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.

Smoke

April 8th, 2006

A WELL-RIGGED figure pacing purposefully across a grass field proved too much for my curiosity. I turned the car around and drove back to see him sticking branches into the ground at regular intervals. I just had to go and find out what he was up to.

It was retired farmer Jack Souter, from near Brechin, helping out his son who will be spreading the field with fertiliser for a sileage crop. He was marking it out so that the fertiliser is spread regularly, ensuring that no parts are missed or sown over twice. It's good for us fathers to know we can still be entrusted with the wee jobs while the young lad gets on with the important stuff!

Later on, pruning the elderberry bushes in the garden took me back to caravanning holidays near Ullapool. It was there that I was introduced to illicit childhood smoking by a gamekeeper's son.

He showed me how to remove the dry, spongy pith from inside dead elderberry twigs. To draw the smoke, we made a hole with a needle the length of the pith, and then lit up.

I recall that the taste was pretty foul. My clothes and hair must have smelt like an old, reekie lum, and no doubt my parents hoped I'd be violently sick and get over the whole thing very quickly.

My chum also recommended smoking tea leaves. At that time you could buy miniature pipes from Woolworths, and as soon as we got home from holiday I invested in one. In the early 1950s my mother only bought loose tea leaves (had tea bags been invented then?) from Coopers or Liptons, so I stuffed the pipe with best Darjeeling.

The lady who  did' for my mother found out (probably the smell gave me away again) and voiced dire warnings about the probability of contracting jaundice.  The jaundies' she called it, and swore that my skin would turn yellow.

Looking back, the experiences didn't come up to expectations, but at the age of seven or eight I really felt a  bit of a dog' about the whole thing.

Inka is living up to his breed and growing into quite a water dog. The nearby Cruick Water has been running fast and full with melted snow and rain. It hasn't deterred Inka, who hurls himself into it, whirling off downstream until he can find a foothold on the other side. When I throw stones into the water he ducks his head right under in his efforts to retrieve them.

Macbeth, with the wisdom of age, looks on admiringly but sees no merit in having two wet dogs drying out in front of the fire.

I'm wondering what wee tasks my own two sons think they can entrust me with. They don't always show a great deal of confidence in me nowadays.