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.


September 25th, 2010

TOO LATE to mention last week, but on Friday 17th I heard rather than saw the arrival of the first of the geese flying in from the north to over-winter here. Pinkfeet, I would guess, for I was in the middle of a wood with the dogs, hunting for chanterelle mushrooms.

The late Peter Gladstone of Fasque, who was a noted ornithologist, used to say he expected the first geese to arrive between the seventeenth and nineteenth of September – so these were on the button.

It's incredible really – far beyond the Arctic Circle instinct tells the birds that it's time to leave for Montrose Basin, and instinct guides them here   We humans would need a calendar, an alarm clock and SatNav – and we'd think ourselves pretty clever.

Regular readers of this newspaper may know that I co-wrote the Scottish best seller  €œSea Dog Bamse, World War II Canine Hero € with retired Montrose GP, Dr Andrew Orr   What you may not know is that that I've had a life-time interest in tartan and indeed the Doyenne, our daughter Catherine and I designed the Whitson tartan.

To celebrate the historic threads of friendship between Scotland and Norway, where Bamse came from, Andrew and I designed the  €œSea Dog Bamse, Pride of Norway € tartan   Research into Norwegian national costume, the bunad, revealed distinct comparisons with our own national dress.

Like tartan, bunads declare identity – the wearer's home locality or ancestral heritage   The patterns of some of the men's waistcoats particularly, but also the girls' dresses, are reminiscent of tartan setts   Norwegian men wear colourful garters, much like Scotsmen wear tartan flashes, to keep their knee-length stockings up   And the women wear beautifully decorated purses hung from their belts.

The origins of Scottish tartan go back further than bunads, but between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries large numbers of Scots travelled to the Scandinavian countries generally, as mercenaries and traders and to study, and took tartan with them.

You'd have been spared the history lesson if I hadn't passed the shop window of Highland Scene in Montrose, and seen the first of the ties and scarves made up in Bamse's tartan   It was like seeing your bairn for the first time!

I was into the shop like a flash and came out clutching my prized tie   We took the red, blue and white of the Norwegian flag as the basis of the sett   The two overlaid yellow lines represent gold, which is priceless, as is the value of freedom, the gift which Bamse escaped to Scotland to fight and die for.

I wish I could say that Bamse's is the only tartan dedicated to a dog, but I know of a couple more   However, I can say with confidence that it is a world first for a literary dog – and you can't beat that.

And now there’s more!

Read my new blog – A Breath of Fresh Air From Scotland

Written on Saturday, September 25th, 2010 at 2:11 pm for Weekly.