The QUITE FUN September 2018 Rissington Rag

to the
September 2018
Rissington Rag

Off-Beat News and Views
Rissington Inn, Hazyview, South Africa

Please do NOT report this email as junk. Thousands of people really love it. Instead, to unsubscribe, click the link
at the bottom of the page, when you have finished reading the Rag, if you DEFINITELY don't want ever to receive it again.
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An Idyllic Day in the Life of an Hotelier

I think we have some really thought-provoking content this time but let's make a positive start and then see how it goes up and downhill from there ...
This is the life; I keep telling myself. On the surface, at least. It is technically still winter as I write. It is 30 degrees, beautiful sunshine, no humidity. Golden leaves carpet the gardens where a hint of green grass is emerging after a night of good rain last week. The waterberry tree next to the deck by my desk is in full leaf and its berries, popular with the birds and with the health gurus, are beginning to swell. I can hear a fish eagle calling overhead and Klaas's cuckoo is whistling in the donga below my house. He thinks it is spring and it almost is. Surely Rissington Inn is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
But the Rag wouldn't be the Rag without a little bit of controversy, so read on and let's see what we have in store in our usual slightly bonkers round-up of the tribulations faced by a typical (?) innkeeper.

Improvements and Loo-roll Holders

We are starting with the good news. As readers will know - and as you will see below in the somewhat questionable guest comments - it has always been our policy, if anyone complains, quite simply to agree and to change whatever they want changed. I suppose it is essentially the line of least resistance but it is also good ethics. After all, if someone complains about their bathroom, we can't always just tell them that they are staying in the wrong hotel.

No, we don't have one of these yet. Should we?!
So when the builders had completed our stunning new rooms, we looked at all our older rooms and rebuilt great chunks of them. We changed the furnishings, we added new wardrobes and new curtains and blinds. We refitted all the bathrooms with new tiles and towel rails and shelves and loo-roll holders. Loo-roll holders are important.

We don't have any of these either.
We have 28 loos at Rissington. Have you ever thought how difficult it might be to go out to Nelspruit and buy 28 identical loo-roll holders and 28 double towel rails? Probably not. Quite apart from the number of shopping trolleys you need, and the funny looks you get, there are always inevitably only 27 of these and 24 of those and the rest are on order from Beijing.
Of course, China has made all of this so much easier, even if the available quantities are never quite right. Chinese rubber shower-mats and shelves (and so on) are very cheap, which means one can refurbish quite easily, although their stainless steel is never quite stainless and there is always a nut or a bolt missing from the assembly pack, the English of which is completely baffling. Using self-providing tool, insert flange B into sprocket AC2 from clockwise angle and refit in circular to grade of upright mounting rod D5. English words but in a nonsensical jumble.
But it is not limited to self-building. The Chinese National Anthem, for example, includes the immortal lines:

which, as you will probably know, means "with our very flesh and blood, let us build our new Great Wall" (using the instructions provided, no doubt).
Either way, though, remember how we all used to laugh at tinny Japanese cars and how nowadays Toyotas are seen as indestructible? Yes, Land Rover drivers - it is TRUE. Top Gear proved it and every West African revolutionary backs it up, when launching his coup, by mounting his machine gun on the back of a Hi-Lux.
The same is true of Chinese goods these days. The quality is improving, and with it, the lifestyle of ordinary Africans is picking up beautifully, with every rural home in the region suddenly brimming with dragons, golden pheasants and lotus-blossom studded bedheads. Not to mention the ubiquitous strings of fairy lights.
The growth of Hazyview from seven shops when I first moved here in 1983, to over 400 now, means that, whereas when we built our first rooms we had to order the beds from Johannesburg and they took a month to get here, now we nip into Hazyview in the morning, pay for them, and they are delivered the same afternoon.
So even the older rooms are looking new. Less wood, fewer baskets, less clutter, fewer pictures. We love them. We know you will. As we say, in the South African vernacular: "Go on, my China!"

