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 guid Scots nicht’

January 3rd, 2015

DSC02172IT WAS brass monkeys round our way on Monday morning, -6°C and pretty nippy on the tips of my ears when I took Inka for his morning walk.

Cock pheasants were saluting the sunrise and pigeons greeted each other from the high branches of the beech trees. On the ground the blackbirds were early on the go, noisily foraging through the dead leaves for insects and scolding us with their chattering alarm calls for disturbing them.

Macbeth had a shorter walk. A blazing sunrise in a cloudless sky promised a fine day. Robins seem to be most sociable little birds and we were accompanied by one for most of our walk. The reality more likely is that it hoped we would kick up leaves and uncover the seeds and insects it depends on.

We – that’s dogs, Doyenne and me – were home again after spending Christmas at Eddleston, in the Borders, with son James and his family – and their Jack Russell, Sybil.

Grandson Alfie wanted to experience a really big carol service with a choir and orchestra. The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh met his requirements.

The church was overflowing with carol singers and it was thrilling to be part of such an enthusiastic congregation. We were seated opposite the organ and the organist clearly wanted to shake the rafters with music. We got it full blast and it just about blew our socks off. Thankfully the orchestra was more subdued.

We gave the bramble brandy and the wild raspberry vodka that I wrote about last week a grown-up tasting. There was general agreement that a judicious tot of bramble brandy topped up with Prosecco was a very acceptable festive mixture. An equally generous tot of raspberry vodka poured over crushed ice and topped up with tonic water, proved popular too.

I just should have had more of the hedgerow cordials.

On one of our walks James pointed out the tree house slung between two Scots pines on the edge of a wood. By coincidence I met the man who designed and built it for a retired professional couple who wanted a retreat with a difference.

Its situation on the brow of a windswept hill overlooking a glen near Peebles, with fabulous views, dictated some of the design features. The basic hexagonal shape was chosen to facilitate the flow of wind round the structure and reduce wind resistance.

The house is suspended on two collars attached to the trees allowing the trees to move in high winds without damaging the fabric of the house. The ship’s keel base allows full headroom between the two beds.

It seems such an elemental answer for a couple looking for their special peace in the outdoors – and cosy too, I imagine – but I think you’d need to be best friends!

It’s comical watching the interaction between dogs. On our way home we called in at Auchterarder to see daughter Cait, son-in-law Gibson and their Jack Russell Rosie. The two terriers have quite different temperaments – Sybil is quite gentle whereas Rosie is definitely assertive.

But both small dogs terrorise Inka and he is such a daft lump he lets them get away with it. Macbeth, of course, sorted out Inka years ago.

Another Hogmanay is past. Borders poet Will H Ogilvie described what might have been the classic Hogmanay in a colourful and expressive poem, A Scotch Night. He starts – If you chance to strike a gathering of half-a-dozen friends / When the drink is Highland whisky or some chosen Border blends…

Verse two continues – When you’re pitchforked in among them in a sweeping sort of way / As “anither mon an’ brither” from the Tweed or from the Tay; / When you’re taken by the oxter and you’re couped into a chair / While someone slips a whusky in your tumbler unaware, – / Then the present seems less dismal and the future fair and bricht, / For you’ve struck Earth’s grandest treasure in a guid Scots nicht!

Does that not just sum up how Hogmanay should be?

May all our dreams and ambitions for 2015 prove as ‘fair and bricht’ as ever we could hope.

Written on Saturday, January 3rd, 2015 at 7:46 pm for Weekly.