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.

Throw it away

August 18th, 2012

WE LIVE in a throwaway society. It’s brought home to me time and again when I see how quickly the pile of recyclable packaging and empty food and drink containers accumulates and overflows the kitchen store cupboard. Until our daughter gave us a frightful rocket for not recycling our waste the Doyenne and I blithely threw most things away for disposal in landfill sites.

As the Man with Two Dogs I’ve tried to avoid taking stances on issues but the effect the disposal of all this non-degradable and slow degradable packaging has, and will continue to have for decades, on our wildlife and countryside, concerns me. Even the fast degradable stuff is too slow and unnaturally clogs up the natural cycles of our world.

Remember Spangles sweeties which were advertised as double-wrapped to keep the flavour in? Why do we need so much packaging? How did we manage when we bought our beans or tomatoes – which now travel thousands of air miles from Kenya and Spain – wrapped in a brown paper bag rather than clear plastic packaging? Then they were probably grown and picked in season in the market garden up the road, and we cared more about taste than presentation.

What prompted this outburst of introspection was coming across a tin filled with my mother’s hairpins and Kirby grips, and sewing and mending and darning things which the Doyenne tells me people hardly do any more. If there’s a hole in it, throw it away. I’m as guilty as the next man – throwing away a pair of socks if one has a hole in the toe.

Girls’ hairstyles no longer seem to have the same dependence on Kirby grips and hairpins. My mother had long hair which she put up and reinforced with such an arsenal of hairpins she would have set the alarm bells ringing in airport security nowadays.

When the Doyenne and I were honeymooning in Connemara, a rather droll Dublin doctor staying at the hotel asked me one evening what I thought was man’s most significant invention. I’ve no idea now what I suggested but his choice was the ladies hairpin. He reckoned it originated in Egypt and based his judgement on the simplicity of its ridged design to keep it secure, and its effectiveness in carrying out its intended function.

Mother had also hoarded dozens of little gold safety pins. She put great faith in these and before sending me off to teenage dances always ensured I had one pinned behind the lapel of my dinner jacket – in case an item of my partner’s underwear should snap a strap. It made me wonder what her evenings out with my father had been like!

The Doyenne told me after we were married that I was the only one of her boyfriends who took such considerate precautions – so it all paid off.

On Wednesday the Doyenne and I drove the whole way home from Edinburgh in torrential rain – in the best tradition of cats and dogs. It must have affected most of the north-east of Scotland.

Heaven knows what sort of a setback it was for farmers hoping to get on with combining their harvest. Even when the corn is dry enough to cut the ground may still be so waterlogged that heavy machinery can’t get into the fields without sinking up to their axles.

It put me in mind of northeast poet David Grant’s humorous narrative poem, The Muckle Spate of ’29 (1829), describing the devastating floods on the River Feugh, a tributary of the River Dee.

“We had a byous, weety time, / A week, or maybe mair, / The eident rain kept pelting on, / Nae single hoor wis fair; / An’ then for four-an’-twenty hoors / There followed a doonfa’ / The like o’ which, sin’ Noah’s flood, / The warld never saw.”

All the talk about the throwaway world reminds me of the occasion, when we were not long married, and the Doyenne put out an unseemly quantity of empty bottles for collection.

There was a crescendo of tinkling glass as the empties were tipped into the refuse lorry and through the open kitchen window the Doyenne heard one of the binmen (you could say that then), remark – “You wouldn’t think a nice lady like that would drink.”

Written on Saturday, August 18th, 2012 at 10:42 pm for Weekly.