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.

The old ones are best

December 10th, 2011

ROE DEER have drifted back deep into the shelter of the woods. Old laurel and rhododendron bushes provide shelter from the snow which fell on Tuesday evening, and the dogs and I disturb them when we’re out on the morning walk.

It ought to have been obvious what was coming. The wee loch at the back of the house was frozen over when the dogs and I walked round there on Monday. The resident mallard duck were sitting in a bunch in the middle of the ice looking pretty wizened. It’s only about three hundred feet above sea level but it sits in a bit of a frost pocket, surrounded by trees and hills.

Remembering the prolonged harshness of last winter’s weather I’d hoped that November’s mild spell would continue. Now, as I write, rain is falling in stair rods and lying on top of melting snow, which can be a bit lethal to walk on. The forecast is for more snow and ice, and storm and tempest – the uncertainty of it all fair tests your endurance.

Mind you, there have been blinks of sunshine. I shouldn’t want you to think I’m getting crabby but, welcome as it is, that low winter sun reflecting off the wet roads, straight into your eyes, can add another hazard to driving.

I enjoy collecting old sayings and proverbs that are falling out of common use or in danger of being lost altogether. A newscaster on the radio came up with a contemporary sort of ‘how long is a piece of string’ remark, warning motorists held up while damaged vehicles were removed from a motorway pile-up, that the delay would be ‘as long as a hairdresser’s inch’. There has to be mutual trust and understanding between client and hairdresser about the anticipated outcome of the instruction to “Just take off an inch”.

A ‘country mile’ is another example. “Just a mile down that way”, is the confident prediction, but you’re nearly late for supper by the time you arrive.

Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is reputed to be a Scots mile long. In the heady days of the original Scots Parliament, before the Union of the Parliaments in 1707, we had our own Scots pound as well as the Scots mile. The English pound sterling was worth four guid pound Scots, but the Scots mile was longer than the English or statute mile – I suppose it made the journey seem shorter.

The question is, could a Regimental Sergeant Major from Edinburgh Castle, pacing with his pace stick, and counting the paces from the Castle to the foot of the Royal Mile confirm, definitively, that the distance is indeed a true Scots mile? I expect such a senior Warrant Officer demands clarity and exactitude in his instructions, and unless he knew the start and finish points we might still be none the wiser.

Written on Saturday, December 10th, 2011 at 10:13 pm for Weekly.