If you’re sitting comfortably with Gemima, Little Ted, Big Ted and Hamble, we’re going to look through one of Mark Neary’s inner windows. Today, let’s look through the paranoid window.
I’ve just posted my second attempt at completing this year’s financial report for the Office of the Public Guardian. Don’t ask about the first attempt. I made such a pigs ear of it, it was returned with a whole page of clarifying questions. As soon as I open the envelope, I panic and that mood persists until I get the all clear.
I picture the OPG like some austere maiden aunt. One who is excellent at darning old socks. One who is a dab hand at making gorgeous stews out of yesterday’s leftovers. And this maiden aunt tuts a lot. She disapproves if I help myself to an extra custard cream. And she doesn’t think I wash behind my ears often enough.
Of course, in reality, the OPG is nothing like this. Whenever I’ve spoken to them on the phone, they have been very human and very helpful. When the Visitor paid a call last year, she was great – very straightforward and supportive. So, why have I turned them into a corsetted Great Aunt Gertrude.
I know where it comes from. I never used to be unnecessarily fearful of authority figures. But over the past few years, I find myself quaking in my brogues. I suspect that I project my experiences with Hillingdon’s direct payment manager onto every other authority encounter. She terrifies me – “MR NEARY. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES CAN YOU USE YOUR DAILY ALLOCATION TO FUND AN EMERGENCY NIGHT SHIFT. YOU MUST SEEK MY PERMISSION FIRST. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT?” When she barks at me, I become 8 years old again and have just been told off for wasting my pocket money on 5 back copies of Whizzer & Chips.
It’s not a good idea to give a financial and property deputyship annual report to an 8 year old to complete. If I can’t account or explain every last penny of money I’ve spent on Steven, will I be sent to my room?
Here are some of the fantasy chastisements I’ve conjured up over the weekend:
“Two new tellys this year Mr Neary?” “Well, Steven is autistic and TVs are fragile. QED?”
“£140 to replace the support worker’s spectacles?” I then launch into a robust defense of a messy meltdown over a missing Proclaimers CD, as if I’m in the witness box at the High Court.
The one piece of expenditure that has caused the biggest anxiety this year, goes like this:
“I see, in column 6 Mr Neary, you spent £45 on a life size Mr Bean cardboard cutout. I can see the offending item, looming in the corner of the living room. Explain yourself boy. And in the meantime, I am going to boil your goolies in brine and send you to an assessment and treatment unit, until you take your responsibilities more seriously”.
At this point, I choke on my sherbert dip and wet myself.