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.

Fishy frenzy

July 14th, 2007

AS WITH so many things, it's not what you know it's who you know. The mackerel have arrived at this part of the coast again and a neighbour has presented us with fresh fish caught off the rocks with rod and feather lures. My mother used to be rather snooty about mackerel, saying they were scavengers and fed off the bottom of the sea. But eaten as fresh as possible,  from pier to pan' as they say, they are delicious.

Once I've cleaned them the Doyenne cuts several deep slashes in the flesh and pops them under the grill. They have a dense flesh and need the cuts to let the heat get all the way through to cook them thoroughly. Mackerel are one of the fish, like salmon and herring, rich in omega-3 fatty acids which benefit the heart's health.

They have a robust taste which the whole family are very partial to. We took half a dozen with us to an impromptu barbecue organised by son Robert. Maybe it was our imagination, but grilled outdoors they tasted even better.

My father built himself a 16-foot dinghy at the end of the Second World War which he kept at Ferryden, just across from Montrose Harbour. When I was a youngster he took me out in it to fish for the mackerel when they arrived in Montrose Bay each summer. I remember that they came in such great numbers that I would hear them banging their heads on the bottom of the boat.

At that time (the 1950's) Montrose Infirmary was independently run by a Board of Trustees and my father, who was a solicitor, was the Clerk to the trustees. Sometimes he and I caught so many mackerel that he presented them to the Matron for the patients' tea. Looking back I wonder what the Matron thought of such a gift and whether the fish weren't surreptitiously dumped.

Most times Macbeth tucks into his feed without any persuasion, but every once in a while he refuses to eat, point blank, and for no apparent reason. This morning, as I'm writing, I see his meal from last night remains untouched.

When Inka was young and inexperienced he thought that his chum's untouched bowl was an invitation for him to tidy things up. Westies can be spirited wee dogs when the occasion demands, and Macbeth made it clear that his bowl was his, and what was in it was off limits. Inka got the message, and wouldn't dream of touching it now.

Last week I asked for help in sourcing a particular type of bird feeder. I haven't managed to track one down yet, but I'm most grateful to readers who have responded with information and suggestions – if what I'm looking for is still on the market, I'm sure I shall be able to get one shortly.



Read the new “Man with two dogs” book.

Reviewed in The Herald – “Humorous and heartfelt, this book reveals Whitson’s sensitive perception of nature, replenishing our appreciation for the great outdoors”.


Available from the publishers 

Written on Saturday, July 14th, 2007 at 8:25 am for Weekly.