Newsletter from Liz at Lancaster January 2014

A riot of colour in our window boxes - thanks to Alick's careful tending

A riot of colour in our window boxes – thanks to Alick’s careful tending


Another year has flown by and again although it is already 2015, it’s hopefully not too late to wish you all the very best for the year ahead.  As always we’d like to thank you for your ongoing loyal support over this last year: returning guests; first-time visitors; those  who booked in clients, colleagues or friends; those who simply made an enquiry; suppliers providing us with ongoing excellent service; friends and family.   We have had season’s greetings from many guests around the world and are grateful for the privilege of being able to develop these long relationships over the many years we have been in business. In May 2015 it will be 20 years since our first guest came to stay.  I look back to the times when we started with only one room, with just Ellen Khumalo and myself, when we had no laundry and no breakfast patio, when keeping noise levels down with teenage boys living at home was a major challenge and when I had no separate office (if I say the office was in my bedroom it might give the wrong impression!).

One of our most special endorsements

One of our most special endorsements


When we first started, emails were not in common use and so I did not predict the confusion that would arise between the ‘at’ in our name Liz at Lancaster and the computer @ sign!.  However 20 years on, we’ve established our branding; have 7 rooms; have a wonderful breakfast patio opening on to the garden; employ 3 full time staff and 2 part time staff; have won multiple awards; and for 4 years now have been ranked number 1 on TripAdvisor amongst 259 B&Bs/Inns (current count) in Johannesburg. This ranking is thanks to your feedback as guests and we are truly grateful for your reviews. If you haven’t yet reviewed us and would like to, you can go to is a ‘write a review’ button at the top right corner. It is always useful to get feedback on what it is that our guests value.



zacOn the service front, Zac continues to do airport transfers and transport people around Johannesburg with his amazing knowledge of the city and its traffic patterns.  He was very chuffed in February to be able to buy a second vehicle – a Mercedes sedan 250 Elegance.  It is much more economical on petrol than his Microbus and is in excellent condition.

And guests have been particularly impressed with our internet speed – currently at around 9 MBS which for South Africa is very fast. And the even better news is that Craighall Park is currently installing fibre optic cabling which will give access to 100meg speed.

2014 has been a difficult year for South Africa. There have been corruption scandals in the corporate world and government, the most infamous involving the presidential home at Nkandla; in May the electorate returned a largely incompetent and ineffectual ANC Government  to power; there are major on-going problems with parastatals such as the Post Office, South African Airways and Eskom (our electricity provider); we have been in the news headlines with parliamentary brawls, service delivery strikes and two high profile trials for the murders of two young women – the Oscar Pistorius trial of course and that of Shrien Dewani.  So it is not a year we can look back at in pride. In fact, to quote another more famous Elizabeth, 2014 has indeed been an annus horribilis for South Africa.

In your pocketOn the positive side Joburg continues to develop in an exciting way. In February this year the 1st Johannesburg In Your Pocket appeared. In Your Pocket is the largest publisher of locally produced city guides in Europe and this Jozi guide is the first city guide to be produced outside Europe. Appearing quarterly, it is published and edited by Laurice Taitz who has for years blogged on Joburg. We were delighted when Liz at Lancaster was included as one of 4 recommended guesthouses- another great honour for us.  Guests can pick up a copy of Johannesburg In Your Pocket when they stay at Liz at Lancaster or you can go on-line

According to the 2014 Good City Index,  Jozi is the second-most inspiring city in the world – after Hong Kong. I love Good City’s  way of evaluating:

At Good, we believe that a city’s heartbeat is best measured in “possibility”—the pervading sense that though a place may be far from perfect, its citizens are taking a bold stake in its future through a mixture of creativity, hustle, and civic engagement.

Early in December a travel writer for Lonely Planet came to see me and he endorsed Good City’s view saying that compared to the 1990s, he found Joburg to be a totally different city – vibrant, buzzing, extraordinary inner city developments and alive with possibility. And further endorsement comes from Rough Guides who have chosen Johannesburg as no 1 of their top 10 cities to visit in 2015.

