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Daily Nation : February 23rd 2014
10 Lifestyle GOING PLACES » NGONG ROAD Inexpensive fun at the races, and a chance at some money BY JOHN FOX email@example.com A Julie did. She was riding a horse called Military Song. I should have known she would have kept the better one for herself. What a lady! It was a fun day at the Ngong ll night it had rained. By late breakfast time – after all it was a Sunday – the rain had relented, but the skies were still grey. Perhaps that was why there wasn’t the crowd I had expected when I arrived at the Racecourse down Ngong Road. Maybe the rain had put off the punters. But I couldn’t be sure, because I hadn’t been to the races for some time – a few years, in fact. Or maybe it was because I had arrived early – almost an hour before the start of the first race, the Lesukut Maiden. So there was time for a glass of wine and a snack at Steve’s place – the excellent steak house and bar. And I needed time to study the race card, because my knowledge of things horse-racing – records, form guide, weights, odds and betting options – had gathered dust if not rust. Provided assurance “There aren’t so many people here,” I remarked to Bernard, a familiar face among the waiters at Steve’s. “Perhaps it’s the rain.” “No, they will come,” Bernard 2OO Fee, in shillings, per person for a seat in the main area; the ‘silver ring’ is free assured me. “Today there’s a big race.” True. It was the day for the Fillies Guineas, due off later in the afternoon – or I should say the Mars Group Fillies Guineas, because it was the Mars Group, sponsors of the day’s events. I took a walk – to the parade ring and through the marquee MOTORING » GAVIN BENNETT Want to move something bulky? Think car-trailer MORE INDIVIDUALS and businesses are recognising how versatile a light trailer can be – greatly increasing cargo carrying capacity when the occasion demands, without constantly lumbering vehicle owners with the price or running costs of a huge (or second) vehicle, even when loads are light. They can be custom made in any size or body style – flat-bed, open deck, dropsided, high-sided, closed van, weld mesh cage, tarpaulin cover, mini-tanker… Trailers can carry building materials, feed stuffs and fertilisers, furniture, scrap, animals, mobile workshops, field canteens, tree seedlings, camping gear, fuel drums, water tanks, boats… whatever and whenever the occasional load is too big to fit in your regular vehicle. Contrary to some preconceptions, light trailers are easy to tow, even on bad roads. Indeed, “safari” trailers (often with auxiliary water tanks, jerry can holders and whatnot) are among the most popular designs, relieving the towing vehicle of extra weight on its suspension, leaving more space inside for passengers, and providing a lockable and weatherproof (and baboon-proof) “store” in camp (de-hitched while the 4WD goes game viewing). All vehicles can be easily rigged with a towing ball and an electrics connector plug. Trailers with an all-up weight of less than half-a-tonne can be pulled by any car – even a small saloon. Trailers weighing a tonne or more are not suitable for small cars, and more powerful tugs might experience a noticeable though manageable change in acceleration and braking. If trailer and tug are well matched, towing should make little difference to fuel consumption, and a trailer can reduce the wear-and-tear of overloading. Reversing a trailer requires a particular skill, but it is not rocket science. A little practice makes perfect. Packing a trailer is also a bit of an art. If heavily laden for a long journey, the cargo should be distributed so the “weight” of lifting the towing hitch at the balance point is about 40 kilos (like lifting a very large suitcase). This will ensure greatest stability at speed. The contents of a trailer get a much rougher ride than the contents of the towing vehicle – the remedy is to tie them down or pack them very tight to avoid jarring or chaffing damage. Bottom line, if your workhorse one- tonne pick-up sometimes struggles with its loads, you might not need a threetonne truck. Just a trailer. Or if you want to take your family on a camping safari without burying them in luggage (or having to leave vulnerable items scattered around camp), consider a trailer. If you want to drive a proper car and not buy a pick-up, as well to carry hay for the daughter’s pony, and the other etc’s of a busy life, a trailer will turn your car into a temporary truck – at a fraction of the cost of a larger or second vehicle. firstname.lastname@example.org Leading in the winner of the Mars Group Fillies Guineas. PHOTO | JOHN FOX where the bookies were chalking up the odds for the first race. It took my mind back to my salad days when I was a distance runner in the UK. Competing in handicap races at agricultural shows in my