June 2017

Welcome
to the

June 2017
Winter Rissington Rag
Special Snowflake Edition

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

A Day in the Life of an Hotelier

I don't usually dedicate a huge chunk of the Rag to one topic, but this month is going to be an exception. As our gap year programme has suffered a few DOWNS in the past six months (although, I should add, it is currently on a huge UP) I am dedicating the central section of the Rag to the current youth, affectionately known as the Snowflake Generation, officially a subsection of the Millennials. This is stuff you need to know if you plan to live on Planet Earth for the next twenty years, so hang in there. But before that, a few other random thoughts, as usual ...
Believe it or not, The Rissington Rag is 10 years old, which means that I have sent out about 40 of these rants and still people are reading them. Extraordinary. A friend told me the other day that the Rag says more about me than I realise. I hope that is a good thing, but of course it is not about me at all. It is about a hotel, a magnificent team of staff, a complicated industry and a fabulous country.
The joy of putting together the Rag is that it gives us all a chance to look back over a 3-month period and assess what has happened to Rissington (and to the country and to the world as they affect Rissington) in that period, and to reminisce about some of the quirkier moments we have enjoyed.
I calculated the other day, using occupancy figures, that during my 35 years in this job, at Cybele, at Fugitives' Drift and at Rissington, I have met over 550 000 people. Imagine walking 550 kilometres and meeting a new person every metre. That is the distance from Johannesburg to Beit Bridge, Paris to Bern or London to Edinburgh. The driving time for those routes, according to the infallible Internet, is 5hrs, 6hrs and 7hrs respectively (which, in itself, is an interesting insight into the traffic flow on those three routes!). Now go back to the walk, and imagine how long it would take to walk it, if all 550 000 of those people in the line were to tell you their life story or even a small part of it!
It also baffles me that, just as I like to air my views openly, many people choose to share their secrets with hoteliers on the basis, presumably, that we are famous for our discretion. This is obviously entertaining but also somewhat illogical, just as it is absurd that people apparently tell their best-kept secrets to their hairdressers. A hairdresser gossips to a new person every half-hour (or when coiffing balding middle-aged men like me, every five minutes or so). In the same way, we meet thirty new people every day at Rissington - and we also send out the Rissington Rag, known to broadcast the foibles of our guests, to tens of thousands of people. It is our turn to have our say. You have been warned - tell us your secrets at your own risk!

The Lunatics Have Taken over the Asylum

Let's get TripAdvisor out of the way, quickly. It does appear that the world's favourite review site is slowly and mercifully losing its way, with more and more people using it to score cheap points and bully hoteliers for freebies and upgrades: "You do know that I am a top TripAdvisor reviewer, don't you?" Well, no, I didn't but it tells us much more about you than you realise!
Rissington is still holding its own there. Number One in Hazyview at the time of writing. Here is a chart to show the breakdown of positive views of Rissington, kindly provided by guest and professional statistician Scott Franklin from Queensland, Australia, who not only came up with the proud-making statistic that only 1 in 100 reviewers of Rissington finds it to be below average but also compared our ratings with those of a number of hotels and resorts in which he and his wife Margaret have stayed over the past couple of years.
He also compared our 'Excellent' ratings with the same hotels:
And our "Poor/Terribles":
There was, however, a patch recently where we began to wonder what had happened to the (presumably?) original intention of the site - namely, that it should be used to recommend a really good find. I mean, surely that is what we go to TripAdvisor for? Not to read the crazy thoughts of whinging frustrated critics, who think they can teach hoteliers how to run hotels by publicly humiliating them with mad, made-up, vengeful, sour-grapes stories.
Anyway, because of these idiots, it seems that many of the sane people have realised that it is not quite as much fun as they thought it was, thus leaving it to the lunatics and the complainers. Of course, there are many exceptions, among them numerous avid readers of the Rag. We love the positive reviews we receive, though, so please - you sane people - keep them coming. It is now even more important than ever to keep a sense of balance in the face of the occasional nutcase-onslaughts.

South African Inventions

This was such a fun section, last time out, that I think we might regularly add similar submissions to the Rag from readers, as well as anything else I might come across. I am grateful to my old friend John Haycock for this fantastic SA invention, photographed at the Dept of Home Affairs, where it appears to be lunch hour, with no-one actually serving. These sensible souls have therefore left their shoes to do the queueing!
No-one can beat the ingenuity of the average South African when it comes to minimising effort, whilst still achieving a satisfactory result.
Send in any good South African ideas or inventions you come across and, if we feature them, we will give you a free dinner.

