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.

Going nuts in the kitchen

January 24th, 2009

CORNKISTERS AND Bothy Ballads come pretty much out of the same stable, so to speak. Cornkisters are the traditional songs of the north east of Scotland, sung by  ploomen' and bothy loons when their day's work was done, seated upon the corn kist or corn chest in which their horses' feed was kept.

The origins of bothy ballads are supposed to be much older but, historical niceties apart, they both have their roots in the hard living conditions of farm workers in the days when horses provided the only horsepower. Both are liberal storehouses of social history and the language of the north east.

The history lesson is by way of introducing the Doyenne's adventure several mornings back when I was not at home to protect her. I've written before about Macbeth's belief that if he runs fast enough he'll catch one of the red squirrels which feed on the peanuts outside the kitchen window. (He used to think that one day he'd be able to fly, and he'd catch a pheasant!)

Seeing no squirrels the Doyenne opened the back door and Macbeth streaked out as fast as his little sawn off legs would let him. An unfortunate squirrel had obviously been fossicking around out of sight and doubtless its surprise at seeing Macbeth was matched by his conviction that his moment had come.

The squirrel saw the open door as a handy escape route and shot into the kitchen hotly pursued by our demented ball of string. While the Doyenne looked on, uttering wee squeaks of alarm because at first she thought it was a rat, the squirrel ran several times round the kitchen table with Macbeth gamely keeping pace but never actually gaining ground.

To catch its breath the squirrel leapt onto the back of a chair and out of Macbeth's reach. The Doyenne collared Macbeth who was growling horribly and voicing threats and imprecations. Taking advantage of the lull in proceedings the squirrel leapt off the chair and made a beeline for open country, and raced up the nearest tree where it recovered its composure while the Doyenne recovered hers.

It was just the sort of domestic drama round which a cornkister, or a rattling good dance jig, might have been composed and called “Squirrel in the kitchen”. It brought to mind the chorus of a cornkister called  Mcginty's Meal and Ale' – “They were skirlin' in the kitchen like a caravan o' tinkies, aye / And some were playin' ping pong and tiddly, iddly winkies / Up the howe and doon the howe ye niver saw such jinkies / As Mcginty's meal and ale fan the pig gaed on the spree.”

Substitute Macbeth for the pig and you get a flavour of how it was for the Doyenne that morning in the kitchen – on her own, without me to protect her!

Written on Saturday, January 24th, 2009 at 5:34 pm for Weekly.