A Race Against the Clock

This weekend my husband and I raced against more than 660 tough-looking dudes and gals to run, cycle and kayak across Scotland, from Nairn in the east to Ballachulish in the west. We managed the whole thing in just under 14 hours over two days, and although we were not attempting to win any prizes (our two aims were to survive and have fun; both targets definitely achieved) we were pleasantly surprised to find that we’d finished far further up the leader board than we’d anticipated.


We drove home today, and once we’d unloaded the car of muddy bikes and even muddier trail shoes, we both promptly fell asleep on the bed. At about five o’clock I woke up and … this is becoming a familiar theme… remembered that it was Monday and there was something important still to do. The light was already failing, and as I prefer to photograph in natural light I was going to have to look smartish if I was going to get my vase made and photographed in time. Out in the garden, after a week of warm, wet weather, the sweetpeas, Verbena rigida, and Ammi visagna had gone berserk. But better than that, my first ‘Café au Lait’ dahlia had finally bloomed. And what a bloom! Big as my face, with creamy flames bursting forth like one of those stylised suns that inhabit the corners of old maps, nibbled here and there by an appreciative insect, it seemed to need nothing alongside it in this plain blue vase but a sprig of foliage, and even that sprig’s a moot point. I put it on the mantelpiece in our west-facing sitting room, which was gloomy as the back of a cave by now. Thank goodness for my tripod and Lightroom’s exposure adjustment. Another half hour and this photograph would have had to have waited till tomorrow.


Because my last few vases have been so simple and because there were so many other lovely things to pick in the garden today, I also filled a frothy, frilly, fussy vase full of sweetpeas, verbena, ammi, fuchsia, and the last tiny buddleia blooms to make a shamelessly vintage arrangement for our bedroom. By the time I had finished, the final efforts of this afternoon’s daylight was falling upon this window seat in our kitchen.

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by the poetic Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, where you will find hers alongside links to many other vases each Monday.


27 thoughts on “A Race Against the Clock

  1. Oh well done both of you – did you enjoy it though, and were you able to take in any of the scenery on the way? What an achievement! I love your description of the dahlia as ‘one of those stylised suns that inhabit the corners of old maps’ – great imagery and a stunning bloom. Nice to be able to cram so many different things into your second vase too – thanks for sharing ps I notice you still have the original shutters at your window. I remember these fondly as a child in Edinburgh – brilliant for keeping the light out, although these days I couldn’t manage without a window open so shutters would be no good!

    1. We absolutely loved every minute of the race and the scenery was incredible… majestic mountains, grand forests, tiny country roads, huge lochs, the sky changing every five minutes….
      We are lucky to have the original shutters, as indeed many of these tenement flats still do. They are perfect for shutting out light, though not as good as curtains for stopping drafts, so we sometimes open the window behind our shutters and that is effective for ventilation, plus you can lock the shutters too.

    1. Thanks Annette! I was pleased to get these vases photographed and posted on time. Autumn and winter are especially challenging I find, not just because of the lack of flowers but also squeezing the vases in during the ever shortening days.

  2. Both really pretty vases, with a definite romantic and ‘vintage’ feel to them. Well done on completing that bike race! Hope you have a chance to relax in the garden to recover!

  3. What a surprise! I really did not expect you would have energy left to pick flowers after that gruelling race, but I looked anyway. At last the Café Au Lait has obliged – it’s good that there are still gorgeous new things in the garden at the end of summer. That sprig of foliage is definitely the right touch ; do you think some leaves from the smoke bush (if it can spare any yet) might go even better than the green, or would it be too strong?

    1. Indeed it is, well spotted! It’s a print that I bought from the Japanese picture framer a good many years ago for only £10. It hasn’t found the right home in our flat yet so it takes turns with the others on the mantelpiece.

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