This is now fairly common knowledge, and we gave all of our Staff 3-month's Notice on the 30th September. Our last day of formal trading will be 30th December, and we will spend January tying things up, helping our Staff take their belongings home, moving ourselves, etc.
I know that many folk have questions for us, so I thought it prudent to answer most of them here, saving us explaining the same thing to everybody over and over again as we have been doing for the past week. Here, then, answers to the questions we have been asked:
Why are you shutting down?
We have received Notice from David Scott, the Chairman of National Trust of Zimbabwe, that NTZ wish us to vacate their premises by 31st January 2014. We lease the property from NTZ, and they are our landlords.
What about the school?
This is the most common question from everyone, whether or not they have children at the school, or if they are just part of the local community, and I can assure you all that the school will continue to operate as it has for the past 9 years. Obviously my own involvement will cease, but there are people who will take over the administration. The success of the school, which now has a well-deserved reputation for producing academic excellence, has always been due to the commitment, professionalism and dedication of the amazing people who teach there - nothing more nor less. And that will not change. The people who teach at the Centre will still be there, and the plans to add new classrooms during the course of 2014 will go ahead. The booking lists are full until 2019, and the need for the Centre is as great as ever it was. We have agreement for a Lease covering 2014, and that will hopefully be renewed during the course of next year.
What will you and Della do?
We have no idea. At this time we do not anticipate remaining in Mutare, and we will almost certainly relocate, although we have no place to go to at the moment. We have not yet looked around, and our current concern is to close down La Rochelle with integrity, and then move on. We are sure doors will open. Unfortunately the labour laws in Zim will mean that everything we have in the business will be sold or given to the Staff as part of their retrenchment packages, and Della and I are reconciled to the fact that we will move on with absolutely nothing to our name. But this will be part of the challenges that face us
What about the stuff you are involved in?
We hope that folk will be able to take over the few things that we will no longer be able to be a part of. These include Della's prayer time with the oldies at Strickland, Soul Patrol with the youth at Lighthouse, swimming coaching at Fairbridge, and involvement with Border Dolphins and Manicaland Swimming, and my own input at the school and assistance at galas... even if my choice of music leaves a lot to be desired! These things have all contributed so much to our enjoyment of being part of this community, and we really hope that others will put their hands up and fill any gaps.
What will happen at La Rochelle?
Again, we have no idea. National Trust have not advised us what they want the building for, and we have heard that they do not have a prospective tenant. Whatever the case, the property was left in trust for 'all the people of Zimbabwe', and I am sure will still be accessible to people who wish to visit the gardens and grounds in the future.
Will this affect your children and their schooling?
No - the girls will remain at Peterhouse for as long as Peterhouse are happy to have them. As a family, we have managed to pull the wool over the school's eyes for some time now, and hopefully this will continue for another couple of years.
Will you be doing your usual community Christmas Lunch and New Years Eve party?
Sorry - no. Not at this time. We will just be catering for the folk in the hotel, and as we don't know how many staff we will have at that time, we cannot take bookings for large functions.
Will 'The most interesting blog... in the whurld' still continue?
You betcha. From where, I have no clue, but watch this space! Not only that - a second book is in the pipeline.
So the sun will set on our time at La Rochelle...
And we have no regrets.
La Rochelle has been a wonderful home for us, and if you have been following this blog over the past year or so, you will know that it is as much a blog on La Rochelle as it is on my book. Reading back through the old posts (now numbering over 150) I am amazed at the diversity and richness of the times we have had here. From cobras to Fred the chameleon; goblins and ghosts; the school play to fruit thieves in the trees; from minor surgery in the kitchen to Mad Theresa sleeping for free in the hotel; and not forgetting my mopane-worm-chewing-and-spewing Americans, it certainly has been anything but boring.
We have made so, so many friends during our time here, and, best of all, La Rochelle has given our three children a childhood - as opposed to just an upbringing; a childhood they will remember and cherish for the rest of their lives. Della and I have watched them grow from mewling, bawling, dribbling and puking babies (Courtney was born here), to mewling, bawling, dribbling and puking teenagers.
It has been a privilege.
Apart from our own future, Della and I are concerned for our Staff, and we would very much like to try to find them jobs before we leave. Our Staff comprises eleven people - 3 Cooks, 4 Waiters, 1 Kitchen Porter, 2 Bedroom Hands and 1 Night Guard. Most of them are mentioned by name in "Sorry for that!". (Preacher, Febi, Clemence, Christinah, David, Michael and Joseph).
This staff compliment is quite apart from one slightly tatty-looking Manager, and one beautiful and charming Accountant/Buyer/and-general-kicker-of-bums.
If you are involved in an operation which may be able to take on any of these folk, please contact me on 0772-306560 or larochellezim
We have a family who have booked to stay in the hotel for Christmas, so we intend operating until at least the 30th December. The ideal situation would be for our Staff to start new employment from early (10th) January, but if necessary we will release them before that.
Here then, the folk who have been with me, many of them since 1999, at La Rochelle.
"I smile because I employ them. They laugh because there is nothing I can do about it!"
There are some very capable people here - and I would like to be able to give them a tomorrow.
Cheers - and have a nice day!