Retired Lives: the pianist


JOHN FRANCIS qualified as an electrical engineer. He worked for British Steel before returning to full-time education to do a Master’s Degree in micro processors. He went back into industry with a local firm making instruments to measure temperature and pressure. A project on marine engine simulation resulted in him specialising in that area, first for Welsh and then for American companies.

Why did you retire when you did?

I was in my 50s, travelling a lot to the States, spending two to three months at a time there. And I was gradually getting disillusioned with the situation. The company decided to close the UK office and make us all redundant. I finished almost ten years to the day from when I had joined the company.

How did you prepare for retirement?

I had been thinking about it for two years. The redundancy coming when it did was perfect timing.

Did you approach retirement with anticipation or trepidation?

Friends were retiring and having a great time, so I had no worries. I had had two years to prepare myself mentally. You do think, will it work out, financially? But the prospect of retiring was never in doubt. I had many interests, so I knew I would have no problem filling up my time.

What affect did retiring have on you?

When I retired, it was pretty much what I expected. There is a wonderful feeling of freedom. Waking up in the morning, knowing I can do whatever I want that day, is joyous.

What opportunities did retirement open for you?

At first, it was the opportunity to do more of the things I enjoyed; playing golf (I intended to play more often, but that has not happened), spending time on my vegetable patch and in the greenhouse, walking the dog on the Gower peninsula.


One month before I retired, I took up the piano. I had played off and on throughout my life. I fell in love with classical music in my twenties, and started lessons when I was a university student – but I did not have my own piano, and the other people in my hall of residence complained about the noise of my practising! We bought a second-hand piano when our children were young: they were not interested in learning to play, but I took it up again, until I became too busy with work. I bought myself a decent keyboard when I retired, and have regular lessons now that I am able to make the commitment and put in the hours. We choose a piece I like, and work on it. It is purely for pleasure, not with a view to passing any grade exams.

I started French lessons a year ago. We were at a dinner party, and I got talking to a recently retired lady who was going to French conversation lessons. I had done French GCSE in school, but had to drop it to concentrate on science A Levels. I had regretted it ever since. Last Christmas, I was given a present of a course of French lessons with Swansea University’s department of adult education.

I go skiing twice a year. My wife and I went for the first time in 2013. She broke her leg but I caught the bug.

My wife retires next year, and we are looking forward to travelling in Europe with our dog.

How do you feel about retirement now?

I did not want retirement to be completely aimless, but neither did I set myself any specific objectives. It has been what I expected, and it is very pleasant.


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