September 2015

Welcome to
September 2015
Spring Rissington Rag
Off-Beat News and Views
from Rissington Inn, Hazyview, South Africa


Spring has sprung

A Day in the Life of an Hotelier

"This is almost like a proper restaurant." Alice Reynolds is almost eight years old, so she should know, but the fact is that she felt so much at home here at Rissington that she was expecting to have to clear her own plate and then (such is the brutality of her parents) probably wash it up too. Actually, her parents are very old friends of Rissington, having first come here just when we opened 20 years ago. I have always maintained that anyone who came then is very brave to come back. Those halcyon days when the menu featured such joys as Liver and Bacon Sosaties, then Lamb Shrewsbury (very Delia Smith…) followed by Caramelised Brandy-Marinated Oranges for pudding. But so many of our guests return again and again and it is good to know that it is like a homecoming. Even if dinner has gone up from the R45 we were charging for a 4-course meal in 1995. Just over £2! Now it is about R200 – so £10. Not exactly extortionate. And with the state of the Rand, getting cheaper by the day.
On the other hand, as I am sure Alice would agree with me, while the Rissington Team does the washing up, cleans up, makes the beds, shines the bathroom, does the laundry, cooks the meals, books the activities, chases the missing bags and helps in absolutely any way we can, we should remind those who simply can’t survive without a secretary, to bring one on holiday with them. We have had one of two of those recently – although, of course, we would never let on to them how irritating they were being.
And how is this for a request for accommodation? Received by a Hazyview lodge similar to ours:
Subject: A user has made an enquiry from your website
Name: Removed
E-mail: ???????????@yahoo.co.uk
Telephone: Removed
Enquiry: I'm interested in finding a new place to rent in Hazyview where I can keep my two old horses, 3 big dogs and 1 cat. I need 2 bedrooms, one for my 18 year old and one for myself. I will be working in Hazyview.
Blimey. Do you think the 18 year old - in the other bedroom - is a horse, a dog or the cat?! And how are they all getting here from the UK. Who is riding who? It sounds like The Incredible Journey!

The Hunting Debate Avoided for Cecil's Sake

Moving on. A theory. Assuming that most of us are meat-eaters to some extent (including the vegetarians who eat chicken, the vegans who inexplicably eat game and the Jews and Muslims who love bacon), I wonder where we should draw the line. I have always thought it was probably safest to assume that, as meat-eaters, we don’t eat other meat-eaters. It seems to be a neatly-fought argument against cannibalism. After all, would you eat a cannibal? Is that a logical argument? I am not sure. All I know is that the Crocodile Curry is probably the most popular dish on the Rissington menu – but a crocodile ate my plumber a few years ago. And he was a very good plumber.
Should we eat crocodiles? Or is it like eating dogs? Or cats? What would our Incredible Journey friend above think? Is it OK to eat old horses? Princess Anne thinks it is.
And don't get me onto Cecil the Hwange Lion, except to say that, whatever the rights and wrongs of hunting lions or anything else for that matter, I’d have thought Zimbabwe had greater challenges to deal with than this one. Instead then, here is a neat summary of various conundrums - from Grizelda in The Spectator.

"Oh no! He's going big game hunting."
Which brings us back to...

WiFi Wonders

The Spectator also gives us an insight into another phenomenom, which we also see here at Rissington, when children from different countries seem just to hit if off on holiday:

'They have so much in common.'
And weaning children off electronic games being very much the order of the day, thanks very much to the person from Cape Town who sent us the German board game Carcassonne. You didn't put a note or a return address, so we don't know who you are. Please tell us, so that we can thank you properly.
We will play it during the next batch of load-shedding, now that JJ has beaten me over 400 times at Monopoly. I am hoping that I might have the slight edge at Carcassonne, having been born slightly nearer the Middle Ages, read Knight Crusader and been to the real Carcassonne as a (rather disinterested, I seem to remember) 8-year old.

