September 2014

Welcome to the
September 2014 Rissington Rag
Off-Beat News and Views
Rissington’s Best Ever Year Continues

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A Rissington Sunset

A Day in the Life of an Hotelier

This month’s featured impossible guest was an Israeli. Now we all love a discount as much as the next person, just as everyone thinks it is it their inalienable right to be upgraded free of charge on an aeroplane and thus to get a proper metal knife and fork and china salt and pepper pots instead of those little sachets, all for the price of an economy ticket. I am told that giving chocolate to the check-in staff helps. But, of course, hoteliers have a different view. We are probably asked for more discounts than any other industry. Why, I wonder? What makes everybody think that our margins are any more squeezable than anybody else’s? I can assure you that, if anything, the opposite is the case...
Anyway, the said Israeli couple arrived mid-afternoon without a booking and were greeted by Kanan the Zambian. Maybe this is where the confusion first set in. Maybe they thought, with this evidently being the Land of Kanan, that milk and honey were on special. They asked him the rate. He explained – R500 per person per night. A measly £30. Under $45. Or about 165 Shekels. Did that include breakfast. Yes, it did. Per person? Yes, per person. Was there a special deal available? No.
But, what if his wife was pregnant? he asked. Same price, Kanan told him.
Where did he think he was? Bethlehem? Was his wife carrying the Messiah, because if so we needed some proof, otherwise she’d pay the same as anybody else. No pregnancy discount but no surcharge either. It was late, though, and there was room for them at the Inn. Reluctantly, they stayed.
The next morning, on checkout, with Kanan not on duty, they claimed that he had quoted per room, not per person and refused to pay more than R500 in total. And, as if to prove a point, took four scones off the breakfast buffet, buttered them and stuffed them in their rucksacks.
Some people just don’t seem to get it. The price is the price. Why wouldn’t it be? Lawyers don’t give specials on first-time divorces. Doctors don’t give bulk discounts on un-booked consultations. Pay the price. Get over it. It’s cheap. And if you are about to bring the Messiah into the world, have a halo to prove it...

Could this be a halo?
Now, of course, for regularly-returning guests, it’s another story. Good deals readily available. Free upgrades. The warmest possible welcome. No halo required.

The Unsuitable Political Bit

Would you believe it? On one day in June, the power went off for 5 hours, there was no water in Hazyview for the whole day (thank goodness for our boreholes), the telephones were down because the lines had been stolen, the Internet was on a national go-slow and the TVs in the two hillside suite were on the blink because a guest had packed the remote. Of course, we can’t blame the ANC for the last one but the other four basic services fall squarely under government and give an idea how frustrating it can be to do business here. But we do. We plough on. We make a plan. And we love it. After all, there has been a postal strike in Johannesburg for more than a month as I write and we only found out about it yesterday. We thought it was just shocking service as usual!

’Elf ’n’ Safety

In my last Rag, I explained that we now have to have different coloured chopping boards for cooked meat (brown), raw meat (yellow), fish (white) and vegetables (green). Essential, obviously. Thank you, though, to Darren for pointing out that I had the colours of the boards wrong. For anybody taking advice on Health and Safety from this Newsletter (which I don’t recommend) I found this very helpful sign, available from a UK website. Please note therefore that the correct colours for the boards are as follows:
I trust you will all apply this at home and that you will NEVER EVER cut up a cooked fish, because it is not catered for above and it must therefore be illegal.
Sincere apologies, also on the health and safety front, to the guest who proved me right about what I thought was a mild zing through the taps in one of the garden suites but turned out, when we measured it, to be 236V. Apparently it was fed back from the air-conditioning. I told you air-con was a bad idea. Oh, and by the way, maybe we should put one of these on every air-conditioned room:
On a rather more peculiar maintenance and upkeep note, we have 29 loos here at Rissington altogether – and every day we have to fix at least three of them. What is it about hotel loos? I don’t know about you but I have never broken my loo at home in any way – cistern, pipe, handles, joins, seat, bowl. Nothing. Am I missing something? (You will notice that I have avoided the old joke to the effect that investigations continue but we have nothing to go on).

Another helpful sign?


