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.

Burns Night and dancing haggis

January 27th, 2007

SOMETIMES THERE'S a bit of a happenstance about coincidence, if you know what I mean, unless you think it's all just a by-chance sort of occurrence of no real significance. I like to think that sometimes one thing leads to the next, and while there may be no earth-shattering consequence, for a brief moment a connection has been made.

Last week I wrote about DK Broster's  Flight of the Heron' and the fate of the unfortunate heron that was shot. On Saturday morning I saw two of the grey birds rise off flooded ponds at the back of Balgavies Loch on the road from Forfar to Friockheim. Neither was shot, I hasten to say, but was it coincidence that I was in the right place at the right time?

As I had driven over the Bridge of Dun earlier that morning I saw a single swan puddling about in the field by the riverside. On the Sunday afternoon the Doyenne and I watched the TV production of the Mariinski Ballet dancing  Swan Lake' to Tchaikovsky's much-loved music.

That took me back to my schooldays when I played the cello. My teacher was Chester Henderson who was the leading Scottish cellist of his day. Drawing the two strands of thought together took me down another memory  dreel'.

Anna Pavlova, possibly the most famous prima ballerina of classical ballet, made Saint-Saens  Dying Swan' sequence from his  Carnival of Animals' suite her signature dance, expressing the bird's battle for life and eventual death. Whenever Pavlova danced her famous solo in Scotland, she insisted that Chester Henderson played the cello accompaniment.

Dancing was on the menu when the Doyenne and I were lucky enough to get a couple of the last tickets for the Tarfside WRI annual Burns Supper, which counts amongst the notable events of the social year in Glen Esk.

Tarfside Masonic Hall was bursting at the seams with anticipatory salivation. The expectant company sat down to a traditional meal of home-made haggis (tell me where else you can get home-made haggis), chappit neeps and tatties. Everyone got a spoonfu' of four or five of the blessed creations, followed by the equally traditional sweet of clootie dumpling.

One lady  innocently' asked me which haggis I had liked best – I wasn't falling for that one, and declared them all winners!

The toasts were led by local wit and raconteur, Jim Brown, and the evening ran into the early hours with dancing and entertainment. There was a story afterwards that one of the guests hadn't managed to get out of the glen for two days. I hope it's true, because it would take some of the heat off me.

The Doyenne mentioned the morning after, rather more sharply than I thought was needful, that I'd had more fun than I deserved. She was right.