Many people somewhere in their house have a dusty, never opened, thousand-piece monstrosity mocking them with their three-pronged superiority. They may have a scene from a book or a movie, a far-flung European castle or perhaps a strangely adorned Geddes baby that these days would maybe classify as child abuse.

Tucked away among my latest haul of Christmas presents last year was a Where’s Wally jigsaw puzzle. I’ve known people who find these a fun, challenging pastime, but personally I’d rather put them in the “frustrating” category — they’re something that I would start earnestly and would soon give up on, destined to lose a large portion of the kitchen table for at least five months to it’s partially completed presence.

Determined not to let this one needlessly clutter up the spare room, I opened it with confidence I didn’t feel. A puzzle is usually completed, if at all, in the following manner:

  1. Sort through the jigsaw puzzle in search of all the border pieces, building yourself an extended rectangle on the kitchen table.
  2. Study the box in minute detail, and proceed to pick out notable areas that will be easy to find in the box.
  3. Celebrate at how smart you are to complete so much of the puzzle so quickly.
  4. Proceed to ignore it for the next few days, bar snapping in the occasional piece or two as you wander past.
  5. After gentle coaxing from your fellow dwellers about the lack of kitchen table space, sit down and try to finish it.
  6. Lose track of time.
  7. Find Wally.
  8. After many hours of hardship, and through bleary eyes, declare a partial victory and realise you’re missing a few pieces of the jigsaw.
  9. Search carpet/vacuum cleaner/household pets/nearby children for missing pieces to jigsaw.
  10. Finish jigsaw puzzle.
  11. After subtle hints and a few days of walking past it and gazing proudly, dismantle it and put it in a box.

While I have known people who frame their completed jigsaw puzzles, I don’t need to be constantly reminded of my sense of achievement. But at least I can say that, for a few days at least, I achieved a thousand pieces of greatness. I even have the photo to prove it.

Matt Smith teaches journalism at La Trobe University and blogs at the End of the Spectrum

Peter Fray

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