June 2016

Welcome
to the

June 2016 Winter
Rissington Rag 

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

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The winter view from Rissington's Office. It is 29 degrees!

A Day in the Life of an Hotelier

"Hazyview is a small drinking town, with a tourist problem." That’s what they say - but of course we don’t really think tourists are a problem. We love them.
Rather oddly, I think, I have been told by a couple of people that I was too grumpy in the last letter, to the point where I might even put people off coming here! And my author friend Tony Park told me he thought that the last Rag was too long – I think he fears the competition, although there is much less sex, blood and guts in my writing than in his. (His latest offering An Empty Coast is all over the bookshops now. Seek it out! )
This, therefore, is the maybe-slightly-shorter, definitely-shorter-than-a-Tony-Park-novel, Sunny-dispositioned Winter Edition of the Rissington Rag, full of joy and laughter. If you don’t have time to read it now, put it aside for a coffee-break later on...
Now .. A Day in the Life ...
The Rissington Guest Information is very specific on many points, one of the most crucial being that the Night-time Emergency Number is for genuine emergencies only - yes, Dirk, like your Broken Leg At 3am Emergency – and not for the ordering of toasted sandwiches or for humdrum enquiries. The reason for this is simple - it is because I answer it myself. So just imagine what a laugh it was to be woken at 4.45am by the phone next to my bed and for this conversation to take place:
A lilting Indian male voice speaking without punctuation (think: It Ain't Half Hot Mum or Peter Sellars's Goodness Gracious Me): Yes Good Morning can you tell me something I am phoning from a room.
Me (half-awake, and assuming that his roof has fallen in): Yes, sure. How can I help?
Indian Voice: Ve are about to go with the family into Kruger National Park for first time can you tell me are these animals all truly totally terrifyingly ferocious?
Me (warming to what sounds as if it might be quite a fun conversation): They should only turn out to be truly totally terrifyingly ferocious if you get out of the car, so you should avoid that at all costs.
I.V.: So ve can't get out of the car and actually approach the animals in the bushes.
Me: No, that would be very foolish. Dangerous, even. And very much against the rules.
I.V.: Thank you thank you very very much what are the most dangerous animals and how close can ve go?
Me: Lions, crocodiles and hippos are the most dangerous animals on foot, but elephants are the most dangerous to people in cars.
Not a good idea
I.V.: Elephants are dangerous really?
Me (tiring): Yes. Let me put it this way: You definitely shouldn't try to train them to pick up trees or carry passengers up to hill forts. Our elephants are not compliant in that way.
I.V.: Thank you for the advice we are going now.
Me: Have a lovely day. Your picnics are on the table outside the bar. Please do not feed the animals with the prepared-especially-for-you Hindu-friendly egg sandwiches. Elephants are vegans.
I am happy to say that the family returned safely from the 'bushes'.

Charity begins ...

I think we probably all sometimes have mixed views about charity and it is certainly a hot topic worldwide at the moment. Aid, AIDS, famine, refugees. There is also no doubt that some of the sights on television are quite harrowing.
In addition to the human crisis, the debate about rhino poaching, rhino products and rhino farming continues unabated. I don’t take a stance on what should be done, but for more information on rhino farming in China, try this link: Rhino Farming in China. It contains a lot of very interesting information, as well as a link to a report by the inimitable Dan Rather, American National Treasure and World Expert On Absolutely Everything (except, apparently on getting teeth that fit).
But if that was all a bit too serious for you, why not have a good giggle at Saviour Barbie, a comic piece with a serious point to be made about patronising attitudes to Africa. Here she is, pictured saving the world.
Click on this link - Saviour Barbie - to see how it all ties in with what should maybe be called the Madonna Complex, a modern-day version of Kipling's 'White Man's Burden'.
And then, just to be quite clear, there are also the scams, of which we have numerous examples on the Rissington loo walls. The scamsters are becoming increasingly cunning. However, for the benefit of the woman who asked me, after reading about it whilst relieving herself, no, Rissington was not funded by the British National Lottery. If only! It has been good old hard labour that has made Rissington what it is ...

From Red Trousers ... to a New Line in Underwear

In the last Rag, we investigated the rights and wrongs of red (and cornflower blue) trousers but we are taking a different sartorial angle this time. Who on earth can afford to spend a couple of weeks on holiday in South Africa with all the associated costs and then can't even find a few Euros to get their laundry done by Rissington's staff? This was the sight that greeted me (and the inhabitants of the nearby rooms) outside one of garden suites a couple of weeks ago. I mean, really?!

Letting it all hang out...

