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.

“… darkly, deeply, beautifully blue ..”

June 12th, 2010

I'VE FINISHED reading, for the third time, a delightful book called  €œFlower of the Flax €, written by JB Salmond   The story starts some time around 1830 and is clearly based in Angus for it is woven round the development of the linen industry for which the county was once notable.
Dundonians will recognise their home city from its nom de plume of Lawside and the descriptions of the hills which run down to the  €œgreat river € which fixes its southern boundary   And Arbroath is easily recognised as Redstanes, descriptive of the town's red sandstone buildings dominated by the ruins of the great red Abbey.

Its theme of good fortune triumphing over bad must have struck an uplifting chord with readers for it was both published and reprinted in 1944, in the austerity conditions of WWll   Written in familiar Angus dialect, I've tucked away in my memory bank a phrase which I've never heard used in conversation –  €œjuist a knotless threid € – describing someone who has lost their sense of purpose in life.

Flax cultivation stopped in these parts in the 1950s when local production was sidelined by cheaper foreign imports   In the mid-1980s there was talk of reviving the industry and of building a new flax mill   The plans came to nothing despite the backing of the Bank of Scotland's merchant banking arm, the British Linen Bank, whose roots go back to 1746 and the British Linen Company – which shows the historical importance of flax and linen to the Scottish economy.

The flower of the flax is a pure, pale blue blossom and a century ago the countryside must have been a patchwork of blue fields in amongst the other crops – reminiscent of today's yellow oil seed rape fields   But much of my pleasure out walking the dogs is in finding flashes of wildflower colour in amongst hedgerows, roadsides, riverbanks and the unfrequented spots that we visit.

A plant with vivid blue flowers, which is abundant in the hedgerows right now, is borage   Look out too for red campion along the verges when you are out driving   The wood anemones have been replaced with wintergreen – another woodland plant with a white seven-petalled flower   Fragile white stitchwort, blue and purple cranesbill, speedwell and vetch – just a handful of the wild plants flowering this month   And they'll be followed through the summer by others just as bonny.

I had some difficulty tracking down JB Salmond, but he was editor of the Arbroath Herald and latterly the Scots Magazine   If he wasn't a true born Angus loon it's clear from his writing that he completely absorbed the atmosphere of the area that he worked in and wrote about.

 €œFlower of the Flax € is a gentle story that will appeal to an older generation which, as you may guess, I stand on the threshold of!

Written on Saturday, June 12th, 2010 at 8:31 am for Weekly.