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.

Wooden house

January 17th, 2004

FIRST SNOWDROP of the season goes to a neighbour who tells me her first flower appeared on Christmas Day. I had a look round our own garden but not a sign of one, although one crocus (I think, I'm not very clever on bulbs) has poked its green nose through, and there are couple of cheery yellow primulas providing a wee flash of colour.

In a Book of Days I read that the snowdrop is January's flower and February is associated with the violet, which seems a little out of place in a Scottish winter. I can well imagine any violet wanting to shrink from some of the weather February throws at us.

I decided to take the Forfar – Coupar Angus road on a recent trip to Perth, and as I passed a wall of tattie boxes beside the road at Castleton of Eassie I remembered a story I heard about twenty years ago.

The potato merchant who had his business there was inspecting his boxes at the start of a new season and found one with the end knocked out. A tramp had roofed and lined the box with polythene bags and turned it into his winter home.

I suppose for someone who chooses that sort of life it was a pretty sensible place to pitch camp. With the improvements made it would have been windproof, waterproof, bijou and private – and it had the social kudos of a country address!

The Doyenne reported seeing a stoat in ermine near the gates of House of Dun, not far from where she saw one much the same time last year. Not all stoats change their reddish brown summer colouring to pure white in winter, but when the change does take place the tip of the tail still remains black.

We've experienced much milder weather in recent winters, and that looks to be the pattern for years to come. If there is to be little or no snow the stoat's wintertime camouflage change may cease to be relevant.

The white ermine trimmings on the ceremonial robes of their Lordships of the House of Lords are from the winter coat of the stoat. With all the changes proposed to reform the House of Lords ermine stoats may have to live on borrowed time for only a short time longer.

An exhibition has opened in Montrose Museum of watercolours by Montrose artist William Lamb who died in 1951. Many are views painted locally or record fishermen and local people at work.

There is a natural freedom and articulation expressed through the local subjects that could only have come from knowing and living with the people and places. They recall to me, and must to many other Montrosians old enough to remember, what hard physical work the inshore and salmon fishing was.

It's an exhibition well worth a visit.

Written on Saturday, January 17th, 2004 at 1:48 pm for Weekly.