Seafield waste + Can
Headed over to the west end of Porty beach, bounded by Seafield Water Waste Treatment Works.
In medieval Edinburgh, tenements stood up to 14 stories tall, and with no plumbing, citizens emptied waste from their windows, shouting, 'Gardyloo!' (from the French, "Gardez l'eau!" meaning "watch out for the water!") And the rest. From 1978 to 1998, a specially-designed tanker named the Gardyloo was loaded with sewage. Three times a week it would leave Leith Docks at 8 am, then dump its load close to the Bell Rock off the Firth of Tay from May until October, and off St Abb's Head from October to May, returning to Leith around 6 pm. Making 2,600 voyages, Gardyloo jettisoned 8.5 million tonnes of sewage. Passengers were allowed on board, and served refreshments. Dumping at sea was banned by a European Union directive in 1998.
Scotland's largest waste treatment plant, Seafield processes 300 million litres of waste from four million toilet flushes every day. Depending on the wind direction, a pungent smell sometimes hangs in the air - during the 'pasteurising' process, enough bio-gas is extracted from the waste to power 4,800 homes.
There's a walkway right around the plant, leading as far as Leith Docks. At low tide you can stroll along the mud flats, where gulls, geese, swans, and wading birds were all foraging. There were also pied wagtails, grey wagtails, rock pipits, and even a robin, feeding on the tiny flies congregating over the seaweed exposed by the receding tide.
Four miles offshore lies Inchkeith island, uninhabited since the Inchkeith lighthouse was automated in 1986. This was once owned by Tom Farmer, the Leith-born business tycoon whose investment in 1990 rescued Hibernian FC from a hostile takeover bid by the then Heart of Midlothian FC chairman Wallace Mercer.
Playlist: Can, Flow Motion (Harvest, 1976)
This is is the 7th studio album by experimental rock band Can, formed in Cologne, Germany in 1968. Although their avant garde take on rock music typified the German 'krautrock' scene, much of the material here alienated portions of their traditional fanbase because the predominant rhythms are reggae, and even disco, albeit treated far from conventionally.
The opening song, 'I Want More' was Can's only hit single in Britain (reaching number 26) and was performed on Top of the Pops with bassist Holger Czukay playing a double bass. After its conclusion, Noel Edmunds quipped, "We wanted to have them on at the beginning of the show, but then realised we couldn't have a Can opener."
This upbeat and danceable slice of krautrock has been covered by Edinburgh progressive house band Finitribe, featuring Chris Connelly on vocals, the late Richard H Kirk, himself a pioneering musician with Sheffield's Cabaret Voltaire, and synth pop act Blancmange.
Irmin Schmidt played keyboard and sang the lead vocal when Can performed 'I Want More' on that TOTP appearance (on 30 September 1976). Damo Suzuki, Can's vocalist from 1970 to 1973 was immortalised in the song of the same name on The Fall's 8th studio album, 'This Nation's Saving Grace.'
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