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.

Red legs!

January 12th, 2008

RECENT MORNINGS Macbeth (the West Highland White Terrier) has been most reluctant to join me for the early run. He pokes his nose out of the door to taste the day, finds nothing to his satisfaction, and tries to slip unobtrusively back to the warmth of his bed.

In fairness he's just had his regular three monthly clip – enough undergrowth was snipped off to fill a cushion – so he's experienced a fairly instantaneous climate change. Inka, our black Labrador, greets every morning enthusiastically and is standing at the back door “paddling” with his front paws on the mat, gasping to be let out.

It's been a grey week; coorse, some would say, maybe even dreich, to use good Scotch idioms still in fairly common use, I'm glad to say. A friend describes that sort of weather as wizened, and I understand what he means. I drove down to Usan – through Ferryden and carry on to the coast until you can go no further – it wasn't any better down by the sea which was dirty grey and sulky-looking.

It put me in mind of being at boarding school on the shores of the Firth of Forth. When it was too wet to even play rugby or hockey we were sent off on seven to ten mile runs in the pouring rain. East Lothian can be a bitter place at this time of year and if you are running in sleety rain and a piercing wind it doesn't matter how hard you run you still get frozen cold. The only relief was knowing that a deep, hot tub awaited me when I got back, with unlimited hot water to wallow in.

I got to thinking of the fishermen of a hundred years ago who sailed out of Ferryden and Usan and Auchmithie and Johnshaven and all the other fishing villages up and down the coast. They worked in open sailing boats in all weathers and didn't have the benefit of at least being able to keep moving. It was the days when wives still carried their husbands on their backs out to their boats so that they kept their feet dry!

The boats fishing out of Ferryden had a problem with the tides. The River South Esk flows out of Montrose Basin, past Montrose harbour and meets the North Sea at Scurdy Ness lighthouse. The ebb tide flows out to sea at a rate of six knots or more which made entering the rivermouth under sail almost impossible at times. The wives kirtled up their skirts and putting ropes from the bows over their shoulders walked the boats back up the river to their moorings.

I mentioned this to the Doyenne and she reckoned I had it easy as a schoolboy compared with these hardy women. She was probably right, as she so often is.