When you can’t do right for doing wrong

An acquaintance of mine collapsed at work a few days ago, I’m told. Apparently he’s been having trouble reconciling his love life with his duties as a father and it has, in colloquial terms, ‘done his head in’.

As I understand it (from a mutual friend down the caff, so you know it must be true), this chap has managed to start a relationship with a young lady half his age, who is therefore closer in maturity to his teenage daughters than to the gentleman himself.

As a result, rivalry as erupted between the girlfriend and the daughters, with the result that several of them have threatened to move out on more than one occasion.

But he seems to be totally smitten with his paramour, to the point where he spent a small fortune taking her to the theatre in London at Christmas (to see Les Miserables, I believe. What an appropriate title. If they’d gone to Cinderella, they might have been having a ball by now).

It seems that, after his collapse, our old boy was saying he had so many different things going around in his mind, it had made him completely dizzy, confused, and disorientated.

I can’t really sympathise too much. I think he’s trying to maintain a situation that is untenable. In my opinion, he wants to keep his relationship at the initial, euphoric, erotic-romantic heights at which it probably started, and it can’t be done. Every lasting relationship eventually settles down into something a little less fragile, a bit more durable, and a lot less exciting. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is.

In trying to stay at the dizzy heights (probably because he thinks that’s what the girlfriend wants), my acquaintance seems to have neglected his duties to his daughters somewhat. No wonder they’re angry with him.

Now they’ve reached the point where everybody’s in an entrenched position and nobody’s willing to negotiate at all. No wonder he fainted.

If I was in that situation, I’d turn to the girlfriend and say, “Things have to change. I have a responsibility to my girls and need to look after them. You will receive less attention and fewer treats because I can only stretch my time and money so far. That’s the way it is. If you don’t like it, maybe you should leave. I don’t want to see or hear about any animosity between you and the girls about this; if that happens, you should leave. I’ll be heartbroken, but I know where my duties lie.” Or words to that effect. It’s the only fair solution.

I say this from the vantage point of a relationship that has lasted nearly 12 years now. Mrs Mike and I fell from the lofty plateau of mutual infatuation long ago and our life is now a concentrated effort to survive, really. We manage all right.

We still argue, though. Of course we do. Only today she was telling me how little I do for her around the house and that I should lay off all those silly frivolous things I do in my office room – like this blog.

On the surface, that’s an attack on the choices I make about my leisure time, but if that’s what you thought, you’d be wrong. It’s about money.

Mrs Mike is disabled; I’m her carer. The benefit money that we receive is not enough to pay all our outgoings, so I have to go out and work to earn some more. When you’re on Carers’ Allowance, this is permitted, within limited parameters. Most of the time, when I’m holed up in the office, I’m either working, or I’m working on getting more work.

The blog is what I do to relax. Writing about heavyweight subjects like disability benefits, depression and suchlike is what I do to relax. Get used to it; you talk about what you know.

So she’s really arguing that I should spend less time ensuring our survival and more time doing housework. This would be nice, but I simply don’t have the luxury. I’m caught between a rock and a hard place.

This is why – and here comes the politics, in case you were wondering if I’d ever get to it – the debates over the Welfare Reform Bill, coupled with the revelations that Vodafone might owe even more billions in unpaid taxes than we had previously suspected, greatly concern me.

The government wants to cut £9.2 billion from its budget for services and benefits payable to disabled people, at a time when we find that Vodafone might owe £8bn in unpaid taxes that HMRC haven’t demanded! That would nearly pay what the Coalition wants to cut!

Amounts payable from other companies would clear that deficit completely, with plenty to spare for other benefits and public services the government is determined to cut – or for clearing the much-debated national deficit.

Why isn’t it happening?

Well it’s a choice, isn’t it? The Conservative-led coalition wants to cut public services and is using the deficit as an excuse to do so. In order to make this strategy succeed, it must also ensure that those who pay the highest taxes receive tax breaks of some kind. It’s called ‘Starving the Beast’ and I refer to it in another blog here.

The reason they have tabled legislation to cut benefits for the disabled isn’t that they have to; it’s that they want to.

If the proposals that were blocked by the House of Lords on January 11 had gone through – and if those which deal specifically with Disability Living Allowance, which go to the vote next week, do get passed, there will be many more arguments about money and the allocation of carers’ time, up and down the country. Perhaps couples will split, creating an even greater burden on the country as they move into different residences and claim Housing Benefit (the government was defeated in its plans to cut this in December last year).

Looking at the government’s plans in this way, and this is only my opinion, they make about as much sense as my friend’s confused love life. At least he’s trying to do what’s right.

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