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.

Cough mixture

January 7th, 2012

OLD SOLDIERS can sometimes only surrender to overwhelming force. The gales brought down a number of venerable beech trees round the house – and a rather rarer Scotch pine has measured its length too. Beeches have a normal lifespan of about 150-200 years and as the woods round here were planted around the end of the eighteenth century it’s no great surprise that there were casualties.

Some just snapped off practically at ground level. On inspection you can see that the lower trunks had died and lost their natural vitality and ability to withstand the battering wind. However it’s a sobering reminder of nature’s and the wind’s power that something so apparently amorphous can snap a tree trunk, with a circumference of maybe fifteen feet, like a matchstick between your fingers. Now there’s years of firewood waiting to be sawn up.

The jasmine’s yellow blossom heralds a welcome hint of spring. It has flowered resolutely throughout the winter, as has a small patio rose called Pink Medley which continues to flower in its pot at the front door when all the others have been pruned back weeks ago.

I thought most canny Scots would have their own fail-safe recipe for a hot toddy so I was a wee bit surprised when the Doyenne got a phone call seeking help. As I’d had to mix myself a couple of glasses of the blessed tincture to ease a tickly throat I had the answer at my fingertips.

Into a glass that holds at least half a pint, squeeze the juice of half a lemon. Add a hearty dollop of heather honey and a medicinal measure of whisky. Pour on hot water (don’t let the water boil) and stir briskly. Put on a semmit under your jim-jam top (you can wear a woolly hat too if you are really poorly). Don’t drink the toddy till you are tucked up in bed with the duvet covers up to your chin.

Of course if you’re just looking for an excuse to have a whisky in bed the semmit and the woolly hat are optional.

Occasionally I hear foxes barking in the woods but have never actually seen one in the five years we’ve lived here. As the Doyenne and I drove down the back drive, returning from a festive party, we caught up with a vixen. She was blinded with the headlamps and trying to scramble over the wall to escape. She took two or three attempts before she made it. If she had just crossed to the other side of the drive where there is no wall she’d have had a clear run to safety.

Shortly afterwards I walked the dogs up that way, as I do every night before they are bedded, and I was surprised that neither of them appeared to pick up her scent.

Written on Saturday, January 7th, 2012 at 10:37 pm for Weekly.