Rissington and Rhino Poaching

Who would have thought that Rissington could be involved in the heinous crime of rhino-poaching? Well, the answer is, rather oddly, SANParks. We organised for two of Rissington's dynamic front-of-house dudes, Sydney Mokoena and Wise Shabangu, to spend a couple of days in the park, using the company bakkie (pick-up) for transport. But, wow, did we cause a commotion! It is a sign of the times that these two young men travelling alone were immediately picked out and bullied by the authorities, who followed them everywhere, regardless of the fact that they were obviously (highly) respectable and had two nights' accommodation booked in Skukuza. The guys were quite unsettled but the officials continued to hassle them, searching the car several times.
Finally, stripping the vehicle for the last time as they left the park, the security guard unearthed Former-Gapper Jonny's British passport, which he had unwittingly left under the seat, and decided that Sydney and Wise must have murdered Jonny and stolen the vehicle to carry out their heinous poaching spree.
The poor two guys were mortified. A more decent pair you could not wish to meet. Thank goodness not every tourist to the Kruger is put through what they experienced.
Finally - another thought for the Brits, especially after their recent traumatic election. Some Brexit advice photographed on the Sabi River in Skukuza:

Anthropomorphism

Still on the subject of the Kruger National Park, regular Ragsters might remember that one of my pet hates is people who talk to animals as if they were people, with the exception of the Rissington dogs, who are, of course, people. Although Bull, being deaf, should obviously not be expected to respond.
Anyway, this one amused me:

'It's come to my attention that you've been using your work computer to download violent images of zebra being slaughtered.'
The delicate nature of the idiotic bunny-hugger then leads us cunningly to my special topic for this month ...

It's Snowflake Time

"Will your children be adversely affected by the clocks going forward?" This is a genuine Sky News headline, presumably initiated by the unspeakable Kay Burley. What? Will they be affected by a one-hour time-change? Shame. Little treasures. So delicate.
And that is why the Snowflake generation is so-called. Because they are so delicate and because they are all "individual and different". And, in the view of the Baby Boomers and the members of Generation X - born in 1964, I am on the cusp of those two - they are therefore rather pathetic.
We Baby Boomers are the generation that gave you the Beatles, Genesis and Punk Rock. We are a dynamic bunch of go-getters driven by ambition. The Snowflakes, on the other hand, come from an era that has contributed George Ezra and Miley Cyrus and they cannot be trained, because they do not like being told what to do. It upsets them. They have an absurdly inflated sense of their own uniqueness and believe that we must fit in around them, pat them on the backs, tell them they are wonderful, nurture their little water bottles that they carry around with them so that they don't dehydrate - and we must always agree with their politically correct platitudes and remember that hey take offence easily, even going so far, at universities, as to ban speeches by speakers likely to offend their delicate sensitivities.
NO!!
The Snowflakes form a particularly hopeless subset of the Millennials - and this is where we need the Americans to prove us right. A 2016 study by SYZYGY, a digital service agency (whatever that is), found that Millennials in the U.S. continue to exhibit elevated scores on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory as they age, finding them to exhibit 16% more narcissism than older adults, with males scoring higher on average than females. The study examined two types of narcissism: Grandiose Narcissism, described as "the narcissism of extroverts characterised by attention-seeking behaviour, power and dominance", and Vulnerable Narcissism, which is "the narcissism of introverts characterised by an acute sense of self-entitlement and defensiveness".
There. You see. I am right.
Further to that, many Snowflakes suffer a particular level of vanity which leads them to work out all the time as they are so concerned about their appearances being inadequate. There is even a word for the condition:
Muscle dysmorphia : According the god of Wikipedia ... Muscle dysmorphia is the obsessive preoccupation with a delusional or exaggerated belief that one's own body is too small, too skinny, insufficiently muscular, or insufficiently lean, although in most cases, the individual's build is normal or even exceptionally large and muscular already. Sometimes called "bigorexia", "megarexia", or "reverse anorexia", it is a subtype of body dysmorphic disorder, but is often also grouped with eating disorders. Muscle dysmorphia mostly affects males.
Even in some of our competent gappers - the ones that do get up in the morning - it seems to manifest itself in excessive gym-usage, the ingestion of powders full of steroids and the devouring of absurd numbers of eggs and tins of tuna. (The lazy ones appear to be unaffected by this condition, preferring to get up at lunchtime instead of exercising).

