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.

They shall have music wherever they go

July 25th, 2009

IF MUSIC soothes the savage breast I'm glad that the dogs and I could play a small part in an excellent afternoon's entertainment at the Glenesk Retreat Folk Museum.

They had kindly offered me a book signing session to promote my latest book, “Tales from The Scottish Countryside – New Walks with the Man with Two Dogs”. We were a kind of supporting act in a memorable concert given by the Cairngorms Ceilidh Trail, a group of eight young musicians from the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music which is based in Plockton on Loch Carron, just round the corner from the bridge over the Kyle of Lochalsh to Skye.

Plockton struck a chord with Macbeth, for that was the village that the Hamish Macbeth series was filmed for BBC television in the 1990s. Hamish's constant companion was another Westie called Wee Jock, which in our Macbeth's view is no sort of a name for a scion of the Poltalloch Terriers, which is what his noble breed was originally called.

The musicians came together for only a week before setting out on a series of concerts within the Cairngorm National Park area and it is a credit to their individual skills that they formed such a cohesive ensemble. It was no surprise to see fiddles, accordions, guitar and Border pipes, but the appearance of a Cuban cajon drum, which you sit on to play, and a djembe drum from West Africa might have seemed out of place in a traditional Scottish band. But it exemplifies how in the hands of enthusiastic players like these, music knows no boundaries and any instrument can travel the world.

The cello was a hark back to the old kail yaird bands which often included a cellist in their line up. It surprises me that such a mellow, versatile instrument, whose tone is regarded as closest to the human voice, isn't included in modern bands. I'm sure there's an old photo in the Retreat's archives of a glen band with the cellist wearing a battered billycock hat at a roguish angle.

The pleasure the musicians had making music together conveyed itself to the audience. For two hours we were entertained with traditional tunes and songs and the girls danced a fling of their own composition. These talented youngsters' self-assurance in front of an audience demonstrated how performing publicly develops confidence which will be such an asset in their future endeavours, whether it be as musicians or otherwise.

Macbeth, of course, is a seasoned player at these public appearances and in the absence of any food being on offer he just settles down and falls asleep. It was Inka's first public performance and he found all the excitement going on around him very distracting, and he wanted to talk to everyone. And there were no canine social mishaps, for which I was thankful!

Written on Saturday, July 25th, 2009 at 4:10 am for Weekly.