Liz’s pick of the week!

Bronwen 8Bronwen 2Want something really special to do next Saturday – you have lots of warning!  Bronwen Findlay is having an open studio day. Pop-up exhibitions by their very nature often have a more spontaneous and intimate feel and even more so when the artist is present and the venue is the artist’s own home.  It will be a treat to visit Bronwen’s home which reflects her gentle quiet manner, her quirky individuality and her engaged critical mind.

Bronwen 3Drawing inspiration from objects of everyday life particularly those traditionally associated with the domestic  realm – such as flowers, fabrics, crockery – Bronwen,  (I can’t call her Findlay … it just doesn’t sound right!) works with energized daubs and slashes of brightly coloured impasto paint.   While very easy to live with, her works are not merely decorative.  Bronwen elevates the apparently mundane and the prosaic, both through her powerful  painting technique and because of the enigmatic yet familiar quality of objects she uses, objects chosen for their personal, familial and historical significance.   …. And often for the sheer joy of their prettiness.   Bronwen is also a first class print-maker and mosaicist.  I was privileged to see a recently installed large scale double- paneled mosaic of indigenous South African birds , a commission for an art collector and friend of mine. Bronwen Findlay is a well-established artist: she has been represented on numerous group shows and is represented in important  art museums and corporate collections. Her last solo show which was very successful, was held at the Everard Read Gallery in 2012.  If you want to read up more on her work go to

bronwenWorks range in scale and price – from R5000 to R95 000 – so offering very  good opportunities for people to look,  to begin their collections, to add to them, or just for the pure love of art and experience of an artist’s home – in this case an eccentric and spectacular one!  Bronwen’s home is eclectic, charming, funky with the most wonderful  warm welcoming feel to it.  Bronwen as person,  artist and home-maker  are completely congruent. Did I mention she’s a teacher too?

You’ll have two opportunities to visit, as she has open studio days on the 14th and the following Saturday 21st November- from 10 to 6 at 43 Barnes Rd Brixton. You won’t be disappointed.

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Another award for Liz at Lancaster

Zac and Liz at the 2016 National Lilizela Awards

Zac and Liz at the 2016 National Lilizela Awards

There was huge jubilation at Liz at Lancaster after Thursday night.  Zac and Liz attended the Lilizela Awards dinner on 22nd October at the Sandton Convention Centre and walked away with the national, yes …. NATIONAL, Lilizela award in the category 4 star guesthouse. What an honour and achievement!  The Lilizela Awards are South Africa’s National travel and tourism awards run under the auspices of South African Tourism.  For all of us at Liz at Lancaster, winning the Gauteng Provincial Award was exciting enough but then to come home with the National Gold trophy was the final goal realized.   So many congratulations are due to all at Liz at Lancaster who have made this possible.

As Liz has said often – we don’t have sea views, mountain scenery, big five game drives or scenic wine routes ‘on tap’ (forgive the pun); we don’t have 5 star chic contemporary interiors, infinity pools, rolling lawns or plush white cane patio furniture; our guesthouse was not custom built but has grown ‘like Topsy’ in quite idionsyncratic ways;  we are located in a suburban Jozi property – nothing spectacular … except that is, … for the team at Liz at Lancaster.


Zac proudly holding our certificate and award

They really do go the extra mile. Apart from the fact that we entered the competition (if you want to win the Lotto, you have to buy a ticket), we think that the reason that we won the Award in our category is  really down to the people at Liz at Lancaster, who all bring different skills and capacities to enhance the guest experience.  Superb breakfasts to order are prepared by Zac who has also provided on-site transport and has overseen all small maintenance issues; Catherine along with Zac, manages guests needs with a quiet grace and competence; laundry and housekeeping is done under Thandie’s  almost obsessive eye (backed up by Rose); the legendary garden is nurtured by Alick;  and Liz answers all booking enquiries and gives insider information as to what to do and see in Joburg. So many guests comment on how every detail is seen to, every need answered and always with as much care and personal yet unobtrusive attention as possible. Amid this celebration, the sad news for us, and for all our guests, is that Zac is leaving us at the end of October to start a new phase in his life as an entrepreneur back home in Zimbabwe, with his family.  But that is for another blog post – suffice to say – ‘Hamba Kahle Zac. You have no idea how much you have enriched our lives and how sorely you will be missed by colleagues and guests alike’. The good news for us is that Tagala Mlilazi will be stepping into Zac’s role as of the beginning of November … BEEG shoes to fill!  But we know Tagala will bring different skills and talents and we welcome him on board.