If you are visiting Johannesburg, it’s useful to know what is available to see and do. So, as always, I continue to keep abreast of what is on and happening in Joburg and have added a window on the home page of our website where you can see our Tweets or follow us on Twitter. I also post on Facebook so if you are a Facebook user, please follow us if you have not already done so. Longer posts are uploaded onto our blog. Should you wish you can subscribe to our blogs and so get notification when there are new posts.

This comes with all the very best wishes for a good 2015 for you all,


From us all at Liz at Lancaster



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Looking for accommodation close to work

One of our staff members at Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse is in desperate need of accommodation closer to work. I decided to try the FaceBook route and ask residents in Craighall Park and the neighbouring suburbs of Parkhurst and Blairgowrie if anybody had a room to let. The Facebook pages for Residents’ Association of Craighall Park and Parkhurst were not too difficult to find, but Blairgowrie proved elusive. Finally, in between phone calls, emails, intercom buzzing and saying goodbye to departing guests, I found Blairgowrie and Rattray memories.  All are closed groups and, after requesting to join, all it seems accept me, as I can now load my request to rent a room. As I continue with my daily admin, my computer starts pinging faster than morse code signals at Bletchley Park. It took me some time to realize this indicated incoming Facebook messages  – such Connection! Basking in optimistic hope and a teeny sense of self-righteous triumph, I came down to earth quite smartly when I started to read the tsunami of responses from the Blairgowrie residents (my dear suburban neighbours):

 ‘Definitely a scam’

‘Seriously dodgy, folks’

‘It’s a trap!’

‘Ask this person to identify herself’

‘Just don’t phone this number it’s an Italian number. I’d put money that it’s a con.’

 Defensive outrage, self-righteous indignation .. I start to type furiously to put these suspicious alarmist petty suburban neighbours in their place.  I look more closely to see what else other ridiculous misguided conclusions have being drawn … then I read:

 ‘Isn’t Parkhurst a prison?


The mention of South Africa triggered a memory that there is a Blairgowrie there.


‘Just Googled the number and got Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse in Johannesburg.’

 …. Slowly the light begins to dawn.   … I had joined a closed group of Scots all connected to Blairgowrie, a town in Perthshire in the far wee north of that not so united kingdom.

So I responded:

Hello all in a foreign country!! .. dare I say it? .. all in the United Kingdom.  [The Scottish referendum was very new and raw.]  Yes, I thought I was joining a group of  my  neighbouring suburb  in Johannesburg South Africa. Mea Culpa!

 I then go on to identify myself and offer all my ‘credentials’.

Have I absolved myself of skulduggery and treachery?  Stupid .. yes.  Intention to deceive .. no.  I won’t go into the reasons here for looking for accommodation for this person. They are sad and indicative of the tough life that the majority of South Africans still have. And believe me if I had any available spare space I would accommodate her.  

But if any of you come to South Africa please come and stay. I might at least get some mileage out of my faux pas!!  Sorry everybody. But please hold thumbs that we find somewhere for Thandie to stay. By the way check the piece I wrote on Rattray and our suburb . Misguided and bit dumb not to realize the site I was joining! .. But a scam and trap I am not. And sadly I’m not Italian either!  But buonanotte and bye bye all – Please feel free to delete me from this group.

A further internal mud-slinging interchange ensued between those who were still insistent that this was further evidence of a dangerous and subversive swindling sociopath at work, and those who welcomed me to the group, who loved the SA connection, and who took the serious mickey out of all those who failed to see the funny side. More aggrieved huffing and puffing from the Perthshire biddies, and then I lost interest and left the group.

There is an exquisite irony in putting out the word for accommodation close to work  – and targeting a town some 13,800 km away from Liz at Lancaster.

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Pick of the month: the Kentridge ‘festival’


The pick of the month has to be the Kentridge festival coming up with exhibitions of his work opening in three Johannesburg venues in November.  Tomorrow, 9th November, Refusal of Time opens at Johannesburg Art Gallery and runs until 1st February. On 15th November  Drawings: East Rand Proprietary Mines Cash Book opens at the Goodman Gallery until 20th December. And on the 18th November Tapestries, a collaboration with the Stephens Tapestry Studio, opens at the Wits Art Museum  15th December.

