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.

Are you the man

October 19th, 2013

A VAN drew up alongside us as the dogs and I were setting out for a walk, and the driver poked his head round the door. “Are you the man that writes for the Courier?” “Yes.” “Aaaahh”, came the doubtful reply and, slamming the door he whizzed off up the road.

Did this exchange indicate approval, or did meeting the Man with Two Dogs in the flesh confirm his worst misgivings? Worse still, maybe he mistook me for somebody else. I’m none the wiser.

My contacts with readers have always been positive and friendly and there are an awful lot of people I should never have met if I hadn’t been the Man with Two Dogs. Many of them have had a story to tell me and more often than not these experiences find their way, sooner or later, into this column.

When we married, the Doyenne and I bought my family home from my father. It had previously been the Logie Pert manse – between Montrose and Marykirk – and when my parents bought it my mother renamed the house The Kirklands.

It was a wonderful place for us to bring up our family. Their love of the outdoors and the countryside was nurtured in that benign rural environment. Now we get as much pleasure seeing the grandchildren living the same ideals.

But returning to the original theme – after a talk I gave in Forfar last week a member of the audience introduced herself to me. She reminded me of an occasion when an elderly resident of the Church of Scotland’s Belmont Castle Care Home visited us at The Kirklands.

This lady had been married in the drawing room of the manse, as it then was, and her dearest wish was to be able to revisit those happy memories. We still used the same room as our drawing room and were delighted that we could help her realise her dream.

You don’t hear of it nowadays, but it was common especially in rural parishes, for weddings to be conducted in the manse drawing room, probably for good Presbyterian principles of thrift.

I said how much we had enjoyed welcoming her mother to The Kirklands. She told me what pleasure we had been able to give her mother which, of course, was exactly what we hoped. But I’d never have known for sure if I hadn’t been the Man with Two Dogs.

This column is a countryside diary of ordinary events but I’ve always taken a broad view of the parameters of my remit. Sometimes I’ve taken a look into the past but nowhere near so far back as recently.

In a fishing hut on the bank of the River North Esk the ghillie produced a fossil of a fish and asked me to guess how old it was. I gave up after thirty million years.

Notes on a piece of paper told a story of an undersea drama frozen in time, preserved in limestone of the Green River formation of Wyoming USA. A Dyplomystus, ancestor of our herring, was halfway through eating a Piscacara fish about 45 million years ago when an unknown catastrophe killed it and buried them both in sediment.

If alive today the fossil would have been about the size of a four pound seatrout – a very acceptable fish to put on the supper table. As it is, the detail that has been preserved is remarkable. The head, mouth, gills and pectoral fin are well defined. It was clearly a bony fish and just about every bone on the body is detailed.

It’s surprising the similarities between this old ancestor and today’s fishes. Or is it just that today’s fish have evolved less than one might have expected? Anyway it’s all part of the fascination of the natural world that I look forward to writing about each week.

And a wee story to finish. Willie was explaining to Sandy how he occupied his time now that he was retired. “Of course, I start each day with two hours on the rowing machine.” “The very thing”, said Sandy. “That’ll build up your cardio-vascular system.”

“Oh, I dinna bather wi’ the oars”, said Willie, “I just sit on the machine and let it drift!”

Written on Saturday, October 19th, 2013 at 10:30 am for Weekly.