If you prick me, do I not bleed?

April 18, 2012

in Miscellaneous, Personal

I recently had an article in the Spectator.

The day after the link appeared on twitter I had a tweet from someone offering me a link to their blog. I knew better than to follow it, seeing the source, so ignored it. It was followed by a second, saying I would like this blog post. Friends told me it was a post where I was being rubbished, so I tweeted back to the effect that I know this person wants to hurt me (this is not her first ‘go’) so why would I check out her link? No thanks.

I then received this from a friend of hers:

 Anne, you write in the National press in a very forceful way being more than scathing about NGS gardens et al & yet accuse  AS of wanting to hurt you! You put yourself well above the parapet so accept the results.

I responded to the effect that AS can write what she wishes but I don’t want her to send me the links to it. And if someone writes nasty blog posts about me and sends me the link, it’s not odd to think they want to hurt me.

But since then I have been wondering – why should I ‘accept the results’ because I published a controversial article? What on earth does that mean?

Let’s get this straight: I have to ‘accept the results’ – whatever they are, because they are out of my control. That is the bit that is inevitable, and I know that, of course.

And I do know I will attract venom and abuse. I do. Comes with the territory.

But I can also still be hurt. Hurt is hurt – not much choice about it anyway. Hurt is something we feel, not something we do.

I criticise. I am told, sometimes, with a kind of punitive relish, that if I ‘hand it out, I must take it too’. I think this means I mustn’t mind/complain.

I imagine that the people I am critical of mind. And they frequently complain. And I mind when they are critical of me. I might wish to complain too.  I am as human as they are. Even if I am in print. Why the hell would that make a difference to how I feel?

PS Ha! I’ve just realised – how stupid of me. What they mean when they say I should ‘accept the results’ is ‘you deserve to be hurt’.

Door painting  by Anne Wareham



Janet Stewart May 1, 2012 at 11:17 am

Wow Anne! Have to admit your article in the Spectator (to me) was like a hard punch that kept on coming.

I’m no way qualified to comment on gardening from a professional point nor would I even put myself on an ‘amateur’ status but I do love nature, woods, forests, gardens, etc in all its shapes and forms. I don’t have rigid standars of what a garden should look like or which particular plant should go where, I like what I like and don’t like what I don’t like.

I love gardens in all their forms/designs whether long ago established ones or the newer modern designs but it’s all a matter of my personal taste and what I love another person may detest.

If I have a particular dislike for something then that’s my opinion but it doesn’t make it wrong if someone else loves it.

I feel gardens should be a reflection of the gardener, of what he/she loves and how they wish to express/display it through their garden. To say that gardens shouldn’t look a certain way because it’s not pleasing to you is being dictatorial, many other people who visit the garden may well fall in love with it, many others not.

I agree that some of the gardens showing under the NGS may not be of a high standard but I daresay if they really don’t appeal to visitors then return visits and recommendations to the garden will be limited and I have no doubt that word would somehow get around.

Obviously the matter is something you feel very passionately about, however (in my opinion) I feel that your article came across very strongly and negatively regarding the whole scheme, pointing out all the things you feel is wrong with it but with no positive comment as to what it may be doing right (there must be something?) or with any suggestions as to how it can become more appealing or improved.

Personally I think a criticism should be balanced with some positive suggestions otherwise it will just come across as an attack and responses to the same will be returned in a similar vein – personal – rather than address the issues at hand.

Generally people who critique as wholeheartedly as you have don’t care what people think or say about them, you obviously don’t fall into this category and do have feelings.

I’m not sure when you wrote the article whether you took other people’s feelings into account (and who am I to say how you should write) it’s clearly a matter you feel passionately about and you wrote accordingly but it’s also a matter a lot of people feel positively passionately about too and they have responded in a like manner, by not taking your feelings into account.

I agree with you that it was unnecessary for AS to twee you and refer you to her link, quite rightly as you say she is entitled to her opinion, she can write what she wishes butg she does not have to draw your attention to it as your article was not directed to/at her. I have no doubt whatever she had to say about you would eventually have filtered down to you, without her assistance.