Snowflaky Parents and some TripAdvisor Fun

Now ... back to some of our more regular sections. As we haven't had any gap year students for more than a year now - and yes, it has been lovely - I have not had reason to have a go at snowflakes, but that does not, of course, mean, in the real world beyond Rissington, that they have gone away. In fact, in a deterioration of the situation, the latest alarming development is that the parents of the snowflakes seem to have inherited their traits and are becoming as snowflaky as their offspring.
Here's an example. A typical family of four, made up of two parents and two millennials. The parents arrive in the bar, mid-afternoon, to complain that a tree is making a noise, brushing up against their roof, so please would we remove the tree. Of course, a number of possible responses present themselves, the most compelling of which is that naturally we would, but we'd need a chain saw and there aren't any available until three o'clock in the morning.
Instead, polite as ever, we explain that the tree - a marula - is protected so we can't remove it. In fact, this is why we have cunningly built the roof of the new room around it to accommodate it. So we will move the roof instead. And we do. We bend the roof back for the night, then we bend it back into place in the morning. The people are grateful and say that they don't mean to be any trouble. Of course not.
I have branches brushing on my roof all the time and I love it. But it is a snowflake thing. Quiet, safe spaces and all that. And it was keeping them awake at three in the afternoon. Whatever.
But it doesn't end there. We also had a couple who wanted a discount because their tap was dripping and they couldn't turn it off properly. They obviously just needed stronger hands, or (if it was absolutely deafening) to close the bathroom door, and they were incredulous when we refused to take money off the bill. And we turned the tap off, with no difficulty, after they had gone.
Of course, it does help when people actually tell us what they would like us to change, however absurd, instead of complaining after the event, so that we can do something about it. Check out my TripAdvisor response to the skier with the broken toe and the squirrels, if you think ignorance is bliss. Click on the link: HERE. First, read the guest's comment, then click 'More' at the end to get my not-so-subtle response.
And then wait for the monkey people in the last paragraph of this Rag ...

Our Own Agony Aunt: On Health and Safety

Regulars will be familiar with the words of wisdom of my aunt, and having recently visited her, I thought I would give her an occasional column of her own - The Rag's very own Agony Aunt, if you like. And thanks to my talented cousin (who is a renowned professional photographer) we also have a photograph. Both the glasses in the picture contained water, obviously.
So, in brief and following some comments I made on the subject in the June Rag, this is my aunt's take on Health and Safety. I quote:
Hi, Chris, What a long letter! I am glad you have done something about the insurance on the balconies. Our window cleaner jumped onto a balcony, three floors up and it collapsed and he has been in hospital ever since, and can't get insurance from the woman who owns it. He is getting better and comes to see us occasionally. Love from your Beautiful Aunt.
So there you have it. We are putting up safety bars on all the stoeps on the back of this important snippet. Readers are welcome to submit their questions on (just about) any subject and I will submit them to my aunt for a response and report back.


Again we have upgraded our Wi-Fi to an even faster speed and I was encouraged on my travels to the UK last month to see how good ours is compared with theirs over there. Try your speedtest now. Our download speed right this minute is 29. 36 Mbps and our upload is 12.35 Mbps. Not bad, hey?
So let us rant about something else, now that we have sorted that out. Doesn't it drive you nuts when people walk and type into their phones at the same time? Or even worse, when they drive and text? The nett effect in both cases is that they are off-balance and they walk/drive into things.

Careless texting ...
But aren't emojis fun? I love a good emoji - not only because of the way they can prevent or defuse a misunderstanding but also because, especially when used in combination, they can be so clever. Almost like pictorial cryptic crosswords. Here are some combinations of my own, which I hope might be useful both to South Africans and to others, I am sure:
Land claim
Ticking time bomb
Smoking gun
A game of cat and mouse
Taxi dispute
Like a bat out of hell
Wishful thinking
Totally nuts
And, proof of the subtlety of text abbreviations, my favourite (and shortest) response to the Rag last month was quite simply:
Lolest ! (Or, that is, Lolest JJJ! if you have a cheap phone.)
I love it. LOL to the absolute maximum. But then I love this too. See how another form of artwork has changed us in the past 50 years.

The ubiquitous tattoo.

