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.

A couple of new pals

July 27th, 2013

FLO WAS a dignified old lady who died earlier this year, in March. She was twenty seven, which is a fair age for a horse and she had been with her family, who live near Edzell, for twenty three of those years.

She came from Ireland and in her prime was described as big, black and beautiful. David and Sarah hunted with her, evented with her and regularly showed her in competitions. Flo had a generous temperament and David and Sarah had the utmost confidence letting daughter Hannah ride her from the early age of five.

David’s service life took the family all over the country and Flo travelled with them uncomplainingly – still being a friend, says Sarah. As you can imagine there was a great sense of loss when she died.

As with having dogs in your life, Sarah missed the contact and daily routine of having a horse to look after. It seemed to be the opportunity to consider buying a donkey and fulfil a lifetime ambition. She’d always had an affection for them but never owned one.

However, donkeys are social animals and it’s not kind to keep one on its own. So, following a trip to north Aberdeenshire two donkeys arrived to fill the void left by Flo’s death.

To all intents and purposes they were wild animals, never having been handled. It’s taken a surprisingly short time to settle them into their new environment.

They love to be fussed over. On the basis of carrot and stick, a regular supply of juicy carrots is the quickest way to a donkey’s heart as I found when I went to visit them. Now, Sarah says, they’re more like dogs than donkeys and they’d sit on your knee if they could!

Mary is the darker coloured of the two. Joseph has the classic cross of dark hair that extends across his shoulders and down his back. There is a legend that all true donkeys have this colouring and that it represents the shadow of the cross on which Christ was crucified.

Flo isn’t forgotten but Sarah and David have double trouble now with Mary and Joseph.

It’s just coincidence that I should be writing about Fife again this week.
The Doyenne and I had a lunch date with friends in Elie. Known otherwise as Elie and Earlsferry, it’s one of the jewels in King James VI’s fringe of gold, who described it as “….old beyond the memory of man.”

Originally neighbouring trading ports with important ecclesiastical associations, and each with its own harbour, over centuries of commercial links and ribbon development they have grown into a single integrated community.

We headed through Guardbridge which marks the crossing of the River Eden as it flows into St Andrews Bay. The Eden estuary is one of Scotland’s oldest nature reserves and an important roosting site for overwintering pink footed geese in particular.

Once on the A91 for St Andrews, the first turning to the right for Kincaple and Strathkinness is a familiar road through ripening corn fields, which are a week or so further forward than the crops nearer home. The landscape is one of rolling hills – the highest peaks are the three peaks of the Lomond Hills, beside Loch Leven, at a height of 1700 feet. Largo Law, just along the coast from Elie, is a mere 950 feet.

With few high hills to cast shadows or create visual barriers, the sky and sea have a great impact and influence on the character of the hinterland.

The Doyenne always admires the yellow sandstone cottages and farm steadings with red pantile roofs which are architectural features that leave no doubt that you are in Fife.

Fifers don’t live in a county – they’ll tell you they live in the Kingdom of Fife. There’s historical validity for this because it was once an independent Pictish kingdom. They haven’t lost that sense of identity, as can be seen in things like the name of their local radio station – Kingdom FM.

They say you need a lang spune to sup wi’ a Fifer, meaning you need to be wary in your dealings with them. We had no need for lang spunes – but then we were likely having too much fun.

Written on Saturday, July 27th, 2013 at 9:51 am for Weekly.