June 2015

Welcome to
June 2015 Rissington Rag
Off-Beat News and Views
From Rissington in the Winter. Oh Joy ...!

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Winter in the Lowveld

A Day in the Life of an Hotelier

"It is a very special occasion!” the woman on the phone said to Hlengiwe. Actually, she said "speciaaaaaaal", like that. She then asked if we could do something really romantic like burgers and candles. Hleng said of course we could – and then pointed out that there wasn’t much point in candles at lunchtime on a bright Lowveld winter's day. The woman insisted. Hlengiwe agreed. We do that. We even agree with people when they are being stupid. One romantic Rissington burger on its way. Oh, and she added that she was allergic to onions. How can anyone be allergic to onions? It is like a cow being allergic to grass ...
It was a step up, I guess, from her normal (less romantic?) lunches at KFC. I am convinced that the next inhabitants of this planet (after all the humans have gone) will look back and trace the downfall of mankind to the introduction of KFC, especially now that they have evidently started rinsing off the 'chicken' with hosepipes in the parking lot. Man (and woman) will become extinct, eventually, from inactivity due to obesity combined with scurvy from an absolute lack of anything healthy (like onions, for a start) in the diet. I still believe that the McDonalds Drive-Thru, quite apart from the irritating spelling, is one of the first signs of the fall of civilisation in the same way that Europe suffered the Dark Ages after the fall of Rome. If someone is too lazy to walk into a fast-food outlet, how long before he or she is too fat to get out of the car at all? When they find humanoid remains in drillions of years' time, will they be wedged behind corroded SUV steering wheels under giant pairs of fallen Golden Arches?

See? Somebody agrees with me!

WiFi Wonders

Following my rant in the last Rag about the Swedish family who didn't speak to each other on holiday, but instead lay by the pool and fiddled on their cellphones, I had two interesting reactions. The first was from another family of Swedes, assuring me that it wasn't them (no, it wasn't) and the second from Aussie regular Duncan Purkiss, who managed to find a picture of them, taken later on in their trip. Here it is:
For the more high-powered reader, my cousin Stephen kindly sent me Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, updated for the modern age:
And don't get me onto selfies. For once I agree with Prince Harry ... and the New York Times, who came up with this cartoon:
Isn't it just the most ludicrous fad? It is simply not possible to take a good selfie. No matter how long your selfie-stick and how good the angle, everyone looks bug-eyed, banana-headed and mildly demented. Especially when sticking their tongues out, as seems to be the norm. And who wants to be photographed with Boris Johnson anyway? Or Prince Harry? Or Beyoncé, whoever she is? Now, Sia, on the other hand, I can understand ...

Rissington Improvements and Unlikely Planet-Saving

The Menu is due for some fresh ideas, so I will let you have those in the next Rag but we shall be sticking with our very popular system which allows diners to order half- or full-portions of almost all the main courses and thus to taste a broad variety of our delicious dishes. The food remains superb.

The Spectator again (obviously showing the preparation
of the Rissington Chicken Stir-Fry by some of our happy inmates).
In the meantime, the interiors of all the rooms have been painted in a new colour that glories in the super-culinary name of 'scalloped potato'. It looks great - almost magnolia but a tad more 'bush-butch' - and plenty of people who have been here many times have complemented us at length on how good our rooms are looking. We really have put in a lot of work throughout Rissington this past year and it has paid off.
The bathrooms have also been tweaked, as promised. Interestingly, so that we look like a proper hotel, we bought little stickers for the turned-over pointed corners of the loo paper (take care to remove before using or who knows where they will end up) and in another grown-up touch, we started wrapping the spare loo rolls in white tissue paper. The bizarre upshot of this is that people have started nicking whole loo-rolls. Do they really think we have wrapped them as departure gifts?! Oy vey.
You have to be pretty desperate for stories in a newsletter when you resort to photographing your shampoo but, in response to concerns about the old ones being hard to handle in the shower and in an attempt to be eco-friendly, we have new bottles for our delicious sandalwood and orange flavoured shampoo, conditioner, bath salts, body wash and foam bath. The new range was hand-made from recycled glass by Ngwenya Glassworks Swaziland. Find out more about them onngwenyaglass.co.sz. And for the person who has already complained about the new bottles, please be aware at all times that water is wet, and as such, makes the things it touches slippery. Once you master it, you won't find it difficult at all.
In another eco-friendly decision, we have also learned to love loadshedding, which is here to stay. We see it as a reduction of our carbon imprint, to be offset against the damage to be caused by the imminent (July) introduction of air-conditioning to those rooms that don’t currently have it. Loadshedding is simpler than planting spekboom and carrying out an analysis of all our suppliers to check their planet-hugging credentials, it is peaceful and it brings people out of their rooms and into the bar.
And of course the other great advantage of where we are, from a pollution perspective: it occurred to me that no commercial aeroplanes fly over Rissington. How many people can say that about where they live?