As the world becomes more and more hysterical about Ebola, somebody sent me this very helpful map, designed to show just how huge Africa is. And with the population of Africa being measured in 2013 at a rather tidy 1.111 billion, the number of Africans having acquired Ebola is still only 0.000005 of the population. As the chart shows, the distance from Hazyview to Monrovia (Liberia) is almost twice the distance from New York to San Francisco. Monrovia is nearer to London than to Johannesburg (and there are many more Ebola-bearing flights between the two).
No reason to stress about that then.
Ebola has also thrown up some interesting discussions with regard to the relative values of different humans’ lives as well. For example – unaccustomed liberal moment - can it be right that, if a doctor from Doctors Without Borders, or a missionary, catches the disease, he or she is flown home to the so-called First World in a Michael Jackson bubble and saved, while hundreds of Sierra Leoneans die, uncared-for, in the streets? In addition, numbering 100 000, there are now more aid workers in sub-saharan Africa than there ever were foreign administrators at the height of the colonial era. In this fabulously politically-incorrect exposé in The Spectator, James Delingpole airs his views on that and on pre-, post- and neo-colonial Africa. Read it HERE.

The Big Party

We only do one private party a year – maxiumum – and they are carefully chosen challenges. This year’s one, in July, was an absolute blast to mark the 50th birthdays of Suzi Holtzhausen (South African ‘darling’ celebrity chef) and Stella Brandsma (much-missed emigrée).

A street party in the making at Rissington …
To give you an idea, we kicked off with an English pub night, complete with quiz, ‘Name that Tune’ and fish’n’chips. The next day, we had breakfast and pyjama cross-fit on the lawn, an all-day street party from lunchtime (bunting, marimba band and all), a firepit with potjie fondue in the bush at dusk and then a full-on night club through the night. On the third night, just for fun, we then converted Rissington’s dining room into an Indian restaurant and had an authentic curry night (the only glitch being that, while some of the portraits on the wall were Bollywood and Babaji, Gapper Ellie inadvertantly confused her Indians and slipped in a couple of images more in the line of Hiawatha and Pocahontas).
It was an absolute blast and to those who attended, thank you. You were amazing. The final result was that I lost 4.8kg in weight in one weekend from table- and chair-carrying. And Barry Manilow and Jimmy Osmond will never sound the same again.

Honeymoon Time

There’s one significant ‘décor’ change in the offing, in that we are looking at creating a permanent honeymoon room. More and more people are coming here for what the French call a ‘lune-de-miel’ and the Germans (maybe less attractively?) ‘Flitterwochen’. The honey aspect is supposed to come from the fact that a couple would be given a month’s worth of leftover mead from the wedding – raw honey is supposed to be a powerful fertility booster. There you are. You heard it here first. We are back to milk and honey, it seems.
The room we have chosen is the most private of the garden suites, with the best view. We are putting in a new superking sized bed, fresh and lively furniture and other fittings and generally topping up the luxury a bit. We hope to finish it by Christmas – and I will let you know in the December Rag and post some pictures.
We are still trying to decide how best to serve the mead or the honey, which we will supply with a bunch of flowers. And whether to have ceiling mirrors and a trapeze. (That last bit is a joke).

A Rissington First

Rissington is a something of a groundbreaker in terms of its lack of rules, dress-codes, meal times and so on but we have always had a couple of non-negotiables. The lack of televisions, for example, and the ban on mobile phones in the dining room. (Did you know the German for a cellphone is ‘ein Handy’. How cool is that?)
Anyway, we are putting in a new rule. We are not allowing chewing gum in public areas. We have picked enough chewing gum off the dining room chairs now. Don’t gum-chewers know how disgusting it is? Did you see that red-faced, yellow-haired dude standing behind Alex Salmond at Holyrood, contorting has Gaelic chops around a hunk of blue bubblegum. Not so Braveheart, even if it was blue. I am sure that’s what lost them the vote. (That and the lying, admittedly). See how stupid these people look ...
So if your chewing gum (in the words of Lonnie Donegan) is going to lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight, make sure that bedpost is not at Rissington please. If Singapore can do it, so can we. Ha ha.

Nicky Rattray’s book

I mentioned in the last letter that I had really enjoyed helping Nicky Rattray to put together her story-cum-cookery book Out of the Fire into the Frying Pan, and I am glad to say it is now available. A great-fun read about the trials, tribulations and triumphs arising from the running of Fugitives’ Drift Lodge, my old stomping ground. As well as some good stories and a liberal smattering of useful facts, the recipes are really useful and manageable. Including that amazing muesli, the award-winning quiches and Anndora’s cabbage and toasted noodle salad. The perfect Christmas present for chefs, historians and hoteliers alike. In fact, for anyone. Order by clicking on the picture above. As well as within South Africa, delivery to the UK (yes, including Scotland) is also available.

