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.

Lassie’s a laddie!

May 4th, 2013

GREEN DAYS And Blue Days is the title of a small book of verse which at a casual glance seemed to be the sort of book I’d enjoy; but it was the poet’s name, Patrick R. Chalmers, which really caught my attention.

Roundabouts And Swings tells of the poet meeting a travelling showman, “a cheery cove an’ sunburnt”, moving his painted caravan and wagons on to his next pitch. The showman’s heart was in the right place, he was a man with two dogs – “…beside him on the splashboard sat a brindled tarrier pup, / An’ a lurcher wise as Solomon an’ lean as fiddle-strings / Was joggin’ in the dust along ‘is roundabouts and swings.”

The two exchange the time of day and discuss the showman’s problems making a living. He explains – “It’s bread and bacon mostly when the dog don’t catch a ‘are; / But lookin’ at it broad, an’ while it ain’t no merchant king’s, / What’s lost upon the roundabouts we pulls up on the swings!”

The Chalmers of Aldbar were a family long associated with the county of Angus. Sir Patrick Chalmers, Sheriff of Angus, acquired the estate and castle of Aldbar, near Brechin, in the late eighteenth century and Patrick appears to have been favoured as a family name for the eldest sons.

The estate stayed in the family till the1960s when the castle was demolished. Castellated entrance gates on the B9134 Brechin to Forfar road are all that remain to tell the curious traveller that there ever was a castle.

Patrick R. Chalmers, laird of Aldbar, joined the family banking business and became managing director in 1901, retiring in 1922. He was a regular contributor to The Field and Punch for more than forty years. His knowledge of the countryside and country ways and versatility as a writer expanded into serious verse and novels, and biographies of Kenneth Grahame (The Wind in the Willows) and JM Barrie (Peter Pan) – more than thirty books.

(I wonder if there’s something about writing as a distraction from banking. Lynn Doyle’s Ballygullion and Lobster Salad are quite the funniest Irish short stories I’ve read and he too left a banking career to become a writer.)

As poet and showman part company the showman has the last word. “For “up an’ down an’ round,” said ‘e, “goes all appointed things, / An’ losses on the roundabouts means profits on the swings!”

It’s gratifying to think that it was a home-grown Angus loon, and an exceptional one at that, who gave us the familiar expression – what you lose on the roundabouts, you gain on the swings. I’d like to think that some day I could write something that passes into everyday conversation.

In June 2004 I wrote about Lassie the Wonder Dog (as I said then, you have be a certain age to know what I’m talking about) as an example of canine devotion and intelligence.

A kind reader wrote to me from Dunfermline and asked if I realised that Lassie was, in fact, a Laddie. Well, I didn’t. And that wasn’t all – she corrected me, pointing out that he was a Rough collie and not a Border collie, as I had written.

I had to admit I didn’t know the difference between the two breeds then, and I’m not sure I know the difference now. But it brought home to me the importance of checking my facts before I blunder into print.

But I’d always thought what clever camera angles there must have been for cinema audiences not to realise that She was a He – up till now, that is.

I was fair dumfouttered to be told recently by a lassie, too young to have her own memories of the celluloid heroine/hero, that the film makers got round the tricky matter of identity with a female dog’s body-wig taped to the male dog’s stomach.

As the lassie (not Lassie, you understand) and I agreed, if they’d wanted a female character why didn’t they just train up a female dog.

It wouldn’t be the first time that this column has relied on apparently useless information and trivia but thus are the Man with Two Dogs’ days enlivened!

And who says the camera never lies?

Written on Saturday, May 4th, 2013 at 8:30 am for Weekly.