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Why does she put up with him? He won't get a job, lives in a hotel and watches TV or plays video games all day.

Byline: MELISSA THOMPSON

LAYABOUT Phil Fendick jokingly describes himself as a real-life Homer Simpson - but Britain's laziest man actually makes the slobby cartoon dad look like a workaholic.

And it is certainly no laughing matter for his put-upon partner Marie Harden.

Dad-of-four Phil doesn't work because he can't be bothered applying for a job. He spends his days sprawled across an unmade bed, watching telly and playing computer games.

Even microwaving a ready-made meal is too much effort for him, as is reading his two young sons a bedtime story.

It is left to Marie, 23, to look after their boys, pay his bills and make his meals - even though they no longer live together.

She kicked 38-year-old Phil out of their council flat in Margate, Kent, when she caught him sending sex texts to another woman eight months ago.

But was being thrown out on his ear the wake-up call Phil needed? Did it inspire him to do everything he could to find work, fend for himself and prove he was worthy?

Nope. Instead, loafer Phil managed to convince the council to put him up in a hotel NEXT DOOR, so his downtrodden girlfriend could still cook all his meals. He says: "Marie's cooking is all right. Her stew is quite nice and her meat and suet pudding isn't too bad.

"I get her to freeze my dinner and pop around and have it when I need a feed.

"Marie gave me a microwave so I could cook myself, but I'm normally too tired.

"I lost a lot of weight when I first moved in because the mini-bar is too small and the cooking facilities are in the basement, which is a long way off and uncomfortable. Why should I walk all that way when I could just go next door to Marie's when I'm hungry?"

Pampered Phil does little to repay all Marie's efforts. In fact, when she asks for help with their sons - Joseph, three, and 18-monthold Jayden - he feels affronted.

Stifling a yawn and idly flicking through the TV chan-nelshe moans: "Marie relies on me too much.

"I'll just be settling down to watch the TV or play on my Xbox and she will call, asking me to go next door to read the kids a bedtime story or tuck them in, so I have to trek all the way back downstairs.

"It gives me the hump because I'm trying to relax by watching TV and playing on the computer. In a way I wish I hadn't bothered convincing the council to put me up in this hotel."

Poor Marie. You wonder why she puts up with him. But if the situation bothers her, she rarely says so - and when she does speak out she usually ends up regretting it.

Marie admits: "Sometimes I shout at Phil to get off his butt because I think he should be supporting his children. But then I end up apologising.

"Phil is the dad of my children so I'd never let him go hungry. If he wants something specific for dinner he'll ask me to get it while I'm at the supermarket. He likes my stew, so I cook that for him. I feel bad when I see him looking skinny.

"I know he tries looking for jobs on his computer because he tapped into my internet - last month the internet bill was pounds 200. But I don't feel used.

"I'm just a generous person and don't hold a grudge. But it would be nice to feel appreciated once in a while."

Running after the children and doing all the housework means Marie barely has time to stop for a cuppa most days. Meanwhile, on the other side of the wall, Phil is lounging around watching daytime TV among a tangle of dirty laundry.

"I just don't feel like doing anything," he explains, with a shrug. "Although sometimes I go down the pub for a beer, just to be polite to my mates."

Perhaps Marie puts up with her lazybones bloke because he's a bit of a charmer with a secret romantic side. But that turns out not to be the case.

"His first line to me was a dirty joke," she sighs. "We met in a cafe, went down the pub and got really drunk, played hide the ice cube and ended up in bed together. I told him it was a mistake in the morning."

Phil adds with a snigger: "When I met Marie she was 17 and my grandad always said, 'Get it while you can'. I got a pat on the back at the pub when I first got with her, but I was going to bed with loads of women back then - I didn't have to cook for months!

"I think I've had more than 50 women. I got a ram tattooed on my left arm when I got with Marie because she's an Aries, but now I have to tell people it's because I'm a randy ram.

"I don't know why Marie thinks I cheated on her. I told her she was being silly. I just sent pictures of my willy to another girl and got the girl to send me pictures of her boobs. And I only met up with her once."

He may not be the perfect partner, but Phil insists he's an exemplary dad. Watching feckless fathers on the Jeremy Kyle Show every day proves it.

He says: "I'm a good dad. When I watch dads on Jeremy Kyle who don't bother to see their kids, I just think they're a disgrace."

It seems to have slipped his mind that he has not seen his sons from a previous rela- t ionship - Samuel, 15, and Liam, 14 - for eight years.

Still, at least he knows exactly how he'll spoil his young sons if he did ever earn some money.

Former builder Phil says: "I'm going to get my sons' initials tattooed when I get some cash."

He might have to wait some time. There's one big obstacle to him securing employment - his complete lack of get-up-and-go.

"I can't remember how long I've been out of work because I've had spells of unemployment all my life," explains Phil.

"I'm from the old school of job hunters. I don't believe in filling out the Jobcentre forms proving I'm looking for work, I just go to construction sites and tell them I need a job.

"But they are full of Polish and Latvians, or teenagers who will work for peanuts.

"I haven't got 'mug' written on my forehead! A few weeks ago I got offered some work on a fairground, but I was only going to get pounds 150 for three days and they wanted me to start early and finish late.

"I weigh things up. I work out how much my packed lunch and travel will cost me, and if it's not worth it I don't bother.

"I only get pounds 520 benefits each month - pounds 240 Jobseekers' Allowance and pounds 280 Housing Benefit - so how am I supposed to photocopy my CV every week? It's too expensive.

"I struggle to get by as it is. I smoke up to 20 fags a day, so when I'm skint I even have to get cheap tobacco from my mates who go to France." For the moment, Marie will continue running errands for Phil, but she does dream of a better life.

She says: "I didn't think my life would turn out like this. I had a lot going for me.

"I always wanted to be a nurse but I didn't want to dodge my responsibilities when I fell pregnant.

One day I hope to study child psychology."

And what does the future hold for Phil? "Sorry, I can't speak right now," he says, dismissively.

"Jeremy Kyle's on."

CAPTION(S):

CUDDLES Together as a family - just last year DINNER IS SERVED Marie brings him meal ALL TOGETHER With Joseph and Jayden, left LOUNGING AROUND Phil on unmade bed TORN APART Phil and Marie by his hotel - next door to the flat they once shared
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 25, 2009
Words:1350
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