Rissington Improvements and some Back-tracking

The idea was - I know - to change our room configurations but to be honest, we don’t think the resulting changes were going to be effective enough in achieving our aims, so we have decided to keep two courtyard rooms, rather than reducing from two to one. It makes more sense to keep both those rooms at the affordable R500 per person (single or sharing – remember we don’t charge a single supplement) for the budget (and therefore Booking.com) market. We have put aircon into both the courtyard/budget rooms as well so, apart from being significantly smaller, they have everything that all the superior rooms have. We shall be changing the names to Budget Rooms and updating the descriptions on all the websites, but I would be very grateful of any travel industry people reading this would please change their brochures and websites accordingly.
In addition, we have put an inside shower in the hillside suite bathrooms, so there is now the option of showering al fresco or à l’intérieur. And, as I mentioned, my back-down on air-conditioning is complete and all the rooms now have it in time for the Hazyview summer. And complimentary sherry.
We shall, however, never back down on TVs. The hillside suites have them but nobody else does, meaning that the only television for everyone else is to be found in the library. Very few people miss television, but I did receive an otherwise very complimentary feedback form through the post, with the following complaint:
Only 1 problem. Room had no TV. The one in the Lounge was hogged by one lady from 6pm and still going strong at 9.30pm when we left - not prepared to wait any longer. She would not listen to us when we requested a chance for access. We believe guests should be limited to say 1 1/2 hours private viewing each.
He left a cellphone number, but I haven't phoned. There does not seem to be much to discuss.

The Where in the World Competition

For the first time in I-don’t-know-how-many years, I think I have flummoxed you completely. And oddly, after I had published the picture, the small town concerned was featured in Go!/Weg! magazine. So I don’t have to give away the prize … and the answer is that the picture was taken in Loxton, in the Karoo, as the road leaves town for Fraserburg.
It is a truly lovely piece of remote South Africa, where everyone you meet is your new best friend and there is more game on the roadsides (and unfortunately more roadkill) than anywhere else in the country. Who says the Karoo is barren?
This month's photo:
Get your answer to info@rissington.co.za before 2015 to go into the hat for the prize. You could win two nights at Rissington for two, bed and breakfast, in the best room available on the day of booking.

Corruption and New Regulations …

I have borrowed the cartoon below to demonstrate (reversing the roles!) the casual contempt that the South African Dept of Home Affairs is showing to visitors, especially with regard to the obtaining of visas and to family holidays and school groups. It would seem that the system is under review and that the authorities may relent on some of the more stringent new rules but for now it is total nonsense.

"May I see your papers?"
The traffic police also continue to be a major scourge as far as the demanding of bribes is concerned. In Hazyview, we have made it a personal crusade to rid the streets of these idiots and big things are happening as I write, involving a province-wide sweep to remove the corrupt individuals - admittedly, about 90% of the officers on the street and almost all of their deskbound senior officers.
Anyone visiting the province (or even the country) should arm themselves with our Anti-Corruption card - and they will have no problems. Here's a copy to print out and keep. Tour operators should please give them to their clients before they arrive in South Africa and the cards are now going to be handed out at all the toll plazas on the N4. That should stop them in their tracks.

Anti-Social Media

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 on www.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.

TripAdvisor

We received the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence and, for having been a CofE winner for the full five years of TripAdvisor’s existence (can you believe it has only been five years of this torment?!), we were also admitted into the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame which I took to mean that we would just stay on 5 stars for ever and not need to worry about idiotic reviews any more, but apparently that is not the case.
And we have the top Booking.com rating for a Hazyview hotel – but please don’t book through them. Their system frequently books extra people into rooms into which they don’t fit. They are a total pain. And I am anyway quite convinced that people who are too stupid to make a phone call or send an email on their own should not be allowed to book hotel rooms on the Internet without help from an intelligent person.

On Yer Bike: Our Travels...!