Rissington Wildlife

In our occasional grown-up section on wildlife, our resident Hamerkops have successfully reared two chicks, so the natural noise is doubled at six in the morning. It is a wonderful call, in the midst of the dawn-chorus din of the Spurfowls and the Wood-Hoopoes. Our numerous different Cuckoos have moved away for the winter to be replaced, during the day by the noisy gabble of a huge troop of Vervet Monkeys. In the darkness hours, we hear the cool-air call of the Nightjars vying with the Bushbabies for the upper hand in dominating the silent insectless night. We also still regularly see both Grey and Red Duiker, Civet and Dwarf, Slender and White-tailed Mongoose among other species.
In another form of Wild Life, we now have Bobo Mkansi permanently on the staff and he has been known to introduce a few guests to the wilder side of Hazyview.
Bush Paradise is a pool-bar-cum-night-club-cum-pub about six kilometres from Rissington. Get Bobo to take you there. I can't explain it on paper!

The Rissington 20th Anniversary Special continues ...

Rissington turns 20 this year and in celebration we are still offering you that anniversary deal. It has been one of the most popular specials we have ever given ...
Remember, for the rest of the year, anyone who comes here to celebrate their wedding anniversary will get a percentage discount of the number of that anniversary. So a Pearl Wedding Anniversary is 30% off and a Golden Wedding Anniversary is 50% off. Diamond is 60% off and so on. Here's the list again:
If you are in-between the numbers above we'll round up, but everyone, even the under-20-year celebrations, will be offered a minimum 20% discount. The deal applies to direct bookings for the period until 31 December 2015, so book now - but you must book to stay within the month of your actual wedding anniversary and it must be this year. Email info@rissington.co.za to make your booking.

The Where in the World Competition

In last month's newsletter you were asked to name this bird and tell me where it was photographed. The answer – and there were many correct entries – was that it is a broad-billed roller. A stunning sighting. Only the more attentive readers (those who read the whole newsletter, not just the bits with the freebies and the deals) worked out that it was taken at The Outpost, in the Makuleke Region of the Kruger National Park, where I mentioned I had been staying before Christmas. Ah – you see. Concentrate. This stuff is important.
The first-out-of-the-hat winners were Johan and Marise Jordaan, whose response was submitted by tourism stalwarts Luke and Karry Werth. Come and stay any time. It would be really great to see you.
The competitions have been a little easier to Google recently so this time I am giving you a really tough one. Here's this month's picture. Anyone? I shall be very impressed if someone gets it. To the point where where I will double the usual prize.
Get your answer to info@rissington.co.za before 15th August 2015 to go into the hat for the prize. You could win four nights at Rissington for two, bed and breakfast, in the best room available on the day of booking.

Anti-Social New Child Regulations ...

... as opposed to new anti-social child regulations (which maybe would be more useful) but this is vital to know if you are bringing children to South Africa. Please bear in mind that in terms of new regulations introduced by the SA government, any child travelling to South Africa with both parents must be in possession of his/her unabridged birth certificate, i.e. showing both parents' names. If travelling with only one parent or with other adults who are not the child's parents, an official letter or affidavit from any parents not travelling is required. For more information, look HERE. It is a much-disputed regulation, apparently aimed at reducing child-trafficking, and it may change, but it is best to be prepared with all the necessary paperwork.

Anti-Social Media - and Rissington Grows Up

Go on. Do it. You know you want to. Join the crowd and follow us on Facebook and Twitter ...
If you haven't done so already, you can also look at Rissington's website on www.rissington.co.za. And – tour operators and website operators please note – if you need new pictures for any purpose, you can lift them, including many of those in this newsletter, from the gallery onwww.rissington.co.za/Brochure.
And, as always, you can still download Do Not Take This Road to El-Karama (by me) onto your iPad or Kindle. Buy the e-book (what they now call the ‘pop-up version') on Takealot (the former Kalahari), where it's only R47 HERE or on Amazon HERE. I have put in the UK Amazon site this time, where it is £2.84 for the Kindle/iPad edition. Although it is out of print, I see that they also have one new copy of the paperback for the princely sum of £242.84 and another for £999.11 (plus £2.80 for UK delivery) although I wouldn't pay that much if I were you. It's good, but it is not that good. 175 people downloaded it after the last newsletter. Thanks! I hope you enjoy it.
On an admin front, Rissington has now grown up and become a company (which makes no difference whatsoever to anything except that we are more tax-efficient) so please bear in mind that we are now the very serious-sounding Rissington Inn (Pty) Ltd and we shall have a new VAT number soon. We shall tell all our suppliers what that is when we have it. Keep an eye out for the email and adjust invoices accordingly.

On Yer Bike: Our Travels ...!

