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.

Wedding blessings

March 17th, 2007

SOME THINGS fair take your breath away. I was hearing about a London dog owner who has a Labrador, like Inka, and before the dog is allowed indoors after a walk the owner brings out a bowl of water and a towel and ceremoniously washes and dries the dog's feet. “Toonser dogs!” growled an elderly country vet when he heard the story.

However much the Doyenne grumbles about our two bold boys trailing dubs and gutters into the kitchen, we've only rarely had to go the length of washing them down before we let them in. Otherwise we'd never be off our knees for mollycoddling dogs.

This set off a train of thought about the foot washings and blackenings which are traditionally a part of Scottish pre-wedding celebrations, with the bride and groom as victims of the hilarity and junketings. They were customs to signify the couple's farewell to their single state, and set them on the road to married bliss.

I can't think when I last saw I saw a girl, or a young man, being taken round the town, face blackened with soot, or sometimes something even worse. Girls did indeed, traditionally, have their feet washed in a tub, and grooms had their feet smeared, or  blackened', with soot and ashes. The two customs seem to have merged into one ritual, with the young lads coming off worse, as you might expect.

Face blackened, wearing their best  auld claes' and trailing ribbons, girls were led up the High Street with a friend on each side, arm in arm, and sometimes a tail of friends following on behind. Often someone rang a hand bell to draw attention to the bride-to-be, and they sang and laughed their way to deliver her for her last night at the family home.

Drink-fuelled daftness usually meant the groom had a harder time. I've seen young men stripped to their underwear, clarted with engine grease and tied to the back of a pickup truck, being driven round the town, which must test their sense of humour.

Still on old rituals – I was given the following grace by Rev John Forbes who was onetime Minister of the Glens.

 Holy, holy, roond the table/ Eat as muckle as you are able/ Holy, holy, pooch nane/ Holy, holy, Amen.'

I thought it must be a completely unique blessing, but looking through an elderly, faded miscellany entitled “Lang Strang – being a Mixter-Maxter of Old Rhymes, Games etc.” printed by The Forfar Press, I found the following –

 Gracious Peter, look ower the table/ Eat as much as you are able/ Eat plenty, pouch nane/ Gracious Peter, Amen.'

“OK, you'll get a cuddle when I get back,” called the husband on his way out. “What was that, dear?” responded the wife. “Nothing, dear,” replied the husband, “just talking to the dogs”.