Operation jigsaw a family affair

With lockdowns a part of life for us all through the past 18 months, jigsaw puzzles have made a comeback. Peter Leith tells how his family would tackle a puzzle.

Hove, England, the winter of 1936.

The weather was continually terrible, even by English standards. Outdoor activities were not a viable option.

Each Friday, mum would buy a John Waddingtons 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle in the ‘Wonders of the World’ series. The subjects ranged from Mount Everest and the Grand Canyon to the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal. Without exception, the pictures were beautiful.

Working at it after school, it usually took the three of us – mum, older brother Jack and me – most of the week to complete a puzzle.

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We would spread all the pieces, face up, on a part of the table we didn’t use and look for all the pieces that had a straight edge – the pieces that made up the frame. Once this was done we would set about filling in the picture. We sorted the pieces into sub-groups and then tried to assemble these segments. 

Where one of us came across an identifiable piece of a sub-group, we handed it to the person who collected pieces of that colour or feature. Conversation flowed.

Sometimes all three of us worked together, sometimes we worked on our own. Walking past the table, any one of us might spot a piece that fitted somewhere!

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It was an interesting and rewarding exercise in both teamwork and individual concentration.

We usually managed to finish a puzzle within the week and move it to the back of the table. 

Starting a new puzzle before finishing the old one was an absolute no-no.

We tried other ways of doing our jigsaws, of building the full picture, but always came back to building the framework first and then filling in the rest of the picture section by section.

Have you rediscovered jigsaw puzzles during lockdowns? What’s your technique? Why not share your suggestions in the comments section below?

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Written by Peter Leith