Jigsaws on my mind

This article was published in the KADRAS magazine No. 272 June/July 2020

Laurel & Hardy ‘Me & My Pal’ (1933)

I read recently that jigsaws are back in fashion but did they ever become unfashionable? No. Instead, they kept a low profile and waited for us to realise that technology doesn’t fulfil all our needs.

Jig-saw puzzles, or Dissections as they were originally called, were invented by British cartographer John Spilsbury in the 1760’s. He produced his first jigsaw by attaching a world map to wood and carving out the countries. These dissected maps were used for educational purposes to teach geography. Most modern jigsaws are made from cardboard with an infinite choice of images and are largely used for entertainment purposes.

With many people seemingly inseparable from their screens you could be forgiven (but not by me) for thinking that the humble jigsaw would be in terminal decline. Not so. While the coronavirus has left us housebound for 23 hours each day, a length of time even an iGadget can’t fill, there has been a remarkable revival in traditional pastimes, including jigsaws.

The resurgence in enthusiasm for jigsaws pre-dates the coronavirus crisis and has its roots in the mindfulness movement of recent years and changing attitudes to mental health. Academic studies show that frequent jigsaw puzzling is likely to alleviate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression by occupying sufferers with an enjoyable and structured activity. The concentration required for the activity and the eventual satisfaction of a mission accomplished are thought to be very positive factors for improved self-esteem and wellbeing. It is also thought that jigsaws can improve brain function in later years. People living with dementia or cognitive decline may benefit from the popularity of nostalgic themed jigsaws in the UK as these can evoke fond memories and spark conversations.

Celebrity endorsements

An increasing number of celebrities have revealed themselves to be avid puzzlers. Not since the 1933 Laurel & Hardy film ‘Me and My Pal’ have so many famous people been willing to reveal their hobby. Actors Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart and musicians Ronny Wood and Fatboy Slim are all devotees, as is the Queen apparently.

If jigsaws are good enough for Stan & Ollie, they’re good enough for me.

If you are persuaded that jigsaws tick many boxes, we run an entirely free lending library available to all Kelsall residents.

Visit dabhandpuzzles.uk/handy-jigsaws for details or call Delia on 07803 203617.

Sam Geoghegan