I started writing this around six in the morning when I had to get up to take a very powerful antibiotic. That’s because at 3.30 this afternoon I’m going to Kings Lynn hospital to have my sixth prostate biopsy. I vowed I’d never have another one after the fifth, which went septic and left me in a terrible state. I didn’t realise it then, but infections deep within the body cavity can be very nasty indeed and that one took weeks to shift. So I’m keeping fingers firmly crossed that today’s doesn’t follow the same path. The last biopsy was shortly before Christmas and poor Maisie had to go to the local A and E Department to fetch me emergency treatment around midnight on Christmas Eve. And a very memorable Festive Season that was.
As readers of this blog will be aware, we normally like to do a big jig-saw puzzle over the Christmas holiday. I suppose it’s a way of making sure that we change gear and slow down. Of course booze can do the same thing, but puzzles are much cheaper and don’t make you so fat. Some puzzles can be harder than others: I well remember as a child spending an eternity piecing together a huge view of a bluebell wood, with lots of identical flowers, leaves and trees. And was it fun? No, not really. I suppose it was a way of satisfying the obsessive side of my character. No, the puzzles that work best for me are the ones where there’s a wealth of detail but hidden within the intricacy are little jokes – little moments of humour, like a distant view of the Titanic sinking in a rural lake. But the main design should be appealing too. In fact it wasn’t until I’d finished it that I realised the view of the bluebell wood was actually rather dull.
But Mike Jupp’s designs are never boring. His puzzles are strangely personal and communicative. In some respects they’re rather like books. When I write, I imagine my reader (and I always write for one person, preferably alone) is sitting alongside me, but not in front of me. In other words, we’re chatting together. I’d hate anyone to think that I was teaching or lecturing to them. I like things to be more informal – hence this slightly chaotic blog, which I wouldn’t have any other way. And that’s how I imagine Mike Jupp works, too. I can picture him in his studio in Bognor chortling away as he imagines the moment when somebody discovers that the goose is wearing dark glasses and there’s a deep-sea diver in the village pond. To me these are shared jokes. As I said, chortles rather than belly-laughs. And what’s wrong with a good chortle? I ask.
I might as well face it, but I’ll only be good for chortling over the next three or four days, so I’ve decided to move a bit of Christmas forward: I’m going to start one of the two Mike Jupp puzzles we’ve still to do, today. And it’s going to be a treat. It’s part of his hugely popular ‘I Love’ series: ‘I Love The County’. And I can’t wait to get started.
Shortly before I took the antibiotic, which has left me feeling a bit woozy, I took a picture of the puzzle’s box lid with my iPad, but you can see much better reproductions on the Gibson’s website:
It’s well worth a visit, if that is, you’re up for a damn-good chortle.