Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A splendid torch

Magnolia acuminata "Elizabeth", a clone chosen from a cross made at the BBG in 1956, named after Elizabeth Scholtz in 1978. Image and info from Caerhays Estate.

When I visited Betty Scholtz at the BBG last week for lunch, she told a lovely story. Betty turned 89 last Wednesday, and the story was from when she was young, in the Cape.

She and her friends, "mostly doctors", would go botanizing in the mountains near Cape Town. While a couple of the doctors fly fished in "Oh, what was the name of the place again?" she frowned.

"Bainskloof?" I suggested (having gone up and down that kloof, and in and out of its pools, in my early 20's, too)...

"...Yes, Bainskloof, that's it! They would fly fish, and I would go flower hunting."

"It sounds like something from a story," I said. "Did you eat the fish too?"

"Yes we did!" she said, suddenly remembering. "Swanie cooked them on a fire for us!"

Later, after lunch, as I was leaving, we talked about how frustrating it is when one's body starts to refuse to do all the things it used to do. I told her about my father riding every year in the Argus Cycle Tour, and she said, "But he must know Swanie!"

(Swanie is an affectionate diminutive for any man whose surname is Swanepoel.) "Hmm," I said, thinking. "What is his first name?"


There we were, separated from each other's lives by many decades, both of us thousands of miles from our shared homeland, and I realized that this Swanie, who had grilled fish for Betty Scholtz beside the big boulders and clear water of Bainskloof when they were young, was Dr Andre Swanepoel, my father's erstwhile physician and hero: He is 84 years old, and he rides in the Argus, too.

To illustrate why she does not believe in retirement (something else she has in common with my father), Betty gave me a quote that she says sums up her approach to life:

"This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

"My life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is a privilege to do for it whatsoever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no 'brief candle' to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment; and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

George Bernard Shaw, 1907


  1. Never met him but Swanie is my hero too.

  2. I'm humming "It's a Small World After All"....because now that I know you sing opera, I'm NOT going to sing. *grin*

  3. Lovely story. I'll show HP when he gets home

  4. What an amazing story. I found you via Rachel of slow lane life, and what a find!

  5. Ms. Elizabeth Scholtz seems such a wise Lady for living her own life this way.
    So Inspiring!

  6. Tears at the G B Shaw quote. Thanks for that.


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