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 stickmaker

May 10th, 2003

MAY COLOURS are fresh colours, the new colours of the coming summer and the harvest that will follow. This is my favourite month of the early part of the year – so full of promise.

I'm finding lots of spring wild flowers when I'm out with the dogs. Yellow seems to predominate, which reflects the colour of the sun that brings them into bloom. But there's plenty of variety of colour and size and shape. Dandelions are everywhere and they will last through till autumn. They're a robust weed with a long tap-root that breaks off when you try to pull it from the ground. As often as not there's a bit of root left, which grows once more into another blooming weed, needing to be pulled up again.

I've picked marsh marigolds, or kingcups as they are also known, down beside the stream. And there's wispy little celandine which grows along the roadside verge. Patches of blue wild violets are in the wood, as are blue and white wild hyacinths, though they may be garden bulbs that have been thrown out and gone wild. And the trees are bursting with the vitality of new growth.

Several years ago I cut three straight branches that I thought might be made into sticks. I've let them dry out quite naturally, and recently tried my hand at turning them into the finished article. Nothing very fancy you'll understand, just the first efforts of a complete amateur. I trimmed off the side twigs and sanded them down and shaped the tops into a comfortable smooth handle. Only a couple of hours work per stick, but what a lot of simple pleasure it's given me.

Sheba has had as positive a report from the vet that an old lady with arthritis in all four limbs is entitled to expect. She's still ready to take on Macbeth at fisticuffs and would chase him up the road if she could. I like to get her onto soft turf or into the woods and away from the unyielding tarmac. She's still got some daft ideas a lady of her maturity should have left behind her long ago.

I found Macbeth, front paws on the trunk of a tree, gazing intently up into the branches. We had disturbed one of the local red squirrels which had been foraging amongst the beech mast that lies thick on the ground. Macbeth thinks that if he runs very fast he will catch one.

This squirrel wasn't going to hang around, and was off up the tree before Macbeth had left the starting blocks. I've explained to him on several occasions that compared to a squirrel his ratio of leg length to body volume means he doesn't stand an earthly. Macbeth rejects simple science and continues to put his faith in pious hope. I cannot share his confidence.

Written on Saturday, May 10th, 2003 at 7:21 am for Weekly.