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.

Arctic monkeys or brass monkeys?

January 9th, 2010

MARGARET HOGG, wife of James Hogg the Ettrick Shepherd, poet, writer and friend of Sir Walter Scott, was likely caught up in the bitter grip of a winter similar to the one we're experiencing just now, when she wrote solicitously to her husband on 22 January 1832 – “My dearest James  €¦I hope you have got warm drawers  €¦”

James was in London at the time, negotiating with a new publisher and being lionised by London society who welcomed him into their salons and drawing rooms where, I expect, blazing fires kept the winter chill at bay. But sitting in my little office, fighting with Macbeth for a glimmer of warmth from the heater, I can empathise with Margaret's concerns for the comfort of a fellow writer.

At the risk of tempting providence we have got off lightly, weatherwise, in our neck of the woods. Snow which fell before Christmas has lain ever since, but there's not been any more. Son James, who lives near Peebles, has had a right time of it shovelling his way out of blocked roads. He had to take urgent action to clear his workshop roof when he noticed it sagging under the weight of snow.

With plummeting temperatures and glacial access roads daughter Cait and her family, who live on a hill overlooking Auchterarder, have had their own battles. I used to put great faith in heavy duty jute sacks, the sort they delivered coal in, pushed in under the driving wheels to give them initial traction, to get my car moving in slippery conditions. In the absence of sacks, son-in-law Gibson has used strips of old carpet with similar success.

Sometimes a thaw can bring as much trouble as the frost, with pipes bursting as they unfreeze. Many years ago a farmer neighbour gave me a tip to deal with burst pipes which I have used successfully on several occasions.

Split open a length of bicycle wheel inner tube (I presume such things are still available) and wrap it several times round the burst. Tightly bind the tubing all around with strong string, ensuring the binding extends above and below the burst. The pressure of the water trying to get out compresses the layers of the rubber tube against each other and forms an efficient seal until the plumber arrives.

There have been some wonderful skies to compensate for the chilly weather. Two or three times I've bundled dogs and Doyenne into the car and we've driven up to the head of the glen. Silhouetted against the ice-blue horizon the snow covered hills take on a fresh personality; snow filled corries and gullies become softer contoured and everything sparkles in the sunshine.

If the arctic weather continues I'll have to consider warm drawers for myself. I'll talk to the Doyenne, who I'm sure will give the matter her closest attention!

Written on Saturday, January 9th, 2010 at 9:47 am for Weekly.