Friday, November 25, 2005


When my drinking career was at its height in the early eighties George Best was seeing out what remained of his playing career or indeed often not playing career for Hibs at Easter Road. I was even misguided or deluded enough then to take some comfort from the fact that somebody of his stature was having the same troubles as I was, as if that would somehow excuse the heartbreak and damage that drinking was causing for me and those around me.

Why is it then that 20 odd years down the line drink no longer plays a part in my life, a fact with which I am very comfortable, and George, after spending these same years engaged in what the tabloid press are given to present as the ‘battle against booze,’ is dead?

Drink played a hugely important part in both our lives so much so that it warped how we saw the world – drink becoming the main focus, the arbiter of everything we did and just as often didn’t do. The fact that he was a superstar gloriously entertaining those who were lucky enough to see him play and I was an ordinary working guy stood for nothing. We both suffered from blackouts, from illness, missed work, crashed cars, endangered and destroyed relationships – the full Monty really. We were both brought to our knees by a compulsion to drink alcohol. Ok he performed both on and off the field in the full glare of publicity and some would argue that it was this pressure that made him drink but I have the feeling that George Best would have had the same problems had he been a shipyard worker in Belfast like his dad instead of one of the most dazzling football players the world has ever seen.

I think there are two areas that George failed to get his head round in relation to his drinking. Firstly he bought into this whole fight/battle idea. Fighting at times not to drink but probably just as often, if not more so, to prove that he could. Secondly, and as a consequence of that mindset, he could not achieve the depth of change, change which it might not be too fanciful to refer to as being at the level of the soul, which would enable him to envisage even the possibility of a life without alcohol.

Now there are as many and varied theories surrounding alcohol abuse as there are ‘treatments’and I know that we were both exposed to many of them ranging from Alcoholics Anonymous to drug therapies, various forms of counselling, you name it, it was tried. So again, why did I get it and he didn’t? I can’t say I had a ‘Road to Damascus’ experience and indeed, like George I tried to stop drinking many times and failed, I tried to control my drinking many times and failed, but somewhere along the line these organisations I was touching and people I was talking to were rubbing off on me and, even at a subconscious level, were starting to lay the foundations of a platform for change.

Looking back, if I were to try and define a turning point I would have to say that when I came to realise that this ‘fight’ this ‘battle’ that everybody was talking about was, at least for me, one best not entered into, things started to get better.I didn’t need to look any further than my own experience to realise that this particular fighter had climbed into the ring to contest this same ‘mismatch’ once too often and had suffered some fearful beatings in so doing. So why should I expect the result to be any different this time? I simply threw in the towel – I didn’t win the fight against alcohol, I gave up the fight.

A fighter to the last, this was one area of his life where perhaps the competitive streak, the fighter in him, worked against George. We’ve all got our race to run and he should be remembered for his short lived brilliance which, like a comet, lit up the sporting world. And well, at least he should be better placed to sort out that other business next time round.

Charlie Orr
Edin Nov 2005

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

'An enemy in their mouths' - a perspective on Scotland's Alcohol Problem.

On Tuesday night Professor Peter Brunt gave a lecture under the auspices of the Royal College Of Physicians of Edinburgh entitled “An enemy in their mouths” – a perspective on Scotland’s alcohol problem. That it was a very well presented lecture is no more than you would expect from someone with Professor before his name and CVO, OBE after it and we were treated to an erudite potted history of the use of alcohol from the time of the Egyptian pharaohs to the present. His eloquent prose was more than adequately supported by a liberal sprinkling of power point illustrations of paintings by Bruegel, Manet, et al and any number of Shakespearian quotes of which his title is one – but of course you knew that, this is The Scotsman after all. But there it ended I’m afraid. The graphs, many relating to the eighties, were produced to show an upward trend in both consumption, alcohol related illness and mortality and the conclusions were drawn that drink is too cheap, too readily available and too heavily advertised. Nothing new there then, and certainly little in the way of seeing a way ahead. Given that Professor Brunt was billed as ‘-- one of Scotland’s leading alcohol experts,’ one could have reasonably expected more emphasis on substance, if necessary at the expense of a few paintings and maybe a couple of sculptures here and there.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Blog Spamming

This morning I was amazed at the upsurge of comments to articles on this site, that is until I read them - 'Amazing new business opportunity' 'Need A Loan' We've got used to this in our mail boxes (both real and virtual) and now they're invading the blogosphere. Why don't you all just Fuck Off!