home county of Lincolnshire, I could be fairly sure who was still “working his mark” and who actually wanted – and was able – to win. The horse-racing community in Kenya is so small that I had assumed the ‘insiders’ would have a very good idea who’d win in what race. But it was an old friend and Kenya champion jockey of those days, Frank Morby, who cautioned me. “When you decided to lose a race to improve your handicap, you knew very well what you were doing,” Frank said. “But a horse is trained to run fast, and for a win. If you ‘pull it’ it doesn’t know what is happening. It can get confused. And it can be ruined as a racer.” Last Sunday, it wasn’t till the third race that I felt I had studied the card long enough to try my hand at picking a winner. I went for the top weight, Irish Garden, ridden by Tanui. It won. But, to be honest, I had chosen it more for the jockey’s colours – black, with red sleeves and a white cap – than for its form. Anyway, I hadn’t risked any money on it. It was on the big race that I decided to have a little flutter. I studied the form of the nine runners. I watched them in the parade ring. I liked the look of Simuni, a big light-brown filly with wild eyes and flaring nostrils. She was trained by Julie McCann, who had trained the winner of the previous race. Also, I had known Julie when she was Julie Andrade – and winning races as a pocket-rocket, young lady jockey in the late 1980s. The rain came back just as the horses were being led into the starting gate. I watched from the shelter of the bookies’ marquee. Simuni didn’t win. But Racecourse. As well as the racing, there was a band playing in front of the grandstand, kids jumping on trampolines or bouncing on castles, golfers playing on the ingenious course inside the rails, kiosks selling burgers and chips. And there was a display of BM guard dogs bringing down thugs. When one ‘thief’ tried to get away in a car, a dog jumped straight through the window to grab him. Romantic history It’s not an expensive day out. It’s only Ksh200 for the main area, and the ‘silver ring’ is free. Despite what I said earlier, it’s not really complicated to place a bet. And, even without betting, there are the horses to admire in the parade ring and to excite as they thunder to the finish. Horse-racing has a long and quite romantic history in Kenya. In England they call it ‘the sport of kings’. Here, it is no longer a sport mainly for wazungu or the rich. The venue is an excellent one. Many ladies dress up – or even down – for the occasion. Race days deserve bigger crowds. And race days are every second Sunday throughout the year, apart from a long ‘summer’ break. So, in the coming March, they will be on the 2nd, 16th and 30th – from lunchtime till the early evening. John Fox is Managing Director of iDC travel Sunday February 23, 2014 SUNDAY NATION LANGUAGE Why pupils fare poorly in Kiswahili BY HUGHOLIN KIMARO AND KAHURA NDUNG’U FOR A LONG time there has been raging public debate on why pupils perform poorly in Kiswahili, which is our national language. Unfortunately, the issue is only discussed after Knec releases national exam results and it dies down without any word from our education policy makers. It is generally agreed by teachers and students and even the curriculum developers that the 8-4-4 system of education is overloaded and poorly designed. This problem has also had far reaching effects on the teaching of Kiswahili. Primary school pupils are taught complicated aspects of the language too early in life. The same trend is repeated at the secondary school level where certain things that are supposed to be taught at the university or college level are introduced as early as in Form One. The curriculum should be structured in a manner that accommodates learners’ different needs at different levels of their mental growth and development. The integration of the lan- guage and literature into one subject has made a bad situation even worse. It has increased the work load to be covered within a short period of time. In the old 7-4-2-3 system of education, these were taught as two separate subjects. This allowed teachers enough time to teach the two areas comprehensively. In order to finish the syllabus in time for national exams, most secondary school teachers start teaching the literature set books in Form One instead of in Form Three. The latter are meant to nur- ture and develop the learner’s interest in literature as well as hone their creative skills. No wonder very few Kenyans read for leisure after school. The only creative works they get to know are set books, some of which are dull and uninspiring to read. The solution to the above problems lie with the government. The Ministry of Education through K.I.E should organise workshops and seminars for teachers in order to harmonise the teaching of Kiswahili.
February 22nd 2014
February 24th 2014