Jonathan: Renovation of our house here at An Garradh Mor stumbles fitfully towards the finishing line. As time allows, various treasures that have been stored away for years, or moved countless times from one nook or corner to another, are being installed in their old locations (albeit fixed to a completely re-built wall!) or have been found new ones. This morning Denise came across this framed cross-stitch sampler, that’s been returned to the just-right-for-it space in the kitchen it was first put up almost ten years ago shortly after my Mum passed away. I don’t know whether this sampler was to a bought pattern, or whether Mum designed it herself making reference to patterns for individual motifs, but certainly there’s a fair amount that’s entirely her own design, that portrays elements of her family life at the time. At the bottom are the three cats we had then: On the left and right are siblings Porgy (with his distinctive dark whiskers) and Bess (with her paler ginger fur and white bib). In the middle is Polly (sometimes Polly Perkins) the little tortoishell, who had come into our lives only recently. Above the line of flowers is a somewhat simplified representation of our canal boat High Sparrows – a design characteristic of boats built of wood in the 1950s for the inland waterways. Mum clearly wanted to show her distinctive neatly painted white water-line, though that seems to have resulted in the boat apparently soaring over the waves below! The three groups of flowers above the boat represent the sprigs of roses as seen in traditional painted canalware. The rest of the work is probably generic in generic cross-stitch motifs. 1974 was the year we took High Sparrows on our longest ever family canal holiday: from our home mooring at Burghfield Island on the River Kennet, we headed directly north via Braunston to the Trent & Mersey, and thence down the Trent (with diversion to Lincoln and back), across the Pennines via the Stainforth & Keadby, the Aire and the Leeds & Liverpool ; then turning south again along the Bridgwater, Trent & Mersey, Shropshire Union (including a diversion to Chester), the northern reaches of the BCN, and home the long way via Warwick and south along the Grand Union to London and then back up the Thames and the Kennet. Nearly five weeks away, 825 miles, 472 locks, more than five miles of tunnel, and 44 swing/draw bridges. However I digress, for whilst exploring the canals is now for me just a memory (and a fading one at that: I had to refer to my infamous log book for the details) it is not the detail of the cross-stitch but the fact that it came into being at all that is significant. Mum’s values and interests – growing food, baking and preserving, foraging (I have her own first edition of Richard Mabey’s Food for Free), traditional crafts, gardening, literature, a curious eye on the world – are the values and interests that have characterized our own lives: they’re what reason we’re here in Uist for, with a walled kitchen garden and a croft and the Hebridean Woolshed – now even earning our income from these things. But in 1974, when Mum was stitching this sampler, I was still just a teenager and had no conscious appreciation of these things. But Denise did, and it was her enthusiasm that opened my eyes, crystalizing in my own thoughts the values that Mum had instilled in me. So, the sampler is a token of the most formative years of my youth. It means a lot to me.