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.

Keeping the family afloat

June 6th, 2009

THE SEA and the seashore proved to be as much a cause for astonishment to Inka as it was to his grandfather, Inka One, when we went for a walk on St Cyrus beach earlier in the week. I recall Macbeth being fair dumfouttered the first time he and I walked there together. I think it's the sheer expanse of unconfined space that overfaces them. When the tide is out there are too few points of reference to mark the limits of this new environment.

Of course Macbeth is a bit of an old hand now but Inka explored this strange world, with its interesting new scents, rather cautiously to begin with. The seashore was always the one place I gave Inka One free rein to run pretty well where he wanted so long as he remained in sight. After about half an hour Inka Two began to stretch out and I could see he enjoyed the unrestrained freedom.

Waves and the sea were more new experiences. He tried drinking seawater but quickly found how salty and unpalatable it is. The first wave to splash over him made him jump, but he faced the next and struck out into deeper water for a swim. Much to my surprise Macbeth followed him into the sea. Normally he is most fastidious about getting even his feet damp and wouldn't dream of paddling out up to his furry stomach. I think it's a boy thing about wading too deep into chilly water!

I suspect most of us take our families for granted – they are there, and they are unavoidable. A fortnight past we had a gathering of forty-six of the Doyenne's family from as far afield as Plymouth in the UK, and New Zealand worldwide. Three generations were represented and the relevance of the event was perhaps most marked for the third generation, for whom their far flung cousins were little more than names.

It was the happiest family celebration – from ages four to eighty, everyone enjoyed themselves. There wasn't a cross word all weekend, and if there were any tears it was a young one scarting a knee, and that was easily sorted with a cuddle. We self catered and divided into teams to prepare food, cook it and clear up afterwards, and everyone played their part.

Outdoors there were games and a monster barbecue, and on the Saturday evening we had a band and a proper ceilidh with members of the family doing their party pieces. Even within the family, friendships were renewed and the young made their new friendships. The weekend proved how important families are, for it is easy for families to drift apart. All the effort of organisation has proved to be worthwhile as the young, in particular, remain in regular touch through Facebook.

The clever bit will be keeping this momentum going.