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.

Inspiring words

June 23rd, 2012

WHO REMEMBERS the BBC’s Hut Man? I’m probably showing my age if I can ask the question.

Gilbert Fisher was the Hut-man of Scottish Children’s Hour back in the 1950s when radio was wireless and few people had television (until 1953 when there was a scramble to buy sets to watch the Queen’s Coronation).

I suppose today he would be regarded as an eccentric because he turned his back on a business career to live in a moorland hut in deepest Renfrewshire with his black-and-tan cocker spaniel, Mowgli, for company. There he studied and wrote about the wildlife he saw around him, publishing The Hut-man’s Book and broadcasting on Children’s Hour. He was a talented naturalist for, in 1956, he was appointed Director of Edinburgh Zoo, where he remained for fifteen years.

I’d forgotten about the Hut-man until he came up in conversation several months ago and it prompted me to hunt out his book.

How dated his writing style is. It was written for eight to fourteen year-olds but I can’t imagine it appealing to fourteen year-olds now. He actually wrote sound, practical stuff but seven year-old Mathilda, our youngest granddaughter, might find its tone too young even for her. However, his descriptions of things like birds’ nests and ant farms and the web-weaving skills of baby spiders are excellent explanations to stimulate interest about wildlife in young minds.

All that apart, I’m bound to feel an affinity with a man with a dog.

In contrast, I’ve just finished reading ‘Findings’ by Kathleen Jamie who is a poet living in Fife. Her book is a journey round Scotland connecting nature and the daily hum-drum of our lives and she mixes the broad vision with an eye for detail and the small, and apparently inconsequential, things.

She’s a looker and a listener and her skills are in refining her ideas and describing them in her natural voice which may, of course, be a reflection of her skills as a poet.

She offers a grave comment about the future of our world –”They say the day is coming – it may already be here – when there are no wild creatures. That is, when no species on the planet will be able to further itself without reference or negotiation with us.”

If we can ever allow such an extreme position to happen in the natural world I reckon we’ll be more than half way to allowing it to happen in our human world. And if that’s the case then we will have created an Aldous Huxley Brave New World type of life for ourselves when we, as well as the animals, can only live a preordained, genetically engineered, totalitarian existence. And I’m not ready to think that way.

JB Selkirk was a Galashiels mill-owner who combined his business interests with artistic and poetic talents. His poem “A Border Burn” is written with such empathy and sincerity you can tell that he’s known it all his days and probably walked his dog along its banks.

“Ah, Tam! Gie me a Border burn / That canna rin without a turn, / An wi’ its bonnie babble fills / The glens amang oor native hills.”

A Factor with whom I’m acquainted introduced me to the poet; he’d been reading this particular poem and was puzzled by a reference to “a water-waggy on a stane”. Was it a dipper, or could it be a wagtail?

I have an invaluable little book, A Guide to Scots Bird Names. The dipper has several references – water bobbie, water blackbird, water craw – but no water-waggy. So I’ve no doubt it is the grey wagtail that JB saw, which is at home beside the moorland streams and rushing water.

And when you think about it, the dipper dips or bows while the wagtail flicks or wags its long tail.

There’s reference, too, to a loupin’ limmer. My father described limmer to me as a flighty young woman, but in reality it’s one of these marvellously inclusive Scots words whose meaning is indistinct but which you just understand instinctively from the context in which it appears.

Written on Saturday, June 23rd, 2012 at 6:13 pm for Weekly.