December 2015

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

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Yet again, Rissington beats all previous years' occupancy figures.
Our 20th Year was our best ever. Book early...

A Day in the Life of an Hotelier

These are trying times but somehow the day-to-day woes of the saintly hotelier trying his best to please an ever more complicated and Internet-savvy public still outweigh the miseries of the real news in the media. There are challenges however.
For example, on what grounds could anyone possibly complain to a hotel about the weather? Think about it. It is like blaming your doctor for the fact that you have influenza or being annoyed with your car manufacturer for bad roads. It just doesn't make sense.
We are in the middle of the most serious drought for 23 years and we have had people complain that the garden is brown. I just don't get it. I have tried to explain (very politely, obviously) that the long-term sustainability of the continent, its people and its wildlife are possibly more important than the greenness of our valley and a clear view from God's Window. And yes, it is hot. And there are insects. But there is now air-conditioning. And there are insects in Germany too. And then there's Australia, where absolutely everything is out to eat you.
Smile and wave.

Rissington turns 21

We have celebrated 20 years of Rissington's existence with, yet again, even better occupancies than ever. It is amazing and wonderful and exciting every time we see that chart tip ahead of last year's numbers and, for next year, forward bookings are already way ahead of their normal levels. It is the advantage of a weak Rand, I guess, that for overseas visitors, South Africa is as cheap as chips and for South Africans an overseas trip is prohibitively expensive. And Rissington is the answer in both cases.
As the Dutch – who specialise in this sort of thing – helpfully and regularly point out, you can't buy a glass of wine in The Netherlands for what you are paying for a bottle in South Africa.
Anyway, it is time to drink wine from Rissington's award-winning wine list and to mark Rissington's 21st birthday. We are inviting anyone who thinks they have been here 21 times to come for a free weekend. There are quite a few of you out there, so drop us a line and we will make a plan.

A Continent of Growth

Everyone knows how I love a good news story and there is no better news than the fact that Africa is getting richer. Maybe – arguably – the wealth is not being divided very fairly and it is not going to all the right people but apparently 42% of Africa's dollar millionaires live in South Africa's four main cities. I am not sure that any of them live in Hazyview, but never mind that.
Click on this link to read where they all are: http://www.fin24.com/Economy/Africas-millionaire-hotspots-revealed-20150902
Africa is no longer the basket case that people say it is. Democracy is taking its hold and Chinese and Indian investment is making everyone better off, even if only by linking the rural villages to the business hubs with a tar road, or by providing a school or a clinic.

The Book Section

I haven't done much writing or reading. It has been a hectic year. However, I strongly recommend re-reading Jock of the Bushveld though, if you haven't done so recently. We are reading it at bedtime in my house. Also - for bedtime - try 101 Kruger Tales by Jeff Gordon. Lots of true stories that will trounce anyone's do-you-know-what-we-saw-today tales. It is marvellous and it is available from Rissington's revamped shop.
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 R45 (down from R47) HERE or on Amazon HERE.
And if you want just a little bit of light relief you can look up some of my newspaper writings on my website www.christopherharvie.com and a couple of ruthless TripAdvisor responses by clicking on their logo here:

WiFi Wonders

Which brings us gently onto our regular section on WiFi Wonders. We have – we always have had - a ban on cellphones in our bar and restaurant, which is more and more frequently ignored by people who Skype during dinner and send pictures of our beautiful food to their families back home in Europe and America.
So the solution, of course, is to turn off the WiFi in the restaurant when people are in full flow. You should see their faces. It is SUCH fun!

Pigs at the Trough

For 18 months now, regulars will know, we have been taking on the traffic police to put an end to the corruption. Our Anti-Corruption Cards and additional signage, not to mention a fair bit of political pressure have been highly effective and I am delighted to say that where, last year, we were getting reports every day of guests being forced to pay cash to traffic police, in the past 6 weeks we have not had even one.
We must keep up the pressure though, so get hold of one of our anti-corruption cards to wave under a traffic officer's nose or cut this out, fold it in half and use it!
And this has to be the best cartoon of the year from the New Yorker on 19th October:
We so indeed sometimes struggle with livestock on the roads in Hazyview, even if they don't in New York, but it is all part of the wonderful, healthy Africanisation of our country. After all, we are in Africa and we are of Africa, so we should do things the African way. But obviously without bribery.
Not to mention - because I promised, I wouldn't - and talking of Africanisation, the inebriated teetotal room-swapping missionaries who accused us of racism ... DON'T YOU DARE!

Gappers and Community Work

We have a fairly full calendar for the coming year as far as gap year students are concerned but we would always like to hear from anyone considering taking time out from the real world to learn some new skills and to meet interesting people. I calculated the other day that during my career, I have met 550,000 people, which is quite a thought but, apart from good networking, the great advantage of Rissington's gap year scheme is that it gives a level of management experience to youngsters for which they would wait years and years in their home societies. It is a great confidence booster.
We are also getting even more involved in community work and my very competent assistant (and former Rissington gapper) Adda Birch Reynardson and I have various plans as to how we can extend that over the next year. Watch this space.
Many of you will have met Adda during one of his three sojourns at Rissington and he is a great asset to our little lodge with his boundless enthusiasm and excellent hotelier skills. He is becoming an accomplished wildlife expert and he has also explored many of the numerous great walks and climbs in the area, mapping them out so that we can recommend them to guests.