South Africa - Getting it Right

We are in the news. Now, you know that I don't like politics in the Rag, so see this, rather, as apolitical comment, but it affects our image and it affects our tourism, so we need to get a couple of things straight (and if you don't like what I am saying, you can always unsubscribe at the bottom of the page ).
1) Whatever the South African right wing nutcases and the Daily Mail Online might tell you, there is very obviously no genocide being perpetrated here in South Africa. I repeat - very obviously.
2) Yes, the politics of land is complicated, but the land changes hands at the fall of any and every empire. The land issue in South Africa needs to be resolved. It has taken too long and the government will resolve it fairly and with no damage to the country. It will not affect food security or tourism or residences or investment opportunities. They are not going to give beach houses to wannabe farmers. They are going to give unused land to them, with food-growing potential, and most of it is going to be state land.
3) The drought, the visa issues and the power shortages are being or have been resolved. They were all badly handled in the media by the government but none of them should have had any major discernible impact on normal people or on tourism.
4) We are not 'going the way of Zimbabwe', but then again, from our recent three-week camping trip in Zimbabwe (see below), the way of Zimbabwe would not be such a bad way to go, in some respects. #justsaying
So yes. We have made a mess of a few things. We are a 25-year-old democracy with serious baggage, but to the nay-sayers, I would say only this. Take a good look at the handling of the US-China Trade war, Brexit and the recent prime ministerial shenanigans in Australia and ask yourself whether we are really doing so badly at dealing with our issues.
As far as crime is concerned, the chances of any of us being affected by crime are about the same as just about anywhere decent in the southern hemisphere. The media loves to blow it up, but, to put things in perspective, I was shocked by the reports of knife crime in parts of London too. And if you read the newspapers in Midsomer or on the island of Saint Marie (from Death in Paradise) or wherever Father Brown and those people from Silent Witness come from, well, you wouldn't go there either would you? But as far as I know, sensible travellers realise that life (and death!) in the Chilterns, Guadeloupe, the Cotswolds and London is not like that for most people.
South Africa is stable and it is broadly safe. It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with some of its friendliest people. And because of those nay-sayers, its currency is weak, so come now. You can have a room at Rissington for only R580 per person per night, including breakfast. That is less than forty dollars, thirty-five euros, thirty pounds. Or two hundred and seventy yuan, if you are Chinese and you want build your Great Wall here. Or a road. Or a railway. Or a car factory.
Don't be put off by the nonsense you read!

The Patriotic Bit - The Environment

This month's patriotic bit is born out of recent travels both in Africa and in Europe. South Africa is mostly very clean. Yes. Really, compared with many other places.
And we are very in-tune with our African environment, not only when it comes to water management and paying for plastic bags (which we have been doing in South Africa since 2002, longer than almost anyone else) but also on many other fronts. Just look at those guys in the picture having so much fun with their recycling ...
At Rissington, we recycle all our glass bottles and tins and all our leftover food goes to emerging farmers to feed their animals. Once we have disposed of our paper responsibly, there is very little left for us to deal with. And in a further commitment to reducing waste, we are now only selling water in glass bottles - no more plastic - and we have sourced paper straws and biodegradable cotton buds. So we are doing our bit. And it feels good.

The "Where in the World" Competition

Here are the pics from the June Rag competition again. They seemed to baffle most people, with a wide variety of answers ranging from Florida to Lake Malawi, but if I had told you that, in the background on the right hand picture, Idi Amin's boat is (just) still floating, I am sure many more would have identified Port Bell, on Lake Victoria, in Uganda. It is a busy trading port for boat traffic between Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya and from 1930 to 1950 it was a landing point for the Imperial Airways flying boat on the journey from Southampton to Johannesburg's Vaal Dam. The route was opened to passengers in 1932 and it took ten days from departure to arrival. Never complain about an 11-hour overnight flight again!
The winner of the complimentary two nights is one of our favourite guests - Christopher Garety - who correctly identified Port Bell. Come whenever you like, sir!
This month's photo is a bit more off-beat. The key is to identify the buildings on the hill in the background, above the horse and slightly to the right. Give it a go.
Entries to by 30th October 2018 to go into the hat for the prize draw to win two nights, bed and breakfast, for two at Rissington.

