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.

Natural remedies

April 26th, 2008

A tattie, a neep and an ingin / An ingin, a tattie, a neep / An aipple a day keeps the doctor at bay / But an ingin ll dae for a week.

I remember this children's rhyme from my childhood. At the back of my mind is the thought that one of the worthies of the Scottish music halls used to sing it, but I can't remember who. Is there a reader who can recall who he was?

In the 16th and 17th centuries  simples' were medical remedies. So perhaps the humble onion was a universal panacea and the  simple' way to avoid visiting the mediaeval horse-doctor's surgery.

When I was a student I developed a ganglion, which is an uncomfortable fibrous growth on the top of the wrist. The Doctor's surgery was a room in his house, and when he had examined me he popped out of the room for a moment. He returned with a heavy, old leather-bound family Bible. He put my wrist flat on his desk, palm down, and struck the ganglion a savage blow with the Bible. “I've always wanted to try that”, he told me.

Several hundred years ago in rural Scotland this was an accepted way of dealing with ganglions. Put your trust in the Good Book and all would be well. If the ganglion disintegrated, then your faith in the Good Book was well founded, and you didn't have to pay the doctor's bill. If it failed to work you were probably beyond medical and spiritual deliverance, and not even the Doctor's intervention could hope to save your loathsome soul.

Looking back it seems obvious that, as a student, I was perceived as little more than medical fodder who the Doctor could try out his arcane experiments on. He asked me to return in a week if the ganglion persisted, but I'd had enough of being a guinea pig, and anyway his treatment actually worked.

I remember one of our granddaughters visiting us and coming into the house in tears of wrathful indignation. She had wandered into a bed of nettles which I let grow wild in the hope of encouraging butterflies. With homespun enthusiasm I cantered into the garden for a couple of docken leaves, which was my mother's childhood remedy for nettle stings for my sister and me. My efforts at complementary therapy were not wholly successful. Rubbing the wee hands with the leaves made them green with docken juice but seemingly did little to relieve the discomfort.

It's hard to accept that you're a grandfather who can't make nettle stings better, but I'm sure that over the years I've salvaged my shaky reputation. And by the way – if you're a committed onion eater who's having twice weekly appointments with your doctor, perhaps you're just not believing hard enough in the ingin's restorative powers!

Written on Saturday, April 26th, 2008 at 9:36 am for Weekly.