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 7th, 2009

OLD BOOKS can get like a fever. Earlier in the week I went to a charity book fair. I had an idea of the sort of houses the books came from and hoped I might find something by wildlife photographer and writer Seton Gordon who, in his day, was Scotland's foremost naturalist. Or pick up someone's discards of one of my favourite writers, Violet Jacob, or sometime Ferryden resident Peter Anson, who wrote so fondly and descriptively about the east of Scotland fisher folk.

I could see nothing by any of these authors but I still came home well pleased. From a titled Mearns house came a copy of  The Smugglers' by Duncan Fraser, historian turned publisher/owner of the now defunct Montrose Standard Press, who I remember well. We have a copy of the book already, but his books are a bit like gold dust to those who know his writing on north-east history.

TS Cairncross struck a chord. A little research reminded me that he was one-time minister in Langholm, in the Borders, and had been mentor to Christopher Murray Grieve, aka Scottish poet and patriot Hugh MacDiarmid, who worked for a time in the 1920s as a journalist on the Montrose Review newspaper.

Cairncross's anthology  The Scot at Hame' contributes to the poetic narrative of Scottish life produced by early 20th century provincial poets like Dr David Rorie (The Auld Doctor and other poems and songs), WD Cocker (Dandie and other poems) and Charles Murray in  Hamewith'. King Solomon's Ring' is one of two books written with deep insight into animal behaviour by Austrian psychologist Konrad Lorenz. I shall enjoy reading it because its companion book  Man Meets Dog' was a useful reference for dog behaviour when I was writing the Scottish best seller  Sea Dog Bamse' with Andrew Orr.

Irish poet Patrick MacGill was new to me but I was attracted by the pick and shovel engraved in gold on the cover of his  Songs of The Dead End'. He came from the poorest origins in Donegal, on Ireland's north coast, and by dint of single-minded determination he became a writer. His narrative poetry reminds me of Robert Service's  Songs of a Sourdough'.

We'll have fun with the grandchildren reading about  Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls', an anthology of poems about mischievous children. As it says in the inside flap of the cover – “It isn't normal to always be good”!

I couldn't resist a book whose opening words are – “One evening I heard a man who had served twenty years' imprisonment in a London office €¦”. It's entitled  The Country' by Edward Thomas and I can't believe it won't appeal to a country man with two dogs.

A history of uniforms of the Scottish regiments and a copy of  Tom Brown's Schooldays' made up my little haul.

Written on Saturday, November 7th, 2009 at 10:05 pm for Weekly.