PR practitioners pride themselves on their ability to sniff out emerging trends, spotting all that is newest and brightest and best. But who would have thought that our current circumstances would send us all scurrying to the highest shelves in the farthest cupboards to disinter a low-tech solution to isolation and empty days?
A colleague reports that family and friends across the world are all doing the same thing during lockdown. And I am too – it’s jigsaws!
What’s more, as a lifelong fan, I think I know why so many of us are finding comfort in them.
- They promote mindfulness. Getting lost in the minutiae of finding a particular splash of red from among 1000 (or more) pieces of card requires you to be ‘in the moment’. Meditative souls might be able to effectively clear their minds but a jigsaw is a useful crutch for those of us with more cluttered minds. The pinnacle is, of course, that moment when the one blue piece of sky stands out from among the many others in a manner that can only be described as magic.
- They make non-creatives feel creative. Even though you are not making art from scratch you are taking chaos and creating beautiful order. The close concentration on small areas of image mean the final panorama can deliver as much of a surprise to the jigsaw maker as the mere onlookers.
- They justify timewasting. A jigsaw gives the appearance of purposeful action. The concentration, the small triumphs and dogged sorting combine mundanity with flashes of delight. A task that takes up the entire surface of your one table is clearly one of importance.
- They open vistas. Depending on the image you choose, many jigsaws portray places foreign or times long forgotten. Some people prefer versions featuring great works of art (I once had a 5000 piece Breughel half-completed under a rug for many months). Tulips are never redder than they are in a jigsaw, the skies are so blue and the nostalgia is ramped up to 11. This is especially true of jigsaws found in charity shops.
- They are not just a solitary succour. It is a strong-minded person who can walk past someone else’s jigsaw and resist the effort to try and fit a piece or two. It is a carefully judged action however – what might be seen as helpful can quickly morph into usurping, especially if an interloper completes a particularly tricky bit without even hesitating.
- And finally, they are absolute. There is nothing more to do with a jigsaw than complete it (forget the people who laminate them and hang them on walls). Once the task is complete it is broken up, tossed back in the box and pushed back on the shelf until dark days are upon us once more.
What it does show is that even if you dress it up and call it hygge, còsagach or lagom; when times are hard and life seems scary the greatest comforts can be those simple things that can be found in the heart of our homes.