“Houseproud” was a criticism of women (never men) that I sometimes heard in my youth. A woman who was “houseproud” was seen as a pernickety housewife, more keen on dusting her ornaments than on welcoming visitors, even importing the sin of “pride” to that inanimate object, a house.
I don’t hear the term used so frequently now: standards of home maintenance have become so high that, perhaps, pride in a home is no longer considered unusual. A cleaning lady of my acquaintance tells me that every house she visits for cleaning purposes is already so spotless she wonders why she is required at all.
In this wonderful season of early summer, is “gardenproud” a more appropriate application? People work amazingly hard on their gardens and the standard of domestic gardening these days seems to me to rival Versailles.
In our town, we have an “open garden” day on July 1 – now in preparation – when you can wander from garden to garden to behold the extraordinary achievements of contemporary gardeners. Every garden on display looks like the Chelsea Flower Show and the local (Cof E) vicarage is usually among the star gardens: wonderfully spacious, and so varied in its blooms and plants.
There’s long been a link between gardening and spirituality, starting with the Garden of Eden, conceived as a paradise. Many holy men and women down the ages have cultivated gardening, and seen its care, beauty and attention to pruning as a metaphor for the care of the soul. Weeds, which sprout when the garden is neglected, become the symbols of the flaws, errors and sins that spring up if vigilance is not maintained.
I think my garden would probably win a competition for the worst garden in the neighbourhood. It’s wild, overgrown, strewn with weeds, and bordering on the squalid. When I gaze at it, it’s a reminder of how much work I have to do on my soul. I certainly have no reason to be “gardenproud”.
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