Z enjoys dinner, but has another wakeful night

I’ve just been reading how huge our debts are. I know, I’ve known for years how, even in the times when we weren’t at war and everything was apparently rosy, that the previous government deliberately disguised the amount of the national debt.

A number of schools were invited to apply to be part of a rebuilding project under a PFI – Private Finance Initiative – project. Never mind for now about all of the details, my present point is that, having applied and been accepted for a new build on a new site of our village school, we governors had to learn a great deal about the subject.

I could understand the figures but not make sense of them. So finally I asked the coordinator how it all added up. He explained that the company putting up the money for the building would spend out huge sums, but would heavily overcharge for management services provided. This would service their debt and repay themselves. It would be a 25 year project. Somewhere halfway, they would break even by paying off the original loan. After that, they would make a massive profit. So, I asked, why – since this was a government initiative, though being run by the county council – why didn’t the government put up the money and save all those charges? This way, I was told with simple truth, the expense doesn’t show up in public sector borrowing.

PFI schemes alone have put us in debt to the tune of an extra 200 billion pounds more than even that lying regime ever told us. It was about 8 years ago I found this out and I never trusted them one inch since.

Anyway. A delightful, if somewhat unusual, combination of food for dinner. Artichokes to start with. No careful cutting beforehand to serve just the hearts. Part of the pleasure to me is the slow pulling off of the individual leaves, the dipping in butter and the scraping of the artichoke flesh against my teeth. Then the careful removal of the choke, the immature flower, to reveal the heart as the final treat, worth all the effort.

After that, we had the first home grown runner beans. We could have had them a few days earlier if I’d noticed, for they were big enough. I love runner beans, picked young and tenderly unstringy. I like them best sliced long and fairly thick. Little chippy bits are easily overcooked, but broken into chunks doesn’t expose enough of the tender inside. With it, we had some young broad beans, some small new potatoes – these, I didn’t grow – and kippers. I’ve said before how fond I am of kippers and of anything smoked.

The Sage picked all the broad beans that were ready, too many for us, so I put a boxful in Al’s van, together with a couple more cucumbers. I had cucumber sandwiches for lunch, but can’t keep up with the crop.

The first aubergine and a pepper are ready to pick. That is, they will grow more yet if I leave them, but the plants crop heavier if the fruits are removed regularly.

12 comments on “Z enjoys dinner, but has another wakeful night

  1. lom

    We eat the last of out broad bean Monday, I only planted a couple of plants, next year I shall plant more. My cucumbers have died, well they don’t look to good, so next year on your advice I shall put them in pots.

  2. Dave

    I must admit that, as I started to read, I assumed your first sentence was a personal comment. I thought perhaps The Great Wall was a PFI.

    I have never seen the point of the cucumber.

  3. Rog

    The disgraceful scandal of PFI’s still isn’t understood by a lot of the populace. Mandelson and Blair thought Brown was mad – and they should know.

  4. Christopher

    Good post. Good to see the scandal of the PFI exposed, tho’ – tell it not in Gath – I understand it was a Tory idea to start with, back in the mid-90s. But the point of it then was to raise the cash from private sources, not to create a dodgy PSBR accounting camouflage.

    Artichoke hearts are fine – do you dip into melted butter? Never a mayonnaise? – as long as you manage to separate out the beard.

  5. Z

    I think you had them in growbags, Helen? – I tried them several times, years ago, they started out well and then the roots rotted. Check them – if the stem is rotting there’s nothing to be done, but if the compost is wet but the stem is healthy, they might be saved. Cut open the top of the bag to let air in, drain out water by making holes low in the side and, when it’s dried out again in a few days, water cautiously.

    I usually put a mound of manure/compost in the greenhouse border and grow a plant on that – the base of the plant mustn’t be too wet as it’ll rot. I’ve one plant in a pot this year as I ran out of space – it looks healthy but I don’t know how well it will crop.

    No, we’re not in debt, Dave.

    It’s the end opposite the stalk, sometimes with a flower on.

    I’m afraid I went off on one there rather, but it’s something that has always infuriated me, because people don’t understand it, and why should they? They thought they were so clever, and they were just devious.

    If I’m just served the hearts, particularly cold, I’ll have vinaigrette, but for eating hot and whole, butter is the thing for me – I’m a slave to childhood memories. Although often, to retain the waistline (what’s left of it), I just eat it plain.

  6. 63mago

    I have no understanding of “business”, and numbers … nice graphical signs.
    But if I get it right, this pfi-scheme just burns public money. Or is this an incorrect over-simplification? I always thought the state had to act as “guter Kaufmann” / “good merchant”, what simply means to hold it all together and avoid depth, but this is hoplessly out of date, it seems.

    How will you treat the aubergine?

  7. Roses


    I was looking forward to my home-grown aubergine. Next year.

    I worked in local government and I didn’t understand PFIs either. I thought it was because I was thick, now it seems they are just a brand of Emperor’s clothes.

  8. Z

    I certainly don’t understand how all the ramifications work, but they were used to manipulate public spending to disguise debt,

    I haven’t decided how to cook the aubergine yet – there’s just the one and it’s not very large – possibly simply slice, brush with olive oil and grill. If I do that, I’ll eat it alone as the Sage isn’t that fond. If he’s going to eat it, it’ll have to be disguised a bit, but that seems a waste.

    Let’s hope that Boy picks them and either eats them himself or gives them away. Or maybe that’s asking too much of a teenager…

  9. Zig

    There is a very VERY VERY big house not very far from here in which lives the man who made his millions from Primary Care Trust PFIs – he hasn’t had to wait to make his massive profit.

  10. Z

    Indeed, Zig – fat salaries and big expense accounts probably go with the territory. And indeed, I’m not questioning the probity or hard work of the individuals or companies concerned.

    *Covers back*


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