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.

Lead kindly light

January 19th, 2008

“NOW I heard the birds rejoicing in the soft returning spring / Full of pleasure were their motions as they spread the glittering wing / While I gaze I spied a snow-drop's tiny bud just bursting through / It hath borne the winter's darkness with a spirit meek and true.”

These lines come from a poem by Alan Stevenson, eldest son of Robert Stevenson who built the Bell Rock lighthouse twelve miles off the coast from Arbroath and was father of the remarkable four generation dynasty of Scottish lighthouse engineers. Alan rented Kirkside House near St Cyrus and this is one of several poems he wrote there, originally in Greek, as a diversion in his spare time. People did that sort of thing in those days, as an intellectual exercise just to show that they could.

Alan Stevenson was as prolific a builder of lighthouses as his father. He built the Little Ross light on the island of that name at the mouth of Kirkcudbright Bay, next door to the Solway Firth. Our son James's in-laws rented the lighthouse keepers' cottages as a holiday home when they fell empty after the light was automated.

Alan's brothers David and Thomas built Scurdie Ness light at Montrose. Thomas married a Miss Balfour of Mall House, Montrose and they begat Robert Louis Stevenson, one of Scotland's finest writers, who is reputed to have said that every time he smelt the sea he knew he wasn't far from the work of his family. I grew up just along the road from Mall House at number 32 The Mall. Sometimes you can hardly walk out the door without tripping over history.

It's tempting to think that the young Robert Louis visited Kirkside House as a child to play with his cousins. If he ever stayed for a sleepover he'd have seen his grandfather's winking light on the Bell Rock as he climbed the stairs with his candle lighting the way to bed.

It's the time of year when folk write to newspapers claiming to have seen or heard the “first of spring”, be it snowdrops, cuckoos or even Easter eggs. I have a rather splendid wooden cuckoo call which produces a most realistic note. I've half a mind to drive up a glen in February and sit behind a rock and blow my cuckoo call, and see if it produces a flurry of excitement in the Letters to the Editor or Craigie Column!

In the past I've accused Macbeth of being a fair weather dog and maybe I've been a bit hard on him, for I sometimes find myself looking for the soft option too. There's a slatted shelf above the stove in the kitchen where I leave my cap, and when it's time to take the dogs out and face the elements I reach for my pre-heated bunnet. Bliss!