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.

Culture vultures

May 19th, 2012

COUNTRY MICE went to town last weekend. Our thoughtful family gave the Doyenne and me a weekend break at a destination of our choice. We chose Glasgow because it is a city we hardly know and it’s very lively culturally. It was a good choice and we enjoyed every minute.

We went by train which I always enjoy because you travel through countryside you don’t see from the car and there’s time to look at it. Anyway, Glasgow’s a big place when you’re used to living in the country and we didn’t fancy driving everywhere, and the added trauchle of having to find parking. We took taxis everywhere which made best use of our time and I question whether it was any more expensive than feeding parking meters.

Our hotel was opposite the Botanic Gardens and I’d hoped, maybe, to see some of the more unusual urban wildlife – possibly a peregrine falcon or even a roe deer. In the event we were too busy supping up culture, but the grey squirrels have been fed so often that they have lost their fear of humans and come scampering right up close looking for handouts.

It’s probably traditional to visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – so we did – to see the Glasgow Boys exhibition. This group of Glasgow painters grew up in the city but took inspiration from what they found in the countryside. They explored the effect of light outdoors and produced paintings that were true to nature, painting real people and animals in real situations.

Everyone told us to visit the new Riverside Museum of Transport – so we did.

If you’ve got a hint of grey hairs like the Doyenne and me there’s lots there that brings back memories of your own childhood. Clearly a great deal of thought went into the museum’s design but a number of exhibits are displayed way above your head, effectively out of sight without craning your neck. I wonder whether small children aren’t somewhat disengaged, at least in part, from an experience that is intended to entertain and educate them.

The Tall Ship Glenlee, a three-masted, steel hulled barque is tied up alongside the museum. Launched in 1896, she is one of the handful of Clyde-built sailing ships still afloat and has been very well restored as part of the Museum collection.

Looking at the living conditions, especially of the ordinary hands, you would wonder why young boys ever dreamt of running away to sea for a life sailing before the mast. They show a film of the Glenlee sailing through a storm. Her decks are buried beneath mountainous waves, her crew are aloft, strung out along the yards with just the footrope between them and a horrid death if they fell to the deck, hauling on sails that weigh two tons when they are wet.

The cameraman must have been lashed to the mast otherwise he would have been blown or washed away. You get an explosive picture of what life could sometimes be like living and working on a ship that sailed four times round the world and experienced the ferocious seas rounding Cape Horn more than a dozen times.

There’s a bewildering choice of places to eat in Glasgow and grandson James advised us to look for a piano bar or jazz bar – where does a seventeen-year old pick up such grown-up experience? – anyway, we did. We found The Baby Grand at Charing Cross which really does have a baby grand piano and were given a table beside the pianist who gently entertained us throughout our meal.

Afterwards we called another taxi to take us across the river to the cinema. Like all the Glasgow cabbies we encountered he was keen to chat and when he found out I grew up in Montrose he told us all about the season he spent at Montrose as a seventeen year old, working as a salmon fisher for Joseph Johnstons Ltd., the then well-known commercial salmon fishing company.

He stayed with a family in Rossie Island when Rossie Island still really was an island and he’s never forgotten the fabulous time he had, although he’s never been back.

And the film we’d booked tickets for was “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”.

Now, wouldn’t you say that was a coincidence?

Written on Saturday, May 19th, 2012 at 9:30 am for Weekly.