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.

Enchantment of the night time world

September 24th, 2016

p1000288THERE WAS a full moon last Saturday, a harvest moon appropriately, almost bright enough to read my Courier by. The Doyenne and I were driving home from a piano recital in Aboyne and we stopped for a moment on the summit of Cairn o’ Mount. The vapour trail of a south-bound jet was illuminated in the moonlight, etched against the clear, sable sky, a raggedy ribbon that was soon lost in the vastness of the aether.

As we dropped down into the Mearns the east side of the hill was shrouded in dense, white fog that looked for all as if there had been a prolonged snowstorm. Fog can be strangely localised and Arnbarrow Hill, on the right side of the road, was completely clear.

Bedtime stories
It was the Doyenne who noticed the partridge first, tucked in at the verge of the road. Then another, until we had counted more than a dozen by the time we got to the foot of the brae.

I wondered if they might be wounded – which was unlikely for such a large number – and stopped beside one to investigate. It sat motionless, caught in the glare of the headlights, until my hand was an inch away from it. That was too much and it took fright and scampered off down the road.

Red legged partridge are ground roosting birds which generally congregate in coveys as night approaches – on the basis of safety in numbers – so this roadside roosting seemed uncharacteristic. The most likely explanation I can give is that they were seeking the residual warmth of the sun in the tarmac in preference to the shelter and security of the heather.

For the same reason it used to be commonplace on holidays in the Highlands, driving along unfenced roads in the summer evenings, to come face to face with rotund cows with their calves comfortably settled for the night and taking up most of the single track roads.

It often took much hooting of the horn and shouting to persuade them to move. As they got back on their feet and lumbered off they were inclined to leave a fragrant stream of disapproval behind them at the indignity of being pushed off their warm bed.

Wasps get a rather unfair press. We don’t like them because they sting and don’t seem to have any other useful function. In fact they are important pollinators like bumble bees which we like because they are furry and bumbly and we hardly ever hear of someone being stung by one.

Worker wasps have a short life cycle and only the queen wasp hibernates over winter. The wasps we see in our houses just now are likely to be the tail end of this year’s population so we can look forward to wasp free days until about May next year.

Lying in the grass was an ivory-white half shell which hadn’t been there the previous evening. The other half lay in the front garden and the two halves fitted together. They were too small for a woodpigeon’s egg and it was in fact a collared dove’s egg. The birds sit on the neighbouring roof tops calling incessantly and driving me to distraction.

A pair nested in the old hawthorn in the next door garden last year and it looks like a pair have nested in it again this year. The empty eggs are dropped well away from the nest so as not to attract unwelcome attention to the newly born chick from predators. It’s a second hatch, but quite late.

Cultural changes
Twice in my life my cultural tectonic plates have shifted leaving me floundering in the abyss below.

The first time was when Scotland’s greatest cartoonist, Dudley Watkins, stopped drawing the cartoons for Oor Wullie and The Broons in The Sunday Post. His drawings had been a part of my life since I sat on my mother’s knee and she read the comic strips to me. The Sunday Post just never seemed the same after he retired.

The second was Saturday past, broadcasting stalwart Robbie Shepherd’s last appearance as presenter of BBC Radio Scotland’s Take The Floor, the weekly Scottish country dance and traditional music programme.

The programme and Robbie have been a staple of Saturday night listening over supper, my feet tapping to so many familiar tunes that the Doyenne and I have danced to over the past five decades. Robbie’s knowledge of his subject is encyclopaedic and there can hardly be a dance band leader he doesn’t know.

Of course I’ll still listen to the programme but I’ll miss the rich north-east cadence and inflection of Robbie’s voice introducing the next dance, the very embodiment of the countryside he grew up in. Life moves on but it leaves a confused flotsam in its wake.

Mrs Tiggywinkle’s kitchen
Last week I wrote about a reader who found a nocturnal visitor had been eating her cat’s food and it turned out to be a hedgehog. The word obviously got out and it just confirms the long reach of The Courier – for now there are two!

Written on Saturday, September 24th, 2016 at 3:29 pm for Weekly.