I told my boyfriend on the weekend that today was Women’s Day. He looked up from the newspaper and gave me a skeptical look.
“Isn’t that Valentines day?” he asked
“No, no, no,” I responded, shaking my head in sympathy for this poor British boy who only has eight public holidays in his homeland compared to South Africa’s twelve, “that day is for men and women. Women’s Day is just for me.”
“Do I have to buy you a present?
“Yes, definitely. It’s a South African tradition that in commemoration of the 1956 women’s march on the Union Buildings you have to buy me a present. It’s what Albertina Sisulu would have wanted.” Which is actually a terrible thing to say because MaSisulu marched against having to carry a pass book and definitely not for my right to presents.
“You’re lying.” He’s a smart chap.
“Okay, well yes. But maybe we could do something nice – go somewhere to eat, watch a movie…or you could buy me a present.
Well, being students our Women’s Day was somewhat limited in its scope this year. While I imagine future Women’s Days to include spa treatments, macaroon feasts and unlimited kittens it seems as if our current financial means exclude these possibilities (budgeting for unlimited kittens is a nightmare). So, Ben and I decided that we would take in the best that Cape Town had to offer – free stuff. But for the 40km of petrol and two slabs of chocolate we didn’t have to spend a rand.
Our plan was to hike in the mountains above Simonstown and visit the grave of Just Nuisance. In lieu of unlimited kittens a soppy dog story would have to suffice. Just Nuisance was a Great Dane and was the only dog to be officially enlisted in the British Navy on the HMS Afrikander during World War II. Although I wouldn’t blame the Brits for enlisting a South African bred Great Dane during the war, he was enlisted for humanitarian reasons.
He used to walk from his house and visit the sailors at the Simonstown dock and naval base. When the sailors would catch the train to Cape Town Just Nuisance would follow them on and spend the day with them in the city. The sailors did their best to hide him from the train conductors but if he was found he would be tossed off at the next station. His owner was eventually warned that if he wasn’t kept off the trains that he would have to be put down. The sailors feared losing their mascot and wrote to the British Navy requesting that something be done and suggesting that he was purchased a season ticket for the train. Instead of the season ticket the Navy decided to officially enlist him. As an official member of the British Navy he received free rail travel and could continue taking trips into Cape Town with the sailors.
On his death Just Nuisance was buried with full Navy honours above Simonstown at Klaver Camp. At his funeral his headstone was covered with the Royal Navy White Ensign and sailors conducted a gun salute.
While his statue is easy enough to find in Simonstown his grave up in the mountains is not. Unfortunately we couldn’t find it but we’ll be back when we have more accurate directions. So, instead we sat on a lookout point above Simonstown eating our sandwiches and debating whether there should be a Man’s Day – with presents of course.