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.

Stroppy squirrel

May 12th, 2012

“WHAUR COWSLIPS kiss the daffodils” – it’s quite a common sight when the dogs and I are out walking. The daffs are pretty well over now and narcissi are flowering in their place, and the cheerful cowslips are in full bloom. When I was a youngster great swathes of them brightened up the riverbanks and I went out picking them with my father for his cowslip wine.

Yellow kingcups are flowering along the banks of the stream close to the house and the burnt orange blossom on the whins seems especially vivid this year. Yellow and blue are a perfect combination of colours and the intense blue of borage contrasts most effectively with any of the yellow flowering plants. Try putting the two colours in a vase together and see what you think.

The gean trees on the walk the dogs and I take most mornings are starting to lose their blossom, so it was good to hear the buzzing of bees coming from one of them. I counted seven bumble bees beavering away above our heads, gathering nectar for themselves and pollinating the tree to ensure a crop of wild cherries – surely one of the most natural examples of multi-tasking you can imagine.

We lost sight of our red squirrels over the winter months. They are less active anyway at that time of year but we saw so little of them we thought they might have deserted us, despite the regular feeding. But they are back now with their young in tow although the kits, as they are called, get short shrift when it comes to feeding. They get summarily chased off the feeding stations until the adults have eaten their fill.

The adults can be rather destructive. Surprisingly their jaws are strong enough to break the solder on the mesh of the peanut feeders and open a hole to let the peanuts pour to the ground. I used to think it was the jackdaws with their strong beaks that did the damage, but I fixed a curtain of chicken wire round the bird tables which allows the woodpeckers and squirrels through, but is too small for the jackdaws.

Not only that, something has chewed through several strands of the chicken wire and made a large hole. The only explanation I can think of is an irate squirrel is expressing its frustration because I haven’t kept the feeders topped up.

It’s funny what jolts the memory. The Doyenne and I were up Glenesk at The Retreat for lunch and afterwards looked round the shop. A potato gun caught my eye and I was instantly taken back to my childhood and the potato gun I owned then. It was made of tinplate and was persuasively marketed as the Spudmatic.

I was a damn nuisance with it and it was regularly confiscated, but what a lot of fun I had. You can’t pass these sort of opportunities up and once more I’m the delinquent owner of a potato gun. I’ll be ready for the grandchildren when they come!

Harbours and old churches are an irresistible magnet for me – I find it difficult to pass them by. The Garvock church sits in a hollow about a quarter of a mile off the road that runs from Laurencekirk down to the coast. I don’t use the road often and I’d never visited the church till this week.

It’s a simple rectangular country kirk, now in private hands. I never hesitate to peer in windows, which has got me into trouble sometimes, and the interior is plain but in keeping with the surroundings, and there’s a stained glass lancet window above the altar.

The birdcage bellcote still has the bell in place, so a congregation could still be called to worship. What is unusual – I can’t think that I’ve seen it anywhere else – is the clock on the west gable, as opposed to on a steeple – but then there isn’t one.

I’m told that the movement was housed in the loft space and the weights and pendulum hung down inside the building in view of the congregation. I have an image of the congregation on a hot July Sunday mesmerised by the swinging pendulum and gently falling asleep.

It’s been a bit random this week – a sack of shakings you might say – but there can’t be high drama every week.

Written on Saturday, May 12th, 2012 at 8:22 am for Weekly.