On Yer Bike : Our Travels

Maps and globes have always been part of the theme at Rissington. The walls of the bar are lined with them and they get us all talking about where we are going and where we have been. Much of the time I am a vicarious traveller, experiencing the world, and our own great country, through the eyes of Rissington's guests.
This South African winter, however, I have taken two fantastic trips to two of my favourite African countries.
The first was a short but highly memorable jaunt to Uganda, where former Rissington manager Anton has settled with his wife Katie (a former gapper) and their new baby (yay) Kiera. They run an accommodation establishment in Kampala, but Anton has recently branched out and is also renting out fully-equipped Toyota Surf (Toyota HiLux-based) for people wishing to explore the country independently. It is easy to do. The roads are good, the campsites are generally well-run and the game-viewing, scenery, activities and - especially - birding are as good as anywhere on the continent. The vehicles are fitted out with everything you need from tents to teaspoons.
He has called his company Twende Overland - Twende means GO in Swahili - and you can see more on his website HERE . We spent four days bush-camping, not twenty metres from the Nile, in the Murchison Falls National Park. We had leopard and hyena pass by our tents and we camped like kings. So GO!
It is easy to get there on SAA, with return flights six days a week from Johannesburg to Entebbe, and it takes only four hours.
Anton is still running Red Chilli Hideaway, in Kampala, and he tells me that they are looking for an enthusiastic and energetic couple to manage their Rest Camp within the Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda. Applicants must be willing to commit for at least 12 months and will have travelled or worked previously in sub-Saharan Africa. A lively and out-going nature and a love of the outdoors are essential etc etc! For more details, please take a look at their website here
For my second expedition, with JJ and a gang of his and my best friends, I will give you one guess where we went. My favourite country in the whole world. Yes. Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe - a new dawn and a leap of faith (thank you, JJ)!
We walked to distant bushman paintings, we fished the Zambezi, we saw wonderful game and birds in four national parks, we went the length of Lake Kariba on a ferry, we played golf, we went to the Ruins of Great Zimbabwe and, yes, we did a bit of gentle 4x4-ing in our Toyotas. What more can I say? It was perfect. Friendly, efficient, easy, safe.
If you are going, get in touch, and I will give you as much advice as you like. I could talk about it for ever.

Anti-Social Media and the Rissington Gallery

If these Rags are not long enough (!) for you, more of my ramblings may be found on my writing website which has been redesigned for simpler navigation and now also includes access to past Rags and to my most recent blogs for Portfolio. As always, you can download Do Not Take This Road to El-Karama (by me), cheap-cheap, onto your iPad or Kindle from Takealot HERE or Amazon HERE.
We would also love for you to join the 'Inn Crowd' and follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter. Facebook followers will benefit from our occasional extraordinarily generous Facebook specials. They also get to read the Rag before everyone else and the Blogs now appear there too. We promise not to use private information for anything other than Rissington reasons!
Tour operators and website operators please note: you can also update your photos at any time from the website by clicking on 'Introduction' and following the drop-down to 'Downloads'. We urge you to do that. There is nothing worse than having stale and out-of-date images lurking on the Internet. Photos of the new rooms are available on the site.

Guest Quotes of the Month

It was Bertrand Russell who said: "I should wish to die while still at work, knowing that others will carry on what I can no longer do and content in the thought that what was possible has been done." Very sensible. My plan precisely. But not too soon, hopefully.
Our guest quotes are sometimes not quite as logical, though. Turning to the feedback forms which guests have the option of filling on in departure, the compliments for the staff continue. Not surprisingly, because they are brilliant. And we have so many that say things like "Perfect, just perfect" and "Don't change anything". Logical. And then this one:
"It was really great in every way but we would love to see some deer on the lawns in front of the villas to complete the South African experience." Where do I start? We don't have 'deer', as such, in the South African bushveld and we don't have lawns or villas either. We do have both red and grey duiker (which look a bit like a deer) on the grass in the early mornings if you get up on time. And we have dozens of mongoose and we have monkeys, but then, of course, not everyone likes monkeys ...
Another guest asked me, one morning, if I could do something to stop the noise of the monkeys running on the roofs before breakfast. Without blinking, I agreed. "Sure," I said. "We will put up a sign."
As I walked away she said "thank you" but when I looked back, she had a totally baffled expression on her face. Job done.
As I say, we will do anything to keep our guests happy ...
All you lovely, normal people, please come back to Rissington soon but BOOK EARLY! We are busy. Drop us an email to The sooner, the better.
We very much hope to see you.

