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.

Music as you mow

September 29th, 2007

FOUR YEARS ago I wrote about a juvenile guillemot that appeared at Fasque Estate near Fettercairn. I was at a loss to think how a bird associated with the sea and coast found its way so far inland from the cliffs where they normally breed. A Forfar reader told me afterwards that they are a common sight on Rescobie Loch between Forfar and Montrose, which is well inland too. They wouldn't be there, and breeding, unless there was sufficient feeding for them – doubtless the trout which the local fishing club stock the loch with.

So I was in no doubts when I got an e-mail with a photo attached of a bird a reader wanted help with identifying, that it was another young guillemot. It seems likely it had got separated from the parent birds because it sat forlornly on some shingle at the side of the River North Esk. By the time the reader and I made contact it had disappeared – perhaps victim to a predator. In any event without support from the parents it would quickly starve.

At supper with friends we met a professional musician – an oboist – whose playing career took him round the world with famous orchestras. With time now to look after a large country garden he has invested in a sit-on motor mower to cut his lawns. Bridging the digital gap he has also bought himself an ipod, which is pretty cutting edge too, and as he mows the grass he listens to all the familiar classics he played professionally.

When the music reaches an exciting part he can be seen clutching the steering wheel one-handed while conducting the music with the other. As it reaches a thundering crescendo both hands leave the wheel, urging on the orchestra to soaring musical glory and the rudderless mower assumes a life of its own. So if you see a lawn somewhere about Meigle covered all over with demisemiquavers you'll know that Mozart's Oboe Concerto in C major has just been tipped on the compost heap!

The Doyenne and I drove to a favourite spot at the foot of Glen Effock, an offshoot of Glen Esk, to walk the dogs and pick rowans for the rowan and apple jelly. Unusually there was hardly a bunch to be seen but rather than go straight home we called in to see Angus Davidson, retired now for several years from farming Glen Effock Farm.

Angus told us the cold snaps in springtime had frosted the blossom which accounted for the lack of berries. He wouldn't let us leave without offering a dram, which was most welcome as the Doyenne was driving. We'd have gone earlier but Angus reached for the bottle again, saying, “Na, na, ye canna flee on ae wing”.

Now there's a delicate way to offer hospitality without actually mentioning drink.


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Written on Saturday, September 29th, 2007 at 10:31 pm for Weekly.