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.

It’s a dog’s life when it comes to road etiquette

November 18th, 2017

016I DON’T see it the place of this column to tell drivers how they should restrain their dogs when they are in their cars but sometimes dog owners are plain thoughtless about what they allow their dogs to do. One such was the driver I followed who let their small terrier sit on top of the driver’s seat jammed between the headrest and the driver’s head.

It takes little thought to imagine the danger of injury to the dog if the driver had to brake suddenly or take other evasive action which threw the dog against the windscreen or another part of the interior. Not to mention the danger to other road users because of the driver’s distraction with their pet flying round the car.

On a more entertaining note, however, I was amused by a notice on a car window which read – Not dirty windows, dog’s nose. I could identify with that. We regularly have to clean the car rear windows because of breath from dogs’ noses pressed to them as they watch the countryside speed past.

Last week’s piece about porridge brought several enquiries about why the dish used to be referred to in the plural as they and them. A reader came up with what seems the obvious answer – porridge is made from oats, not oat.

Efficient gardeners have been raking up the leaves in their gardens. Passing a roadside cottage in the car the unmistakable nippy smell of burning beech leaves filtered briefly through the half-open window. There’s no other smell like it so there’s never any doubt – it’s one of autumn’s markers.

Hat on head
I’m enjoying the clear, frosty mornings when Inka and I go out for the early walk. It stirs the blood and heralds winter’s arrival. When I was younger I disdained to wear a cap – it was giving in to the elements and my iron constitution would see me through. Whether I’ve acquired some wisdom at last, or it’s the loss of hair, but now I reach for my cap whenever we go out.

Many years ago I read that we lose forty percent of our body heat through the top of our heads. That’s an awful lot to lose all at once but now my cap retains all that heat and I can face the elements with fortitude. I shouldn’t like to think I might be contributing to global warming by failing to wear a cap and perhaps the scientists should be investigating the effect of uncovered heads on the atmosphere.

Safe landing
Out with Inka in the early afternoon I watched a large pack of geese, several hundred strong, preparing to land in a stubble field to feed. They are sharp-eyed, wary birds and they made several circuits of the chosen feeding spot, reconnoitring the ground for danger and calling to each other all the while.

Once satisfied it was safe to land the symmetry of their chevron formations began to break up and they started to spiral down, spilling out of the sky, tumbling like autumn leaves, whiffling – as it is called – the air through their wing feathers to lose height quickly.

A final wheel into the wind to steady their descent, down went their paddles and they landed, folding their grey wings and settling with a waggle of tail feathers.

Rowing back the years
Last weekend saw us – the Doyenne and me and Inka too, of course – back up in the Black Isle to see son Robert and his family. It was a bit of a memory lane visit for us as we spent Saturday on the towpath of the Caledonian Canal watching the Inverness Rowing Club Regatta.

The Doyenne and I met through rowing at Edinburgh University Boat Club and after university had no contact with the rowing world other than watching the annual Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race on television. It was most unexpected when granddaughter Cecily took up the sport. Her father Robert became interested and then grandson Fergus got the bug.

The sport has changed. Equipment has improved – everything is leaner and faster. The standard of fitness is greatly improved. The rowing was always taken seriously but the après rowing then was rather more convivial than might be acceptable today.

Sculls (single oarsman) are now referred to as singles; there are quads – four oarsmen each with a pair, not of oars, but blades. In our day the cox always steered from the stern of the boat; in many of today’s boats the cox’s steering position is in the bow.

Fergus competed in the singles. The course was 5km long which meant he rowed 5km out to the start to warm up and 5km back, rowing hard, which we thought was impressive for a teenager.

It was great fun to be back in the atmosphere of rowing, offering constructive criticism from the safety of a distant past. And the towpath catering was impressive. In the good old bad old days the catering was a pint and a pie in the pub on the way home.

Written on Saturday, November 18th, 2017 at 5:56 pm for Weekly.