Advice and criticism - accept or resent?

14 Dec 2019

A local woman, my kids' age, came in yesterday and almost accused me of living in too big a house. Odd, she lives in a big modern house with her husband, her mother lives alone in a big house, they have a big shop (shut) in the high street, with two flats above. They have other properties, let, they are rumoured to be 'grasping' landlords. I was pushed into this place by circumstance, it was empty for 7 years, I can't let it, share it or house refugees, for many reasons. There is loads of empty property in the town, because there is no work to draw people, and the infrastructure, what there was, is collapsing (station shut now). I'm still happy here, because many of the problems of old age will not affect me living in the middle of the town.

But the remark led me to wonder what it is about me that seems to draw criticism. My first garden (done when I was 20) was great, designed as 'fun for all'. We got more land, and put in a tennis court. I did a Wimbledon on it, then I made cakes, friends poured in over the weekend, had a great time, ate all the cakes, and thanked me nicely. I don't think I ever played on the damned thing. We did a school rota. One of the fathers had been dreadfully shot up in the war, but he was so critical and cynical that if neighbours saw him approaching on his bike they all hid. Even he could not criticise my garden, but never would he praise it. My last garden, 'open ' ever week, often bought almost aggressive remarks 'It's a lot of work', the tone of voice was pitying that I should undertake such a task.

My mother-in-law could criticise for England. I did not feed my husband properly, my kids were badly brought up, my housekeeping was dreadful, I wore 'tarty' clothes, and put on too much make-up. She did all she could, with a like-minded crony, to stop our marrying, but she was out-manoeuvred. Luckily father-in-law was a darling, one of nature's 'gentlemen'. He'd suffered in WWI, I always spoiled him on visits, probably did not add to my popularity.

My mother was pure Mrs Grundy. She was included in all family occasions; I was a nervous wreck at the end of her visits. As a family we went to town on entertaining – Mummy would sit and glower – 'What do you want to go to all that trouble for?' Cooking, food presentation, table laying, flowers everywhere, fireworks at weddings if I could get away with it. And, always, the disapproving force in the background.

I have been feeling guilty about having had super houses, much travelled, and having a big family. It was watching the Ken Loach film 'Sorry we missed you' (before that,' I, Daniel Blake') and hearing all the election promises for a Utopian world that's got to me. I expect I will recover.

The Gardener

A Moodscope member.

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