March 2016

Welcome
to the
The March 2016
Rissington Rag

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

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A Day in the Life of an Hotelier

Grumpy Old Man Syndrome is, of course, a reality and even a mere slip of a 52-year-old like me can occasionally be guilty of displaying the symptoms.
Before, I have mused in the Rag about the capacity of guests to break things (like loos) - items which can survive at home for years, even generations, without damage and yet somehow fail with monotonous regularity in the hotel world. This one beats me though. How the heck did this happen? The picture shows - yes, honestly - that some oversized buffoon actually managed to put his or her foot through a Rissington Victorian bath, leaving a huge gaping irreparable hole.
And that is not even at the plug end. It is the other, solid end...
As for guest theft - well, we expect the pens to go missing. And the soap. And the laundry bags. After all, now that almost everyone has to pay for supermarket plastic bags, a free bag is irresistible. But there has been a spate of towel theft recently (mostly by Booking.com clients, it seems…) and the batteries from the clocks go missing all the time.
So, in response, we have come up with a new range of genuine stolen items for sale in the Rissington Shop, which we are calling the STOLEN FROM RISSINGTON range. This is what the label looks like:

Ill-Health and Un-Safety

As more eager readers of the Rag will already be aware, like Singapore, we already have a ban on chewing gum at Rissington. People ask me if I am serious - and yes, of course I am. Does anybody ask President Tony Tan Keng Yam whether he is serious? Tony means it and so do I. It is a health and safety issue. We must take these things seriously.
We are even considering putting up a BEWARE THIS RESTAURANT MIGHT CONTAIN FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY sign, just as Sky News does before Angelina Jolie or Boris Johnson appear on the screen. What would happen if, say, someone was photographing the Best Fillet Steak They Have Ever Eaten and were to set off a fit in a diner at the next table? Good heavens. It is as serious as gluten-free pillows and peanut-free napkins.
And another thing. What do we do about the heart attacks caused by excessive tattoos displayed at the swimming pool? It used to be limited to footballers and their fans but nowadays even cricketers have tattoos crawling up their arms. Here's the Spectator's take on it...
And why, indeed, does every male under 30 wear one of those weird, grizzly (or worse, wispy) little beards that just cover the area around the mouth? Isn't it just another success for ISIS?

Red Trousers

I also think it is time that Rissington entered the Red Trousers Debate. There is a specific type of guest that wears red trousers and, interestingly, that type is far from exclusively British. The affluent 60+ Hollander is just as likely to sport red trews and there are some Americans too. (The discerning Frenchman is, of course, far too subtle for that and is much more likely to don a salmon pink or lemon-yellow golf shirt, thus combining style with effortless effeteness.)
This is Country Life's take on it all. Click on the cartoon below to read their piece entitled "In Defence of Red Trousers".
As you will read, I am right up there in the fashion stakes in that my grandfather was a red trousers man and, although I only wore long trousers three times last year, I have to admit to owning a pair in cornflower blue - and to a couple of pairs of red shorts, naturellement.
Who would have thought it?! After all, I was voted 'Worst Dressed Man in Graaff-Reinet' in 2008 - and that takes some doing.

Wildlife

For those of you who don't follow us on Facebook (WHY DON'T YOU? SEE BELOW TO FOLLOW US) the wildlife at Rissington continues to astonish me. Apart from the amazing views, from our stoep, into the neighbouring conservancies, with regular sightings of giraffe, wildebeest, impala, ostrich and others, we have a significant range of wildlife ourselves. A massive band of mongoose regularly holds up the school run, a common (grey) duiker ducked and dived right in front of my car this morning and a couple of weeks ago, JJ and I even found a full-grown leopard tortoise in the bush just outside our house and a leopard (cat) was seen on the neighbouring farm last week.
Not to mention the monkeys that derive so much pleasure from running up and down our lovely, noisy tin roofs.

Wifi Wonders

Talking of monkeys, here's my favourite recent cartoon on my favourite subject:
I still get a great kick out of turning off the WiFi when people try to Skype illegally in the restaurant. It is such fun. You should see their faces when they are cut-off in mid-bore...
And, in answer to the numerous comments about our WiFi in the rooms (see below), we have just spent an absolute fortune improving the signal so that it is the same standard as that in the main lodge building. It amazes me that no-one ever says "thank you" for the free unlimited Internet. Instead they complain that it is not as fast in their room as it is in the bar. Well, we have dealt with that, so that we don't have to listen to you Skyping your news to boyfie or girlfie any longer. You don't even have to move from your bed. Alleluia.

