Florrie scores 90 not out

AT AGE 90, Floris Jessica Kelshall, still does nearly everything she used to do before, except drive a car.  “My eyesight is not as good so to save any confusion I have given up driving,” says this feisty woman whose days are still chock full of activity. Accompanied by her three  daughters, Kay, Joy and Kim,  grandchildren and great grandchildren, Florrie, as she is known, went back to the place of her birth, Barbados, to celebrate her birthday on January 3 with her remaining Barbadian family and others who came from England. It was  a  double celebration since it was also the 50th birthday of her nephew Allan Taylor,  a former calypso singer on that island, the Mighty Whitey. She returned home on January 4 but the celebrations have not ceased. Florrie laughingly says: “I have stuck and cut five birthday cakes, so far, starting in Barbados, and there is another to come.”  The first in Trinidad came at the weekly Bridge game with her clubmates of Mayfair Ladies Bridge Club where she has been a member for about 30 years and is still in winner’s row at Cup and Club Games. 

At last December’s Christmas party it was Florrie, who organised and led a game of charades on the rules of the game. Three more cakes  followed from the Trinidad Bridge League where she plays every Monday; the Horticultural Society where she still does the books for the weekly Flower Market which she attends from 5.30 am Thursdays and Fridays and 7 am on Saturdays; and the last one came from a friend who hosted a bridge party in her honour. Those who know Florrie would realise how much she enjoyed telling me about the “rum punch party hosted by my swim group which meets every Tuesday and Friday at St Mary’s pool.”  And still to come is the celebration by the members of Ventures Hockey Club of which she has been a member for 67 years. 

“So you see I have been celebrated all over” says Florrie, who also enjoyed the recent annual 18th anniversary party of the Flower Arrangers of the Horticultural Society where this woman who is certainly no wallflower, with four of her friends, dressed and acted the part of four wallflowers. “I keep involved because I want to point out that you do not have to sit in a corner because you are 90.” This effervescent woman’s love for theatre goes back to the days when she donned a Santa Claus costume for more than 20 years, first for the annual bazaar at Bishop Anstey High School where her daughters were students and later to arrive by boat at the Yacht Club. When her children asked after the school performance as to whether their father knew about it, she replied: “Yes, I have on his boots.” Taking the matter further they asked their dad why of all the mothers she had to be chosen, to which the long-suffering and patient man replied: “What are we going to do about it but accept it?”  As she told this story, Florrie sat back, folded her arms, smiled and said: “I have enjoyed my life.”

Besides driving,  Florrie has had to give up a favourite pastime, knitting. “I did dresses, sweaters, and everything. I was never without my knitting in between watching games, going on trips, and my only regret is that my eyes are not up to scratch.” But Florrie is still playing bridge “definitely” three times a week.  “Sometimes I play bridge more than that as very often I am asked to substitute for people and am willing to help anybody who wants to learn because I think it is a wonderful game in every respect.” Florrie came to live in Trinidad and Tobago after qualifying as an optometrist at Manchester University in 1939, to take over her aunt’s practice. She still shivers as she remembers that her passage had been booked from England via the SS Simon Bolivar to Trinidad and in a fit of depression after being lost in a black out in London during the war, she decided not to wait for that boat and travelled out by another vessel.  The Simon Bolivar went down with everybody on board  and as only Florrie would say:  “Imagine all of you would never have known me.”

She married Kenneth Kelshall, a senior civil servant who died only four years ago after 58 years of marriage, and now lives with her daughters but is very clear that it is “because it is convenient not because I am dependant.” She has fully recovered from a bout with colon cancer five years ago, and never had any side effects from the chemotherapy, nor loss of hair, and still continued to do what she had to do, including driving herself  in those days.  The cancer has  not recurred and she has kept in good health. “In all my life I never had a headache though I have given plenty” she quips “my pressure has always been normal though I have made other people’s go up.” Her longevity she says jokingly  “is the good old flying fish I had when I was young.”  But seriously attributes her 90 years of being active and in relatively good health to being in a boarding school from a very young age.

“You slept, got up, went to the bathroom, and ate at a certain time, you did everything by a bell and that had to have laid a good foundation, there was a good rhythm.  Nowadays, it is not possible as everybody dashes and rushes out because everyone is going here or there. It is completely different to when we were young.” Florrie’s main achievements have resulted from her years in the sport of hockey as both national player and administrator.  She is a member of the Sports Hall of Fame and received  a National Award — the Humming Bird Medal (Silver) “all because of hockey and sports.” At the last Olympic Games in Greece, she was  the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee’s nominee  for the Sportsman/woman in the World who had made worthwhile contributions to sport.


"Florrie scores 90 not out"

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