It's been hard work and I'm on the verge of flagging. To boost my spirits, I revisited the many emails I have received from readers in response to my weekly outpourings. Most have been complimentary; some not so. That's life for a columnist, but I enjoy getting them. When I first put my email address at the foot of my articles, I expected little response. I was wrong, not only about the quantity, but about the quality of responses.
Re-reading the emails reminded me of the range of issues that abound in the sector. How innocently I veered into the internecine conflict between two national bodies about who had set up the first charity shop. (Do grow up!) In response to my piece about International Women's Day, the Women's Resource Centre described me in a blog as a "Knight in shining armour" - I almost inadvertently became a feminist icon.
My articles on dying and bereavement generated a good deal of correspondence - understandably so. The British hospice movement is too often overlooked. It was really cheering to receive such positive feedback. This, however, was overshadowed by news that the Natural Death Centre, which plays such an important part in how we say goodbye, is facing difficulties. I hope it survives - it has to.
Less fondly, I recall the provocative email from a chap who, in response to my article on activism, described the voluntary sector as not needing "well-rounded, intellectually curious" workers. What planet was he on? And then there was the pedant saying that I really "got on her nerves" and demanded to know if I had ever been to a music festival. And the reader who told me she knew me so well through my articles ...
On a more thrilling note, the chief executive of the RNLI wrote to me after I'd written about funding for the lifeboat service to invite me to spend a day at its headquarters. I will go, and secretly hope that I will be able to have a 'user involvement' experience by going out on a lifeboat. I really hope he is reading this.
- John Knight is assistant director, policy and campaigns, at Leonard Cheshire Disability: email@example.com.