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.

The Doric

July 15th, 2006

IT'S STRANGE what sometimes triggers off these Saturday pieces   This week it was the phrase,  €œthe sma' licht €, which appears in a Violet Jacob short story called  The Yellow Dog', written very much in the Angus vernacular   Despite being born into one of the great  county' families of her time, she had a familiarity with the daily, domestic language of country folk.The  sma' licht' is the late gloaming when there's still a glimmer of light left in the evening sky   Not enough to be able to read a newspaper by, but enough still to be able to recognise detail  

I realised how imperceptibly the nights are starting to draw in   Even a fortnight ago it never really got dark – the sma' licht effectively lasting throughout the night   The birds' evening chorus closed down around eleven o'clock and chimed up again about half past three  

Next month we'll be into the hairst, although there are fields of winter barley looking nearly ready for combining   I wonder what Violet Jacob would make of today's farming methods and machinery?   Compared with her day the countryside is empty and depopulated, the result of mechanisation   There's less to write about, for it was the worthies and the characters, and her treatment of them, that bring her stories so much to life  

Thankfully nature, and the dogs, go about their affairs as busily as ever, providing me with an endless source of stories and comments for my weekly diary   Out with the Doyenne for their evening walk, Inka brought back to her an intact pheasant egg, which he dropped into her hand   It's called having a  soft mouth', and hopefully it's an indication of his general temperament  

The Doyenne and I watched a mallard and half a dozen chicks busily swimming their way up the far bank of the North Esk as we sat in the comfort of a fishing hut   It was a late clutch, but they'll quickly grow big enough to deal with the inevitable winter conditions.

We were halted in our tracks by a small, determined hedgehog proceeding in a westerly direction up the middle of the highway   He stopped too, gazing long and hard at the car and deciding that, as his mother hadn't warned him about such noisy monsters, it was the better part of valour on his part to move to the side of the road  

There's a tradition, built up through children's stories I think, that you can encourage hedgehogs to stay in your garden by leaving out bread soaked in milk   It seems to be the worst thing to do, however, as I understand that the mixture gives them diarrhoea which may lead to death.

If you want to read about the  sma' licht', it's in  The Lum Hat & Other Stories', and you should find the book in the library.

Written on Saturday, July 15th, 2006 at 8:41 pm for Weekly.