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.

Fine words butter no parsnips – Sir Walter Scott

February 6th, 2010

WORDS ARE my seed corn and recently I was asked to explain the word  bonspiel' which I used in reference to curling's Grand Match. As ever I turned to Dr Jamieson's Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, my refuge whenever I'm challenged on Scottish vocabulary.

Two hundred years ago  bonspiel' was in much wider use to denote  a match of any kind, as at golf or even at fighting'. A separate entry describes how a tun of wyne (was) pandit (i.e. bet) on the outcome of an archery  bonspel'. This was not a ton weight of wine, of course, but a tun barrel containing 252 wine gallons.

As I expected it includes the definition of  a match at the diversion of curling on the ice'. Thinking back, some of the games of curling I've played could hardly be said to have fallen into the category of  diversion'. When your birse is up and you think you can best your opposing rink it's the winning, not diversion, that's uppermost in your mind.

I took the dogs down to St Cyrus beach to let them stretch their legs. More for Inka's benefit than Macbeth's, for Macbeth will always wander on at his own pace investigating the most revolting, decomposing carcases that the tide has thrown up.

There must have been heavy weather earlier for great gobbets of spume were washing up onto the beach on each wave and a fine spindrift hung over the tideline. The horizon was lost where a pewter sea merged into a pewter sky.

I got to thinking about the fishermen who went out in open boats – skaffies and yoles – to seek a precarious and, sometimes, dangerous living. It wasn't until about the 1850s that fishing boats began to be built on a bigger scale and half- or fully decked, enabling the fishermen to sail to more distant fishing grounds and providing some basic shelter from the elements.

Before these advances fleets of small boats sailed or, in the absence of wind, rowed from villages like Auchmithie, Ferryden, Johnshaven and Gourdon to their coastal fishing grounds. They were always at danger of sudden changes for the worse in the fickle weather, giving substance to the famous response of a Granton fishwife to a snooty Edinburgh housewife who complained about the prices – “It's not fish you're buying, it's men's lives.”

I mentioned  claivers' – another guid Scotch word – in a recent talk, and was asked if it is a regional east coast word. The good Doctor indicated that it was in general use throughout Scotland. To  claiver' is to talk idly or foolishly, although I have always used the noun in the context of  blethers'.

I suggested that I might have entitled this countryside diary “Country Claivers”. A stage whisper from the audience offered “Country Havers”. Some folk have no sense of propriety!

Written on Saturday, February 6th, 2010 at 9:58 am for Weekly.