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.

Lessons in life

July 26th, 2014

THE YOUNG buzzard was sitting in a clearing beside the track I was driving down to take the dogs a walk. Even at that age it had a glittering eye and a haughty look about it which told me that, as a mere human, it had a pretty poor opinion of me.

It was well fledged but still dependent on the parent birds for feeding. We gazed at one another and I got the impression that it would be best if I carried on my way.

It seemed an ideal opportunity for a photograph but the bird flew off when I opened the car door. It landed rather clumsily on a drystone dyke, catching one wing on a strand of fencing wire, and seemed confused about what to do next.

I made my way – cautiously – to see if it needed assistance. Juvenile or not, that curved beak was capable of inflicting a painful nip.

I needn’t have worried. I got to within five feet when it disentangled itself. It stood there on the dyke, defiant. I took some more photos. All the while one of the parent birds patrolled back and forth above us, calling to it constantly.

The bird lost patience at my intrusion and, after a final disdainful glare, took flight. I like to think that in those few moments together it learnt a couple of lessons in life – about human beings and wire fences.

A link with my childhood is broken today. Johnston the Bakers of Castle Street, Montrose, closes its doors. A generation of Montrosians, and several generations before, grew up on Johnston’s pies and bridies – for those who were in on the secret they were pretty much the staff of life.

In 1929, WJ Johnston left the family bakery in Methven, near Perth, and established his own business in Montrose. The business flourished and he was followed by his son Sid and, latterly, grandson Ian.

My introduction to Johnston’s pies goes back to when I got my first bike, aged seven. I cycled down to Montrose Harbour – it was the days of the old wooden quay – with a cane fishing rod with wooden reel which had belonged to my grandfather, and spent the afternoons fishing.

When I wearied of not catching fish I wandered across to Johnston’s and bought a pie – sometimes still warm from the oven. The price, so far as I can recall, was 4d – old money, of course.

Eating warm pies was a hazardous undertaking. They were filled with juicy gravy, and if you didn’t eat it with your hankie under your chin the gravy ran down your jersey.

There were bridies too, made with flaky puff pastry which scattered everywhere when you bit into it. Onion bridies had two holes on top, those without only one.

Johnston’s pies were a memory Montrosians took round the world with them. When son Robert joined the army and his regiment was posted to Germany, the Doyenne always ensured there were pies waiting for him when he came home on leave.

They were the ideal alfresco meal. When my father and I went out together, as often as not we stopped at Johnston’s to buy our picnic lunch.

What made the pies and bridies so special? The best ingredients, of course; the baker’s skill and pride in the preparation of a delicious, traditional product. For me, the abiding memory is the generous filling of good minced lamb in every pie and bridie.

The shop was a focal point for the community. Folk went in for a blether as much for their bread and cakes. It must have been a happy work place. It was always the same familiar faces to greet you whenever you went in.

Ian Johnston, who is retiring, has spent a lifetime rising at 5am. That’s a hard regime and now Ian must find something to do with his new-found spare time to stop himself from wearying. I wonder if he read the report in last Saturday’s Courier about research which has discovered that keeping a dog is beneficial for the elderly!

There will be no more Johnston’s pies.

So that’s it – a page turned, the book closed.

Written on Saturday, July 26th, 2014 at 12:06 pm for Weekly.