Fairview Homestead | My Guest House Life
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A few years ago a guest wrote in our guest book: Fairview = Philda.

Initially I thought: “what an odd thing to write in a guest book”, but then I realized that this man actually understood the essence of what it is about when you stay in a B&B opposed to a hotel -that  personal touch added by the owner.

Whenever I show guests through our garden I feel such a fraud because if I am the one adding the special touch to the guest house, then our garden = Desmond.

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Certainly one of the joys of running a guesthouse is that you never know quite who will walk through the door…

 

imagesOne 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.

 

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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”!

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I once sat in a meeting targeted at accommodation providers and the speaker twice repeated the words: ‘We can not allow ourselves to become too precious about our B&B’s’. Well, It took all my self-control not to shout: ‘if your B&B is not precious to you, you should not have a B&B.’ A fellow guest house owner argues that our B&B’s are so personal to us that we often take criticism about as well as we would if we were told that we have an ugly or a naughty child.

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I have noticed that guest houses will often set the television to a news channel during breakfast.To me that is just one notch above listening to rap while having a meal – who wants to start his day with bad news, and let’s face it, ‘news’ will inevitably be bad news. For seventeen years my background music of choice at the breakfast table has been light classical music, but I also have quite a collection of ‘soothing’ background CD’s. I think one should be careful with vocals and I prefer to play soothing instrumental music if not light classical.

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Questions to a man addicted to gardening
Where do you get your love for gardening from? From my parents. My mother always had a beautiful flower garden and my father was very serious about his vegetable garden.

Plant collector or landscape gardener? I am more of a plant collector.

Your favourite flower? Aquilegia

Favourite tree? Indigenous: Cape Chestnut. Exotic trees: Acer family

Your favourite garden in South Africa? Old Nectar in Jonkershoek. And Vergelegen in Somerset West.

Your favourite international garden? Monet’s Garden in Giverny, France.

Favourite shrub? Viburnum family

How would you describe the style of your garden? a Romantic garden with formal sections and mixed borders. A Complete garden in the sense that it has flowers, herbs, orchard and vegetable sections.

What advice do you have for new gardeners? Make your own compost. Keep at least three compost heaps going. Use organic fertilizer like ‘bounce-back’; plant self-seeding flowers. Propagate your own cuttings.

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I have a few friends who also run B&B’s and whenever we get together, you can be sure that within minutes we’ll be sharing tips, recipes, a joke or a funny incident. Exactly a year ago my friend Liza encouraged me to write candidly about the joys (and frustrations) of running a guest house, categorized on my blog as “My B&B Life”. This week I want to tackle tricky issues around accents and cultural differences.

An Afrikaans speaking person will ask for breakfast at ‘half sewe’ (6h30), someone from England will talk about ‘half seven’ (7h30) and another person may talk about ‘half-past seven’ – three different meanings to similar-sounding request, fertile ground for misunderstandings! I’m sure fellow B&B owners will sympathize with my frustration (because it’s probably happened to them often!) when a guest who requested breakfast at 6.30 (which requires a wake-up time of 5.30 for the guest house owner) then casually waltzes in at 7.30. The problem is that you’ve been robbed of an hour of sleep with only yourself to blame as, chances are, you were the one who made the mistake with the half-past six / half six story.

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