The kind words from readers in time of need
Being a freelancer has its ups and its downs. On the plus side, I'm my own boss with no-one looking over my shoulder or questioning my time-keeping. As long as I meet my deadlines - and I don't libel anyone in the process - I'm okay.
Also, I don't have a long interminable commute to work every day. In fact I hardly have to move more than a few steps, because my office is a desk in my bedroom. Neither do I have to worry too much about my appearance, because unless I'm out interviewing someone or researching something, nobody sees me from one day to the next. Every day can be dress-down Friday. In fact, technically, I could stay in my pyjamas all day and no-body would be any the wiser. I said technically.
But there are drawbacks, too. Working for oneself can sometimes be isolating, especially now that my sons are both students and living away from home. No office means no colleagues and no colleagues means no chat, no banter and not a single birthday bun. Nevertheless, I love my job as a weekly columnist and that is mainly because of you. The feedback I get from readers makes it all worthwhile and I just wanted to say how much I appreciate all the lovely emails, letters and online comments I've had over the last 10 years. And none more so than in the last fortnight, since I wrote about the loss of our beloved Bailey. In fact, I've been so touched by all your kind words and offers of sympathy and condolence that I've decided to publish just a few extracts.
Mike from Aghadowey wrote: "Hi Frances, I just had to write to you about your lovely article about Bailey. What you said totally and simply summed up the joy and love we have for our pets. I too lost my dog Blue a few years ago and what you said brought it all back again, but in a good way. I can never understand how non 'pet people' can brush off our upset at animal bereavement. I think if they read your article they might understand better."
This one from Roberta: "Just to say how sorry I am to read about the loss of Bailey. He achieved his mission in life and in return was blessed with a family who obviously loved him dearly. You will never forget him." Sam sent this: "What a lovely story about your wee dog Bailey and the circumstances under which you bought him. I have been a widower for two years now and miss my wife very sorely especially in the evenings. I have given some thought to getting a dog for company and now maybe I will, thanks to you."
Gail wrote: "I was so very sorry to read of the sad passing of your beloved friend, teacher, welcomer and consoler - Bailey. My deepest condolences to you all. May he live on in your hearts. Take care and cherish the memories as I know you will." Renee emailed this: "Twenty four years ago I lost my husband to an illness and at that time I too had two teenage sons just like you. The boys missed their dad so much as I did myself. We decided to get a little dog - a Jack Russell called Sparky. He went with me everywhere, licked my tears, played with the boys and filled the house with fun and laughter, just like your Bailey."
Roy from Portstewart said: "Hi Frances, I just had to write a note to tell you how sorry I was to hear about your dear Bailey. I know from reading your column every week how much he meant to you and the boys. He was quite a character and well done to you all for giving him such a lovely life."
And finally, a reader calling himself Ribtickler wrote this: "Whenever I remember my childhood no memory is complete without remembering the dogs that travelled that journey to adulthood with me. They taught me lessons about life, loyalty, friendship and how you can never feel alone when you have a four-legged friend beside you. Now my own sons are travelling that path to manhood, early days yet, but our two dogs are guiding them along filling in the gaps that no human can possibly fill. The only drawback...? our pets don't live long enough, just as childhood does not last long enough. Thanks for making this ol' codger cry."