'From now on you must issue a trigger warning before you can call anyone a snowflake.'
You see how easily offended the Snowflakes are at being called Snowflakes?
And it is not just me. I urge you to watch this video so that you know what you are up against: HERE
If you are a snowflake, I urge you not to watch - it might upset you to know that we don't really care about you, and to realise that ultimately you are going have to do things our way, not yours, because we are currently in charge.
In the interests of balance - and so as not to upset the Snowflake readers - HERE is the other side of the story.
And - in more positive news - there is, it seems, one innovation for which we should apparently grateful to the Snowflakes. Because they don't like noise to intrude on their delicate little device-driven finger-clicking worlds, apparently our cars and fridges are going to stop beeping at us. If only they can stop railway carriages talking to us, we shall really have made it!
And while the Snowflakes remain umbilically hitched to their phones and their 'I am special and the world will not cope without me for 12 hours until I am back at this desk' Out of Office Replies, the rest of us can carry on with our lives and simply put up a sign that says 'I am out of here - leave me alone!'

The "Where in the World" Competition

This was last month's photograph of JJ aboard an ostrich, which numerous Ragsters correctly identified as having been taken in Oudtshoorn, and specifically at Highgate Ostrich Farm. If you haven't been there, do go. The tour they offer is both edifying and entertaining and it is followed by an opportunity for some of the lighter (in kilograms) spectators to climb onto one of the birds and hurtle around the pen until said bird rears back and deposits the rider into a pile of poo. It's a hoot. This month's winner, drawn from a busy hat, was John Francis. Well done. Come and stay. Two nights, bed and breakfast, on the house!
For this month's competition again, detail is everything. Where was this photograph taken?
Entries to info@rissington.co.za by 15th July 2017 to go into the hat for the prize draw to win two nights, bed and breakfast, for two at Rissington.

Keeping up with Demand

It has been our policy, for a while now, to change and/or improve any aspect of Rissington that any sane person professes not to like although of course we receive very little in the way of negative comment, with Change Nothing and Never Change a Winning Team being the two most common threads in our guest feedback (that which is received from guests on departure, not the comments posted online by demented trolls). I particularly liked the feedback from 'Dan' last week, who wrote : "Probably the best accommodation I have ever had (aged 70)."
The greatest innovation - and our largest single investment for a long time - is the addition of a much larger generator, which has become necessary with the more frequent electricity failures that we have been suffering as a result of extreme weather. This cunning new machine comes on automatically in the case of a power failure and will ensure no more of the juggling of the power supply that we used to suffer with our smaller portable one. The new generator is almost silent, the beers will always be cold, the full menu will be permanently available and the water supply will keep on pumping!
General maintenance is, naturally, the biggest ongoing issue we face, with people somehow unwittingly giving hotel rooms so much more of a pounding than they do their bedrooms and bathrooms at home. To this end, therefore, we closed for a week in June in order to carry out a full and comprehensive fix-up of every piece of equipment, every cable, every basin plug.
We are thinking of putting in these push-in basin plugs too, but have you ever known one actually to work? I mean, you fill the basin, ready to shave and by the time you have covered your chin with shaving cream, the water has gone. To be decided.
And while all of this was going on, we fixed up all the thatched roofs on the main house and the four newest garden suites and fitted new lights to many of the rooms in order to improve the ambient lighting.

On Yer Bike : Our Travels

Although it is possibly a bit of a strange question, I am often asked which is my "favourite African country". Well, it is probably Tanzania because it is un-spoilt, friendly and relaxed.
But it is definitely not Egypt.
Perhaps I am too much of a control-freak to be contained at someone else's whim on a boat for ten days. Perhaps the endless security became wearing. Perhaps it was the filthy rubbish in the Nile and its towns. Perhaps I am just a bit of a Philistine. I just didn't really get Egypt. I found that I didn't get the answers I wanted as far as what makes the country tick now is concerned and that I was too bogged down in history that took place so long ago as to be oddly lacking in relevance.
I spent much of my time birding from the deck with some really great fellow-passengers - thank you Peter and Sue - where I saw my first Purple Gallinule, several Smyrna Kingfishers and Palm Doves abundant, but with about 200 hundred species of bird at Rissington on a good day, even that was not enough. The upside is that Peter and Sue are coming here for their next holiday, so that we can show them some of Kruger's 529 species.