Definition Of The Week

Oxymoron:- A Vettriano Original

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Not Quite Painting By Numbers

When is plagiarism not plagiarism? When you're Jack Vetttriano it seems. It was revealed today in The Scotsman that the top Scottish 'artist' copied some of his famous paintings directly from a 'How to do it' painting manual. We're not talking style or nuance here we're talking copying that is so blatant he probably used tracing paper! If this was in the literary domain he would be black balled with no court of appeal, but we're in the 'art world' here and the fact that these 'colouring in' masterpieces have sold for upwards of 700,000 pounds probably says as much about the denizens of that airy-fairy world as it does about Vettrianno himself. Then there's his agent," Vettriano's skill lies in his ability to create narrative paintings with which the viwer becomes involved.He is a master of generating atmosphere in his paintings---------" blah de blah de blah.What a load of crap. If he were a genuine wide boy who had fooled those poncy 'collectors' with too much disposable income then I would be the first to applaud him but I'm afraid that's not the case. He is a man who got lucky and came to believe his own publicity. I always thought his work was like the product of some sort of sausage machine where the handle was turned and out popped another of the same but I thought that at least he was using his own recipe!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


This is the unfortunate headline accompanying an article in today's 'Scotsman' which,if taken at face value, clearly indicates that a Powellian 'Rivers of Blood' scenario is just round the corner. And where,in the case of the Northern Constabulary area, with a 364% rise in racist incidents in the past five years! a gathering of The Klan seems more likely than a Gathering of the Clans.

It doesn't take a genius to work out that this has everything to do with a change in the methods used to record 'racist incidents' and indeed, a change in the very definition of such an incident, and very little to do with any real change in community relations in the areas cited. That a newspaper who, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, continues to refer to itself as Scotland's Quality Broadsheet, chooses not mention this is regrettable and can only add to readers anxieties concerning the much vaunted 'Fear Of Crime' which is, in this case, as in many others, perceived rather than real.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Friday, April 01, 2005

Book Review - The Blue Road

The Blue Road :-

Travelling I consider as an extremely useful exercise.

It sets the mind in movement.


To position this work among what we’ve come to categorise as ‘Travel Literature’ would, I’m sure, lead the author to a Prufrockian ‘ That is not it at all/That is not what I meant at all.’ Yes it gives an account of a journey from Montreal to the Ultima Thule of Labrador, yes it describes and comments on the physical landscape and the people encountered. But there is more, much more. What the author is attempting to do, I feel, is get to the very essence of this space, move out beyond the signs, the labels, the preconceptions and to convey to the reader his experiencing of the way-out- there of this journey, through the landscape/mindscape of himself and its inhabitants.

It is fairly well known that Kenneth White writes in three genres – essays, poetry and the ‘Way Book’ of which The Blue Road is arguably his finest example. White himself says that these books are hard to categorise, being neither fiction nor poetry, which is not surprising given that his whole ethos is an attempt to live, think, experience and be ‘outside the box’ – whatever or wherever that box might be.

White is never content with description alone, although he’s not short on that facility. What he seeks,I feel is an immediacy with the landscape which he achieves in two ways. Firstly, a widening of perception, getting in, inside and underneath description,

---the whole of the North is still a cold enigma to most Canadians,

While to the Amerindian it’s full of live realities --- something like

Poetic space to the normalized mind.

Secondly he is constantly engaging with the people on the land, the people who feel the land, who have genetic memory of that land, again not in a descriptive, superficial way but directly and empathically. Most of us, I'm sure, being engaged in conversation by two drunks on a train, would be content with platitudes of the ‘nice meeting you,’ ‘must get on type’? White’s approach is genuine interest in these two Indian boys resulting in an invite to a wedding and access to a depth of information simply not otherwise available.

Another such encounter with a woman selling beaver pelts in a small shop leads to a visit to her uncle, a modern day Amerindian Shaman who introduces the author to the mysteries of the drum in Amerindian culture.

When he’s in the woods,he says, he beats on the drum to call the caribou.