The Environment and the Drought

While you have all been slaving away, we have spent most of our recent Mondays updating our knowledge of the walks in the area to the point where - in another step towards Complete and Utter 100% Guest Satisfaction - we now have a file of recommended Day Walks, with full descriptions and maps. Many of the routes have fallen into disrepair or are missing markers and arrows, so we have obviated this problem by marking the maps ourselves, showing where it is easy to wrong if you are not concentrating.
Dientjie Falls, the middle-top picture in the Christmas competition below, is at the bottom of the Blyde River Canyon on the Belvedere Day Walk, which still probably qualifies as the best walk in the area, but we have numerous great trails for you in Hazyview, Sabie and Graskop.

Gonarezhou elephant
On a different note, the drought is digging deep in terms of water resources, which has left us with excellent game-viewing, albeit with occasional rather harrowing sights. I took the above photograph recently in Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe where the Rundu River, like so many others, has all but dried up. Mercifully Hazyview has received some rain in early March, which has improved matters significantly but also caused flash floods and infrastructural damage in the Kruger National Park, where the Phabeni Gate was closed for a week due to flooding but is now open again.

Corruption and New Regulations...

Many will have been following the dramas we have suffered over the past year in Hazyview in terms of traffic cops and scams. Well, remarkably, with our cunning anti-corruption cards, we really do seem to have put a stop to the hassling of tourists. Where, this time last year, we were getting as many as a dozen reports a day, we are now only getting one a month. So well done to all of us!
Anyone visiting the province will still want to have one of these cards, obtainable from hotels and car hire companies everywhere. We need to keep the pressure up to be sure that the nonsense does not pick up again. It is bad enough that we have all had to subsidise our Lame-duck President's Palatial Residence, without asking you, as visitors, to pay for mansions for our traffic policemen and -women as well.

Anti-Social Media

Go on. Do it. You know you want to. Join the Inn 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 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 R45 HERE or £2.84 on Amazon HERE.
You can also buy a few copies of the actual book on Amazon. I liked this one:

I am so glad, without even opening it over the past five years, that Mike and Sue enjoyed the book enough to think it worth selling on at such a princely price.

The Where in the World Competition

These were the pictures from the Christmas Rag:

They caused considerable difficulty, Thanks to those who tried. It helped to have picked up from the Rag that I had just come back from Ethiopia.
From left to right, they were:
1) The view from Daniel Korkor, Gheralta Cluster, near Hawzen, Ethiopia
2) Dientjie Falls, Blyde River Canyon (on the Belvedere Walk)
3) The view from the bizarre Ben Abeba restaurant at Lalibela, Ethiopia
4) Swinging from the bamboos, Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia
5) Sunset from Glen Reenen campsite, Golden Gate National Park, Free State, South Africa
6) The Skyway Trail, Hazyview, South Africa. I have now done it five times and I LOVE it.

A rather more flattering shot of me on the Skyway Trail
The winner, with two almost totally correct answers, is Herman Kieft. He wins the bigger-than-usual Christmas 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).
And here's this month's picture. Where was this taken?
Get your answer to info@rissington.co.za before 1st May 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.

Welcome and Unwelcome Feedback

In all sincerity, we invite guest comments in our departure questionnaire and much of the feedback is very helpful but I often wonder whether some of the writers give any thought to what we say to ourselves (or aloud to one another in the office) when we receive their notes.
Frequent Guest Comment: Make the WiFi extend to the rooms.
Calm Management Response: Get a life - or walk all the way to the bar and buy a drink to enjoy while you check your emails, you misery.
Guest: Make the road better - it is too bumpy.
Management: Get a bigger car. Or just get braver. It's only a kilometre. Ever heard of #FirstWorldProblems?
Guest: The loo is broken in the room
Management: Please diet when you get home so that you don't break yours too.
Guest: The fridge makes too much noise.
Management: A couple of years ago you complained that we didn't have fridges. Now they are too noisy. Either turn it off or live with it and keep chilled all the medication you obviously need to take.
Guest: The ticking of the clock was too noisy
Management: You can only be glad that the previous guest didn't nick the battery, so that you can now take it yourself...

