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.

An excess of gifts

December 21st, 2013

SEVEN SWANS a’swimming was the gift the singer’s True Love sent her on the seventh day in the carol The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Swans don’t always come a’swimming. Several mornings now, on the dogs’ early walk, seven mute swans in close chevron formation, have flown overhead. I hear them before I see them. You can’t mistake the music of their powerful, steady wing beats thrumming in the still morning air.

I’m surprised they haven’t departed for the coast. Their diet is chiefly water plants and they usually leave their inland feeding sites before the hard weather sets in and ponds freeze over.

From the direction they fly, and still quite low when they pass over us, I presume they roost on nearby Fasque Lake, beside Fasque House at Fettercairn. I’m less certain about where they are going.

A likely destination could be Montrose Basin. You’ll often see a bevy of swans gathered at Old Montrose pier at the south corner of the Basin, where Bonnie Prince Charlie’s father, the Old Pretender, sailed from Scotland into exile after the failure of the 1715 Jacobite Uprising.

True Love was pretty lavish with his presents, sending different gifts each of the twelve days of Christmas – but always including a partridge in a pear tree.

I’ve never seen a partridge, certainly not one of our native grey paitricks, in any tree let alone a pear tree. On a single occasion I saw a French red legged partridge atop a stone pillar at the back gates of a mansion house. TA Coward in Birds of the British Isles and Their Eggs, comments on the Frenchman – “in its ordinary life the bird rather likes an elevated stand, perching on walls and even branches.”

Doubtless it’s exciting receiving two turtle doves, three French hens and four calling birds, but what does a girl do with all this cumulative poultry arriving daily on the doorstep? And did anyone consider for a moment who’s to pay for feeding it all?

It’s hard keeping pace with such dedicated present giving and I felt the pressure when True Love showed up with five golden rings. Forty, in total, he showered on the singer. Am I missing the point, but what does she do with forty gold rings and only twenty toes and fingers?

My suspicions were aroused when True Love delivered the alleged six geese a’laying. I don’t think even domesticated farmyard geese lay at this time of year. Perhaps the singer should have listened more carefully to her mother.

Any opportunity for those intimate moments every girl yearns for was blown away when True Love filled the house with a bunch of ill-assorted maids a’milking, ladies dancing and rheumaticky old lords a’leaping and knocking over the best ornaments.

With the place already bursting at the seams the wretched man turns up next with pipers piping and, if that wasn’t enough, a dozen drummers drumming. It was starting to sound like the Edinburgh Tattoo.

The singer should seriously consider her position. I’m tempted to recommend she cooks up the turtle doves, French hens and calling birds into a tasty, festive game pie.

I’d keep the geese. A goose egg is a treat. Just one makes scrambled eggs for two or an omelette for one. And a plump goose might come as a welcome change to the inevitable Christmas turkey.

Which brings me back to the seven swans. During WWII my mother was given a swan that had been shot on Montrose Basin. She said it took her two days to pluck and, despite her undoubted cooking skills, it still tasted of fishy mud. So my father buried it in the garden.

The milk maids need to be back at the dairy for the morning milking. The prancing ladies and louping lords can have a turn of musical chairs to the accompaniment of the pipes and drums

The singer should keep a couple of the gold rings by all means, but sell the rest at Taylor’s Auctions in Montrose and pocket the cash.

For our Christmas dinner the Doyenne is roasting partridge, with spiced pears.

And a final thought, if the young lady has any sense she’ll show the young man the door!

Written on Saturday, December 21st, 2013 at 12:10 am for Weekly.