Spring Rissington Rag
Off-Beat News and Views
Rissington Inn, Hazyview, South Africa
A Day in the Life of an HotelierIt is almost impossible to put a value on hospitality, which is, of course, primarily, what Rissington provides. According to our guests (and obviously also according to me) we have our finest-ever team and their welcome is simply unbeatable.
Again according to our guests, everything else is pretty damned good too, and we are offering good value for money, which, of course, is the bottom line when it comes to choosing a hotel. The quirky guest quotes at the bottom of the letter show the importance of this. Firstly, you choose the type of hotel you want to stay in and secondly, you establish whether it does exactly what it says on the tin. Nowhere, for example, do we say that we have an immaculately-maintained access road, or high-speed Internet, or gourmet fare, but we do say that the dirt road is only a kilometre long, there is WiFi most of the time and the food is good.
We don't negotiate on the price either. I am unable to haggle - I find it awkward and embarrassing - so we have set a price, which we think is fair, generous even, and we stick to it.
With so many websites offering so-called 'discount booking services' and tour-operators outdoing one another to offer the same service for the same price, you can be quite sure that, however and with whomever you book, you will pay the same for Rissington. And if we decide to give you a discount, it will be because we like you, not because you asked for it!
Otherwise, it all ends up in chaotic horse-trading and we end up in the situation we have all been in, whereby you take your car in to a dealer to sell it and after looking up the price for a second hand version of your particular model, he then explains to you that he will also have to deduct an amount for the tiny scratch on the door, and for the fact that the car needs new windscreen wipers and brakes. I mean, surely that is built into the price of a used car that it is, well, used? Just as we have already declared and costed in our dirt road and our total lack of caviar on the menu?
Snowflakes Revisited - and On ObesityLet us go back to melting snowflakes. It was so much fun last time out - and I received an absolute deluge of messages from people agreeing with me about the up-and-coming generation. Even some of the snowflake readers actually recognised themselves or their friends in the descriptions of the delicate little treasures under discussion.
But it goes on. Apparently the young adults of the 2010s are the new Victorians, prudish and socially strict (although we all know what the Victorians got up to when the back was turned). The Sunday Telegraph also now tells us that traditional black teas are too bitter for Snowflakes, so they opt instead for speciality teas. I mean, being easily upset or offended is one thing, but not being able to drink full-strength tea? And having to settle for cranberry and camomile or raspberry nettle and mango pip?
If you are interested in further studies on the differences between the generations, click HERE to see what the age-groups offer and expect. Dislike of the next and previous generation is nothing new and I reckon it is based on jealousy more often than not, along with the view that everyone believes everyone else to be lazier than them. Something tells me, for example, that the survey below was carried out by a Generation X member!
Now read it again. It was in the Daily Telegraph, so it must be true. It is absolutely staggering. Per month?! And these people are kept alive by the rest of us?! That means that they don't even go to a supermarket! It's all drive-thru junk food and home deliveries, off-loaded for them by the driver!
One of my favourite gluttons from the past was Samuel Pepys, who was a busy man, walking a good few miles a day to work off what he ate. He was an MP and a Naval Administrator among his many busy roles. But, boy, he could eat!
Pepys's Diary records lunch on 4th April 1663 as consisting of the following: 'Very merry at, before, and after dinner, and the more for that my dinner was great, and most neatly dressed by our own only maid. We had a fricasee of rabbits and chickens, a leg of mutton boiled, three carps in a dish, a great dish of a side of lamb, a dish of roasted pigeons, a dish of four lobsters, three tarts, a lamprey pie (a most rare pie), a dish of anchovies, good wine of several sorts, and all things mighty noble and to my great content.'
It doesn't tell us how many people joined him - hopefully quite a number - and he lived to be 70, despite there being no mention of even the tiniest vegetable in the meal above.
Pepys also had a favourite hangover cure breakfast: A dish of Mackrell, newly-ketched, cold turkey pie, a goose and a coller of brawne.
We are thinking of putting it on the Rissington breakfast menu! There's nothing like a collar of brawn to get a man going in the morning.
Of course it is a well-known fact that obesity leads to cancer, but then, more realistically, living longer probably leads to cancer as well. And living longer makes you grumpier, except on the days when you discover from a doctor that you are unexpectedly not going to die now; then you are no longer a grumpy old man but suddenly full of the joys of spring, getting on with all those jobs you have been putting off because you might not live long enough to benefit from them ... buying new shirts, getting a haircut, cutting toenails, trimming nasal hair, sitting for hours with a spotted youth processing a cellphone upgrade.
When young people are nice to you, without being patronising - like when they give you a free head massage after your haircut, or tell you during your phone upgrade that "you have chosen a great phone, dude" - they can be absolutely delightful. During my recent upgrade, in order to choose the right model, I was asked whether I took a lot of selfies and I was able to say - truthfully - that I have never taken a selfie in my life. Did you know that selfie sticks are banned from all Disney Theme Parks? Even Mickey Mouse is fed up with them.
