The QUITE FUN September 2018 Rissington Rag

to the
September 2018
Rissington Rag

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

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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.

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