a guesthouse life...
I could not possibly tell you about every guest that jumps to mind immediately, but the truth is that over the years many people have arrived as guests and left as friends. Initially we would receive letters of thanks after a memorable stay and as I even in these modern days love to write a letter, I would inevitably reply and that would lead to more letters and, joy of joys, Christmas cards decorating our fireplace mantel any time from November. Today it is Facebook, WhatsApp and e-mails that allow us to keep contact.
I still remember my first ever guest. She was from Germany; she came to Fairview after she picked up our brochure at the local tourist office. Her name was Ulrika and she paid R110.00 for bed and breakfast. A few years after she stayed that first time, she arrived unannounced at our door and was most surprised when I exclaimed, ‘Ulrika!’ and gave her a big hug.
Then there is the truly remarkable Ms Meyer, descendant of the Justus Meyer who built Fairview. As a sprightly eighty-year-old she traveled from America to visit the country of her forefathers. When she arrived in Cape Town, they did not have an automatic vehicle available for her, but no trouble to her – she had last driven a shift car when she got her driver’s license as a young girl, but she drove around in the parking lot a bit and then took to the road to drive the 450 km to George. “Wrong” side of the road no trouble either.
Subsequently she has stayed with us several times, charming the hosts and other guests with her knowledge, wit, and stories. The room that she stayed in used to have an old mahogany cupboard that had a doorknob that always fell off. Prior to her arrival I had asked Desmond to fix it. When I walked into her room the next day, I was surprised to find the job done, as I normally must ask Desmond at least three times to fix anything around the house, his excuse being that he is a gardener and not a handyman.
When I thanked him that evening, he admitted sheepishly that he forgot. I asked Thea and she, with a shrug of her shoulders, replied that when she drove past the hardware store, she knew exactly what type of screw I needed to fix that doorhandle, so she quickly popped in to buy it and fixed it herself. Now how can any guest house owner not remember such a guest?
When the South African corporate travelers could travel again, after nearly a year of Covid-19 lockdown and remote working, one of our most our long-standing guests arrived at the door with a big bunch of white roses. I still get emotional just thinking about this kind gesture. When he stayed with us the first time, he asked me if I would mind if he practiced his flute in the afternoon. Now I must explain, all three our children played the recorder and I have had to suffer through many a false note for many years. So, I am sorry to say, but I held my breath for a few seconds before I said that I would have no problem with that, if it was not into the evening. Oh, my goodness – I could only stand there and smile like an idiot as the sound of the most heavenly music drifted down the Fairview corridors.
I am reminded daily, as I look upon a set of red leather-bound English Classics, that a widower had delivered those to my house after a stay during which he attended the funeral of his brother. He explained that his one son had emigrated to England and the other to Australia; they had taken what they wanted from their family home and the set of books was left unclaimed. As he was now also moving into a Retirement Home, he was selling off the last of his possessions but could not bear with the thought of that collection being split up as he and his wife bought it together as young students at Stellenbosch University. He saw that I loved old books and asked me if I would take care of it. Every time that I dust the set, proudly displayed in my lounge, I think of him.
During the past year with international travel suspended, I have been communication with several overseas guests via social media and per e-mail. It brought it over to me just how many people have impacted my life after a stay at our B&B. When we moved to George, Desmond had just turned 40, I was in my 30’s, as old as my daughter is now. Now we are talking about retirement, our arthritis and lack of energy. I remember an elderly Dutch couple who came to us for many years for their annual golf holiday to the Garden Route and on greeting me the one gentleman took my hands and told me solemnly that this would be their last holiday to South Africa as they just thought they were getting too old for the long trip. We both had tears in our eyes. Those are the kind of guests I remember.
About the blog
This is the story of our house, lovingly restored and shared with guests and family since 1995.