I managed a skiing holiday after Easter and I reckon Tignes takes a lot of beating. I then took the opportunity to write about it on Trip Advisor just to show how that site can be used humorously and responsibly in the pleasurable activity of showing up all the other idiots who use it as a self-seeking soapbox. See my very fair and only occasionally aggressive review of the apartment we stayed in and of those other idiots HERE. I then failed to get my deposit back, which rather shot my argument in the foot but I am still working on that. If you do go, don't pay the deposit in cash. The friendly receptionist will pocket it and deny all knowledge ...
I posted my review on the Rissington Facebook page, upon which someone very helpfully sent me the Michael McIntyre sketch about TripAdvisor. If you haven't seen it, you should. HERE it is.
And I wrote a column about the place in the Sunday Times too. HERE it is on my website:
What else have we done? Attended an unmatchably superb wedding at Umngazi River Bungalows - a classic beach hotel in the best South African tradition near Port St Johns on the Wild Coast www.umngazi.co.za - and a couple of day and overnight visits to the Kruger National Park. I have been lucky enough to stay in many national parks throughout Africa and the game-viewing in the Kruger still takes a lot of beating. How are these photographs of a hyena with young, taken near Letaba?
 
And these on the Gudzani Road on the Eastern border, between Olifants and the N’wanetsi River Road:
 
Not professional photos, just great memories, with a point-and-shoot, of a May weekend's autumn visit to the Kruger National Park – and the accommodation and facilities are superb, no matter how much people like to mutter about them.
A final thought – and I haven't been there yet, but I have heard great things, if you are planning to holiday in Europe and looking for a self-catering gite in France, don't forget La Marette, my former stepsister's spot in Brittany. Sarah will also cook for you. Highly recommended. She is even teaching the French how to make a proper canapĂ©. Well, somebody has to do it. Look it up HERE.
As St Augustine said, around the turn of the 5th century: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” He is pictured here, reading an early edition of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Lonely Planet, before donning his backpack and setting off for his annual beach holiday at a Constantinople B&B.
And, as I, myself, say: Why shouldn't the people who work harder be better off and have more fun?!

Staff Mountaineering News

Many, many past guests will remember Anton du Toit, who worked here for almost ten years and also accompanied me on many of my travels. When he eventually left Rissington, he married Katie Brice-Bennett, whose family runs a hotel at Marangu, www.maranguhotel.com, at the foot of Kilimanjaro … and, remarkably, at the end of May, Anton not only climbed the mountain but also reached the peak. Rissington is immensely proud of him. Asthma? What asthma?!

That will be Anton in the middle, if you are confused.
Obviously Anton also believes the following to be true, although it clearly isn't (look away, pognophobes):
In other staff news, we have two gapper graduates, no doubt with their own mountains to climb, joining us in July and then former-gapper Adda Birch Reynardson returning for a longer period in September. We look forward to that. The rest of the team remains unchanged but for the addition of Bobo, who is family, and Mbuso Fakude, who almost is.
We are still looking to take on volunteers in the future but where we previously took on school-leaver gap year students, we have now changed the system and, except in exceptional circumstances, we will only be taking on graduates and university students. If you are interested or if you know someone who is looking at taking a break during university holidays or after university and before joining the real world, please let me know. Hotel school and hospitality students are especially welcome.

Rissington recommends Ugandan activities...

Talking of Anton, which we were, what better recommendation could I make than that you go and stay with him and Katie in Uganda where they manage Red Chilli Hideaway just outside Kampala. It may be a Backpackers (or as they like to call it - a flashpackers!) but it is the very best kind and just won a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence. Here's a pic.
There is also a Red Chilli at Murchison Falls – I stayed there in 2006 when writing my very expensive book and it is a magnificent place – and they also operate tours up there and in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. If you would like to look it up, follow this link

Guest Quote of the Month

Finally, my Guest Quote of the Month from a rather baffled Dutch woman, looking at Rusty, the Rissington Jack Russell: "We have the same dog but in black on high legs." I know. Sometimes I just don't know what to say.
And then another client: "This place is really nice - you should advertise it. People would come, you know."
Thanks. With our occupancy percentages in the high 80s and July and August already almost completely full, people are coming already, but we are grateful for the advice.
Come and see us. Lots of people do. In fact, it'd be madness not to ...
Chris the TripAdvisor Reviewer, Hlengiwe who still hasn’t taken her driver’s licence, Shirley, Sipho the driver, Thandi the Head Chef, Cindy, The Great Gertie, Yvonne, Emelda, Betty, Thuli, Gladys, Sanny, Zenzile, Sisters Ntombifuthi (Foots) and Nokuthula (Noggs), Patience, Joseph, Aubrey, Sbusiso, Patrick the Machine, Cha-Lynn (aka Mary), Bobo and Mbuso. And of course JJ who was the star of his school soccer team winning Player of the Year and has now also taken up tennis (Watch out, Novak!). Plus Bull and Rusty, who is not black and doesn’t have high legs. But then I am just like him on both counts.