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.

Wealth of words

January 25th, 2003

THE SCOTCH vernacular has a wealth of expressive, pithy proverbs which condense a reflection on life into a few brief words.

“It's the withered leaf that hings the longest” (though some called it “the sere leaf”), that one dried, yellow leaf that defies all the forces of Nature to dislodge it from the branch. Look up at any tree at this time of year, and as likely as not, you'll see that one fragile leaf which hangs onto its source of life. In our great grandparents' time this old saying described the elderly men and women who outlived all their contemporaries, and many younger than them too. The indestructibles, wiry and wizened, who survived everything that a much harsher life than ours today, flung at them.

Soon even the enduring withered leaves will go, dislodged by the pressures of new growth and regeneration which tell us that welcome spring will soon brighten our lives. The early snowdrops are in flower with their dainty, nodding heads agreeing with everything you say. It is time for raking up more beech leaves for another bonfire. Their pungent smell when burning is quite unmistakable, and is confirmation of the approaching change of seasons.

Over recent months there has been much timber cutting round the district. It is easy to forget that trees are a crop and that they will be harvested. Because they take so long to grow they become part of our landscape, so it can be quite confusing driving round a corner to find a blank space and a new skyline.

Winter wheat and oil seed rape were sown in the autumn and rapidly grew several inches above ground before going into suspended animation during the winter months. They have provided a splash of green in contrast to the austere brown of the ploughed fields. A walk round the garden shows plenty of new growth which is well advanced. Buds are appearing on the bushes and shrubs, and the honeysuckle, a favourite of mine, has new leaves at each bud.

Not that there isn't time for winter to give us all a skelp round the ear for not paying attention. Up till about the end of February we shouldn't be surprised at any unexpected deterioration in the weather. As curlers, the Doyenne and I always hope for a really sharp spell of weather which is hard enough, and lasts long enough, to allow a Grand Match to be played.

This is the pinnacle of every curlers life. Almost as good as winning an Olympic Gold Medal! From every corner of the country, curlers congregate in their hundreds on a suitably large stretch of frozen water, traditionally it has been the Lake of Monteith, to enjoy the “roarin' game” and the brotherhood of the ice.

My Mother's version of the old adage was “It's the creaking gate that hings the longest”. Despite creaking limbs, rheumatiz and sore bones, there are always some who outlast the rest of us. She was 92 when she died so perhaps she knew what she was talking about.