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.

Season of dubs and gutters

November 14th, 2015

DSC03050RUNNING DUBS and gutters is what my father used to call it when the land was saturated after days of torrential rain.

Inka and I have been doing our best to avoid the dubs and gutters on our walks this week. Standing water in the fields and on the woodland paths has been topped up most nights with more rain and the ground hasn’t had a chance to dry out properly.

I’ve just finished reading, again, Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Kidnapped, one of the best adventure stories written. In the chapter headed The Flight in the Heather, a travel weary David Balfour is taunted by Alan Breck Stewart with whom he has quarrelled, “Here’s a dub (a small pool of rainwater) for ye to jump, my Whiggie!”

And gutters are just mud. There appears to be no answer to the Doyenne’s disapproving looks when Inka trails gutters through the house after we get home from walks. Explaining that it’s all part and parcel of the joys of country living falls on deaf ears.

Singing waters
The rivers have been running high too. Walking with Inka down the bank of the River North Esk, brought back memories of my father and the poem, The Lum Hat Wantin’ the Croon, by David Rorie MD.

The burn was big wi’spate, / An’ there cam’ tum’lin doon / Tapsalteerie the half o’ a gate, / Wi’ an auld fish-hake an’ a great muckle skate, / An‘ a lum hat wantin’ the croon.

The words were set to music and sung by Scottish troops during the Siege of Ladysmith (1900) in the Second Boer War, to keep their spirits up. On a good day my father had two singing notes and the Lum Hat was a favourite of his too. Sixty years on I can still clearly recall the long drives to holidays at Ullapool and Father’s rumbling tones competing with the noise of the car.

I left the riverbank and walked up to the walled garden of The Burn House, near Edzell. For six years the Courtyard House at the rear of the big hoose was home for the Doyenne and me and we walked dogs daily through the policies. Macbeth was very much at home there.

Venerable tree
My picture this week is of another unusual tree, a split leaf beech which sits in a corner of The Burn’s walled garden. The standard beech trees are shedding their leaves more quickly than usual this autumn, but the split leaf is already quite bare, carpeting the grass with its russet leaves.

The tree is a favourite of mine. Look at the girth of its trunk. It’s a tree with seniority, a tree that demands respect. There’s no reason not to think that it has been there for upward of two centuries, planted by General Lord Adam Gordon who built The Burn. He was one of the agricultural improvers of his day and a leading arboriculturist, planting some 550 acres of trees on the Burn Estate.

I first met the tree nine years ago, in early September, when we went to The Burn. We had Inka One then, the current Inka’s grandfather. On one of our first walks he put up a hen pheasant from below the great sweep of branches.

The tree was in full leaf and I ducked down into the cathedral-like interior and was just in time to stop Inka trampling all over the pheasant’s nest with eighteen eggs in it.

Daughter-in-law Katie recently ran a charity 10k run in aid of The Sandpiper Trust, a charity that provides emergency medical equipment to doctors and nurses working in remote and rural Scotland, which can mean the difference between life and death for patients.

S.O.S.
The Trust has published a delightful book entitled The Swallow, The Owl and The Sandpiper, drawing on the courage of the swallow, the wisdom of the owl and the spirit of the sandpiper. Right up the Man with Two Dogs’ street, as you can imagine.

It’s an anthology of poetry and prose drawn from many disparate sources, covering several centuries, by well known and little known writers and poets, and anonymous quotes – God gave us memories so that we could have roses in December.

Inspired, if that’s the right word, by the untimely death of compiler Claire Maitland’s nephew, the book is her response to the loss she experienced and shared with her nephew’s family. There are words of sensitivity and comfort for those with unhappy experiences to put behind them and uncertain futures to face. The Doyenne has given it to several friends.

But it’s a book that’s a pleasure in itself just to dip into and it would make a great stocking filler. And every copy bought benefits the important work of the Sandpiper Trust – sandpipertrust.org

Readers are generous in sharing their wee stories with me. Here’s one – How do you know which cow in the field is the one that’s on holiday? It’s the one with the wee calf … the week aff!

I know, sometimes I wish they wouldn’t do it.

Written on Saturday, November 14th, 2015 at 2:01 pm for Weekly.