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.

Magic moment

February 2nd, 2013

THE WEATHER often plays a part in what I write in this column.

Early last Saturday morning, about half past midnight, I took the dogs out for their usual last walk before they settle for the night. Snow had fallen steadily throughout day and about ten inches were lying. As usual, we walked up the drive and fortunately there were deep tyre tracks for Macbeth to walk in, otherwise I’d likely have had to carry him!

The light of the half moon in the cloudless sky reflected off the blanketing snow and if I’d had my Courier with me I’d have had little difficulty reading it. Every branch on every tree was outlined in white and the hills stood silhouetted against the star-scattered sky.

There was magic in the moment, a tangible peace which I felt I could reach out and touch, making it special to be out there with just my dogs. In the talks I give I tell my audience that I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and what a good feeling it is for me. Moments like these don’t happen often but each one leaves its memory.

The spell was broken by the noise of a passing car and we turned for home, Inka crashing about as usual, always impatient to be on the move.

What a change by Monday. You’d have been forgiven for doubting that a thaw had set in. I wanted a walk where we could get away from the biting east wind filled with sleet and wind chill factor. We drove to the Capo woods at the east end of the Lang Stracht, turning down the signposted track shortly after you come off the A90.

You’re sheltered by the trees and the archaeologically minded can walk round by the Capo Long Barrow which marks a Neolithic burial site some 5000 years old. Otherwise you can take a circuit round by the Capo Quarry and back to where you park your car.

The sun shone on Wednesday. A favourite walk is up the west bank of the River North Esk from Inveriscandye Farm steading. There are 360 degree views along much of the way and there’s always something that catches my attention.

A clamour of rooks (that’s their collective noun) were practising aerobatics in the brisk, drying wind. One moment whirling across the sky like so many scattered leaves on the blustery squalls, and the next hanging on the wind and coming together into a single flock which blew apart again whenever the birds could no longer hold their station.

We caught the best of the day because by mid-afternoon the wind had strengthened and I was glad to get back indoors.
A fortnight ago I was lamenting the demise of the fly cemetery. My comments brought a response from Mr Gordon Dilworth of Moulin, near Pitlochry, who over the years has kept a critical eye on my Saturday articles. I remember his first contact with me was to take me to task for referring to our native Scottish harebells as bluebells. He was right of course.

This time he was gentler and wrote to tell me that in his family, they – fly cemeteries, that is – were referred to as elephants’ toenails.

Confronted with such an alarming concept I phoned retired Edzell baker Sandy Robertson (locally known as Sandy Robertson OBE – Only Baker in Edzell) to see if I could get a definitive explanation of the term.

Sandy knew nothing about elephants’ toenails but could tell me that in his bakery the traditional fly cemetery was made with currants and a fruit slice with sultanas.

It’s all most confusing and I’ve no idea now where the discussion has taken me – after all this is meant to be a countryside diary

I’ve learned, however, that there’s no accounting for taste. I might not have been so ready to defend fly cemeteries if I’d known about the lady who used to go into her baker and ask for a dung midden!

Maybe it’s best not to get involved any further with this one, there seems too great a margin for misunderstandings.

So I’ll report that I’ve heard my first woodpeckers drumming in the trees which means, whatever the weather, spring is chappin’ at the door.

Written on Saturday, February 2nd, 2013 at 9:17 pm for Weekly.