And as he tells me about it, his phrasing seems to become more rhythmical,like this:

When you go up into the woods

when you’re up there in the woods

you consult the drum

you use it like a TV set

you see what you’re going to kill

when you hunt with the drum--------

Poetic space.

White’s field is boundless, open and inviting to anyone prepared to take the risk and travel there. Like me you may find some stony ground, some difficult places, but the bright clear-cut diamonds are plentiful.

All afternoon I sit there,listening.

With evening falling,I murmur this into the wind

I’m living today

but I won’t always be living

red sun, you’ll remain

dark earth,you’ll remain.

Charlie Orr

Edinburgh April 05

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Global Market Forces v Soul

Printed In China through Colourcraft Ltd Hong Kong
One might be forgiven for finding it rather incongruous to find this information on the inside cover of the Journal of The Fell And Rock Climbing Club Of The English Lake District. But wait, what's this? - Printed And Bound In Spain by Elkar mccgraphics,Bilbao on the inside cover of The Scottish Mountaineering Club Hillwalkers Guide to the North-West Highlands.Am I alone in my dismay at two climbing clubs, steeped in the mountaineering/climbing history of their respective areas, finding it necessary play the 'global market forces' card to save a few bob by taking advantage of cheap labour at the expense of UK printers. Tawdry to say the least and certainly a retrograde step as far as staying in touch with tradition is concerned,perhaps even soulless.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The G8 Summit - What's it really about?

What’s this G8 Summit business really about? If it were really about a meaningful meeting between world leaders in which some real work could be done, why does it need to take place in the full glare of the media spotlight? It seems to me that, rather than advertise to world terrorists where and when their targets will be sitting down to lunch together, they should be meeting in some military bunker in the middle of nowhere, with the world becoming aware of said meeting only after it had taken place. If we are to take this whole security thing seriously then surely by opting for the full-on Gleneagles option our leaders are not only putting us all at risk, but also making a mockery of all these so called ‘security measures’ they are taking which are now beginning to affect our daily lives. Apart from the obvious money making opportunities of the chosen option and the vast posturing potential for the participants, am I missing something?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Lance Armstrong - Doping Allegations

Lance Armstrong says that he is nothing to hide after it is revealed a French prosecutor is investigating allegations made in 'LA Confidentiel'.

Following Thursday’s report in Le Parisien that Annecy prosecutor Philippe Drouet is undertaking a preliminary investigation into allegations made about Lance Armstrong in the book ‘LA Confidentiel’, the American rider has told L’Equipe he has “nothing to hide”.

Contacted in the US, where he is training for the start of his season, Armstrong said when asked about the investigation: “Although we haven’t officially been made aware of the inquiry, I will be available at any time and in any place.” He also affirmed that he is still aiming to line up in Paris-Nice, the first event in the ProTour, at the start of March.

Drouet confirmed to L’Equipe that he is heading a preliminary investigation into alleged doping by Armstrong based on comments made by former US Postal soigneur Emma O’Reilly in ‘LA Confidentiel’. O’Reilly confirmed comments made in the book when she appeared, with her lawyer, before a Paris-based inquiry last summer. Armstrong is suing O’Reilly for defamation.

According to L’Equipe, Drouet and his team are most interested in the relationship between Armstrong and an Annecy-based osteopath/nutritionist, Benoit Nave. Contacted by L’Equipe, Nave said that he had not spoken to the police about his working relationship with Armstrong.

“I have worked on several occasions with Lance Armstrong since October 2002,” said Nave. “At that time he had already won four Tours de France. We met in San Francisco and he underwent a nutritional consultation with me. There is nothing to hide in all this, and it is always interesting to work with people like Armstrong.” Nave said that he had also been attended to Armstrong in 2003 in his role as an osteopath after the American suffered a series of crashes.

Drouet’s investigation is designed to ascertain whether there is sufficient need to open a judicial inquiry into this matter


Book Review - Climbing

Mountains of the Mind – A History of a Fascination: - (Robert MacFarlane, (Granta Books, paperback, 306pp, 8.99.)

O the mind, mind has mountains…………..

Gerard Manly Hopkins. c.1880

In this unique book Robert MacFarlane presents us with mountains both as physical/ geological construct and, as the title would suggest, the mental construct of modern man.

