Piano man leaves Portobello beach

Ben Treuhaft says he can still visit his beach tent whenever he likes. Picture: Johnston Press
Ben Treuhaft says he can still visit his beach tent whenever he likes. Picture: Johnston Press
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THE musician who moved all of his worldly goods, including his beloved piano, to a tent on Portobello beach is now back to sleeping indoors – though he hasn’t abandoned the seaside completely.

Piano tuner Ben Treuhaft, 66, initially said he would not be moved from his makeshift beach home, despite pressure from Edinburgh City Council and concerns for his safety. However, the father-of-two says he has now accepted the council’s position.

He said: “They came to see me on Monday afternoon and it turns out that it really is illegal to camp on the beach!

“We’ve been in almost constant contact since then and they would like me to fill in forms to see what support I may be entitled to. They did offer me emergency housing, but I’m staying with my girlfriend Mirka at the moment, so I told them that wasn’t necessary.

“I’m not sad about it, I can still go and visit the tent any time, night or day.”

Mr Treuhaft, who is the son of ground-breaking journalist and Communist Jessica Mitford, met Mirka Rdzak, 31, whom he has nicknamed “Meerkat”, when they struck up a conversation on the Portobello sands. And his move back between four walls could not have come at a better time.

“I went back to check on the tent at about 2am on Tuesday morning and someone, obviously someone in greater need than me, had taken my sleeping bag and the ground mat that went under it.

“I’m not angry – it wasn’t a great sleeping bag anyway and if it helped somebody else then that’s a good thing.”

Mr Treuhaft first pitched his £500 tent – with more than a little help from his friend and housekeeper, Fouad Zohdi – on the beach last month, after being kicked out of the Morningside home he shared with his wife.

Mr Zohdi said: “As he’s my friend obviously I feel a bit more comfortable with him sleeping indoors, but it is a free country and I didn’t think it was very nice that people were trying to restrict his freedom. But if he is happy, then I am too.”

When the Evening News first spoke to Mr Treuhaft he said he expected to make the beach his permanent home. “I’m planning on staying here for the duration – forever,” he said.

“I bought the tent for £500 and that’s basically all the expenses covered. The rent is free and I have a great view.

“I’m going to stay here as long as possible, if the council doesn’t clear me out.”

Mr Treuhaft was also visited by Police Scotland during his stay, with officers dropping in to his beach home to offer him safety advice.

Councillor Maureen Child, who had supported the “eccentric” addition to the community, said she was pleased the situation had a “happy ending”.

A spokeswoman for the city council said “he has compliantly agreed to move on from the site permanently”.