There was one time at work… I remember the year. It was the year I lived in Hackney, on my own. It was a sunny day, crisp, that first promise of Spring that comes sometimes in February, sometimes in March. I was a new graduate, on the company’s training scheme, and the following week I’d be out of the office all week, out and about on a team building exercise in the Lake District. As the least outdoorsy person ever, I wasn’t looking forward to it.
Anyway, uncharacteristically, I’d forgotten to set up my Out Of Office when I had left work on the Friday evening. Because I lived near to work and didn’t want to worry about work potentially being unattended, I thought I may as well pop in on the Saturday morning and tie up that loose end.
Of course, I was the only person in there when I arrived, which is an odd feeling in itself, a bit like how school is spooky after dark. Everything looks a bit different, though it’s difficult to notice exactly what’s changed. Despite the fact that I was being unnecessarily conscientious, I actually felt a bit naughty, as though I was trespassing, doing something wrong. I went over to my desk, turned my computer on, and sat back in my chair, looking through the corporate windows at the astonishingly blue sky, and smiled to myself.
Waiting for my machine to boot up, I swivelled round in my chair to look at Sarah’s desk next to mine. With her liberally-scattered Post-It notes in her odd, artistic handwriting. “Owe Suzy £5”. “Ice-skating, movie 3 p.m.”, her desk was a window into her life. “Movie” always sounds American to me. Film. Cinema. “Movie” is a bit incongruous, as if it’s trying a bit too hard. Despite knowing full well that there was no way that anyone would be in on a Saturday, my stomach knotted and my muscles tensed at the shudder-filled thought of being caught scrutinising someone else’s desk. How humiliating it would be.
It was an odd feeling – feeling like I was going to get caught reading my best friend’s diary, but in the utter silence of a totally deserted office. The weather outside made me smile like I hadn’t since August, and yet I was petrified about the next week. Outdoors has never really been my thing. I’ve always been appalling at sports, at team games; I’m not strong, not a sprinter, no stamina. In short, a week in the Lake District where the good of the team rested on my ability to abseil sounded slightly less appealing than being given three fillings by an unqualified dentist. (This had happened the previous week in Hackney with a dentist who lived in his surgery and slept in his dentist’s chair. I kid you not.)
Two-minute work task complete, afterwards I walked the half hour up Bishopsgate, through Shoreditch and up the Kingsland Road back to Hackney and, wary of the Lake District’s bite, bought an imitation Nike hat and some Thinsulate gloves for £3.50 from a market stall-holder with gold teeth, who told me that I had a nice smile (no thanks to the Hackney dentist).
That March was followed by the hottest and longest summer that I’ve ever experienced, and I love the summer more than anything. And yet, if you asked me to think back to the most serene day I’ve ever had, when the weather has lifted my spirits and the blueness seeped into my consciousness, that one day in March stands out clearly, crisply.