Lady Di Dies Again and AgainIt might seem to be an unlikely topic for the Rag but all will become clear. Everyone knows where they were when they heard that Princess Diana had died. I was leaving the Timbavati Game Reserve, when a rather confused Afrikaner woman on the gate told me that the Princess of England had died. I had assumed that she had meant the Queen Mother.
We had an English family staying; parents with three delightful blonde teenage daughters. The three girls - let's call them Henrietta, Jocasta and Annabel - were inconsolable and had sat in front of the television sobbing for the entire day. Eventually, as the gun-carriage emerged again and yet another highlight reel began, I insisted that they go outside for a walk. It was a beautiful day and my two then-dogs, Sport and umQombothi would accompany them.
They had only been gone about three minutes, when they rushed back inside howling even louder. Sport (intelligent mongrel) had been chasing monkeys in the bush below the lodge where the garden suites now are, and umQombothi (unintelligent labrador) had been gaping daftly on, when a baby monkey had fallen out of a tree and landed, literally, in his mouth. He had swallowed it in one gulp, setting the girls off into further paroxysms of distress.
Twenty years ago, to mark her death, people queued for hours and hours to sign books of condolence, countrywide, and lined the streets in their hundreds of thousands to weep and throw flowers at the passing hearse. CEEFAX, above, was the closest we got to a news feed. Today's younger generation, on the other hand, would probably stay at home, trying to out-do one another in announcing their distress on Twitter #sadnews, then get on with some good old self-absorbed Snapchatting #tearswatchingfuneralontv , without getting off their dayglow beanbags.
South African InnovationsSouth Africa leads the way on the Continent of Africa in so many ways and returning home from a month on the road, driving around our neighbouring countries (see below) only serves to emphasise that. But there is good news everywhere and many of our neighbours are booming, at least on the surface. Zimbabwe is spotlessly clean and the infrastructure is surprisingly functional despite that country's downturn. Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, has at least five new giant shopping malls since I was last there five years ago. Tete in Mozambique is similarly developing at a phenomenal speed. Only Malawi appears to be going nowhere fast, although this fascinating chart from 2012 tells a different story.
We also invented Tuscan architecture, which is why great chunks of Johannesburg are Tuscan and there are currently 147 Tuscan houses for sale on Gumtree, all with stucco and pillars. Admittedly there is no limestone and far too much terracotta, and these are not rambling farmhouses. There is also too much wrought iron and there are very few cypress trees. Just to test your deductive skills, only one of the following three houses is in Tuscany and the other two are Tuscan homes in Johannesburg. Can you identify them?
Rissington Revamped and Super FriendlyI have mentioned the current brilliant Rissington team a few times already but, quite apart from being (as it is now termed) a 'super-friendly' place with the most professional and charming staff we have ever boasted, we also have a number of genuinely exciting changes to report.
- New WiFi - we have installed a totally new Internet access system, making our Internet at least 10 times faster. It is such a treat. Almost like being in the real world.
- The library has been revamped and refitted. It remains Rissington's loveliest and most under-used spot.
- The garden suites have new funky hanging lights in the bedrooms for those very occasional gloomy days (and new basins in the bathrooms).
- And in case you have forgotten how fantastically colourful our gardens are, here's a reminder of our famous purple bougainvillea and the spectacularly lovely flowers of one our fascinating sausage trees. And a pool shot.
This month's -ISM ...Last month's -ISM - in our occasional series on -ISMs - was anthropomorphism. Watch this space for Darwinism, sadism, symbolism, embolism (hopefully not) etc. This month, it is a little more contentious but not meant to be political or cruel. It is a kind of benign racism, which is unintentional but incredibly hurtful. It has happened a couple of times recently that guest comments have suggested that the only downside of their stay was that they have not met any management (whom they would have like to thank), whereas they have in fact just had their breakfast served by a couple of very competent front of house managers and their bill prepared by the general manager, who probably handled their booking as well. I am the only non-black person working at Rissington and whether we meet or not - and I am here most days - every single good thing that happens to you will have been as a result of the very high standards maintained by GM Hlengiwe (left), Shirley, Euginia, Sydney, Wise, Nonhlanhla and numerous other highly competent people. They don't need to be insulted for not being white!
It's like that old South African-ism - "They broke into my house last night". What? All of them broke into your house? And who are "They"? Was it, er, Black People? And how do you know? Surely you are making an assumption here?
I was in a hospital the other day, visiting a friend, when a dreadful relic of a bygone age actually walked in and blurted out to the black surgeon we were seeing: "Where is the white doctor?"
I mean, really??!! We have come such a long way, but wow we can be a schizophrenic world sometimes!
The "Where in the World" CompetitionAn interesting photo - and I am always amazed at the ingenuity of the people who remember, or discover, extraordinary places such as the one shown. Well done Odette Bester. Come and stay. Two nights, bed and breakfast, on the house, for recognising that these Egyptian papier-mÃ¢chÃ© puppets are standing on a balcony in the Old Cairo street that leads to the Khan al Khalili souk.
For this month's competition again, as usual, detail is everything. Where in Africa was this photograph taken?