Anti-Social Media and a New Rissington Gallery

As a linguist, I found the hieroglyphs (along with the delicious vegetarian food) to be one of the more interesting aspects of the Egypt visit, with each Pharaoh having his own cartouche (or logo) showing a literal transliteration of his name. And then I was sent this chart which shows that are are still using them:

Proof that maybe we haven't really advanced at all!
As I have mentioned before, my writing website www.chrisharvie.com has been completely reinvented and updated. As always, you can download Do Not Take This Road to El-Karama (by me) onto your iPad or Kindle from Takealot (the former Kalahari) HERE or Amazon HERE.
When you next dig out your tablet, I would urge you to join the Inn crowd and follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter ...
We are also continuing to revamp the Rissington website : www.rissington.co.za. It will have a completely new look by the time the next Rag comes out. Tour operators and website operators please note: you can update your photos any time from a new OneDrive Gallery HERE. We urge you to do that. There is nothing worse than having stale and out-of-date images lurking on the Internet.

Non-Snowflake Gap Year Students

Just a reminder of our gap year programme for pre- or post-university students. From now on, we shall be looking at taking on a couple of youngsters at a time, to supplement our superb permanent front-of-house team and to spread the benefits amongst keen participants. Anyone may apply but we expect that all successful applicants will be 18-25, at least half-intelligent, interesting, energetic non-smokers, preferably with a driver's licence. Males and females welcome, but not couples. Aim to stay three months. No hopeless cases please. No beards, no tattoos, no lying around in bed all day. Email info@rissington.co.za.

Guest Quote of the Month

Before I take you to the Quote, here is my fascinating fact of the month : A fake airport (one that didn't even exist) was sold by Nigerian scammers to an unwitting victim for 242 million dollars. You have been warned. They are still out there!
And for the Quote of the Month - a phone call. About 8pm. Italians:
"Hello, we are lost. We are trying to get to your hotel."
"Where are you? What was the last town you went through?"
"We don't know."
"Do you have a GPS?"
"Yes, but we don't know how it works."
"Do you know what road you are on?"
"The R something. We went through Nelspruit about three hours ago."
"Three hours ago? Nelspruit is only 40 minutes from here!"
And so it went on. They had evidently driven down from Johannesburg and then taken the same road back again - to Johannesburg. They were totally baffled, they had no map and they couldn't operate the GPS that they had hired with the car. They finally got here at midnight after an eleven-hour drive which should have taken a maximum of four. Needless to say, they had booked through Booking.com.
The next day, we had a call from arriving guests who were stuck outside Graskop with a puncture, who couldn't change the tyre. We put it down to incompetence until they explained that they had been charged by a rhino in Kruger the day before and were to terrified to get out of the car. How were they to know that there were no rhinos in Graskop?
Finally, to the person who stole the hair-dryer from one of the budget rooms, well done. I am glad that you also stole the Bible - I hope you read the latter, especially Exodus chapter XX verse 15, which features the relevant Commandment with regard to theft.
Now, everyone else, please identify your favourite time to be at Rissington and BOOK NOW! Drop us an email to info@rissington.co.za. (If on the other hand, you are looking for a 6-bed self-catering unit in the area, in 14 out 21 July, we know of one available at Sanbonani, Hazyview, for a very good price. Email us if you are interested).
Either way, we very much hope to see you.
Chris the Snowflake-melter, GM Hlengiwe (and yes, in case you missed it last time, she has passed her driver's licence), Ever-cheerful Shirley (now Assistant Manager), Nonhlanhla (FOH Manager - currently away on a breeding programme), Genius Euginia, Sydney Australia, Wise #BeWise Shabangu, Godson-Gapper Will, Gapper Alex, Danisile, Sipho the Driver, Head Chef Thandi, Cindy, The Great Gertie, Emelda, Zenzile, Betty, 10-Ton Thuli, Lily, Sanny, Sisters Ntombifuthi (Foots) and Nokuthula (Noggs), Patience, Yvonne, Able Aubrey, Sbusiso the Womaniser, Guy The Guy and Ezekiel the Weekend Man (and, in his spare time, JJ's cousin). And of course JJ, who has just sat his senior school entrance exams, and his new Zimbo side-kick Tanatswa, who is also staying with us. Plus German(ish) Shepherd Bull, who is so deaf now that he barks at himself when he hears himself barking in the distance and Rusty the Mongoose Chaser.