I went back to the office for the first time in seven months the other day, expecting to find the place largely unchanged.
A colleague who had just done the same thing said he had found his desk still covered in newspapers from the days before the building emptied in mid-March, plus a withered Pret sandwich from the same era. “It’s like Pompeii,” he told me.
He had a point. My desk looked exactly as I had left it. In my mail tray there was a copy of The Economist from late March, with a cover picture of planet Earth behind a sign saying “Closed”.
The rest of the office looked much as I remembered it, except for the lavish supplies of hand sanitiser and face masks.
Yet it was also deeply different. Not exactly ghostly, but subdued, with only a handful of the normal number of people, many working quietly alone. It was a reminder of one of the great peculiarities of pandemic life: so much of it looks so normal, until you realise it is not.