I agree with Abbie (18.4.2012) that it would have been better if those who disagreed with your comments responded with their reasons as to why the NGS is a good thing instead of replying with hurtful comments but unfortunately once someone feels under attack they respond by attack.

anne May 1, 2012 at 11:48 am

Hi Janet,

Maybe this will clarify my thoughts about the garden aspect of your comment – http://veddw.com/annes-writing/gardens-need-critics-by-anne-wareham-for-the-garden-design-journal/ ?

My point really is that, yes, if you say things that upset people they tend to hit you. (metaphorically). But perhaps they might equally reflect and engage with the argument instead of just hitting out. I know I’m not going change the world by saying that, but, you never know, it might encourage someone to take the thinking, rather than the hitting, further. And anyway,they might just stop telling me I shouldn’t be hurt.

And – I don’t really believe tempering my opinion with some ‘positives’ would actually have made people kinder towards me or think more. There is, of course, a contradiction – that people complain that it’s out of order to be hurtful and do their complaining – hurtfully. On that note, I appreciate your thoughtfulness and kindness towards me.

Janet Stewart May 3, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Dear Anne

Read your previous article in the Garden Design Journal which has clarified things, maybe reference to this could have been mentioned in your article in the Spectator so that the readers would know that it is something that had been raised by you as long ago as 2002 but that nothing had changed in all that time.

anne May 3, 2012 at 7:50 pm

But things are changing, I’m happy to say. (except the bit about people getting pissed off with me and abusive…)

Abbie April 18, 2012 at 10:44 pm

I think it is more a case that hard hitting or stringent critique of ideas, principles or practice often gives rise to responses which are deeply personal attacks. That is what hurts. If those who disagreed just discussed the content and ideas, then it is possible to agree to differ. Too often, they go for the jugular instead with insult aimed at the writer’s personal character. And the writer is expected to “be able to take it”.

anne April 18, 2012 at 10:51 pm

This is true. It would be such a real luxury to have someone come back closely arguing their case. What a difference – and that’s where a dialogue could genuinely take us forward, in whatever field..

However, maybe I don’t write as clearly as I would wish, but I often feel depressed by the fact that people don’t actually seem to understand what I’m saying. It would be a good start, perhaps, if some did.

Sue Phipps April 18, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Your article has certainly made me consider and wonder – which has to be good. However it did take several days to get over the sense of being attacked. Possibly that was a necessary part of the process, but I am not sure, it was quite sweeping.

Not sure I can give up the drizzle cake – it’s taken me three years to learn how to make it without sinking

anne April 18, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Well, if you got through your feelings of hurt to be able to think about what I was saying, that speaks for your thoughtfulness and receptivity. I do believe that good things can come out of destruction. As well as hurt.

Don’t stop with the cake! It’s absolutely of the moment. Part of the Zeitgeist? XXXX

Sue Phipps April 18, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Although I don’t agree with a lot of what you say in your article, it has made me consider and wonder. Gardens in London (where I am) provide a different challenge to the shires.
I am sad that you don’t like drizzle cake though

anne April 18, 2012 at 9:00 pm

It’s just not got anything on chocolate cake….or coffee cake…or carrot …we need a definitive test!

My first garden was in London. I think town gardens can be so good.. (Mine wasn’t)

Charles April 18, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Haha! But it was included in the NGS!!!!

anne April 18, 2012 at 9:35 pm

It was. It was pretty awful and in the NGS! Our first garden. *goes all sentimental*.

Sue Phipps April 18, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Last year I offered coffee and chocolate as an alternative – it rained and the local Old People’s home refused the cake on grounds of health and safety! The trouble with town gardens is what to do when people arrive to see you with a plant. But then, do i want a Christmas tree that looks like House and Garden or do I want one with memories?
Apologies for commenting twice earlier – I didn’t think the first one had got through

anne April 18, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Send next reject cakes in this direction!

Forget House and Garden – but aren’t there original, exciting and challenging ways to express memory in a garden?

But not sure about people arriving to see you with a plant = ?