His very persuasive standpoint being, that mountains and our attitudes towards them owe as much to mindscape as they do to landscape.

MacFarlane cleverly blends the two in a progression from 16th century ‘terra incognita’ and a ‘There be Dragons’ mentality, through the ‘sublime’ mountain worship of Shelley, Ruskin et al, to the scientific endeavors still linked with mountaineering at the beginning of the 20th century, arriving finally at the noble pursuit of mountain climbing and the consequent courting of danger as a laudable end in itself. And all this, running in parallel with the acknowledgement of ‘Deep Time’ inherent in the ongoing decoding of geological encryption.

His description of landscape and geological forces in what he calls ‘The Great Stone Book’ is fascinating and is achieved in such a way that it is both simple and at times poetic in its rendering of information more normally associated with the technically prosaic.

He is eclectic in his literary references with quotes ranging from Petrarch to Simpson - Joe and all points in between, sampling freely from poetry, prose, diary and letter. He also draws heavily on the artistic endeavors of many across the ages and it is in this department that the book displays what is, for this reviewer, its only weakness, poor quality photographic reproduction.

Mountains Of The Mind could be said to be truly, and indeed literally, visionary in its conception and MacFarlane has succeeded in telling a wonderful tale of the evolution of the mountain world in the consciousness of modern man.

Jodie Jones Conviction - When Is Specialist Knowledge Not Specialist Knowledge?

Looks like I was wrong in the Luke Mitchell case then. He was found guilty and will be sentenced next week. The trial judge Lord Nimmo Smith (for background – see Lothian and Borders Police – Evidence Of Shred) decreed that the exceedingly tenuous chain of circumstantial evidence,( more like a thread of dubious weave!) was sufficient to allow the jury to convict. The main cornerstone of this was the assertion that Mitchell had ‘Specialist Knowledge’ of where the body lay.

Now my understanding of this term as used in this context is being where a suspect displays knowledge to the police or others which only the killer could have known. So, for example, this would be relevant where a suspect gave information to the police about the whereabouts of a body not hitherto traced. This however, was not the way things were in the case of Luke Mitchell. He formed part of a group specifically motivated to search a path and an adjoining wooded area which he knew well and it was Mitchell, the only one accompanied by a dog, who found the body. Much was made of the fact that Mitchell left the group and climbed through a tumbledown wall into the wooded area and was alone when he found the body but I would submit that any other member of that search party climbing through the wall to continue searching could have come up with the same result and that consequently the trial judge was wrong to allow this part of the evidence to be considered by the jury as ‘Specialist Knowledge.’

I feel sure we will be hearing from Donald Finlay in the near future and it may well lie with the Appeal Court to examine this further.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Book Review - Climbing

The Joy Of Climbing: - Terry Gifford, (Whittles Publishing, 2004, paperback 192pp, ISBN 190-444-5063, 15.00)

Being editor of a climbing journal, the resounding clunk heralding the arrival of a review book tends to lose its excitement after five years. And it is a very rare occasion indeed that the first skim through the pages results in the newspaper being cast aside and the rest of the morning spent captivated by the volume on offer. The Joy of Climbing by Terry Gifford is one such book.

Much of climbing literature suffers from the fact that it tends to be formulaic and quite frankly boring. The intricate moves and wrinkles of a rock face are only of abiding interest in themselves as lists in a guidebook and it is only when one places them in the context of landscape and perhaps more importantly mindscape that they can truly captivate and inspire. Terry Gifford achieves this admirably in what could arguably be called a new genre in the literature of climbing.

His use of language in evoking place and emotion is of the first order and I include his poetry in this. I accept that many people on seeing any verse form immediately turn the page but even the uninitiated will not fail to get something from his works.

This is a book full of humour, of history, companionship, life, death and joy, written by a man at ease with himself, with his climbing life and with the craft to convey the real joy of climbing to his readers.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Not a Shred of Evidence - The Not Proven Verdict

Donald Finlay QC leading the van in defence of the peculiarly Scottish verdict of not proven’ could hardly have wished for a better showcase than his present remit at Edinburgh High Court – that of defending Luke Mitchell on trial for the murder of his girlfriend Jodi Jones.

