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Fancy car wins the girl

By By Benson Riungu | Nov 24th 2013 | 4 min read
By By Benson Riungu | November 24th 2013

By Benson Riungu

As I was telling you last week, dwelling on memories is a pastime I find largely agreeably nowadays, except for a subject that lingers somewhere in the back of the mind like a malignant tumour – my relations with the opposite sex.

I am, however, reluctantly persuaded that, like the foresaid growth, the best treatment is piercing it quickly with the lance of exposure. Perhaps the most memorable debacle was one involving a young woman I met in the early 1980s, and fell madly in love with.

At this time, I was contributing to a column in The Standard known as Brief Encounters, which was largely a record of meaningless interviews with characters both important and easily forgettable. As it happens with such columns, it turned largely on words.

I was proving to be quite adept at this sort of pointless journalism. One time, to repay the free booze I had consumed at a cocktail party in a five-star hotel in the city centre, I wrote some sweet nothings about one of its senior managers, a woman.

Surprisingly, that piece of trash opened doors to an enchanted world of free meals and drinks. One evening, I was invited to sample the most lavish dinner on offer, and it was suggested I could bring a ‘friend’ along.

This was the perfect opportunity to impress my new find. The dinner was, as advertised, something out of this world; not only candlelit, but with special effects, such as the diners being engulfed in a cloud of dry ice to coincide with the opening of an expensive bottle of wine.

I was dressed for the part of a man-about-town in a nicely cut suit — the only one I owned — and bowtie, and believed I cut a dashing figure.

After the meal, I decided to show off my girl, and took her to Lobster Pot, a high-end bar on Tom Mboya Street. This place was frequented by journalists who wanted to separate themselves from their more down-to-earth brethren, who favoured the hole-in-the-wall type of establishment to be found in disreputable parts of town.


As I expected, our entrance caused a bit of a sensation.

“Take good care of that girl,” cautioned Philip Ochieng’, the doyen of Kenyan journalism. “This has become a man-eat-woman society,” he added, corrupting Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s characterisation of Kenya’s as a man-eat-man society.

Among those present was a journalist with the sort of looks that make me sick with envy. On top of this, he had wheels, a rarity among scribes in those days. And it was no ordinary car but a Citroen, with a hydraulic suspension that allowed it to sink to the ground when parked and lift off when started.

After a merry evening, during which this film-star scribe was uncharacteristically generous with rounds of drinks, he offered to take me and my beloved to my Umoja pad.

I thought this would firmly establish me in the girl’s estimation as someone who kept sophisticated company, although I must confess that I was not entirely happy with the attention she seemed to give our chauffeur for the evening.

When we got to my house she declined to leave the car, pleading a headache and a busy schedule the following day, and I watched unhappily as the two disappeared into the night.

Many years later, I reminded my colleague about the incident over a drink.

“Oh, that girl? She turned out to be an easy conquest and didn’t even wait for us to get home; the car was quite sufficient.”

The French suspension must have performed admirably, I thought darkly.

As a sort of consolation, shortly thereafter, the female hotel manager asked me to accompany her to a film premiere. It was almost midnight when it ended and she asked if I would be kind enough to accompany her to a friend’s house in the Karengata area.


Those who remember the Nairobi of those days will tell you that Karengata at midnight gave you the feeling that you were alone in the world.

This feeling was further enhanced when we seemed to lose our way in a cul de sac.

A smarter fellow would have taken the hint, but instead, I insisted on talking about the wisdom of embracing Eastern religions. After 20 minutes of this drivel, my friend turned the car in disgust and dumped me in town.

Thereafter, I found the door to an enchanted world of expensive dinners firmly shut. Telephone calls to her office never got past her secretary.

Now you know all about me and the opposite sex, so we can turn the leaf and concentrate on happier memories.

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