to live there because they kept speaking Swahili to her, Swirly Shirley, Kevin from Barberton who has finally passed his driver's licence, Sipho, Kanan Banana our tame Zambian, Nikiwe, Thandi the Head Chef, Cindy my Heroine, The Great Gertie, Yvonne, Emelda, Betty, Thuli, Gladys, Sanny, Zenzile, Sisters Ntombifuthi (Foots) and Nokuthula (Noggs), Patience, another one who seems to be called Incontinence but surely that can't be right, Joseph, Aubrey, Sbusiso, Patrick the Machine and Rasta. Not forgetting Welsh Harry the Gapper. And of course JJ who has finally joined the choir so that he can wail at school and get it over with. And Bull. And a recently emasculated Rusty ...