WiFi Wonders

One of the strangest side-effects of 21st century communications is that many of us who would once have had personal assistants no longer do so. Instead, we have become our own secretaries. We do our own typing on our laptops, we take our own phone calls on our mobile/cell phone or Handy (as the Germans rather cutely call them) and we organise our own lives in our Apple calendars on our iPads. The disadvantage of all of this, of course, is that we now work all day and all night to keep up with our planning and it seems to get in the way of our doing. And if we leave it to technology to update the information for us, it gets it wrong, telling us that we have booked a flight to Budapest because we type in an email that we are hungry – and then persists in sending us reminders to order Hungarian forints and book a hotel on Trivago.
Correcting our auto-diaries then takes up even more of our time... Oh, for a competent robot! No doubt the youth will come up with a solution ...

'One day I'll be rich and famous and someone will do my texting for me.'
But then, as these photographs show, nothing has really changed in 100 years, although one has to suspect that the news in the top picture might have been little more broad-ranging than the news in the bottom one. No Kardashians or Biebers, for example.

Commuting in 1916 and 2016
Rissington's WiFi has been improved, yet again, for those who are dependent on it, and now reaches into the depths of all the rooms; even those furthest from the main house. We are however sticking to our rule about not allowing cellphones or Skype-ing in the restaurant and bar. There has to be somewhere that we can be without out. And if I catch people cheating the system, I just turn it off. Someone recently accused me, in the guest feedback, of being dictatorial – Dictatorial?! Moi? – because of the ban, claiming that we all need to be contactable at all times in this modern age in case of an emergency, but I am sorry – I couldn't disagree more. What did he do before the cellphone, I wonder? Stay at home and lock all the family in with him?!
Ask Siri. I am sure she would agree with me!

The Environment and the Drought

The drought has taken a strong hold now, but it is somewhat anthropomorphic to say that it is a tragedy. It is not. Although a culling of Kruger hippos is under way and a buffalo cull is threatened, it is all part of nature's way of dealing with extremes and often those extremes are caused by man.
The game-viewing is as good as ever though. We had a very small amount of rain during March, right at the end of the normal rainy season and this has filled many of the dams which, only two months ago, were completely empty. We have been promised some winter rain by The Experts, so let us hope that they are right, for the sake of the farmers. And the hippos.
Here's a useful tip if you are visiting this winter. You can now pre-book day visits to KNP on the SANParks website HERE and then go straight to the gate, bypassing the form-filling in the office. Saves ages! And if you struggle, we can do it for you, the night before you go in. We also now have a sightings board at Rissington to enable you to see where the best game-viewing is, with information from the previous day.
On other environmental issues, it seems that Harambe the Gorilla has taken over from Cecil the Lion as the latest cause célèbre for people who haven't the first idea what they are talking about, although one does have to ask oneself why Cincinnati Zoo gave a (mis-spelt) Swahili name to a Western Lowland Gorilla from Cameroon, where kiSwahili is not spoken at all. And what is a gorilla doing on a zoo in this day and age, for heaven's sake? Now that we are seeing the last of animals in circuses, surely zoos should be next for the chop? No? And don't get me onto the toddler-chomping alligators of Disneyland...
At Rissington, Rusty's solution, for the avoidance of human idiocy, is to pretend to be a warthog. Can you see him?

Anti-Social Media

As I have said many times, we love feedback. And we love it in person, not on social media, so I am particularly grateful for cogent and intelligent suggestions on departure questionnaires such as this one, quoted exactly and in its entirety, from yesterday:
Excellent! The soup was very nice but it was a bit much so we didn't have room for diner: therefore smaller bowel?
Very useful. May I recommend 'bowel' surgery? To enable you to fit in 'diner' as well?!
Of course we continue to cater to all sorts of fads and general awkwardness. We love nothing more than a good eating disorder to challenge the chefs.