TripAdvisor - Blasting the Idiots

But of course the comments aren't only made in helpful questionnaires. Many are blammed all over the Internet. We recently received our 400th TripAdvisor review but we are coping quite well with the concept nowadays. As I have long maintained, and most people now agree, the reviews usually tell us far more about the reviewers than they do about the lodge. It can be proof of what total plonkers some people can be (see the Selfish! review HERE) or, more entertainingly, it can fill us in on such mundanities as what 'Travelfreak' likes as his/her preferred breakfast cereal or why 'Earthzombie' thinks that life is impossible without 80 channels of rubbish on a television in his/her bedroom, even when on holiday.
I was however gratified that my old friend, the respected travel writer Pippa de Bruyn, writing in Getaway magazine, agreed with TripAdvisor's discerning users that Rissington was indeed the best of its kind in Hazyview.

On Yer Bike: Our Travels...!

I have just returned from Zimbabwe. Go. It is amazing. Clean. Safe. Polite. And utterly wonderful in every respect. Among other spots, we visited the spectacular balancing rocks at Matopos - or Matobo, as it is now called - outside Bulawayo, where Cecil Rhodes is buried and where, at his graveside, I overheard a fascinatingly open-minded group of students discussing that man's useful legacy to them as Zimbabweans.

Matopos - Rhodes Must Stay
It was extraordinary. Perhaps it takes a bit of hardship to focus the mind - and to allow Zimbabweans to see the world with so much more clarity than students in such hifalutin establishments as the universities of Oxford and Cape Town.
At the end of April, I am off to Uganda to see Anton (remember him - he worked here for more than ten years?) and his wife Katie and to see what they are up to at the lodge they are managing. Full report in the Sunday Times (with any luck) and the next edition of the Rag.
Anton and Katie are also looking for someone to help them out with the running of Red Chilli Hideaway at Murchison Falls in Northern Uganda, so if you know of someone who might fit the bill, email me at info@rissington.co.za and I will send you the full job specs. The applicant must have worked in sub-Saharan Africa before and have some experience in hospitality. It would be for a 2 month period starting ASAP.

Staff and Gapper News

Gappers are now required at Rissington from November onwards and into next year. Applicants must be able a) to demonstrate initiative and b) to make coffee, conversation and own bed. Interested school- and university-leavers should apply by email to info@rissington.co.za. We like people to stay three months if possible. More details on request. Losers and lost souls need not apply.

Where do Rissington's Guests come from?

As readers may be aware, we have been carrying out a survey of our guests' nationalities since May last year so here's an update after 9 months of the survey. The previous figures I gave you after the first 3 months appear in brackets. It is interesting how things are evening out now that we have been through the high season, but expect South Africa to inch ahead after the winter.
South Africa - 17% (32%)
Netherlands - 18% (22%)
Britain - 17% (11%)
Germany - 11% (4%)
USA - 6% (9%)
France - 9% (7%)
Belgium - 7% (7%)
Australia - 2% (3%)
Some of the markets where we obviously need to work on our presence are Guatemala, Guyana, Malaysia, Russia, Serbia, Singapore and Slovenia, all on 0.1% or one person each. On second thoughts, though, we won't bother with Russia. One Russian was enough.
Final results for a 12-month period will appear in the June Rag.
Most important, though, is the number of return guests, which continues to climb and climb. On a random night last week 22 of the 36 people in the dining room had been here before.
And even more gratifyingly, after a four-day stay, one regular told me that he felt that we had 'lifted (our) already-high game by several notches' since he was last here three years ago. Good to know.

Guest Quote of the Month

Finally, my Guest Quote of the Month is another useful piece of feedback on a departure questionnaire. It simply said "We love the ever-smelling staff". Thank you. I think we have got the message...
Email info@rissington.co.za to make your booking and remember we are even more generous than usual in the winter months.
Come and see us. It'd be madness not to.

Chris the Optimist, Hlengiwe who still hasn't taken her driver's licence, Adda (in absentia), Shirley, Nonhlanhla the former Croupier, Intellectual Sibusiso, Genius Eugenia, Soon-to-be-ex-Gapper Will (and to be replaced by another Will), Sipho the Driver, Thandi the Head Chef, Cindy, The Great Gertie, Emelda, Zenzile, Betty, Thuli, Gladys, Sanny, Sisters Ntombifuthi (Foots) and Nokuthula (Noggs), Patience, Yvonne, Bongiwe, Aubrey, Not-so-intellectual Sbusiso and Mbuso, the Weekend Man. And of course JJ, who is becoming something of a legend at tennis (without any help from illegal substances, unlike Ms Sharapova). Plus Bull and Rusty, who are struggling in the heat and enjoying the rain.