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.

Old fashioned

December 31st, 2005

OLD FASHIONED often means being out of fashion these days, but there's nothing unfashionable about Smalls sweetie shop in Forfar's Castle Street. I can't believe it's been there since 1955 and I only discovered it a week ago. I'm not a regular visitor to my county town, but in the course of three score years and a smidgen more I'd have thought I was bound to look in the window at least once.

I was dazzled by the treasure trove of old fashioned sweeties displayed in jars on the shelves. So I stepped back many a year when I stepped inside and met Michael Small, whose mother started the shop. There were jars of old fashioned rock, oddfellows, horehound rock, strippit balls, lucky tatties – all names from my childhood – and many, many more.

I asked for a  quarter' of treacle toffees. How old fashioned to be asking for sweeties by the old Imperial weight instead of using modern decimalisation. Michael, who looks the part of a real sweetie man and wears an old fashioned apron, never twitched a muscle at my impropriety and reached down the jar. He shook the toffees into the bowl of the weighing scales, then  poored' them into a paper poke.

The great thing about a paper poke is you can get instantly at the goodies inside and don't have to struggle to tear open a plastic wrapper.

He makes all his own tablet and fudge and sends it to far-flung places like Japan and the Philippines, to sweet-toothed folk like myself who he meets at Highland Games all round Scotland.

When I grew up in Montrose my favourite destinations were David Alexander's sweetie shop in the High Street, and Peter Pucci's in Murray Street, although selections of jarred sweets could be bought in all the newsagents and corner shops round the town.

Michael Small reckons most towns have a shop still selling jarred sweets but you have to hunt for them to track them down. Kirriemuir has its Starrie Rock Shop and Pucci's still sells sweets this way. When we visit son James and his family there's a splendid shop called The Sugar Mountain in nearby Peebles.

When I was at school near Edinburgh one of my Loanhead uncles used to bring me tins of Jethart snails from Jedburgh. These were sticky boilings, a name you just don't hear these days to describe boiled sugar sweeties to suck. They've stopped making them, but you can still get Hawick Balls. And Michael reminded me about soft, creamy Berwick Cockles, which look like cockleshells and are there in a jar on a shelf in his shop.

And finally, here's a Hogmanay story to round off the year. A host asked his guest if he liked water in his whisky?  €œYes €, was the reply.  €œFifty/fifty – and make it plenty water, please! €

Written on Saturday, December 31st, 2005 at 9:52 am for Weekly.