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.

Raging water

February 1st, 2014

THE CAT that sits in wait beneath the garden seat for an unwary songbird to land on the grass below one of the feeders has become part of our back yard natural world. We don’t know where it comes from. Every once in a while I rush out with muffled oaths so as not to frighten the neighbours, in the hope that I’ll scare it off.

Sleekit-like, it slips beneath the fence, watching till I go indoors – and then it’s back again. It’s a hunter, and the garden birds are fair game. I reckon it kills mostly for the fun of it. It looks well fed and well groomed so I don’t think it needs to kill to eat.

It doesn’t appear to have affected our family of goldfinches which I have enjoyed watching all winter. And the two woodpeckers have survived unscathed.

I’m developing an interest in what I call the vernacular poetry of the lawyer and the doctor, the farmer and the fisherman and the working man.

Some of it is pretty dire. But the best of these layman poets – for want of a better description – produced work that is sensitive and graphic and can hold its own with that of the classical poets we were taught at school.

To discover more about our north-east poetry heritage I called in at Angus Archives which is housed in the Hunter Library at Restenneth, two miles outside Forfar.

Outside a picture window overlooking the ruins of Restenneth Priory the staff keep a well-stocked bird table, and I was as much entertained by the goings on round about it as the poetry I went to research.

Chaffinches, hedge sparrows, robins, great tits, coal tits, and charming long tailed tits with their bobbing flight and butterball bodies looking like feathered lollipops, swarmed over it. A blackbird scratched around the base, one of two regular red squirrels put in an appearance, and a woodpecker cried by.

I could happily have spent all morning at that window. The wildlife has clearly got quite used to us humans peering at them through the glass and just gets on with the job of living.

All my long-held ideas of puppets being doll-sized figures operated by strings were blown away last Monday when the Doyenne and I took son James and his family to see the National Theatre production of War Horse in Edinburgh.

Joey the war horse, the central character in the play, is one of four life-sized puppets operated by two puppeteers inside the frame of the body, and another standing alongside to operate the head.

The puppet horses were mechanically very sophisticated, but here was a case of the art of the puppeteer imitating life. We saw Joey’s flanks rise and fall with the strain of galloping, his ears twitching and flickering in the fear of battle. Most realistic of all was his easy, loose-limbed action trotting across the stage.

And it wasn’t just horses. Swallows, on long poles, swooped over the battle field. Carrion crows descended to feed on the corpses of dead soldiers. A lighter note was struck by the puppet farmyard goose which chased off everyone who invaded its personal space.

So well produced, so well acted and such clever puppetry, you completely forgot even the puppeteer standing alongside Joey’s head. They’d brought the natural world indoors.

Spring tides are the very high tides and I’d been told one was due on Wednesday. I popped the dogs into the car and drove to Kinnaber beach, close to the mouth of the River North Esk where it meets Montrose Bay.

Thank goodness I’d put on a warm jacket. A piercing east wind was driving the seas right up the beach almost to the foot of the dunes. A blanket of spume covered the last few yards of sand. Inka ran into it straight up to his oxters. Macbeth would have disappeared from view.

The sky was iron grey, the horizon lost in the cauldron of raging water. A curtain of spray whipped off the crests of the waves, obscuring the St Cyrus cliffs to the north. The sea was showing just how angry it can get.

I shouldn’t have wanted to be a mariner in distress out there.

Written on Saturday, February 1st, 2014 at 10:11 am for Weekly.