June 2018

to the
June 2018
Rissington Rag

Off-Beat News and Views
Rissington Inn, Hazyview, South Africa

Please do NOT report this email as junk. Thousands of people really love it. Instead, to unsubscribe, click the link
at the bottom of the page, when you have finished reading the Rag, if you DEFINITELY don't want ever to receive it again.
And if you really are too hopeless to manage that, send an email to and we will do it for you!

A Day in the Life of an Hotelier

This is the view from our office today. The June Rag is always my most cheerful, as winter is the finest time of the year in the Lowveld and everyone is just that little bit more relaxed. And to prove it ...
It finally happened the other day. I saw a guest walking to his car and back whilst actually brushing his teeth. What a wonderful example of just how 'at home' Rissington makes its guests feel!
South Africans will be familiar with the City Lodge advert on television, making the same point, with a guest walking into reception in his pyjamas ... although mercifully this has not yet happened to us. The dogs bark when I (very rarely) wear long trousers. Goodness knows what they would do if Mr and Mrs van Scheveningen came to breakfast in their PJs and negligée respectively.
After 35 years in hospitality, one does learn to read between the lines, though, and between the lines on every feedback form, is a message that says 'Wow, this was relaxing and your staff are so amazingly friendly.' And more and more comments are telling us how peaceful and quiet Rissington is. We sometimes think Hazyview is getting quite hectic but admittedly, when compared with most places in the world, it is a peaceful backwater. Long may it stay that way. And for those who haven't been here for a while, the town has really cleaned itself up. Come and see.

It's all in the Name

Readers who regularly venture all the way to the very end of the Rag each time will have seen that the staff list is updated for every edition and often contains a bit of up-to-date personal news from them.
The staff names, themselves, that crop up in the Rissington Team list are often entertaining to the international guest, although we are so used to unusual monikers that we are inured to the impact that they can have. We once had a telephone technician called Different, for example. One wonders what his parents were thinking when they first saw him and named him that.

Wise by name, wise by nature
Rissington's front of house team, for example, currently includes Wise - who does indeed display wisdom - and Marvellous, who, although he spells it 'Mavellous', is improving by the day. He was particularly delighted when a guest addressed him as Magnificent, by mistake, the other day. Marvellous's second name (just to back up the point) is Excellent.
Many of the more unusual first names are often simply English translations of the traditional vernacular names, in the same way that Ahmed means 'praiseworthy', Belinda means 'beautiful' (that one's for my aunt) and, rather more unusually, Ainsley means 'from the field of hermits', which is odd because, by definition, the field should only hold one hermit, or surely they wouldn't be very effective hermits?
It makes sense, too, that names should be aspirational. There are literally hundreds of names across the world that mean 'powerful' and 'worthy of respect', although I guess this can only be wishful thinking when the name is actually given to the baby.
In many cases nowadays in South Africa, the trend is to move away from English names and back to the original vernacular names. The pronunciation of some of our names can cause a bit of chaos too, like Rissington's Hlengiwe (meaning 'nursed' in Zulu), Nonhlanhla ('with luck') and Ntombifuthi ('it is another girl'). The 'hl' sound is the same as the 'll' sound in Welsh (as in the Llangollen canal and Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch).