Kentridge Goodman 2014The exhibition at the Goodman Gallery comprises approximately 45 mining landscapes drawn on the pages of Johannesburg mine ledger books from the early 1900s. They are a continuation of Kentridge’s concerns around mining and its historical role in the social fabric of Johannesburg and the industrial landscape of the city. While mining seems to be one of his thematic interests, Kentridge has often described drawing as being his primary concern. In an interview in the late 1990s Kentridge said: ‘The themes in my work do not constitute its main starting point, which is to draw.’

The Tapestry exhibiton at WAM will include approximately 20 tapestries, and some related sculptures and drawings as well as film footage of the weaving process (each tapestry is made by five or six weavers sitting in a row along the loom.)  Marguerite Stephens and William Kentridge have been working together on tapestries for the past 24 years producing about 40 tapestries. Stephens adapts Kentridge’s collage drawings for the very different materials and techniques of tapestry-making. This exhibition promises to be a treat as it has been a long time since there has been an exhibition of a major body of these collaborative tapestries.

Kentridge Refusal of TimeThe Refusal of Time is a collaboration with composer Philip Miller, projection designer and editor Catherine Meyburgh, choreographer and dancer Dada Masilo, and Peter Galison, an American historian of science. It comprises a five channel 30 minute video with at the centre of the installation a ‘breathing machine’, along with 5 steel megaphones. The Refusal of Time was first shown at Documenta (13) in 2012 and has since been seen in several countries around the world.  It has been bought by public art galleries including the Art Gallery of Western Australia and is also jointly owned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  Made in the artist’s studio at Arts on Main over a period of 2 years, it has now returned home.

Cotter’s 28/11/2013 review in the New York Times, introduces us to the visual assault which is so characteristic of Kentridge’s  video projections. ‘Metronomes pound away like a grim marching band. Hands on clock faces spin, spewing trails of stars. Drawings erase themselves. Maps of Africa appear and disappear. In a laboratory filled with what look like giant watch springs, white-coated figures mix potions to the beat of a tuba-intensive score by Philip Miller.’  The 5 steel  megaphones in the installation are formal devices but are functional as well for they direct sound. There is Philip Miller’s general soundscape but if you sit underneath one of the megaphones you can hear the sound of the spoken text very clearly.

In a video discussion (13/03/2104) on the making of The Refusal of Time,  Kentridge speaks of making time visible (playing a film in reverse or fast forwarding) as well as transforming time into material objects – eg representing fractured time with 2 simultaneous images overlapped or synchronized images becoming out of synch.  “If time could reverse itself there’d be a kind of utopian perfectibility – you can take back all the things you wish you hadn’t said, the smashed vase recomposes itself perfectly … but that in some sense is our definition of time – that which you can’t call back.”

Kentridge NY timesThe machine at the centre of the installation pumps slowly up and down, a cross between bellows and pistons. In Kentridge’s trademark language where symbols and ideas transform from one image to another with fish-like slipperiness, the machine is a breathing machine; like human lungs; the rhythm section of the installation (keeping time); the ‘elephant’.  In the 1870s there was a plan in Paris to use regular bursts of air from underground copper pneumatic pipes to calibrate the city’s clocks – a reminder of late 19th century attempts to ‘control time’. This reminded Kentridge of Dickens who, in Hard Times, likened the working of factory machinery to ‘the movement of the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness.’   Taking the metaphor of rhythm and time-keeping even further Kentridge likens the human being to a clock which gets wound up at birth and ‘will keep ticking until it winds down at the end of its allotted years’.

Kentridge refers to the concept of the black hole as both a scientific theory of time as well as a metaphor for human states of being and the inevitability of death itself. He says of Refusal of Time: ‘It’s a celebration of making against the fact of our eventual disappearance – that’s the refusal of time. We are not going to escape our journey to the black hole at the end, however fast we dance or run in the way. But that dance and the run .. are what it’s all about’.

So let’s run and dance and get lost in the Refusal of Time.

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