Wanting a change of scenery, we drove a few miles down the road to the woods on a cold and foggy morning, hoping that the uninviting weather would put people off.
Fat chance – when we got there we couldn’t even park, and hoards of sweaty men in Lycra, all old enough to know better, were thundering through the trees on mountain bikes, churning up mud while the wildlife cowered in the bushes. So we gave up and headed home, past the place where I technically work, although I haven’t set foot in the office for almost a year now.
Although it was never part of a plan, or career move (ha!), I have worked there for almost twenty years now; and when I was a kid I had friends whose parents worked there, so in some ways it is more familiar to me than my home. The reflex to swing past the entrance gate and down into staff parking was strong, even though Security would probably have shown up with Hazmat suits and tasers if I had.
I miss it, I realised – not the work, which came with me; not the motley collection of buildings or their shared toilets, or hurrying across the site in the rain late for a meeting in a room I’m not sure how to find – but I do miss the gardens, and the people (even the ones I talk to most days); and the space, my desk, a decent chair… and beyond that, the sense of place and purpose, somewhere to go and somewhere to be (which is increasingly hard to remember).
All this long, long year work has supported us, encouraged us to look after ourselves and each other, repeated over and over that we are all doing what we can and there is nothing more important than our health. I am hugely and constantly grateful. But as we drove past the gates I did wonder how long it might be until I go back there; and if it will ever again feel as familiar as it did before last year. Or as safe.