‘YEAH, you look nice in that dress.’
‘Sure, I’ll be right home after a swift half.’
‘Of course they said that – I have no idea why they’re claiming I misquoted them in the story.’
Ah, little white lies.
Helping the world run smoother since I looked at the paint strokes on my mother’s dining room wall and – my four-year-old instinct telling me her urgent desire to know who was responsible wasn’t because she felt she had a potential Van Gogh on her hands – shrugged ‘I think it was the lad from next door’.
We never did become best mates, me and him.
Grew up together, played football, ran about, but I always suspect he remembered.
There was always some barrier to us being great friends, always a mutual undercurrent of resentment.
From me because he was successful, good looking and could execute a sweet Cruyff turn.
From him because he couldn’t forget his mum tanning his little backside and sending him to his room just as Sesame Street was about to start.
On such delicate tissues are lifelong relationships built.
In any case, I lied.
Because, after all, am I not human?
Do we not all lie? Is our stock not in fibs?
Certainly it seems so according to the latest press release from the Department of Work and Pensions.
It recently released a top 10 tall tales told to them by benefit cheats caught committing their tawdry little acts of fraud.
Among them were such beauties as ‘I didn’t know my wife was working because I spend so much time in the shed’ and ‘I wasn’t jobbing as a window cleaner, I was carrying ladders as therapy’.
The idea behind publishing the excuses isn’t just to give us a giggle but to shame the cheats – and yet for me, I can’t help but feel something approaching respect for them.
Because how can you not doff your cap to anyone who claims, with all sincerity, ‘It was my identical twin what was working, guv’nor’ – an excuse not a million miles from essentially telling a teacher ‘Look behind you’ and then running away.
Give that scummy man a reprieve. Give him all the misclaimed benefits he wants. Just don’t put him in a work place, he’d be dangerous.
But, then, that’s not going to happen anyway, is it?
I’ve sat in court case after court case of benefit cheats and the punishment they always get? Eighty hours community service picking up litter and a fiver docked weekly from their benefits – yup, they’re always still claiming.
And then it’s not that funny. Because you realise these fraudsters don’t even feel guilt – an emotion that four-year-old me was capable of grasping – they’re just sorry they got caught, they’re just sorry they can’t get lazily by any more.
They’re sorry they can no longer suck dry a good system built by good people to help the needy and the deserving.
I look at them in court, like I looked at those MPs in the papers who claimed for hobnobs and duck houses, and think ‘Everyone lies – but it doesn’t mean you have to be a muppet about it’.
And then sometimes I look at the paint marks still on my mother’s wall and I think maybe it’s time to confess.