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.

Cold dis-comfort

December 24th, 2011

CHILBLAINS USED to be a common winter complaint, but you hardly hear them mentioned these days.

When I was a youngster any number of my friends endured the angry, itchy swellings which erupt on fingers and toes in frosty weather. An aunt, who was a tireless knitter, recycled my rugby socks by cutting the feet off them when they were past further darning and crocheted the leg part into fingerless mittens. They went half-way up to my elbows and covered my fingers down to my knuckles, and kept my hands warm and chilblain-free – or maybe I was just one of the lucky ones who was never afflicted.

The hard weather makes foraging difficult for the smaller wild birds. However, the woodpigeons have taken advantage of the absence of snow and descended on the beech mast which litters the wood floor. We are surrounded by beech trees and whenever the dogs and I go out we disturb clouds of the hungry birds which hardly move any distance before settling again to carry on gorging.

Keep bird tables and feeders well stocked. The garden songbirds really benefit from our help and the effort and expense will be more than repaid in the spring and summer. I spoke to a man who will be putting out more than three hundredweight of mixed bird seed again this winter. For a while last year he counted forty-one blackbirds in his garden each morning.

A wren and a robin have made their winter home in the garage. We’re getting quite used to each others’ company and they hardly bother with me now when I go for the car. I’ve put out fat balls and niger seeds for them – the tiny black, oily seeds are full of nourishment and the small birds love them.

Mad dogs and Englishmen don’t do it. Not so, however, a group of South African students who the Doyenne and I joined for a curry lunch two Sundays past at The Burn House, near Edzell.

They were in Scotland for five days as part of travel bursaries awarded them through their universities to visit the UK to help broaden their experience. They were keen to absorb as much of our culture as possible and were introduced to, amongst other local distractions, whisky at Fettercairn Distillery and curling.

To appreciate the splendours of a Scottish glen they were driven to the head of Glenesk and Loch Lee. Perhaps it was the after effects of the curry but two of them stripped off to their underwear and took a swim in the loch.

It’s too late now to point out that there’s no need for such intemperate excess. If they’d only asked I could have explained that, like Englishmen, they should await the midday sun to indulge their eccentricities – the mad dogs have more sense anyway!

Written on Saturday, December 24th, 2011 at 10:20 pm for Weekly.