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.

A box of memories

April 14th, 2012

IT’S FUNNY what trips the mind and releases a flood of memories. Last Saturday it was an ordinary egg box. Well, maybe not all that ordinary, for it was a ducal egg box. I don’t know if it had the ducal coat of arms painted on the lid because the lid was open and I couldn’t see the top side, but it was in a ducal residence.

We – the Doyenne and I, that is, and dogs too – were spending Easter in the Borders with son James and his family, and on Saturday we visited Bowhill, the family seat of the Duke of Buccleuch. It had been thirty years or more since we were last there when our own family had been about ages with grandchildren Alfie and Mathilda.

On display in the Victorian kitchen is a wooden egg box with a padded interior divided into compartments for conveying several dozen eggs. As a historical aside – Mrs Beeton in her Victorian tome on Household Management says that there are “over two hundred ways of dressing eggs” for breakfast alone. Perhaps it was the done thing in Victorian times for the noblesse to take eggs when they went visiting, as a contribution to their hostess’s housekeeping budget.

Seeing it took me back to my prep school days in the early 1950s. My mother used to send me eggs in a similar box which had WITH CARE painted in large letters on the lid. She put them on the train at Montrose station and they travelled to Edinburgh Waverley, were transferred to the local train to Musselburgh and delivered to the school. It must have had something to do with post-war rationing and the arrangement didn’t last more than the first year, but imagine trying to do such a thing now!

Go back further to 1949 when I spent ten days, aged seven, in Montrose Infirmary recovering from pneumonia. To help build up my strength and ensure I got the necessary protein to speed my recovery my mother brought in eggs for me. When I wanted an egg for my tea my name was written in pencil on the shell so that I was certain to get my very own egg.

On the Sunday of our visit to the Borders the Doyenne and I quietly took ourselves off to Dawyck Botanic Garden, near Peebles, which is quite a favourite of ours. It’s principally an arboretum and was established 350 years ago on the hilly side of the Scrape Glen and has examples of trees and shrubs from all over the world. Amongst the most dramatic are Douglas firs grown from seed sent back from North America by renowned Scottish plant hunter, David Douglas, who is buried in Scone churchyard.

Daffodils were struggling to recover from the battering they received from the late snow falls. But Dawyck is a garden for all seasons and it will soon be flooded with the colour of azaleas and rhododendrons. On a more esoteric level, you’ll find unusual mosses, lichens and ferns and to top it all there are squirrels, woodpeckers and lots of other wildlife.

It’s about three hours’ drive from Brechin and with a new visitor centre and restaurant it’s close enough to consider a day trip down to the Border country which is such a contrast from our own Angus glens.

If you haven’t already done so you should clean out nesting boxes, destroy the old nesting material and scald the interiors with boiling water to kill off any parasites that have survived the winter.

I found a wasp’s byke inside one of ours. What miracles of nature’s ingenuity they are, constructed of paper made from chewed wood pulp mixed with their saliva, in which they lay their eggs. Son James lives in a wooden eco-house and when conditions are very still he can hear wasps scraping at the wooden walls.

Because they have a painful sting they get a bad press which they don’t altogether deserve. In fact they are beneficial insects, helping to control many insect pests. They get their energy from the nectar in flowers and are important pollinators along with bees.

In the Middle Ages goose dung was recommended as a remedy for wasp stings but you just can’t get that over the counter any longer.

Written on Saturday, April 14th, 2012 at 9:40 am for Weekly.