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.

Sliding up the bannister of life

December 5th, 2009

THE IMMORTAL memory of Scotland's national bard burned bright in Perth last Saturday. For seven years now Perth Burns Club has held a St Andrew's Day celebration at which four of Scotland's “leading academics, writers and personalities” give presentations on topics of Scottish life and culture. To my genuine surprise I was invited to give one of the lectures this year.

I shared the platform with Dr Harry Reid, former editor of The Herald, Jess Smith who writes and lectures extensively on Scotland's travelling people, and Kenneth Steven, Perthshire-based poet, writer and storyteller.

I'm no great Burns aficionado, so by way of preparation for the event I read again his familiar poem The Twa Dogs – perhaps it was my own association with twa dogs that had prompted the invitation. In an old, tattered collection of Songs and Ballads by “Jeems” I came across a poem entitled The De'il's Reply to Robert Burns, and hoped I had the basis for a talk.

Once I realised I could speak on a subject of my own choosing I thankfully reworked my talk to describe how much pleasure I personally get from writing. It was a bit daunting to follow Harry Reid who spoke on The Legacy of the Reformation, which had a gravitas the Man with Two Dogs rarely achieves.

The whole afternoon was an unexpected experience, and I can't remember when I last felt so grown up! It just shows what can come your way when you are the Courier's Man with Two Dogs.

Language must develop, but I've mourned before the loss from the Scotch vernacular of so many expressive, pithy sayings which encapsulate life in a fistful of words.

Earlier in the week I was talking to a true countryman who came away with a beauty I hadn't heard before – “He couldna mak saut for his kail” – describing a person who doesn't pull his weight and doesn't earn enough money to afford the salt to season his kail. We need to revive these verbal cameos – they make plain conversation so much more entertaining.

My eye was attracted to a black spot racing down the road ahead of me. It took a moment to realise it was the black tip of a stoat's tail. It's a defensive distraction to divert a predator's attention away from its more vulnerable body should the beastie be attacked. As it sped away in front of the car I reckon its speed was about 17mph – quite staggering when you think what wee sawn-off legs it's got. Macbeth could never compete.

It must be close on two months since I last picked a chanterelle mushroom, but yesterday I found one hidden under bracken. I'm sure it's nothing to do with climate change, just that the foliage provided shelter from the autumn frosts – but it was something else that was unexpected.

Written on Saturday, December 5th, 2009 at 5:16 pm for Weekly.