The rumours about closure have swirled through the workforce like smoke around an autumn bonfire. Official announcements have been communicated strictly in compliance with current legislation. The younger staff who could find jobs elsewhere have already departed. Negotiations have concluded with the least worst deal that each side can tolerate and those who have been chosen to work to the end have accepted the dubious challenge. Redundancy packages have been calculated and the inevitable flurry of activity on the HMRC web site confirms how much tax will be due. The final day at work has arrived.

Long-term employees are still in denial and gather in bewildered groups. Secretaries with bleary eyes and red noses sniff and weep into paper hankies that are withdrawn with a flourish from cardigan sleeves. Communications with the outside world ceased a week ago and the telephones have fallen silent. The mail room and canteen have closed - no longer cost effective for the reduced size of workforce - it's now a value sandwich from the nearest shop. To reduce cleaning costs, all toilets are closed except for one Ladies and one Gents but you need to supply your own paper as Purchasing closed for business last month and stocks have run out.

It's two hours before going home time and staff are getting ready for the big goodbye at 4pm. Management have arrived unexpectedly to say that if all the tidying up is finished then everyone can go. Is this a kind gesture on the last day or a keen urgency to clear the place? Either way, the staff are unprepared for the change of plan. They have two more hours of reminiscing to do and haven't decided who to say goodbye to and who to avoid in case uncontrollable emotions come to the surface. They were going to spend the final hour considering what to say to colleagues but now there's no time to think of a meaningful last sentence. People start to mill about in solemn groups. One triggers the goodbyes and then everybody starts but they're edgy about what to do: with a hand-shake - that's a bit formal and distant for what might be a last meeting; with a hug - how firm should it be and how long to hold for without appearing familiar? With a kiss - cheek to cheek? mouth to cheek? which side first, don't want to bump noses!

It's 3:37pm and with goodbyes said, the various groups start to disperse and people say things they would never normally have said, "are you OK for a lift home?", "shall we get together next week?", "give my regards to ". Polite words perhaps, but these people have never driven home together nor even met outside work during during the past twelve years so why would they start now?

The last car leaves the car park and the lone security guard waddles stiffly across the yard in his PPE and shuts the heavy steel gates. With a squealing twist he rotates the bolt into its receiver, closes the hasp and fits the padlock and chain. A quick rattle confirms it's properly fastened and the site's closed.