I think it might be the light-hearted banter I miss most.
In the mornings, as the coffee machine screeched and growled, grinding beans (or cockroaches) to make a near perfect espresso, we yawned, stretched and gossiped. On a good day, someone might have baked a cake, or some brownies, or brought in a huge bar of imported Cadbury’s chocolate. It was nine a.m. and I’d only eaten breakfast half an hour previously, but I learnt that it’s never to early for the first chocolate fix of the day.
Around one, a crowd of girlfriends fetched sandwiches and salads together and we picnicked while we moaned about the boss, or our boyfriends, or discussed the latest episode of whichever series was flavour of the month. On bad days, our collective silence was punctuated only by the occasional sigh; on better days we made each other giggle uncontrollably, and I wobbled dangerously on my high stool, tears streaming down my cheeks, secretly giving thanks to the French God of post-natal re-education, without whom I would have undoubtedly been in trouble.
The office was my main source of adult conversation; my lifeline. I don’t think I ever woke up looking forward to working – or that a single day went by when I didn’t swear at the sound of my alarm clock – but once I was there, my office friendships sustained me.
There are many things I don’t miss, of course. The distinctive rattle of a cassette being inserted into a dictation machine, especially ten minutes before I was due to knock off for the day and fetch my Tadpole. The constantly trilling telephone, which could not be left unanswered. Not only having to drag myself to the office in the mornings, but the need to look presentable, which meant tights, make-up and uncomfortable shoes. The tray used for taking coffee and tea into meetings, which was just too wide to comfortably negotiate the meeting room doorway. Photocopying; binding; typing accounts. The ducking, diving, bowing and scraping of office politics. Living at the mercy of mercurial temperaments and blood alcohol levels. Long periods of idle time which crawled by at a snail’s pace while at home, piles of ironing, dusty floors, washing up in the sink all waited patiently for my return.
As I sit in front of my computer, barefoot, clad in jeans, a mug of tea by my side, I decide that a little bit of loneliness is a very small sacrifice to make, in the grand scheme of things. Besides, I can get my banter from gmail, and bake my own brownies if the desire should grab me.
And when an email pops into my inbox from my new accountant, the irony of the situation in which I find myself is definitely not lost on me.