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.


November 15th, 2008

THE NIPPY smell in the nostrils when I'm out walking Macbeth means one thing at this time of year – someone's burning fallen beech leaves. There's no other smell like it, so there's never any doubt. Seen in their autumn glory of browns and ochre and raw umber, it's little wonder that the beech has been a favourite tree of generations of landowners in the north east of Scotland.

We should admire the foresight of our ancestors who planted out woodlands and had the imagination to see in their minds' eye the mature stands of trees that they would grow into. Many beech trees were planted as a long term cash crop to be harvested for their wood which was greatly in demand at one time for furniture making. Others, from single trees to estate plantations like Ethie Woods beside Marywell, north of Arbroath, and the woods around The Burn House, near Edzell, were laid out for aesthetic and recreational purposes.

I watched the Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph on Tuesday and was moved by the three surviving First World War veterans who came on parade to lay wreaths. I was minded of my mother's expression – “It's the creaking gate that hings the longest”. She was 92 when she died and had a few creaking limbs herself. A variation is ” €¦ the withered leaf that hings the longest”. Full of years as they are, I hope the three veterans are not withered within themselves, but doubtless they could add a thing or two about the  creaking gate'!

“They dined on mince, and slices of quince, / Which they ate with a runcible spoon.” I'd heard of quince marmalade but until now my only experience of quinces had effectively been these lines from Edward Lear's nonsense poem “The Owl and the Pussycat”.

I've rather associated the golden-yellow pear-shaped fruit with warm, southern Victorian gardens, not with our brisker Scottish climate – but a kind friend gave us some from her Montrose garden. Despite having insisted that her jelly making was finished for the season, the Doyenne decided to try her hand at quince jelly.

If the owl and the pussycat dined on slices of raw quince they would have quickly discovered that until it is cooked the flesh is bullet hard. Quinces have an unusually high pectin content which meant the Doyenne had to boil the fruit twice, the second boiling using half the quantity of water, before adding the sugar. The resulting confection is musky-tasting and quite disgracefully scrummy. Strangely, we have two runcible spoons for scooping the jelly from the jars.

The Doyenne and I are very grateful for the many kind messages readers have sent us (one from as far away as Kansas, U.S.A.) following Inka's death. It's good to know how interested readers are in our dogs and their welfare.

Written on Saturday, November 15th, 2008 at 10:23 pm for Weekly.