When was the last time you attempted a jigsaw puzzle?

Jigsaw puzzles! Remember those?

When was the last time you attempted to put together a jigsaw puzzle, if ever? As a kid I loved them, especially those 1000-piece challenges. I still remember spending many hours fitting pieces together, a lot of which was spent wrangling with my brother over which piece fitted where.

The closest I’ve come to jigsaw puzzles in nearly 40 years is when disinterestedly passing by those puzzle boxes on toy store shelves. Oh, there was this one time – can’t remember when – I saw a completed puzzle framed and hanging on a wall in someone’s home. I’m pretty certain they bought it in that condition.

I’m guessing that jigsaw puzzles are not very popular with kids, or even adults, these days. Video games and other err… online activities, have all but killed this pastime that once ruled the roost. It’s not surprising therefore that there is a proliferation of websites that offer online jigsaw puzzles. But I’m unconvinced they offer the same excitement or challenge as the real thing.

I suppose there are avid jigsaw enthusiasts somewhere in the world, maybe even clubs, but it seems they’re keeping it all very secretive.

At my age, I think spending some time away from the Interwebs, working on real jigsaw puzzles may be very therapeutic. In fact, I read somewhere that this activity is useful in keeping both the brain active, and Alzheimer’s at bay.

But just in case you’re not convinced, here’s an online puzzle that will either get you hooked, make you want the real thing, or shun puzzles in disgust. I’m hoping you’ll yearn for the real thing – the 1000-piece beauty that you can touch and feel.

Click to Mix and Solve

[Click on the Play button to attempt this online puzzle]

Bumper charity weekend ahead

The guys and I have a hectic weekend ahead of us as we take on our most ambitious charity project in the 12 or so years we’ve been doing this.

We’ve invited some of the poorest families from an economically depressed residential area South West of Johannesburg to join us for a lunch the guys will be cooking, and we’ll also be distributing food hampers to each family. We’ve secured the assistance of a local school which has kindly allowed us use of the premises, and a few classrooms and the ablution facilities.

The classrooms are for the use of a general practitioner, a dentist and an optometrist who have magnanimously donated their time and services to conduct basic medical screening and checks on all the invited folks who are in such need. The SA Blood Services (SANBS) will also be at hand to perhaps carry out some tests, present a talk, and hopefully collect some much-needed blood from willing donors.

Tomorrow, we’ll finish up some last-minute shopping and spend the day putting together the food hampers which will consist of basic dry provisions, vegetables and fruits. The guys will then spend the rest of the afternoon preparing the meat, vegetables etcetera for the traditional Indian chicken briyani, we will be cooking in two huge pots over an open fire at the school.

The cooking will start very early Sunday morning. Tables and chairs will be set up for the few hundred people who are expected, and some classrooms will be prepared for the health professionals to do their thing.

I’m expecting to be exhausted by Sunday afternoon, but gratified at pulling off this mammoth [for a handful of guys] task.

Yippee! It’s the season to be jolly!!!

I like this time of year; the winding down towards Christmas and a well-earned break for those of us who work for a living. The chance to spend time with family and friends far away; mostly family.

Everything seems to slow down gradually, much to the indignation of demanding bosses who have projects to complete; but they gradually get into the spirit as well. Not so for retail businessmen; they become busy little bees, and will sting you with their prices if you’re too much in the spirit, or if you’re too much into the spirits, as the case may be. And except around shopping malls, even traffic becomes easier. What a joy to drive to work and back, this time of year.

However, even crass commercialization has some appeal; a visual feast for the senses with christmas decorations nearly everywhere, feel-good christmassy music coming from shops and malls, fake fir trees in windows and aisles, multi-coloured lights flashing, and most importantly, people seeming more cheerful than at any other time of year. And what about the kids? They tend to become more manageable, although a slightly heavier burden on the wallet.

For us non-believers, all this hoo-ha over what was once a pagan festival, is supposed to be exasperating, but I find it all rather charming; amusing perhaps. I really enjoy the christmas carols, even if the words have no appeal or meaning for me. However, like most normal people, I do find Boney M slightly annoying, but Andrea Bocelli or Frank Sinatra singing carols, is a real delight for the senses.

And somehow, people become more generous too at this time of year. Those beggars standing at the traffic intersections usually get something extra, and even other less fortunate adults and children from miscellaneous charitable organizations, benefit. A real pity that Christmas doesn’t come at least once a month. Imagine how different the world could be, if Christmas was about people, rather than gods.

It’s really convenient for us all that the early Christians chose to commemorate Christmas around the time of the winter solstice, incorporating it with pagan festivals such as the Celtic Yule, the Roman Saturnalia and the solstice feast of Mithras, the Roman god of light which falls on 25 December,  just before New Year’s Eve, a traditional celebration for the Roman god, Janus. And not forgetting New Years Day, the traditional day for hang-overs. Yes, a wise decision to fit it in with happy, festive times.