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.

It’s in the bag

February 9th, 2008

THERE ARE lots jokes about sporrans but it was no joke for a friend who thought he would cut a dash and wear his national costume. When he looked out his sporran he found it had become a breeding ground for several families of unidentified and destructive fly. They had set up home inside the pouch and laid eggs which had hatched, and the resultant maggots were happily munching their way in and out of the fur. The sporran looked as though it had taken on a life of its own.

What an odd thing to stir up the memory of the most exceptional suite of Highland dress accoutrements that I was shown by Pipe Major Bert Barron, who was a doyen of the piping world and instructor to the St Andrews University pipe band. Bert was an avid collector of all things Highland and I bought a sporran for each of our sons from him.

He produced from under a bed an ordinary pine box and when he opened it I could scarcely believe my eyes. There was a waist belt and cross belt (for holding a sword) both with decorated silver buckles; a plaid brooch and dirk both with socking great Cairngorms, a sgean dhu and shoe buckles all in silver.

But the sporran was the most unusual piece of all. It had a silver link chain and a heavy, ornate cantle (the ornamental arch which decorates the top of the pouch) with long grey hair hanging from it. Bert asked if I could identify the hair, which was fine and soft. I thought it might have come from a pony's tail.

When I felt it again I realised it was human hair. It had been offered by a cailleach, a Doyenne of her clan, to adorn her chief's sporran. I'd never seen anything like it before, and Bert said it was the only one that he had come across. Engraved in the centre of the cantle was the Mackenzie clan crest.

Driving into Montrose I stopped for a moment on the crest of the hill above Hillside which looks down onto the Montrose Basin and the town itself, and out to Ferryden and Scurdie Ness lighthouse. When we lived at Logie Pert I saw it almost every day, in every weather, and it's a view I never tire of. Like Sir Walter Scott's favourite view at Bemersyde looking over to the Eildon Hills, it lifts the spirit to be able to take the long view.

I heard a lady in the village shop complaining about the state of the weather. She'd been in her garden and been up to her knees in  dubs'. That's a fine old Scotch word that I haven't heard used in everyday speech for a long time. I knew fine she meant that it had been gey clarty.