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.

Porridge in a drawer

February 4th, 2006

JANUARY CAUGHT us on the hop a bit, ending as it did with such a hard, cold snap. I enjoy the clear frosty days; it stirs the blood and it's how I think winter should be.

I rarely used to wear a cap, but whether it's gaining greater wisdom or losing more hair, I've changed my attitude. Many years ago I read that we lose up to forty percent of our body heat through the top of our heads. That's an awful lot to replace in a hurry and I shouldn't like to think I might be contributing to global warming! Out with the dogs, last thing before bed, the temperature has been well below freezing, and it's been nippy on the tips of the ears. The nights have been very still, and without the background noises of daytime, the roar of traffic on the A90, even so late on, has been very intrusive.

I can follow the sound of Inka's footsteps on the dry, frosted leaves when he disappears on his own into the wood. When I wrote about losing sight of him on the night-time walks, kind friends gave him a flashing collar so that I can track him visually as well. It has proved to be a very practical gift.

I've kept the bird feeders filled up which has been appreciated. A second red squirrel has been calling at elevenses time.

The Doyenne was away for several days on granny duty so I had to bothy for myself. I'd been following the correspondence about bothy loons keeping porridge in a drawer, but I wasn't driven to that extreme. I'm reasonably competent at looking after myself, even if a bit economical with the truth about what I've cooked in her absence.

Father was very friendly with late Jim Scott who farmed Mains of Gallery and lived in Gallery House. In the coachman's bothy was a built-in set of deep drawers and Jim would point out one that he said the porridge was kept in.

We – the dogs and I, that is – took a walk down the banks of the Cruick Water which flows into the River North Esk just below Stracathro Hospital. The sharp weather fairly galvanises Inka and he was leaping in and out of the freezing water as if it had been midsummer.

There's some mystery about the ancestry of Labradors. Despite their name they most likely don't originate from Labrador on Canada's east coast, but more likely from neighbouring Newfoundland where it's thought they were bred as fishermen's dogs because of their thick coats and ability to withstand severe winter conditions.

Macbeth, on the other hand, likes his creature comforts. He sees no point in plowtering about a stream-side and adding to his discomfort if his undercarriage is already soaking wet from scrambling amongst the wet grass.



Written on Saturday, February 4th, 2006 at 3:44 pm for Weekly.