One for the Koreans. (We love Koreans).
We once had a very large waitress named Baby, which caused a bit of a stir sometimes, when I would ask her to do something for me: "Er, Baby, please take the food to the end table ..."
Victorian and Biblical names are still popular too. A hangover from the days of the missionaries. Over the years, among others, we have had Mavis, Violet, Gladys and Lettie, all of whom sound like Wodehousian aunts. We still have Gertrude, Emelda and Lily. There is seemingly a surprising glut of Brians around Hazyview too, and where but South Africa (and specifically Rissington) would you find a waiter called Ezekiel? It is lucky he is not called Nebuchadnezzar because I don't think any of us would be able to spell that.
Realising, too, that the average age of our staff continues to rise as we have so few changes in the team, we have recently made a concerted effort to take on young people. The other day we employed a delightful youngster called Lucky; he is the nephew of Aubrey, who has worked here for many years. When I asked Aubrey, from a list of standard questions, whether Lucky had a criminal record, his response was "No, he is still young." Well, hopefully, with a good job, he will never need to get one!
And the comic names are not limited to the staff by any means. Last week we received a booking from a tour operator in India, whose email address was If you are reading this in India, why not send him an email and ask him to book you into Rissington. He has a truly fabulous website


As promised, we have made even more upgrades at Rissington through the winter. There have been some improvements to a number of the floors and bathrooms, new curtains and blinds, and, thanks again to Aubrey, a lot of painting. I reckon the walls here are about two inches thicker than when we first built them in 1995, simply because of the amount of paint that has been slapped onto them over the years. The most substantial work has been carried out in the superior rooms, to bring them all up to the same standard as our newest rooms which opened in March. They have newly-tiled bathrooms with all the latest fittings, new wardrobes, drapery and lighting and, in addition, the stoeps have been redesigned and rebuilt.
To be honest, I have really enjoyed the work we have done and I am seriously impressed with the results. Rissington, though I say so myself, is looking really good and polished. I am proud - and everyone is commenting very positively on our new spruced-up look!
We have also worked on all the gardens, and improved the finish on all the pathways and ramps.
A Health & Safety upgrade is also under way, with new barriers going up on some of the stoeps. This has been demanded by Expedia, who threatened to take us off their website if we didn't make the balconies more than 1.2m high with no 'step-ups'. They weren't very impressed when, given that no-one else was insisting on this, I asked whether they thought it was necessary because their clients were more important than everyone else's - or simply because they were more stupid.

Climate Change

No, don't worry. Not a rant. A recommendation ...
I was amused to see that the London Marathon, at the end of April, was run in a record-breaking 'sweltering 23.7 degrees Celsius'. The same weekend, I was in Johannesburg, where it was a chilly 25 degrees Celsius and we all had jerseys on. It is odd how one gets used to the weather where one lives and anything else is extreme.
Hazyview's winter is giving us lovely cool nights - the temperature drops to between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius - but, during the day, we have a glorious, windless 25 to 30 degrees and no humidity. It is not sweltering at all. It is just lovely and warm.

Rissington winter sunset
So the recommendation, if you need a change of climate, is to come to Hazyview. We still have some space, here and there, in June and early July, when we are more likely to be generous with the rates and the upgrades. And we'd love to show you our upgrades. Email us now ...

The Snowflake Section

In a break from giving teenagers a hard time, here's a reply to the last Rag. The email read: 'Describe me from your newsletter'. Well ... I would say from your surname that you are probably Polish and that the fact that you evidently don't want to read the Rag means that you might conceivably have a slightly limited sense of humour?
This Rag goes to tens of thousands of people but I still relish every reply - and I receive many. To the odd one (did I say 'odd'?) who asks to be removed from the list, I want to write back and say "Why? It takes me days and days to write this damned thing, and it is free. Why do you want to be removed?"!
And don't worry, the Polish lady is not receiving this - because she has been described.

GDPR - boring but important!

On a more serious (but important) note, we are aware of the new General Data Protection Regulation in Europe and, although we are not bound by these rules, we aim to adhere to them in spirit. Firstly, we would never ever make our database available to anyone else. We never have and we never will. Secondly, our unsubscribe system works. If you unsubscribe at the top or bottom of this email, or if you send us an email asking us to unsubscribe you, we shall do so immediately and you would then never ever hear from us again. Which would be a shame. But the choice is yours. Everyone who stays with us (or leaves an email address by some other means) receives their first copy of the Rissington Rag. After that, it is up to them whether they receive another one. It seems fair enough to me.
So ... you will never hear from anyone else as a result of being on our mailing list. No double-glazing specialists. No life insurance salesmen. No reminders of dental appointments. No Chinese seed-drillers. No cures for erectile dysfunction. Nothing useful at all. Just the Rissington Rag. What more could you want?! And you do not need to Opt In or to get in touch with us to stay on the mailing list. You will continue to receive the Rag unless you choose not to do so by unsubscribing. Or, if you are Polish, by 'describing' yourself.