'Careful, Darling —it's high in salt.'
And then there was this one: Unidentified dried animal droppings on the pillow. I could have told you, had you asked me in person, that it was gecko poop. We try so hard to get them only to poop in the bathrooms, but they will not be trained. It's lucky Dumbo wasn't visiting.
And my favourite piece of feedback for the month: Absolutely no room for improvement at Rissington Inn. That is more like it. Or, from today...
I have no idea how hotel star ratings work, but your Inn is 5 stars in my book. Amazing service, great food and wine, relaxing beyond belief.
Again, I would urge you to join the Inn crowd and follow us on Facebook and/or 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.
I am also Guest Blogging on the Portfolio website. You can see my latest ramblings here on the Portfolio Blog. Dig around for the earlier ones. They are also posted, when published, to the Rissington Facebook and Twitter pages (but not much else is, so we are not going to inundate you).
And, still on the Media front, here's something new and exciting. One of my longest-standing and most favourite friends, Jayne Morgan, has just co-founded First Person, a brand new South African podcast all about ordinary-looking people with hidden, extraordinary stories. It's presented by award-winning journalist and author, Marianne Thamm. Go to www.firstpersonpod.com to find out more and subscribe for FREE or find it on iTunes to download and subscribe. Strongly recommended
As always, you can download Do Not Take This Road to El-Karama (by me) onto your iPad or Kindle. Buy the e-book on Takealot (the former Kalahari), where it’s only R67 HERE (I see it has gone up a bit but, very aptly for a travel story, you will also earn 670 Discovery Miles if you buy it) or £2.88 on Amazon HERE. That is 4p more than 3 months ago, so buy it now, before it gets out of the reach of your budget. I regularly hear from people who have read and enjoyed the book – and I derive great pleasure from those emails.
And a very special mention here for Jean Gilbert, who sold her copy of the book by mistake a few months ago, only for it to be bought by Peter Stanier, another Rissington supporter. When he heard (from me) that it had been sold by accident, he finished it, lent it to a few friends, and then kindly sent it back to Jean. Very sadly, Jean died before it reached her. An extraordinary tale. Jean was a truly wonderful old girl, an annual visitor and a great favourite with all of us here. We are very sad that we shan’t see her again and we send all strength to her daughter and devoted travel companion, Jo Dyer, and to the rest of the family – and the fondest of farewells to Jean, a much-loved Rissington stalwart.

The Where in the World Competition

This was last month's picture. It shows - as dozens of Ragsters correctly identified - the Conical Tower at Great Zimbabwe. The first name out of the hat was that of Nonhlanhla Ambrose. Lucky lady, as her name would suggest. Nonhlanhla works for the Africa Foundation, whose work can be seen HERE. Rumour has it that Barbie might have applied for a position with the organisation ...
And here's this month competition. It is a two-parter. Where was the picture on the left taken? And what is the bird on the right, photographed just downstream from that spot?
 

Get your answer to info@rissington.co.za before 1st August 2016 to go into the hat for the prize. You could win two nights for two at Rissington, bed and breakfast, in the best room available on the day of booking.

STOP PRESS: Rissington Fefurb Mania Ruins Travel Budget

To put it bluntly, we have just spent over a million rand on Rissington. Without going into too much detail (because it is boring – and you should come and see it for yourself), this is what have done this winter:
  • Put dead smart new floors and new furnishings, lights and pictures into the budget rooms – yes, we even love the budget people
  • Re-tiled and refitted the original downstairs superior room (Camelfoot), tarted up the whole building and its stoeps and re-landscaped the courtyard and surrounding gardens
  • Added new light fittings, furnishings and pictures throughout the lodge
  • Refitted the dining rooms with some beautiful new tables, lights, fans and pictures and upgraded the restaurant loos (but not removed the pictures!)
  • Tidied up the gardens, landscaped generally and added a couple of benches for that glass of wine at sunset
  • Refurbished the hillside suites with new art, sofas, chairs and outside stoep furniture
And, in the biggest job of all – and it is stunning:
  • Rebuilt the hillside suite swimming pool, opening up the view of the mountains, repaving and adding new sunbeds, pots and a bench and tables. It's almost like a real hotel pool!
Never has there been a better time to bring the family or a group of friends and enjoy the space and privacy offered by Rissington's hillside suites.
No pictures. As I say, you have to come and see it - or wait for the new photos to pop up on the website.

Luxury is Dead


A Luxurious Sunset over the Rissington Pool
If you only follow one link in the Rag, make it this one. It is a superbly written inside view on the state of the travel world in 2016. Click here: Why Luxury is Dead. Needless to say, I agree with every word.
And then, out of the blue, it was announced that we had been nominated for the World Luxury Hotel Awards. I have never heard anything more ridiculous in my life - I have always said that I will NEVER use the the word LUXURY. After all, one man's 'luxury' is another man's 'ordinaire'. Comfortable, yes. Luxury, no.
In the meantime, we remain TripAdvisor's Number One in Hazyview and have once again been awarded the Certificate of Excellence for 2016. And we continue to have fun blasting the people who use that forum (and Booking.com on which we also now have the 'right of reply') to flaunt their own stupidity. Have a look at some of our responses some time!

On Yer Bike: Our Travels ...

