My P45 arrives in the post.

For overseas readers, I should explain that the expression ‘P45‘ is highly-charged with significance in the UK. This is the famous document you get when you officially finish employment with a company. It’s really for tax purposes but it is the one, incontrovertible document that proves you no longer work for a company. Bosses in dramas and sitcoms threaten bolshy workers with the P45. So, it arrived in the post. Like everything else to do with accepting redundancy, I just thought ‘oh right’ and carried on.

Yesterday, I chatted with two men who had quit their jobs in the past; one an old friend, the other a total stranger. The stranger, who worked in the construction industry, had simply quit after 20 years and taken 14 months off before starting another job. In the intervening time, he trained as a yoga teacher but, mainly, he rediscovered himself. He reckons it takes at least six months to discover who you are.

The old friend had taken early retirement at just the right time when the deals were good. After eighteen months, he started another job – as a mediator in an international diplomatic initiative. It is precisely the sort of work he loves to do.

My actual last day at work was pretty normal. Being transmission day it was busy. I was filming a piece-to-camera in the morning and polishing a script in the afternoon. After the programme playback in the edit suite, production team colleagues gave me a nice card and a bottle of Bollinger. By this time, it was dark outside. I went through the brief and pretty informal business of handing over my staff camera kit, laptop and mobile phone and, of course the electronic entry pass. I shook hands with my line manager, took my hat and scarf from the hatstand and walked out. One colleague joined me for a last little chat as we left the building.

Driving through the barrier. When I arrived in the morning for my last day, it didn’t feel all that different, even tough I knew it was my last day. There was just a mild curiosity to find out if my pass was still working. (It was.) Driving out, though, was different. You don’t need a pass to get out of the premises; the exit barrier raises whenever a vehicle approaches. So, outwardly, everything was normal. But I knew I hadn’t got a pass. The barrier would let me out but not back in again. I really had left the building.

One more day to go

After a few years with a company, you start to wonder what it will feel like when you go through the same old routine for the last time. I remember when I’d worked for the company about four years, I held my pass up to the electronic sensor pad one morning and, as the barrier rose to let me in for another day at work, I thought “I must have done this a thousand times.”

Now I’ve done it about three thousand times. Tomorrow, I shall drive to work as usual, take the second exit off the big roundabout, third exit off the small roundabout and then first right. On my left will be a light-brown hut where a ‘little man’ used to check people in and out of the premises. (It was never a big man in those huts, was it?) But the hut has been empty for years. Driver’s window down, seatbelt off, inside pocket, wallet with security pass to the sensor, the red-and-white barrier tilts upwards and the car moves forward, wallet back in pocket, sharp right into staff car park. It’s all automatic. I suspect that, tomorrow, it will still be automatic and it will not feel special. I’ll let you know.

On Friday, it was my leaving do. Lunch with a dozen colleagues in an Italian restaurant. Good company, good food, good wine. Two bottles of champagne sabraged. When I said that, on the first day of not going in to work, I would write down various plans and ideas and arrange them on the kitchen table, my inventive colleagues decided to help and they each wrote a suggestion on the backs of the bloody-awful jokes we got in our Christmas crackers. I have not looked at them yet but have saved them in an envelope for the big day.