Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Background


Where to start, then? 

Well, as you may know, both Caroline and I have been working for the company now known as Lloyds Banking Group (or, if you prefer, the company formerly known as HBOS formerly known as the Bank of Scotland. I hope you're keeping up with this?) for some time now. The idea being that, following years of carefree, feckless contracting, a steady job with a bank would see us through to retirement and a comfy pension. No, really, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Around this time last year, Caroline was told that her job was at immediate risk and that mine would also be within twelve months. This wasn't completely unexpected, but it came as a bit of a blow nonetheless.

Except that, the more we thought about it, the more we wondered quite why we actually wanted to stay with the bank. Truth be told, it's not been much of a job for some years now and following the takeover by Lloyds things became steadily worse. We've seen a steady stream of friends and colleagues losing their jobs, and any sense of job satisfaction was long gone, replaced only by the fear of redundancy. We worked in an industry that the public despised, and for an organisation that gave every impression of being run by the greedy and the stupid. It had become, in short, a genuinely horrible place to work.

Why on earth, then, would we want to stay there?  What if we tried something else instead? Neither of us really likes working in IT any more, what if – with our redundancy money pooled – we tried something really different?

And so, The Project was born.

As Caroline worked out her ten-month (!) notice period, ideas started to firm up. A friend of mine had left the UK to teach English in Spain a few years back. What if we were to try that, in Italy? In fact, let's not do things by halves : if we're going to go to Italy, we're going to go exactly where we want to be, namely Venice. La Serenissima is the city we know best in Italy. Having visited for the Biennale back in 2005, we found ourselves returning every year, and each time we left was a greater wrench than before.

I forget exactly when, but at some point during the year we tacitly crossed the line from "wouldn't it be great if we did this?" to "we're actually going to do this!". However, it was still dependent on my being able to successfully wangle my way out of my job. The chance came along in October when I accepted voluntary redundancy, and the cheers could be heard for miles around.

Caroline left the bank at the end of October, and is now fully engaged upon The Project. I leave at the end of the year, and I'm just trying to keep my head down, improving my Italian, and avoiding any actual, proper work from the bank in the meantime!

It's not risk-free of course, but taking the risk-free path led us to the financial services industry, and we know how well that worked out. If it works, the prize – living and working in the most extraordinary city in the world – is a great one. If it doesn't, and we end up back in the UK and back in IT in a year's time – well, we will at least have had a year there. We will, really, never have a better chance of doing something like this.

So in January next year we retrain in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. February will be spent getting our affairs in order and moving most of our worldly possessions into storage. And in early March, we're flying out to Venice. On a one-way ticket.

This blog is an attempt to record how we did it, if it worked, what went wrong, and what worked out for us. If all goes well it might serve as a 'how to do it' manual'. If it doesn't, well, it can serve as a terrible warning.

If you happen to be passing through Venice anytime after March, we'd love to see you (you'll need a sleeping bag, however, as we're going to have a very small flat!). If not, please stay in touch via email, facebook, or by following this blog.