Today's front page in The Scotsman, as the jury retire to consider their verdict, has him proclaiming 'There is not a single piece of evidence' to link his client to the killings.
Given the evidence led, few would disagree with the general feeling that in Luke Mitchell we are dealing with a strange boy, one who tends to stretch the boundaries of the socially acceptable, indulging in practices which many find abhorrent.Neither is he big on emotion, a deep and, some might say, disturbed boy who is destined always to be an outsider. But these facts, coupled with a very thin plea for ‘specialist knowledge’ of the whereabouts of the body, and a shaky alibi, singularly fail to provide the chain of evidence from which only one conclusion – the guilt of the accused – can be drawn.
Given the nature of the case and the publicity generated prior to the trial, I would not be surprised if the jury feel under pressure to refrain from returning a not guilty verdict and perhaps not guilty is not quite right either. I feel that Luke Mitchell may well have killed Jodi Jones but ‘feelings’ of that nature have no place in the High Court where, not so long ago, Mitchell may well have been on trial for his life.The Crown have failed to reach the required burden of proof – that of ‘guilt beyond reasonable doubt’ and therefore only two verdicts are open to them. The case of Luke Mitchell is a timely reminder of why the ‘Not Proven’ verdict should be retained in Scots Law.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Lothian and Borders Police - Evidence Of Shred!

There has been a well publicised increase in the countrywide use of the shredding option among corporations and public bodies alike following the January 1st adoption of The Freedom Of Information Act in Scotland. Not surprising I suppose given that such bodies will now be obliged, by law, to reveal their darkest secrets to anyone who expresses an interest. It is a little known fact that more than ten years ago, the forward looking Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police, Sir William Sutherland introduced his own ‘shredding policy’ during the so called ‘Magic Circle’ affair in which allegations of wrongdoing in Edinburgh legal circles linked to rent –boys and contained in a leaked document, caused a wee bit of a stooshie in the upper echelons. His motivations for so doing were, I think simple, to save his own butt, at which, it has to be said, he was successful. Unfortunately this was at the expense of the reputations of some of his most experienced detectives, myself included, whose careers were ruined by his lack of ‘bottle’. But hey, in his favour, the stakes were high!

The well publicized ‘Whitewash’ enquiry given under parliamentary privilege to ensure immunity for its author William Nimmo-Smith QC – now Lord Nimmo-Smith QC ( or to give him his SUNday name ‘NIMMO THE DIMMO’ which surfaced in that newspaper when he himself leaked information on his report to a well known criminal posing as a journalist. But to be fair, he did say he was from the Telegraph ) agreed and put all the blame on ‘a few rogue detectives.’ How very convient – and predictable!

So, to the present and the Freedom of Information Act. An internal police enquiry was launched by the bold Sir William in an attempt to find out who was responsible for this terrible state of affairs and it was as a direct result of that enquiry – which proved inconclusive - that myself and a number of other very experienced detectives found them selves back in uniform bringing that experience to bear on domestic disputes and traffic accidents. Since that time I have requested of Sir William and his successors the right of access to the report concerned but this has been denied. The reason given being that it was an internal report made for the Chief Constable and as such, was for his eyes only.

Well no longer, I have taken advice on the matter and I am told that under the new legislation this stance is no longer sustainable. Eight days ago I posted a letter to Sir William’s latest incarnation Tommy Padkins sorry Paddy Tomkins asking (again!) But,
being a realist I think my only hope is that they were still using the Sutherlandian Shredder and that the recent feverish activity sent it into overload before they got to the report in question!

Watch This Space.


Surprise,surprise it was destroyed before the Act took effect. They did give me what they call a reportcard(takes you back doesn't it) which states in terms that I was strongly suspected of being the 'leak' as I had voiced strong opinions about the Crown Office decisions - dangerous things strong opinions! - However the crime that led to my return to uniform was that heineous one of 'failing to keep my pocketbook up to date!!!"

Lets have a go at the Crown Office now -see what they've got in their locked cupboards!

to be contd.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

End Of The World Is Nigh - Official

There have been many false dawns in the prophecy of doom field but now there can be no doubt. Sit on a low stool,place your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye - it's coming - GERMAINE GREER IS ON 'BIG BROTHER!!!!!!!!!!'