When A A Gill, the restaurant critic, was finishing his meal at a restaurant in Wales the chef asked him what he thought of the food. “Disgusting” replied Gill. In fact he thought the food was good, as he confirmed in his review in the Sunday Times, but it gave him pleasure to torment the chef. This would have remained his private little joke if the chef hadn’t gone back to the kitchen and beaten up his assistant, after which the chef was done for assault and all the grisly facts came out in court.
A A Gill is paid to write entertaining reviews. The public love it when he puts the boot in and I suppose it’s easier for him if the venom comes from the depth of his soul. Truth and objectivity can’t get much of a look in when you have to write something amusing every week of the year.
When it comes to reviews of gardens, we have the opposite problem. Everyone is so damn nice. I had a bit of a rant about this when I wrote about Monty Don’s never-ending niceness in his series on Italian gardens (http://www.slow-life.co.uk/2011/05/12/the-worlds-ghastliest-garden/) and I was delighted to see Anne Wareham pick up the baton in her piece in the Spectator about The Laskett. She wrote about how exasperated she gets when she hears all the endless unthinking praise which is heaped on a garden which, in her opinion, is so second rate.
Anne Wareham is dead right in asking for a little bit more truthfulness and objectivity in reviews of gardens, but from the reaction of the gardening establishment you’d have thought that she had committed treason. Andrew Lawson, a garden writer, in a letter to the Spectator, said that she belonged to the “taste gestapo” and that her views were “poisonous”. AA Gill would be proud.