The Literary Section

Still on computer issues, it is difficult to imagine, nowadays, living without the UNDO button; or looking for a document without that little search emblem, the tiny magnifying glass; or searching a document without using Ctrl+F. Can you imagine? We'd actually have to read the whole document every time. Short cuts are a way of life now. Just like fast-forwarding to avoid the ads or re-winding live television because you missed a bit. How many times have you wanted to rewind the radio and been frustrated that it can't be done?
Nothing beats reading books, though. and I have been doing a bit of reading recently, after something of a break. And this is only relevant to the Rag because much of it has been from my favourite genre - Africana travel-writing from the mid-1900s. How's this, for example from Lightest Africa (1955) by F. Spencer Chapman D.S.O. (naturally!):
"Uganda is a Protectorate. Except for some early concessions, Europeans are not allowed to settle or farm here. A population of 3,600 Europeans, almost entirely Government servants or missionaries, looks after 5 250 000 Africans and endeavours to control the activities of 48 000 Asiatics."
Ignore, for now, if you can, the fact that it is so apparently racist (because I don't think it is intended to be) but look at the sheer arrogance of it! Where would those 5 250 000 Africans have been, he seems to suggest, without the Europeans to 'look after' them?! We find the same attitudes in HV Morton's In Search of South Africa (1948) which contains these immortal lines:
"The story of South Africa is that of two fine European peoples, as alike as two races can be, who have established their civilisation at great cost and with courage upon the tip of Africa. In spite of their unhappy schism they have managed to exert their sway over and to accept responsibility for, a greater number of servants than any nation has been blessed or cursed with since the slave empires of antiquity... The South Africans are a kind and generous, open-hearted people and hospitality is one of the oldest traditions. I remembered also with gratitude the silent ministrations of those servants who had done my bidding and made my life easier."
I mean WHAAAAAT?! Really? I agree that South African hospitality is exceptional - and the English he uses is beautiful, but the mind-set of these writers is jaw-dropping!
Then I re-read the fabulous Don't Stop the Carnival (1965) by the American Herman Wouk. I think it is one of the best-written books ever and it came as no surprise to discover that the story of the hero's buying and running of a hotel in the West Indies was based on the author's personal experience. No-one could have written so accurately about the (occasional!) nightmares of running a hotel unless he had actually tried it. But he is equally patronising about the typical West Indian, whose life is guided by ... "A piece of wisdom that his climate of endless summer teaches him. It is that, under the parade of all the human effort and noise, today is like yesterday, and tomorrow will be like today; that existence is a wheel of recurring patterns from which no one escapes; that all anybody does in this life is live for a while and then die for good, without finding out much; and that therefore the idea is to take things easy under the sun."
Not very politically correct but, on the other hand, maybe some of the advice is sound! So bring along a book and lie by the Rissington pool, chortling, as I have, as much with amusement as with outrage. I am now reading Chirupula's Tale (1937) by JE Stephenson, a travelogue in (then) Northern Rhodesia between the wars. I shall report back - but please look into the genre, if you are not already acquainted with it. For starters, and a little more political correctitude, get hold of some Lawrence G Green, an entertaining and educative South African travelogue writer from the 1950s. Available for less than a shilling in second hand bookshops all over South Africa and beyond. You won't regret it.

The Patriotic Bit

And while I am praising Africa, thanks to the transporting of children to and from boarding school, I currently drive through the infamous Bushbuckridge on the R40, north of Hazyview several times a week.
I mentioned last time that I thought that our country and continent were in a 'good place' at the moment and now, more than a quarter of a century after the end of apartheid, I am more and more convinced of it. Again, without getting political because, as the previous section demonstrates, we have a complicated past to unravel, Africa is - more than any other - a continent of unbridled joy, laughter and enthusiasm. Whatever the politicians say.
Friday afternoon, on the way home from school, is funeral-time and pick-ups full of respectfully dressed mourners convoy through our rural areas, paying their last respects to loved ones. Sunday afternoon, on the way back to school, it is all bright colours and powerful symbolic dress, singing, dancing, laughter ...
And I am left, always, with one abiding thought: If God loves Africa even half as much as Africa loves God, then everything is going to be alright.

