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.

No need to repeat myself

November 5th, 2011

OH DEAR, I’ve been getting stick for writing about the Vale of Strathmore (October 22nd). Reproached for falling into the trap of tautology, the unnecessary repetition of the same thing using different words – strath and vale or valley being synonymous. Worse still, I’m guilty of allowing unwelcome Anglicisation to debase guid Scots words – clearly pretty slack behaviour.

I thought I should take up the cudgels in my own defence and, as ever when faced with etymological challenges, I turned to Dr Jamieson’s Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language. The good Doctor turned out to be no help whatever, only confirming the meaning of strath.

I remember that my mother, who was an excellent English language scholar, spoke of the Vale of Strathmore but it’s time now, surely, to cut loose from the maternal apron strings and stop hiding behind her memory to explain away my imperfections.

So I guess I’ll just have to take my licks and say “sorry”.

On a calmer note a reader e-mailed to tell me about some more bee boles that can be seen on another local farm. There are also two marriage stones taken from old houses and incorporated into the steading buildings. These carved stones usually formed the lintel above the main door of a house, announcing to the world at large and recording for posterity the state of marital bliss that flourished within.

Another reader has admonished me for not knowing that there is a row of eight bee boles in the wall of Edzell Castle’s great Renaissance garden. I guess I should have known that, and I’ll have to go and look now. When I started writing this column I never imagined that life could be so fraught with conflict.

Amongst the garden songbirds the robin is probably the most trusting of man. I’ve been doing some light gardening, clearing the autumn debris and the interminable beech leaves which congregate in every corner. A robin joins me whenever I go out, waiting for me to pull out dead annuals or sweep up leaves and uncover all the tasty bugs and grubs that brighten a robin’s day. He’s so trusting I could stretch out my hand and almost touch him.

They are usually the last bird in the garden to settle to roost at night. If I’m walking the dogs in the early dusk I’m sometimes aware of a small companion flickering up the hedge side ahead of me. It’s rather touching having such a diminutive escort to see you safely on your road.

Last Saturday on Radio Scotland’s Travelling Folk programme they played the Silly Wizard song “Valley of Strathmore” whose opening lines are “By the clear and winding stream / In the Valley of Strathmore”. The presenter’s explanation for the title was that the ‘words wouldn’t scan any other way.’

Just mentioning it, you’ll understand!

Written on Saturday, November 5th, 2011 at 9:51 pm for Weekly.