The 'On Yer Bike' photo was actually taken (by heroic Peter Spence, the Race Methuselah) at The David Rattray Foundation's Annual RattRace, which marks 10 Years this July. It is always a very special event and there are still a few rooms available for those who would like to take part, so if you are a keen cyclist (or even if you are just keen on looking at other people - including me - in lycra putting themselves through hell) drop me an email to info@rissington.co.za and I will fill you in on the details. There will be great company, some Anglo-Zulu War history, voluntary cycling or running and excellent food and hospitality, all in a good cause. It takes place at Fugitives' Drift, near Rorke's Drift, KZN, on the weekend of 15th and 16th July.
Uganda was wonderful. I strongly recommend getting in touch with Anton and Katie through their website Red Chilli Hideaway and getting yourself there for a break. I was there for five nights - two in Kampala and three in the National Park - and I saw truly wonderful things. Black-headed gonoleks, for example, and spot-flanked barbets, sulphur-breasted bush-shrikes, rock pratincoles, palm nut vultures, plus all sorts of exotic hornbills, turacos and plantain-eaters.

Any birders out there want to have a go at naming some of these beauties?
SAAirlink has daily flights from Johannesburg to Entebbe - and allow three hours to travel the 50km from the airport to central Kampala. Yeah. The traffic is BAD!

Staff and Gapper News

Gappers are now required at Rissington from February next year. Interested school- and university- leavers should apply by email to info@rissington.co.za. We like people to stay three months if possible. We have had some really great youngsters in the role recently – not least of them the current incumbent Will Pilgrim, who has been a total star, despite his refurb-associated blisters – and we have some interesting characters lined up for the next few months as well.
As you will see from the list below, we have also added some wonderful new people to our permanent front-of-house team and I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed being here so much. Please come and meet them.

Where do Rissington’s Guests come from? The Final Results …

We have now reached the final scores, after 12 months of keeping records – and the good news for Rag Readers is that if you are from the winning country and you stay with us during the month of July and tell us that you read the Rag, you will get a prize. Over the past 12 months, we have had guests from 46 different countries (that’s more than a quarter of the countries in the world). Here are the Top Ten:
8th:Australia, Denmark, Switzerland
6th:Belgium and USA
5th:France
4th:Germany
3rd:The Netherlands
2nd:South Africa
The winner is therefore ... Great Britain. Just. On 17.5%. Beating South Africa by only 0.5%. Anyway, it is nice for Britain to win something. After all, they have lost most of the football, most of their money and all their European friends... OK, yes, hang in there Wales. Who knew you could play football?!
And just in case you are confused about who you are, see if you can recognise yourself from the Nationalities Guide on the SA Tourism website. SA Tourism Guide to National Characteristics. Have a look. It is really funny, although I don't think it is intended to be! I mean who would ever have thought that the English could be considered aloof, that the Chinese would particularly dislike iced water and cheese or that the Brazilians would have an aversion to toothpicks?


Guest Quote of the Month

Finally, my Guest Quote of the Month was a written one, from the two 9-year-old sons of the man who phoned me at 4.45am about the Kruger. It took the form of a note left with our lovely waitress, Euginia, to give to the Australians staying in the room across from the children’s room:
And then they went on to nick the coolbox in which we had left their picnics ...
All in all, though, they were (like almost all our guests) lovely people and, of course, they didn't whistle in public, which, as SA Tourism tells us in the link above, is considered very rude in India. Like 'peeping' ...
There you are. It was (a bit) shorter. Come and see us. It'd be madness not to. But book early. We are booked up way in advance these days and we want you to get in.
Email info@rissington.co.za to make your booking. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Cheerful Chris, Happy Hlengiwe, Shirley with the Winnie Mandela haircut, Nonhlanhla, Sibusiso the Body-builder, Genius Euginia, Accident-prone Gapper Will the Second (soon to be replaced by Hugh and Phoebe), Melba (aka Anagrammatic Mabel, Toast, Peach and Nellie), Sipho the Driver, Thandi the Head Chef, Cindy, The Great Gertie, Emelda, Zenzile, Betty, 10-Ton Thuli, Gladys, Sanny, Sisters Ntombifuthi (Foots) – who has just had a baby at 43 – and Nokuthula (Noggs), Patience, Yvonne, Able Aubrey, Sbusiso the Womaniser, Guy the guy and Mbuso, the Weekend Man. And of course JJ, who has survived mid-year exams relatively unscathed. Some might even say unaware. Plus German(ish) Shepherd Bull, who is increasingly deaf, and Rusty, the Warthog-cross-Jack-Russell.