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.


August 4th, 2007

LOOKING OUT to sea you could be forgiven for thinking nothing interesting happens out there, but ask grandson James and he'll tell you a different story.

Kind friends who have a boat invited James and me out on a fishing trip. It was a proper, sunny summer's afternoon after the interminable rain we've endured all through July. They keep their boat at Johnshaven, a harbour I remember well as I kept a boat there myself for several years. We took a  piece' with us to eat on board so that we could make the best of our time at sea.

It's funny how things turn up again – it was just last month that I wrote about the mackerel we were given which brought back childhood memories. I like the idea that James will have happy memories of his first experience of sea fishing and catching mackerel. Hopefully they will stay with him and be passed on to his own children, and his grandchildren after.

At his age, when grandfather arranges a fishing trip grandfather is expected to come up with the goods. I felt under some pressure, but thankfully our friends know the likely fishing spots and young Mr Smug returned home with six fish to my one.

With the aid of modern communications and his mobile phone, the Doyenne had news of James's success before we landed. There's not much you can teach an experienced grandmother and by the time we got home she was making gooseberry sauce (a traditional accompaniment to mackerel) from gooseberries we'd picked the evening before, from bushes that had seeded in an old beech hedge.

We sat down at the kitchen table to a special meal of fish provided free by our grandson and gooseberries picked for free from a hedgerow. There's worse places to be than the countryside.

Out from Johnshaven harbour and looking back to land you can see what remains of the old stump of the Kaim of Mathers clinging to the cliff-top just north of the sands of St Cyrus. The Kaim (castle) has connections with a gruesome murder worthy of the talents of Hammer Films.

David Barclay of Mathers built the fortress to escape the wrath of King James the First after he and three neighbouring lairds brutally murdered the local Sheriff, James Melville of Glenbervie. The lairds' repeated complaints to him about the Sheriff's heavy-handed behaviour so exasperated the king that without thinking he said – “Sorrow gin he were sodden and supped in bree”. In other words, for all he cared they could go and make soup of the Sheriff.

So they did. At the aptly named  Sheriff's Kettle' they tipped the ill-starred lawman into a huge cauldron, and boiled him up – and supped the bree! Doubtless a fifteenth century version of a picnic.

Nowadays Sheriffs lead more serene lives.




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A regular reader of the weekly column in the Dundee Courier comments –

“It reflects your own personality, your love of the countryside, of Scotland …….. and your love of wildlife.”

Written on Saturday, August 4th, 2007 at 11:20 pm for Weekly.