Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Toadbury Hall, Elandsdrift, Gauteng

The peaceful interior guesthouse

Avoiding the intensity of inner-city Johannesburg for a change, I find myself drawn to the green outskirts of the Magaliesberg area. I stay at Toadbury Hall, an establishment which is everything its name suggests – white-washed walls, high thatched ceilings and wonky wooden beams, rose bushes, green lawns down to pretty lakes. There are rich sounds of ducks and peacocks and Highveld birds.

What I love about Toadbury Hall:
  • Gracious old trees which seep up any stress or angst
  • White-washed long-barn style thatched building
  • Lakes, willow trees and water birds
  • Pretty lake-side deck for breakfast, elegant dining spaces and green lawns for picnics
  • Roses, gentle fountains and peacocks
  • Fine embroidered linen and towels
  • Spacious suites, individually decorated with unique character

Accommodation experience
Righteous Anger and Existential Despair are more than what the great Persian Poet Rumi describes as “visitors of my interior guesthouse”. Rather, they have taken up permanent residence, like illegal squatters protected by some new unfair laws of justice. I try to keep things as quiet as possible, so as not to disturb these unruly residents but every now and then they come out of their rooms, ranting and wreaking havoc within and without. So I was more than a little nervous of a disturbance, after a week of intense work and travel which culminated in the traffic of Gauteng, the feeding grounds of impatience and stress. However when I drove out of the traffic into the tree-lined avenues at Toadbury Hall, a weight lifted and I felt that spacious calm which tall trees and a historic building in a natural setting can bring.

I chose number 6, the Bridal Suite, all to myself and my ever-present interior friends. It is situated at a far end of the manor house, with a private courtyard and tinkling fountain which of course pleases me greatly. But I confess I chose this suite for the grand four-poster bed. As I rest in bed I come to the carefully considered conclusion that this is indeed the most beautiful bed I have ever lain in. It has dark red turned wood, which looks like cherry. While grand, it is not imposing and has an embracing friendliness. It sits well in the spacious suite with its terra cotta tiled floors and double glass doors. The embroidered silky white linen lends the final touch to a soothing and containing space.

Rumi’s poem says:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all
even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture.

Still treat each guest honourably,
he may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

There are times when we need to embrace our unruly interior guests with grace and self-compassion, but I was equally grateful to find a peaceful space where it was easy to let them rest until another day.

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