Paul Steer April 18, 2012 at 6:49 pm

It amazes me that garden critique causes so much upset, but then I suppose gardens are very much a reflection of the gardener. Although the article doesn’t criticise individuals…we are such sensitive creatures when it comes to the things that we ‘own’ or create, and tend to take criticism personally. I think debate is healthy, but perhaps we need not be quite so serious about it, and certainly not be personal and insist that we take our medicine.

anne April 18, 2012 at 6:54 pm

This is good resolution stuff I think. We do take criticism personally – whether of our person, or of what we have made – or written.

Some of us take it harder than others, clearly, but resolving not to take it seriously doesn’t actually help. Trying to can make the failure seem shameful, which may be worse?

Nurses may be too fond of medicine?!

Paul Steer April 18, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Yes Anne, we love dishing out the medicine but not so good at taking it… a universal human failing I think !

anne April 18, 2012 at 8:00 pm

No – it really isn’t like that, is it? There are things to say that need saying. Sometimes they hurt people. Doesn’t mean we like hurting people. Sometimes we get hurt. It’s OK to be hurt – but: it hurts!

Victoria Wildman April 18, 2012 at 5:48 pm

What is wrong with people. They have the choice to read or not read what you write and by turn it is your choice and yours only to read any response, surely hubris to consider otherwise.

anne April 18, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Yes. I have learned not to read some things, and don’t. But everyone stumbles across things they wish they hadn’t read – especially online. And sometimes horrible phrases stay in the mind for hours. Wish kind phrases had same staying power…

Michael Eastwood April 18, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Oh Anne, bugger them. Life is too short to waste time on other people’s opinions.
A bullies fuel is fear and power. Take that away and they are just human.

anne April 18, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Brave words! Kind words! And yes, they are human – and me too.. Wish I could just punch the air and go YEAH! Comments like this do make me more determined to try harder not to care, though.XXXXX

Michael Eastwood April 18, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Just remember you are not Ghandi. Punch that air girl!

anne April 18, 2012 at 6:06 pm

*Practises hard*

Charles April 18, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Perhaps! But I do think a little time is worth wasting on Anne’s opinions. 😉

Charles April 18, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Bravo! I was hoping that you would find a way to come back at the idiots that seem to think that you shouldn’t mind about being abused.

anne April 18, 2012 at 4:18 pm

You’re sweet! Thank you…But I wasn’t thinking of sending them the link!

Nic April 18, 2012 at 2:32 pm

That’s a complicated question! I think (I do not know) that it depends on the initial communication – whether it is a personal attack or a critique of an accepted norm. For any personal attack – expect it back in spades. The latter should, you would hope, provoke an intelligent debate. (I have not read either article yet.)

anne April 18, 2012 at 2:37 pm

O, intelligent debate – that would be good!

But criticism hurts some of us whether we expect it or not. And – I just discovered, (not from you) – it is especially horrible when it comes in school-ma’am language. Hits old wounds?

Nic April 18, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Perhaps. I was thinking about this when I was having a smoke in the rain. Our media feels free to bully whoever they want, whether persons ‘put themselves out there’ or not. I remember when I was young, feeling safe in the knowledge that bullies were something singular to schools. Whoops.

anne April 18, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Ah – the days when you could a) smoke indoors and b) think bullying was confined to schools. It’s true the web must make it hard for many people to escape some bullies, and the papers..(hate to say this, but also they LIE!)

Nic April 19, 2012 at 9:07 am

They do lie. They lie and proffer themselves as some kind of moral leader. That’s pretty sick when you think of hacking and hillsborough.

catharine howard April 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm

No I had not seen the Spectator article. Read it but not followed up the AS link (who she?) but am pretty sure that the art of splitting controversial views from enmity is a bit grown-up for some. In response, the great art of not angering under fire or rising to the bait. I love lemon drizzle cake, occasionally borrow ideas from gardens visited and am planning to assassinate ALL ground elder here. Notwithstanding all that, definitely riding in your bandwagon.

anne April 18, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I know – the lemon drizzle cake has upset quite a few. I am considering a cake review to finally sort that one out…

I agree there is the great art of not rising to baits. That’s always best where possible. My thought is rather more about the private world where it still does hurt, irrespective of whether it should.

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