The Where in the World Competition

In last month’s competition we asked you where these pictures were taken and thus began an interesting debate. They were ‘borrowed’ from the collection of Joep Stevens, courtesy of the excellent Mpumalanga Historical Interest Group. Thank you, both.
Two nights for two at Rissington goes to Richard and Carol Veitch. Well done again!
The photo on the left (for which the prize is awarded) is apparently a picture of Ken and Joan Merefield at the Numbi Gate in 1946. Note the old TDH Transvaal White River number-plates on the car. Remember those? TBH was Nelspruit, TBS Sabie, TJ Johannesburg and so on. As for the one on the right, it seems that the consensus has it that it is in fact Letaba in 1953. The 4 cornered huts were known as Knapp huts and they were the norm at Letaba, Skukuza and Crocodile Bridge. The building at the back on the right was the old ablution block. Very smart!
Of course, in 1946, and even in 1953, Hazyview did not exist. The town was only promulgated in 1959.
For more information on the history of the park read a very interesting summary from the SANParks website HERE.
This month’s picture:
Where is JJ standing? You could win two nights at Rissington for two, bed and breakfast, in the best room available on the day of booking
Get your answers to before 31 October 2014 to go into the hat for the prize.

Special Deals and Website News

We have received many, many compliments on the new-look website. If you haven’t done so already, you can look at it here on And – tour operators and website operators please note – if you need new pictures for any purpose, you can lift them, like this one, from the gallery on
My old travel story website is also still up and running on You can follow the Rissington Facebook page by clicking below. LIKE us please and keep up with very occasional relevant news. As always, 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.
We continue to offer fantastic value, with some great specials available to returning guests in early December and mid-January, so if you are coming down this way then, send us an email on and we will tell you what we are doing.

On Yer Bike: Our Travels …!

This year’s winter trip was called off. Rwanda seemed an awfully long way away and Rissington was too busy for me to abandon it for that long, which is, of course, good news. And although the Talking to the Neighbours book topic is a good one, I’d talked it out in the bar so often that I felt I had written it already, so we scuppered it for a while. It is a fascinating idea. Maybe next year.
Instead I contented myself (very contentedly) with a very quick trip, with former gapper and general all-round good bloke Adda Birch Reynardson, to the Eastern Cape via KZN which brings us on to ...

Rissington recommends ...

... Three Trees at Spioenkop. If you want a sunrise like this, coupled with one of the best views of any lodge in the country, bush walks, horse-riding, proximity to the Drakensberg, away from the masses, history on your doorstep, comfortable beds, great food and good old-fashioned hospitality, then go to Three Trees. It is utterly wonderful. Contact Simon and Cheryl Blackburn. Visit their website HERE.

Guest Quote of the Month

Finally, my Guest Quote of the Month comes from a child on arrival, addressing Bull, the Alsatian, then its mother, then Rusty, the Jack Russell, and then me: “Hello Dog. Look Mummy, it’s like a real German Shepherd. Hello Puppy. Does this dog have rabies?”
It is, of course, a real German Shepherd, and no, the puppy doesn’t have rabies, unless it caught it from the child.
So, as JJ said in his English definitions for Natural Science at school: "Germination is a kind of dog or when there are too many Germans at Rissington". I tried to explain that it is not possible to have too many Germans ...
Come and see us. It'd be madness not to ...
Chris the confirmed Xenophile, Hlengiwe who takes charge of more and more every day, Swirly Shirley, Sipho the driver, Kanan from the Land of Zambia, Nikiwe, Thandi the Head Chef, Cindy who had a baby boy, The Great Gertie, Yvonne, Emelda, Betty, Thuli, Gladys, Sanny, Zenzile, Sisters Ntombifuthi (Foots) and Nokuthula (Noggs), Patience, Joseph, Aubrey, Sbusiso, Patrick the Machine and Rynhard. Yes he is still here. (You will have noticed that Rasta has gone). And of course JJ who just turned 10. And Bull, 11, and Rusty, aged 1.