Retired Lives: the pianist

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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.

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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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