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.


December 23rd, 2006

I SAT, with no dogs at my side this time, by the side of a disused quarry, one of dozens that dot the countryside. Some are so small they were obviously opened to provide the stone for the nearby farmhouse, and possibly also a couple of cottar houses, before being abandoned for a readier supply of building material.

From the north side of Turin Hill I looked down on the roofs and spires of Forfar, and then away westwards to the hills which march down the strath of the River Tay to Perth. There was still warmth in the afternoon sun, I was sheltered from the wind and there were just the sounds of the countryside to keep me company.

What caught my attention was a party of four long tailed tits feeding up for the night. When the temperature dropped they would need all the sustenance they could get to see them through to the morning.

With their butterball bodies and long tails they looked like wee, feathered lollipops, industriously working their way round scrub bushes and chattering away to each other, nineteen to the dozen, with their high  tsi-tsi-tsi' calls. I spent fully twenty minutes quietly sitting and watching, and the birds weren't in the least fazed with me being so close.

In the past I'd have given them little more than a passing glance. Then I realised how much I was missing; now I make the most of these opportunities. They don't happen every day, and I want the memories and to be able to share them.

As the weather hardens flocks of pigeon are coming down to feed amongst the beech mast. In years past when fields of turnips and kail and other greentops were more common, and stubble fields were left unploughed for longer, they had a wider choice of food throughout winter.

The light was fading as the dogs took me out for the afternoon walk. Out of the dusk bounded three black labs, and my two bounced up to greet them. I didn't recognise the figures, happed up against the weather, who followed. All was well – friends. Their young puppy looked shiny and sleek – as well he might. He had consumed two days' worth of food that the lady of the hoose had just finished cooking. It fair put Inka in a better light!

One of the Christmassy things I look forward to is tangerines. The Doyenne tells me she can get clementines and satsumas and mandarins – but tangerines, there are none. Where have all the  tangers' gone?

It's mince pie time when the Doyenne appears with a smudge of flour on her nose. But when the kitchen gets hot, and she gets bothered and the unseasonable language starts, I find it best to shimmer out of range and escape to write my piece for Saturday.

Written on Saturday, December 23rd, 2006 at 9:45 pm for Weekly.