I was in a garden centre today, acting as moral support and guard duty for the Textiliste. It’s not that she is regularly under threat, you understand but any trip out that involves her mother runs the risk of strangling and or some other form of justified homicide as the old lady proves that multitasking disappears with age.
So while we paused for the laborious, fourteen step process that aimed to wipe the Aged Beak I found myself distracted by a section that displayed nothing but jigsaw puzzles. There were cats and dogs, mountains and seas, cartoon and caricatures, countries and continents. They came in boxes and bags, tins and tubes. On wood and cardboard. From ten pieces for a mewling baby, to the factorial of all Prime numbers for Stephen Hawking.
How much distraction do we need in this time of Brexit? Loads, clearly.
As a child and into youthful adulthood I did countless jigsaws, 1000 pieces being the norm for those expert years as a Dissectologist Supreme. I cast my mind back – there was going to be a significant pause, much like a Time Twister – we had reached stage six: the opening of the handbag, an important moment because, if planets align a tissue may, fossil-like, have shifted with some tectonic serendipity out of the bag’s Jurassic depths to sit, snow like, a’top the mountainous contents. Breaths are held and hopes spiral up only to be dashed as the first of many items is prised from within and handed to said stoic daughter – it is at moments like this when memory begins the process of re-imagining; what in reality was the scarring wrought on this trainee parent by the fortieth rendition of The Wheel On The Bus before the sun rose becomes, through the prism of a pair of old lady’s battered sunglasses something akin to the exultation felt when I first heard Clapton live.
Where was I… dreaming. Yes, jigsaws and life lessons:
1. If you are doing a jigsaw and have an older sibling they will always steal a piece so they can complete the puzzle. It is one of the top ten Bastard-Sibling Laws, like them always getting the better chocolate from the box and them lying better than you. Throughout your life, someone will always be hiding the piece that you need to attain your goals and you will only realise it too late;
2. Completing the edge first is the perfect metaphor for negotiating a new relationship. Until you’ve sussed the boundaries, it really doesn’t matter how many ideas you may imagined as to what you might do with all the many interesting pieces that have been scattered in front of you;
3. If someone gives you a gift ‘because I know you like a challenge’ understand that it is merely another example of pre-emptive schadenfreude. They are already enjoying the idea that you will have to thank them even though you both know you will soon hate them. The jigsaw equivalent came when I was given a 1000 piece puzzle that comprised Brussels sprouts, each one almost identical to its neighbour and then, when I opened the box I realised the puzzle was double sided…;
4. When you’ve been up to your neck in the detail for the last hour, there will always be someone who turns up at the last minute and finds the piece you’ve been struggling to see and that person will always be smug. There is absolutely nothing meritorious in being the smart arse that can see the bigger picture; cutting through the crap merely lets more crap flow;
5. If you can find the patience to put back together something that has been deliberately mullered then see it broken up and start over again and still smile, then you’ll probably cope with whatever life will throw at you. Unless it’s covered in Brussels Sprouts.