On Yer Bike : Our TravelsThe July school holidays, this year, produced an absolute treat of a trip, parts of which I referred to above. With two vehicles, eight of us took a 6700 km road trip through Zimbabwe (The Lion and Elephant, Great Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou and the Bvumba) and Mozambique (Tete) to Malawi, where we spent an excellent four nights on Mumbo Island, kayaking, walking and birding. Here's JJ:
No More Gap Year StudentsI am afraid we are not doing it any longer. It is unfair on my entirely competent team to expect them to continue to hold the hands of these hopeless characters any longer. When one of their number actually had the gall, after a day in the Kruger National Park, organised by us and as a guest of our favoured operator African Safari Adventures, to phone in from his flat and say that he wouldn't be able to work that evening as he was too tired .... I decided to call it a day.
From Rissington's point of view, you can be sure that you will now be looked after by a full-time professional, not an entitled Snowflake. And to those of you who have been amongst our spectacular gappers over the years, thank you. The programme has been an important part of the making of Rissington and some of you have been wonderful. The rest of you have not been gappers, but at best gapers, at worst gawpers. Boy, am I glad it is over!!
Anti-Social Media and a New Rissington GalleryRissington has a BRAND NEW website. Check www.rissington.co.za. We REALLY love it and we hope that you do too. (If the old one pops up hold down Ctrl and press F5).
I remember being offered a free website by a friend, at the beginning of the Internet, and saying "Thanks but no thanks". This whole web thing was a flash in the pan, I told him, and it wouldn't catch on. He insisted and we had our first ever website only 18 years ago in 1999. Until then, it was all brochures and faxes and cheques.
In another interesting anniversary, the first ATM came into use 50 years ago this June and consisted of a complicated procedure whereby you had to go into the branch, pick up a token from a cashier and then step outside again and insert the token into the ATM to withdraw the cash. It makes you wonder why you didn't just get the cash from the cashier, but it did mean that you could keep the token and use it after banking hours. The automated card and PIN only came in about 10 years later and, of course, Internet banking was not widely available until about ten years ago.
Of course, in the ultimate form of obesity-inducing laziness, the US now offers the drive-through ATM, which I guess is similar to a toll plaza. Tolls, on the other hand have been around for at least 2700 years, with the first known tolls having been charged to travel on the Suna-Babylon highway during the 7th century BC reign of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, which makes it all the more extraordinary how some drivers can apparently be so confused as to what is required of them at a South African toll plaza - often surprised enough to hold up long lines of cars while they get out of their own to get cash from inside the boot.
Once again, my writing website www.chrisharvie.com has been completely reinvented and updated and it also now includes my most recent blogs for Portfolio under My Travels. As always, you can download Do Not Take This Road to El-Karama (by me) onto your iPad or Kindle from Takealot (the former Kalahari) HERE or Amazon HERE.
I would also urge you to join the Inn crowd and follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter. Only there will you get to read the Rag before everyone else ...
Guest Quotes of the MonthBefore I take you to the Guest Quotes, here is my fascinating fact of the month : The Guinness Book of Records holds the record for being the book most stolen from public libraries. How's that for self-fulfilling. And we worry, at Rissington, about the theft of the occasional Giles annual from the loo!
And for the Quotes of the Month:
One of the most interesting complaints about the Rissington road: "We were afraid of our car". I know what you mean. I am often afraid of visitors' cars, especially when they are on the wrong side of the road...
But I also love a bit of hyperbole, such as this morning's comment from a young South African: "Rissington offers the BEST value in all of RSA!!!. The TEAM is AMAZING!!! Best dinner and breakfast EVER!!! I love the turndown at night. Rissington is just the COOLEST place on EARTH. They even washed my car WITHOUT ME ASKING, dude. I will defo be BACK SOON!!!" So she liked it.
I hope the person who sent the following request with their booking will enjoy it as much, although, I wonder whether she might be a little trickier? She asks by email: I am asthmatic, so accommodation facing into prevailing wind/breeze is desirable. Don't worry. We will get the car-washers to turn her round from time to time, so that she faces into the wind as much as possible.
The rest of you, lovely, easy guests, come back to Rissington soon but BOOK NOW! We are very very busy. Drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We very much hope to see you.
Chris the redundant host, GM Hlengiwe (who just received her first speeding fine!), Ever-cheerful Assistant Manager Shirley, FOH Manager Nonhlanhla (proud mother of 6-week-old twins, Ashley and Ashante), Genius Euginia, Sydney Australia, Wise #BeWise Shabangu, Danisile, Marvellous (OK, the jury is out!), Sipho the Driver, Head Chef Thandi, Cindy, The Great Gertie, Emelda, Zenzile, Betty, 10-Ton Thuli, Lily, Sanny, Sisters Ntombifuthi (Foots) and Nokuthula (Noggs), Patience, Yvonne, Able Aubrey, Sbusiso, Guy The Guy and Ezekiel, the Weekend Man (and, in his spare time, JJ's cousin). And of course JJ, who is now officially a teenager and has been accepted to the senior school of his choice - Congratulations! Plus German(ish) Shepherd Bull, who is now slowly going blind, but only slowly. Soon he will neither hear nor see us, but he remains delightful, good-natured and brave, and Rusty who has developed an instantly see-through-able psychosomatic limp when the rest of us go camping. And NO GAPPERS!