The "Where in the World" Competition

So ... all you had to go was to get close and frankly no-one did, despite some desperate scourings of recent Rags to find out where I might have been. Well, I did mention it in a recent blog for Portfolio - and this photo was taken just outside Springbok, in the Northern Cape. The closest guess was about a thousand kilometres from there as the crow flies but I promised, so the winner is Joop Timmerman who, like a lot of people thought it was in the Eastern Cape. Congratulations. Come and stay any time. Two nights, bed and breakfast, on the house.
This month we are giving you four photos of the same place. All you need to do is to name the port in question and the city in which it is located. It is quite interesting, so why not give it a go?
Entries to by 15th July 2018 to go into the hat for the prize draw to win two nights, bed and breakfast, for two at Rissington. As the name of the boat tells, us 'DOUBLE HAPPINES' is guaranteed ....

On Yer Bike : Our Travels

Later in the month, for our annual winter camping trip, we are off to Zimbabwe, where we shall be staying in some fabulously remote places in the run-up to the first general election of the Mnangagwa dispensation.
As usual, I also have some local recommendations. If you haven't been to Fugitives' Drift Lodge recently, for example, then I strongly recommend visiting to see the fantastic changes there. It is the refurbishment to end all refurbishments. Have a look at their website HERE.
And if your child or grandchild or friend's child is studying the Anglo-Zulu War for Common Entrance (lucky child - it is now on the syllabus) then what better way to revise than to listen to David Rattray telling the story in The Day of the Dead Moon? You can order the CD or it may be downloaded from the website at You can buy one episode or all five.

Anti-Social Media and the Rissington Gallery

If these Rags are not long enough (!) for you, more of my ramblings may be found on my writing website which now also includes my most recent blogs for Portfolio. As always, you can download Do Not Take This Road to El-Karama (by me), cheap-cheap, onto your iPad or Kindle from Takealot (the former Kalahari) HERE or Amazon HERE.
We would also love for you to join the "Inn Crowd" and follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter. Facebook followers will benefit from our occasional extraordinarily generous Facebook specials. They also get to read the Rag before everyone else and the Blogs now appear there too. We promise not to use private information for anything other than Rissington reasons!
Tour operators and website operators please note: you can also update your photos at any time from the website by clicking on 'Introduction' and following the drop-down to 'Downloads'. We urge you to do that. There is nothing worse than having stale and out-of-date images lurking on the Internet. Photos of the new rooms are available on the site.

Guest Quotes of the Month

Talking of the new rooms, here is a good one:
We loved the new rooms. The view was fantastic and the style was very tasteful but the bathroom was too big.
Oh dear. Did you get lost?
All you lovely, normal people, please come back to Rissington soon but BOOK EARLY, especially for the southern hemisphere winter! We are busy. Drop us an email to
We very much hope to see you.
Chris, World-Class GM Hlengiwe, Ever-cheerful Assistant Manager Shirley, FOH Manager Nonhlanhla with the crimson hair, Genius Euginia, Sydney Australia, Wise #BeWise Shabangu, Marvellous (Excellent) aka Magnificent, Ezekiel, Mbuso (yes, he is back and better than ever), Sipho the Driver, Head Chef Thandi, Cindy, The Great Gertie, Emelda, Zenzile, Betty, Lily, Sanny, Sisters Ntombifuthi (Foots) and Nokuthula (Noggs), Nicklet (known, bizarrely, to her colleagues as Necklace), Zodwa, Angel, Danisile, Patience, Yvonne, Able Aubrey, Sbusiso and Lucky (the Innocent). And JJ, who is rapidly heading for the job of School Birder, and Bull and Rusty, the dogs. Of course.