Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

The path to spring

January 18th, 2003

THE SHORTEST day – which occurred on 22nd December – was noted with approval in this household. But we could all be forgiven for thinking that someone forgot to turn the page in the diary after that. The incessant rain lasting till after New Year was a most dispiriting state of affairs. Thank goodness the cold weather arrived and we really can believe that the shortest day is behind us now. The lighter mornings and lengthening evenings are the early hints that spring is on its way.

It's not the best time of year for the Sheba dog, my twelve year old Labrador. Sadly she has arthritis in all four limbs so she slows down a bit in this weather. A pill a day helps, but I think she looks forward to the warm summer days when she can soak up the sun.

I was beavering away at my PC one of the sunny mornings when a shadow flitted across the screen. It was a small tortoiseshell butterfly which had woken from its hibernation with the heat of the sunshine streaming into the room. It kept me company – I presume it was the same one – for three days until it seemed mild enough for me to catch it in a jar and release it into the garden. It would have died in the house, so I hope it enjoyed a few hours of freedom before Nature took its course.

It was a bonny sight driving out of Brechin towards Little Brechin; the mid afternoon sun was bright on the snow-covered hills at the foot of Glen Lethnot. Snow is a bit of a problem for Macbeth. When you've got little sawn-off legs like his, anything deeper than an inch represents a serious snowdrift.

We – the Doyenne and I, that is – were tidying away the Christmas decorations before Twelfth Night. One of our cards contained pressed flowers. A nephew and his girl friend had visited in the summer and she had picked a tiny bunch of flowers from the garden. Mounted and laminated they made a charming card and a very personal memory of a happy day.

The cold weather reminds me of a story my Uncle Rob used to tell against himself. He grew up in a village outside Edinburgh in Edwardian times, when attitudes were more rigid than today. One chilly morning, aged about eight, he announced to his Mother that there was “a terrible hoor frost outside”. It was quite a while before he understood why his world fell about his ears.

We were sharing a welcome glass of sherry with kind friends – a very good occupation for a Saturday lunchtime. They have a busy bird table, and to add to our pleasure a Great Spotted Woodpecker called in for lunch. Shortly afterwards Mrs WP joined the party. They are amongst the most elegant of the woodland birds with their crimson, black and white plumage. I believe there are woodpeckers in the woods nearby, so I must investigate a good menu to attract them to our own table.