(Guest Blogger is our son Alex Benkenstein)
This past December when I returned to my family's home in George I had an overwhelming urge to take on a project. I'm all for lounging at the pool, trips to the beach, boozy lunches, extended dinners and afternoon naps, but this holiday season I wanted to produce something tangible, some kind of material proof that my holiday had consisted of more than an extended hedonistic haze. In a moment of inspiration it came to me: an owl house!
When we lived in Namibia (1982 to 1995) no visit to the capital city of Windhoek was complete without a visit to Weylandts.* As newlyweds, Desmond and I could only drool over the beautiful furniture and occasionally buy a small item. As we set up...
I sometimes have to remind myself that I cannot please all people all the time. Recently I made the mistake of upgrading guests who had booked one of our Standard rooms to a room which I consider a Superior room. The Standard room of their choice faces west and currently looks down onto a hub of activity because of the renovation to our Annex ( which is thankfully on schedule and should be finished in less than 2 weeks.) So I thought I was doing them a favour by giving them a free upgrade to our Room 1 which faces towards the garden. Apparently, the guest walked into the room and exclaimed in disbelief that surely this could not be considered a luxury room.
Which has me confused. The guest who stayed in Room 1 the night before them wrote in our guest book: "thank you for a wonderful stay - incredible attention to detail". The last TripAdvisor review was from a guest who stayed in Room 1 and reads: "My husband and I stayed at Philda and Desmond Benkenstein's wonderful B&B for three nights. What a find! Breakfasts were outstanding, room more than comfortable and the hosting fantastic! There was an equal measure of privacy and the excellent company which made us feel very much at home. Desmond's garden has been lovingly cared for and attracts a variety of bird-life. The attention to detail in the house is meticulous: I loved the silver coffee pots, decorative antique books, and modern bathroom; my husband enjoyed attention from Juno the dog. We can't recommend this establishment enough ... and look forward to another visit in the not-too-distant future!"
Knitting is the new yoga, but actually, the inspirational topic for this blog post is an issue with toilet seats...
I doubt there is anyone out there who is not yet aware that I can now claim the title GRANDMOTHER. It is with the greatest of self-discipline that I do not insist that every guest looks at photos on my mobile phone before they are allowed to enjoy breakfast. I became a champion knitter overnight - shortly after Luella's birth I woke up with tennis elbow pain and suddenly realised: I just finished my 6th jersey for 2-month-old Luella - no wonder!!
But back to toilets...
I recently found the old Garden And Home Magazine (October 1998) with the article of our house - talk about a blast from the past:
Romancing an era - a long-neglected historic George House gets a make-over...
Because it was partly hidden behind high boundary walls, the true beauty of Fairview only became obvious once I drove through the new gates. Then the regal proportions and straight-lined design of the double storey dwelling, circa 1861, could be properly viewed.
Certainly one of the joys of running a guesthouse is that you never know quite who will walk through the door...
One of my favorite stories is of when I had Robert Redford and Winnie Mandela staying over - well, maybe not quite: I received a call from a gentleman in San Francisco with a voice a smooth as Robert Redford's (I looove Robert Redford...) He told me that he had just e-mailed me a request for accommodation, but that he was phoning to make sure that I would not have a problem with his partner being black. That's where Winnie comes in.
About a year ago my daughter introduced me to the joys of Pinterest. What an amazing way to organize your thoughts, plans and to get inspiration. (For inspiration you may look at my Pinterest board http://www.pinterest.com/phildab/linnekas-laundry-room/ )
And my other favourite: Houz
As a guest house owner, the linen cupboard can be both a frustration and a joy - depending on how the Fairview Homestead linen cupboard users use or abuse it. Now I am not naturally the tidiest person on earth (my husband and daughter are...) I have to work at it. And for that, I need rules that I as well as the staff have to adhere to. We sort, fix or discard every 3 months.
One of the sites we market on, just asked to give the 'house rules' Which had me thinking... In the end this is what I gave them: Fairview Homestead is a 7 bedroom guest house in B&B style - that means we, the owners, live on the premises. Our guest rooms are private, but we have a communal lounge/breakfast area for the guests. The only rules I can think of are : no non-paying guests in the bedrooms for longer than 10 minutes ; no cigarette buds in the garden, no unsupervised children in the swimming pool, be nice to the hosts...
Last Saturday evening we went to bed early as we only had one couple staying - only to be cruelly awoken at 11.45 by the gate bell being rung - repeatedly... As I have a slight hearing impairment the bell is set to ring very loudly and to discourage people from ringing it repeatedly it is also set to ring loudly at the gate. Desmond went down to open the gate as we could see that these people were not taking 'no' for an answer.
To my surprise I could hear that he was actually booking them in - we normally, as a security measure, do not take off-street bookings after hours. It transpired that they had made an online booking earlier and for some reason the text message notification never came through on my mobile phone, so I did not know about their arrival as I never checked my computer between returning from a late afternoon movie, making dinner and retiring early. That they did not think it unacceptable to book in nearly midnight without prior arrangement just added to the chain of events of how things go very wrong when they start going wrong.
Man comes to the front door of a guest house and says he's Mr. Smith, booked in for two nights.
Proprietor: 'Would you like me to carry your bag from the car, sir'.
Guest: 'No, she can walk, but you can bring the luggage.'
Innkeeper: The room is R1000- a night. It's R50- if you make your own bed.
Guest: I'll make my own bed.
Innkeeper: Good. I'll get you some nails and wood.
Paddy is booked into a guest house, and looking round,notices a sign on the wall. He says to the owner: "What time do you get in by?" The owner looks confused and says: "Well, I am the owner, I live here. Why do you ask?"
Says Paddy,"Well, on that sign there, it says guests have to be in before you!"
The owner replies,"No, it says: "Guests must be in before 1 am"!