“After reading several of your columns, I wrote you off as just another left-wing loser. However your last two columns have given me hope that there is an intelligent, pragmatic soul behind that facade.”
This was how one of my readers began an email to me recently. He obviously wasn’t taking Anthony Trollope’s advice: “This at least should be a rule through the letter-writing world: that no angry letter be posted till four-and-twenty hours will have elapsed since it was written.”
But I’m glad my correspondent decided to take the road that was less politically correct because that path was grassy and wanted wear.
He subsequently invited me to catch up for a coffee.
I haven’t done so yet, but I’m sure I will at some stage.
His email got me thinking about the relationship between the writer and the reader, and it’s one that I cherish.
I get my fair share of complaints, but there are a few plaudits thrown in as well, and occasionally as my original example shows, I get a mix of good and bad.
There are regulars who I now know quite well.
Some started by correcting my grammar or factual errors, but over time they wrote to me about the columns themselves and how they could relate to them, sharing their experiences along the way. And our relationships have been richer for it.
Regardless of the correspondent’s take on my column, I always try to write back.
It seems the polite thing to do.
I acknowledge their argument if they have one that differs from mine, but I don’t try too hard to persuade them, I doubt if an email will do what my column failed to achieve.
There are rare instances where the response to one of my columns is a racist or sexist rant – I’ll usually leave those alone in the belief they just wanted to get it off their chest.
There is the odd occasion when I simply forget to reply, which brings me to the mea culpa of this memorandum.
A few weeks ago, one of my colleagues passed on a lovely letter to which I have yet to reply.
So Gwen from Buderim, please accept my sincere apologies for the lack of a response, it was such a delight to get handwritten correspondence, and I wish you all the best for the rest of the year.