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.

View from the mouse hole

August 22nd, 2009

THE RURAL-URBAN divide is one of those weighty concepts normally debated in social, cultural and economic terms by brainy people in the security of their hygienic urban offices. However, this week I have been grappling with some environmental aspects of the city of Edinburgh which unite the urban and rural communities.

Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities – perhaps meeting the Doyenne there influences me – and, like the country mice we are, the Doyenne and I excitedly took ourselves down to the capital city to visit my town mouse cousin and his town mouse wife. We went ostensibly to expose ourselves to enlightenment and to broaden our minds at the Edinburgh Festival. You can't do that all day and at night too, and in the evenings the four of us sat round the supper table discussing wider issues, aided by several comforting bottles of good wine.

I enjoy a trip to these urban centres because I always expect to see or hear something familiar but different, if you know what I mean. Living within hearing distance of the wild, pesticide-free embankments of a railway line, my cousin sees and hears lots of things that are, in fact, as commonplace to him as they are to me. In fact, his contact with urban foxes is far more commonplace than mine with country ones.

Major conurbations like cities provide a rich, biodiverse mosaic of habitats connected by access trails and aerial flight paths, making town life very attractive to a broad range of wildlife like bats, hedgehogs, rabbits, seagulls, peregrine falcons and much more. There's plenty of food if you know where to find it, but it may be easier to pick it out of bin bags than to forage for the natural alternative. There are unexpected dangers of course, like the four-wheeled killing machines driven by wild-eyed fanatics who don't seem to much care if you are a hedgehog.

Town mice sometimes see more than country mice. For a full half hour my cousin and his wife watched a kestrel fight a magpie to the death. To protect information that might be lost if one of the birds was ringed they telephoned the SSPCA, who arrived with commendable promptness. The wise inspector reassured them that this was nature “red in tooth and claw” – and she wouldn't be prosecuting the kestrel!

When the kestrel had had his fill of the victim, the carcase was left beneath the hedge. A neighbouring cat, ambling across to suck on the bones, thought better of it when the local urban fox appeared on the scene and, baring its teeth in friendly animosity, carried off the deceased.

I've never seen what my cousin saw that day, and I query how many country folk have. Maybe there's something to being a  toonser' after all.

Written on Saturday, August 22nd, 2009 at 5:14 pm for Weekly.