June 2018





Welcome
to the
UNUSUALLY CHEERFUL
June 2018
Rissington Rag

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

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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 roambabyroam@gmail.com. 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 www.roambabyroam.com.

Improvements

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 info@rissington.co.za 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 http://www.fugitivesdrift.com/shop/. 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 www.chrisharvie.com 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 info@rissington.co.za
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.