Picture Map Puzzle of the British Isles
Now, I can probably guess what you’re thinking at this point – ‘A post on jigsaws?!? God, man, get a life!’ – and, to a lesser extent, I would share you sentiments. But, I have to admit, there is a sweet satisfaction that comes from successfully finishing any puzzle, jigsaws included. I always liked the set routine that you ultimately went through when assembling a jigsaw: starting off with the edge pieces, you would construct the skeleton of the piece; next, you’d start to piece together the innards, using the box to help you construct key, distinctive segments. After that was done, the more difficult sections that the box failed to illuminate for you could be tackled. A monotonous process perhaps, but there is something calming and familiar in the whole act.
Jigsaws came to form a fairly familiar ritual in my family as I was growing up. We had quite a few, and the number would invariably grow as a result of birthdays and Christmases. Potted plants, a bazillion cats on a table and even Mona Lisa herself – the list is endless, with almost any conceivable art piece invariably ending up in jigsaw form at one point or another. One which I have fond memories of, and remember picking up at table-top sale at school, is the ‘Picture Map Puzzle of the British Isles’, a title, I warrant, that cannot be repeated fast in successive repetition very easily.
Created by the JR Jigsaw company (who appeared to be quite prolific during the 90’s with regards to releasing jigsaws), you could potentially write off this geographical puzzle of the British Isles as just being another generic, ten-a-penny map. But, scratch beneath the surface, and there is a level of detail, activity and, dare I say, fun, to be had. Robert Salmon is the artist behind this. If this name means absolutely nothing to you, then the feeling is mutual. During my brief trawl online, I’ve not been able to find out anything substantial about him; barring the fact that he drew similar puzzles for different continents (one of which, Europe, we also had whilst growing up), all of which share the same art style and somewhat kooky level of detail. Whoever – and wherever – he is will likely remain a mystery (though if any intrepid reader can provide me with further information, I would be eternally grateful).
The jigsaw, as a whole, has a whole lot going on within it. As well as highlighting all of the major counties and regions in the British Isles (Funducational!), there is a menagerie of different characters inhabiting the different regions, countries and oceans: a man and woman playing water volleyball in Cornwall; a man tree-climbing in Cumbria; fishermen gawping at seals just off the Shetlands; even a fleet of Viking vessels, intent on plundering the North Sea’s oil platforms (in my imagination, certainly…). There is certainly a lot here to capture the imagination of the young and old alike, and I have fond memories of the times when we would dig the puzzle out and discover something new happening each time as we constructed it.
This high quality in design does not, unfortunately, extend to the quality of the physical pieces themselves. Each one seems to be made of some kind of cardboard that I don’t imagine would hold particular well under water damage. This does distract your attention away from beautiful design, but, as my mum might say, what more do you want for a bloody tenner? If you do happen to find this at a car boot or online, just make sure you store it in a place where the risk of water damage is minimal.
There is something quintessentially innocent about the entire puzzle’s design, that also belies some potential stereotyping of each part of the British Islands. For example, the North-West features a footballer and a Satellite Dish. Now, the footballer is most definitely a direct allusion to Manchester United but the second…does the North-West of England have a higher number of Sky TV subscribers compared to the rest of the country? There are also some accurate representations, such as the oil platforms in the North Sea, BIg Ben down in London and York Minster. You could certainly use the jigsaw for a skewered, yet partially effective, learning tool for geography.
Overall, I would probably rate this puzzle quite high on the Jigsaw-ometre. The most annoying thing though? I dug out the puzzle in preparation for this blog post and intrepidly set out to complete it. After a positively neck craning afternoon, I managed to complete it, but was incredulous; not because of the feat I had just accomplished, but because there were six pieces missing. This sums up the inherent problem with going back to the jigsaws of yesteryear. Yes, there’s fun to be had reliving the variant emotions that come as you inch closer and closer to completing it. But if there’s just one piece missing? Then the whole experience is ruined. So if you, like me, are going to dig out your favourite jigsaws from the past, you might just want to ensure that all the pieces are there first. Because reliving past memories is all well and good, but doesn’t it just suck when you can’t finish something?!?