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.

Highland reels

March 12th, 2005

HIGHLAND REELS and country dancing are simple pleasures which the Doyenne and I have enjoyed for many years. So we looked forward to the annual ceilidh hosted by Victoria League World Friendship for Dundee's international students, which was held last Saturday evening in Kinnettles Village Hall.

Victoria League members offer daytime or overnight hospitality to overseas visitors to Scotland. The Angus Branch has built up strong links with the Dundee students and the annual ceilidh is always well supported. Victoria League hostesses provide a traditional supper of stovies and bannocks, as well as quiches and salads.

Since the event started music has been provided by Sound of Dun who are a group of musicians whose enthusiasm never dims despite the passage of years! As ever, the students entered wholeheartedly into the spirit of the evening, displaying varying degrees of individual creativity when it came to the dancing.

Over the years it's been evident how keen all the guests are to take home with them the experience of Scottish country dances. Teaching seven students from disparate backgrounds to dance an eightsome reel with only one walk-through practise, is a success story of international communication and cooperation that politicians could do well to study and copy.

However the dance (if that's the right description) that each year proves most popular is  The Grand Old Duke of York'. It started when a Chinese family brought their three-year-old son to the evening, and he stole the show. It's quite amazing to see the floor erupt with dancers of all ages and sizes hopping and skipping up and down the Hall.

I'm not a frequent churchgoer but last Sunday I accompanied the Doyenne. We sang hymn 104 – “For the beauty of the earth/ for the beauty of the skies”.

After the service we headed for Auchterarder to help grandson James celebrate his tenth birthday. The hymn could scarcely have been better suited to the day as we drove through Strathmore to Perth and into Strathearn. The clouds were high and the hills had a crisp covering of snow on their tops. They stood out against the blue sky in strong contrast to the expectant brown fields, which will soon be sown with spring crops.

James had invited his friend Elliot to join us for lunch. You forget just how noisy two ten-year-old boys can be. But it doesn't take them long to remind you.

James has a cat called Mareth and Macbeth is just desperate to be chums. Mareth makes it quite clear he prefers to keep a lofty distance between them. Mareth is a notable hunter whose victims have included rabbits, rats and mice, and also three weasels, all of which he has generously brought home to share with his family.

Sadly, from Macbeth's point of view, he cannot match such venatorial skills.