I haven't been anywhere recently but I have been enjoying the vicarious travel involved in following various friends en route to or from Southern Africa and Europe and covering varying chunks of this fabulous continent in between. I have learned to love blogs but I must get back on the road … although Rissington is just too busy. Having said that, I am off to Ethiopia in a couple of weeks. Expect some stories!

Staff and Gapper News

We are looking for one 'gapper' at a time from the end of this month (September). Male or female; South African or overseas; black, white or green. Don't mind. We prefer applicants to stay for around 3 months and they must preferably be graduates, highly intelligent school leavers, experienced waiters or students currently pursuing hospitality courses. Decent, hard-working gappers are well-rewarded but we are ruthlessly intolerant of loafers and silver-spooned entitlement types! All applicants must be able to change a light bulb without help - and must have actually done so, at least once, and survived.
Adda Birch Reynardson, a former gapper (pictured, not very flatteringly), is now back at Rissington in a full-time role from 1st September, completing a particularly effective and competent team.

Jack is on the right
Departing gapper Jack Armstrong, who leaves us at the end of September, is so taken with the hospitality industry that he plans to carry on in this vein. Everyone who has met him will agree with me that he is a natural and anybody in the UK who is looking for a delightful, easy-going and conscientious graduate (22 years old) would be well advised to get in touch with Jack and offer him a job ASAP! He may be contacted on jarmstrong199301@gmail.com. He comes highly recommended by this fine establishment!

Where do Rissington's Guests come from?

We have been carrying out a survey of our guests’ nationalities from May to August and I thought the results might be interesting. Here are some of the numbers:
South Africa - 32%
Netherlands - 22%
Britain - 11%
USA - 9%
France - 7%
Belgium - 7%
Australia - 3%
Between 0% and 1% are Austria, Switzerland, Israel, Korea and Samoa. So these are growth markets. Come on Samoans! Let's start a rugby team!

Guest Quote of the Month

Finally, my Guest Quote of the Month. Readers from last month will remember the story of the woman who said that she had a dog just like Rusty, Rissington’s Jack Russell, but black in black on high legs. Well, Ian Madgwick, our favourite BA pilot, previously mentioned for his art in these pages, came up unasked with a superb cartoon of the situation:
Actually she looked rather like that and maybe I am alarmingly similar to the chap in the middle. Rusty looks suitably peeved too. Brilliant! ('Scuse Ian's written Dutch - it is not his first language).
This month's Guest Quote of the Month is visual as much as it is audio. This beautiful python was lying in the winter sun half-way down the Rissington drive, in early June, presumably prior to a well-earned hibernation. I thought it had been hit by a car, so I got out to check. It was an absolutely perfect specimen, just over three metres long and, as it turned out uninjured and very calm. I got JJ out of the car and called my neighbour so that we could all have a look. We were within less than a metre. It was awe-inspiring. And then a German pulled up in one of those tiny little cars that looks like a toaster. I pointed out the snake and he rapidly wound his window up, leaving only a tiny opening at the top to talk through. "It is safe for me to get out?" he asked. We pointed out that we were all walking around...
Shortly afterwards we gave the snake a small shove to push him back off the road, upon which it flew up in the air, standing on its tail and flipped off into the bush. We looked around. The German and his toaster-like car had gone. Discretion is sometimes the better part of valour, after all, even in Germany!
And to the Dutch people, who wrote on their feedback form that they loved Rissington and had only one complaint: that they were "disappointed that they could hear lovely birds in the bushes but could not see them" - I can't help you, I am afraid.
We have very few snakes, honestly, and not all our birds are invisible...
Come and see us. In fact, it'd be madness not to. Email info@rissington.co.za to make your booking.

Chris the Herpetologist, 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), Adda, Bobo and Mbuso, as well as departing gappers Jack and Alex. And of course JJ who is the top birder in the School Eco-Adventure Club . Plus Bull and Rusty, who are as wary of the python as the German gentleman.