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 worthy emblem

August 9th, 2014

THE BONNIE purple heather is blooming in Glenesk – and on the mountains and hillsides of every Scottish glen. It’s one of the defining colours of the season between high summer and autumn – at its best from about mid-July to mid-September. Mention of which brings to mind that, for me, the two best months to go on holiday in Scotland are May and September.

The satirical poet George Ellis, contemporary and friend of Sir Walter Scott, characterises the months in his poem The Twelve Months as Snowy, Flowy, Blowy,/ Showery, Flowery, Bowery,/ Hoppy, Croppy, Droppy,/ Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy.

I like the succinct brevity of Flowery and Croppy – incisive and to the point. Also to the point is that May can be a bit Breezy too, which means the midges likely won’t blight your holiday. Which, sadly, can’t always be said about September unless there should happen to be an uncustomary early Freezy snap!

Which leads me on to the thistle – Scotland’s national flower – whose latest manifestation has been purple-headed Clyde, the friendly thistle mascot for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

The thistle has been our national emblem for seven centuries, appearing on early coinage and in our heraldry. And, of course, it is the symbolic representation of the Order of The Thistle, the senior order of chivalry in Scotland.

Mary McMurtrie lists milk, melancholy and welted thistles – ten species in all – all purple headed except yellow sow thistles and carline thistles.

According to legend, under cover of darkness, a band of invading Vikings were creeping up on a sleeping Scottish encampment, with evil intent. One of the Norsemen stepped on a thistle with his bare feet and his howls of pain alerted the sleepy sentries who wakened their comrades and the Scots fell on the Vikings, completely routing them.

In celebration of their escape from a violent death the Scots adopted the spear thistle as our national emblem. It’s well-named for they have long, sharp prickles all over the plant and I avoid them when I’m out walking the dogs. But they are a rich source of nectar and a favourite of bumble bees.

Teazles, or teasels, are not native to Scotland but were introduced here by the woollen industry. When their bristly, conical heads dry out the petals wither, leaving hooked prickles like one half of a piece of Velcro, which were used to raise or tease (it’s the origin of the word) a nap on woollen fabric.

Apart from occasionally seeing them in gardens, where their seeds are a great attraction for goldfinches, the only place I find them is on the track down to Capo Quarry, off the Lang Stracht, one of my walks with the dogs.

They used to be known as Luthermuir weeds when that village was a centre of the weaving industry. Every cottage grew its own stock of the spiny, natural combs for their own use.

They are in flower just now. The heads change from pale green to thistle purple, starting with a wide band round the middle which broadens out until the whole head has bloomed.

More Triffid-like than glamorous, they are another source of nectar for bees and butterflies. Aphids feed on them and that attracts ladybird, hoverfly and lacewing larvae which feed on the aphids. When the larvae metamorphose into adulthood they join the vital network of pollinating insects.

I couldn’t pass this Morgan 3 wheeler in Fettercairn and not stop to talk to the owner. It’s incidental that a Morgan, any Morgan, is the only car that I have ever really lusted after. But seeing it reminded me of a bachelor uncle who had owned a 3 wheeler in the 1930s. I used to enjoy looking through photograph albums of the many cars he had owned.

This one is a modern reincarnation of the original. The distinctive bullet hull and beetle tail end remain unchanged from the original models – history repeating itself. I just had time to ask if I could take a photo before the driver had jumped into the cockpit, slipped on the goggles and, with a hungry roar, was off on the high road to Aberdeen.

I wish I’d asked if I could have had a shottie.

Written on Saturday, August 9th, 2014 at 10:17 am for Weekly.