From my desk I can watch the seagulls circling around then settling on the roof of the next block. Behind that, I can see the floodlights of the cricket ground; poking their heads up, like hyacinths in early spring. To the right is the now empty building plot, where the bulldozers, cranes and swinging steel demolition balls kept us mesmerised last summer, as they wrecked and flattened the old university buildings. In the distance span the graceful arches of the Victorian viaduct.
It's not a big space, only room for two desks and a small round meeting table. In one corner is the locked door to the cupboard where the IT servers live. At least once a day we're interrupted by a man from IT wanting to check something; the door is unlocked, and we're greeted by the cool blast and the whirring sounds from the air-conditioning installed in there to stop the servers over-heating. The irony of air-con for the computers, but not for the staff is, of course, not lost on us.
Throughout the two years I've shared this office with Chris. The air between us has often crackled with the sound of swearing and frustration from my side, patience and resignation from his. I've known for some time that he hasn't been happy in the job, but unlike so many of us, who whinge about it and keep turning up, Chris decided to find something else, and in a few days he will be starting a new job, something much closer to his heart and his ambitions.
On Thursday, I watched him clearing his desk, throwing paper after paper into a huge yellow plastic crate. As he flicked through the notes from meetings, the reports and strategies, I recognised the frown on his face as he recalled a particularly difficult transaction, saw the satisfied nod as he remembered the issues he'd resolved. I watched how carefully he peeled the blue-tack from the walls to take down the pictures and messages from his daughters, how he gently placed them in his bag, to be taken and re-hung on another wall in another office.
It's strange how you can spend so long sharing an office with someone, yet still feel you barely know them. I know the obvious stuff, like the names of his wife and children, the football team he supports. I know that he likes to dress well, a sharp suit and polished shoes. I've seen the limitations of his colour-blindness swept away by the bold, bright assertiveness of his shirt/tie combinations. Yet I've never seen him outside of the office environment; I have no idea what he looks like in jeans, or if he even wears them. We've never socialised, never got drunk together, both of us too keen to get back to our own worlds at the end of the day.
But I've seen the way his face softens when he talks about his girls, how it takes him a bit of time to adjust when he arrives in the morning, as he tries to switch his mind from home to work. I've noticed how his shoulders relax as he leaves at the end of the day and we walk together to the car park.
I work from home every Friday, so I wasn't there for his last day in the office. We said our goodbyes on Thursday, with a half-embarrassed hug and a kiss on the cheek - two years not quite long enough for us to know the etiquette of physical contact.
He's often looked at me with bemusement while I've banged on about the joys of Twitter, never quite understanding why I'd want to type something in 140 characters when I could just speak to someone's face, so I can't see us keeping in touch that way. He's said he'll come back for a drink in a couple of weeks once he's settled into his new role, but I'm not sure if he will. He knows I write a blog, and every now and then he reads it; but he's never left a comment and I don't know if he'll ever look at this. But I hope he knows anyway that the office will seem strangely empty on Monday.