Rissington Wildlife

Herpetophobes look away and skip to the next paragraph ...
We looked everywhere for the snake that the guest had seen in her room but we couldn't find it and she was - if she was honest - not 100% sure that she had actually seen a snake at all. We very very rarely see snakes inside the buildings at Rissington, but to be quite sure, we checked everywhere, removed all the furniture, scoured the bathroom. Nothing.
And then some bright spark suggested we look in the only place we hadn't looked. The guest's bag ...
One by one, shirts, shorts and items of exotic lingerie were gently removed with a long stick and tipped on the floor and ... yes ... sure enough, at the bottom of the bag was a very terrified-looking cobra. They always say, if you are bitten by a snake, that you should take it with you to the hospital and this one had climbed into the bag very obligingly. But it hadn't actually done any harm, so we let it go, obviously.

Rissington Recommends

Don't forget some of the places I have recommended in the past. Look them up now, if you haven't before - and plan your next holiday.
You can read on my website about an excellent lodge, pictured above and at the heart if the Makuleke Concession in Kruger's Pafuri Region, by clicking here: The Outpost
And then there is La Marette Gites, in Brittany, France.
Look up the website at www.lamarettegites-brittany.com. It is really lovely. Sarah, the owner, is a renowned chef and she will cook for you if you twist her arm.

Rissington Upgrades

It has been a big year for upgrades and of course the most significant change is the fitting of air-conditioning. Now, I never thought I would say this, but I am SO glad, in this very hot year, that we have done it, although I wish everyone would learn how to use it properly.
And no, I still don't have air-conditioning at home.
Apart from that, every single room has been redecorated; there have been significant improvements to the décor and furnishings. The bar has been revamped, the chairs in the dining room have been changed and the menu has undergone a bit of an update, taking into account, even more than before, the needs of the fad-followers of the moment, not least of them, the gluten-free bunch and the no-carbs bunch. But what is the point of being allowed as much butter as you like, if you are not allowed bread?
And, inspired by my travels to Ethiopia, briefly, in August, we are also working on our prestentation ...
All in all, it is very rewarding to see people saying that Rissington just getting better and better. And it is all true. For proof, just see the “Guest Quote of the Month” at the bottom of the page.

The Where in the World Competition

The September picture eventually turned up a correct answer from my esteemed aunt, who recognised that her and my father's childhood home featured at the back left across the bay in the picture, which is Trearddur Bay on Holyhead Island in North Wales. A few people got as close as Anglesey though, which was impressive. My aunt may, of course, come and stay any time!
Here are this month's pictures. The six make up the Christmas Competition, which traditionally wins the bigger-than-usual prize of three nights, dinner, bed and breakfast, for up to four people in a hillside suite at Rissington (two bedrooms, two bathrooms, sitting room with television, outside shower, air-conditioning, private swimming pool).
As you can see, I have had a swinging year. Where were these six photographs taken? Click on the pic for a larger version:

Get your answer to info@rissington.co.za before 15th January 2016 to go into the hat for the prize. And remember, even by naming one of the above absolutely correctly, you might well be good enough to win ...

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 onwww.rissington.co.za/Brochure.

Rates and Important Information on Room Names

We continue to keep our rates down with no increases in tariff for the courtyard - now budget - rooms yet again, keeping our entry level rooms at R500 per person per night, bed and breakfast. And for next year we have held the price for the hillside suites to keep Rissington affordable for families. For the latest prices, check the website.
Pictures may, as I say, be downloaded from the website and please note there have been some changes to the names of the rooms, with effect from 1st November. In order to clarify the huge difference in the scale of our rooms, we have renamed the two courtyard rooms the 'budget rooms' so that the cheapskates who go onto the Internet and type in 'cheapest accommodation in Hazyview' will still find us, but will understand what they are going to get.
And of course, lucky things, they will still get air-conditioning and complimentary sherry. But nothing like as much space.

Guest Quote of the Month

A guest from Argentina: "This was a lovely place and I never expected the décor and the furnishings to be so sophisticated!" You see - it is true. Rissington is finally sophisticated. And it took an Argie to point it out. Fantastic. I am going to support them at rugby - but still possibly not over The Falkland Islands, although I have been to both Argentina and the Falkland Islands and I really can't see the similarity. To be honest, Argentina - and now I have to return the compliment - is more sophisticated.
A more bizarre comment, was the complaint in a guest feedback form, that it gets light too early in the morning. Really? You should try the North Pole in summer. It is a nightmare. Ask Santa Claus.
And, finally, talking of Christmas if anyone hasn't seen the clip from a few years ago of the Christmas sermon by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Gawd Bless Him, you need to see it HERE. It is absolutely priceless.
Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all!
Come and see us in 2016. It'd be madness not to ...
Chris the Herpetologist, Hlengiwe who still hasn't taken her driver's licence, Farmer Adda, Shirley, Nonhlanhla, Intellectual Sibusiso, 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, Thembisile, Aubrey, Not-so-intellectual Sbusiso, Patrick the Machine and Mbuso. And of course JJ who is the top birder in the School Eco-Adventure Club . Plus Bull and Rusty, who are out chasing leguaans.