Gauten Provincial Award

Gauteng Provincial Award

With three staff all living on site – Liz, Catherine and Zac (soon to be replaced by Tagala), there is always somebody at the other end of the intercom to answer guests’ queries and needs – another service perk.  And all the team have personal pride in, and commitment to, their work. We really do feel it is in this, that our success lies.

Minister of Tourism,  Derek Hanekom who presented the Lilizela Awards,  gave a wonderfully  motivational speech about recognizing the role of the players in the tourist industry and how it is the interaction with local South Africans that makes tourists’ experience in South Africa generally exceed all their [the tourists’] expectations.  We loved his slightly wicked tongue- in- cheek reference to the Minister of Sports’ blunder (about  South African teams losing their games/matches), by commending  tourism players at the Lilizela Awards  on all being  …. ‘winners’.  And yes, we think that it is thanks to Liz at Lancaster’s winning team that we won this award. Congrats to you all.

Lilizela awardsThe evening was fantastic.  It was glamorous, glitzy with lots of energy, optimism and recognition – just what we in the industry needed after a really tough year. Thank you SA Tourism and all involved.  Held at the Sandton Convention Centre, the organization was flawless – from notifications about parking options given the October-month eco-mobility restrictions; to the registration and table seating; to entertainment; to the entire flow and organization of the evening.


The entertainment was stunning with The Spoil (the amazing South African acappella soul and jazz band) being the highlight; the ambience and decor was excellent; the speeches, concise and to the point; and to cap it all – fabulous food and great company. Liz sat next to charismatic dynamo Cassilda Lilizela stageNtsane Government Sales Manager at Protea Hotels.    What a breath of fresh air!

It was an evening that made us proud to be part of the South African Tourism industry. Thank you again to all who made this evening so special.

So all in all it was a great gathering of those from all over South Africa who are all committed to the local tourist industry.


We look forward to the 2017 Lilizela Awards.

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Alick Ncube, Lyall Watson and the paranormal

baskets PotsI remember reading Lyall Watson’s Supernature  published in the early 1970s.  And although he was frowned upon by the scientific community for writing about inexplicable natural phenomena without any scientific proof, I  found his book fascinating.  I was particularly struck by his theory that  plants have emotions that can be recorded on a lie detector test and that they respond to sound and to the emotional content of verbal communication.  So what’s all this got to do with Liz at Lancaster’s garden?  Now Alick Ncube, who’s responsible for Liz at Lancaster’s joyous riot of colour,  knows nothing of Lyall Watson and his theories of the paranormal.

But when I spoke to Alick about how well a plant was doing after he had moved it, he Alick Yard flowers Aug 2014said with his quiet grace and shy smile ‘But I have been talking to it so it will be happy and grow.’  On another occasion we were chatting and he said ‘I love working in the garden – it’s like holding a baby.’ How much more of a nurturer could a gardener be?  So according to Lyall Watson and Alick Ncube the plants and flowers are hearing Alick’s gentle voice of encouragement and are responding to the emotional content of caring and tending.

Watson was born Malcolm Lyall-Watson in 1939 in Johannesburg. An exceptionally bright student, he graduated at 19 from Wits University with degrees in Botany and Zoology.  At 23 he was director of Johannesburg Zoo and was later to complete a doctorate in animal behavior under Desmond Morris, author of The Naked Ape, and then curator of mammals at London Zoo.  Watson became an expedition leader and according to his
obituary in the Telegraph (he died in 2008), he ‘joined BBC Television as a producer and reporter on Tomorrow’s GardenWorld, abandoned his given name of Malcolm, started a consultancy, designed and directed zoos, ran a safari company in Kenya and founded a marine national park in the Seychelles.’

So when guests enjoy and comment on all aspects of Liz at Lancaster’s garden: alongside the pathways to the units; the window boxes and hanging baskets in the parking area; the wall pots in the private patios; and the lawn and pool in the front area,  I think of lie detectors, Alick’s gentle words of encouragement, and burgeoning buds and blossoms in this heady scented Highveld springtime.


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