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.

Odd numbers

March 6th, 2010

THE KEY turned in the lock as I let the dogs into the house after the afternoon walk and I heard the harsh, nasal  €œaungh aungh € calls of greylag geese   They were so close and so unexpected that I thought they must have landed on the front lawn which we had just passed   They were, indeed, seven greylags flying barely above chimney level, and as they skimmed the house they had to beat hard to clear the tall beech trees at the back.


If I had a mind to I could read all manner of inferences into that fleeting scene, for seven is the virtuous number   There are any number of mathematical, astronomical, theological (to mention just three) associations attaching to the number – from days of the week, colours of the rainbow, deadly sins and Magnificent 7   However I was looking forward to a cup of tea and no sooner are the dogs inside the door after a walk than they start agitating to be fed, so the symbolism of the moment passed.

It's time for the geese – pink footed as well as greylag – to be heading north back to their breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland   As arctic winter descends on their true homes, and feeding becomes scarce, they fly south around October time to overwinter in Scotland.

The recent hard weather may have fooled them briefly into thinking that winter here is still very much in control, but Nature's internal alarm clock and the nesting urge can't be denied   Soon their thin, blue notes, dwindling in a pellucid sky, will be just another memory till they return next autumn.

The number three which, of course, is the perfect number, has its own connotations. The Holy Trinity, the Three Graces, the First World War superstition of avoiding being third man to light his cigarette from the same match at night time   Enemy snipers would look out for the first flare of light in the dark, take aim at the second and fire at the third.

My abiding memory of three is my father's interment in Montrose's Sleepyhillock Cemetery, by the side of Montrose Basin   Three geese – pink footed I think, because they were so vocal – flew overhead as his coffin was lowered into the ground, with a clamour of farewells.

I hope no one thinks this is a morbid thought because it is very much the opposite   Father was a great outdoors man who loved and enjoyed the countryside   He was also a keen wildfowler and, in his time, shot a lot of geese on the Basin   Father's departure from this world, the flight of geese and their salute, were fitting leave-takings on both sides.

Doubtless there's deep metaphysical significance attached to the number two, but right now the only thing that comes to mind is blooming dogs!

Written on Saturday, March 6th, 2010 at 11:07 am for Weekly.