“Have you been there?” asks the friendly fella behind the counter at the Oxfam charity shop. I have to admit that I haven’t, but that it looks exactly the kind of place I would like to visit if I ever
find myself travelling again. Has he been there? I ask - it seems appropriate to extend the dialogue. Now we have started (as the many hosts of Mastermind have asserted over the years) we will finish.
My new best friend tells me he has never been there either. We gaze, as one, at the picture of Menton in France which is featured on the front of the jigsaw puzzle which I am about to buy for the princely sum of £3.50.
“I’m not trying to stop you buying it,” he says, obviously worrying that I am re-evaluating the worth of a puzzle depicting a place that neither of us has ever (i) visited and (ii - even worse) heard of. I hand over my money by way of confirmation
that my mind is made up.
There is something of an adventure in buying a second hand jigsaw puzzle from a charity shop. You never really know, do you, that all
500 / 1000 (delete according to your stickability) pieces will be in the box. Not until you reach the last half a dozen pieces will you be assured of completion. But then you know me, I like to live dangerously. Though only where jigsaw puzzles are concerned.
I had decided that I needed a Return to Puzzling. I needed something to occupy myself, to take my mind off the fact that, since my Waterfall Experience on Monday, the smell
of damp carpet permeates my home, despite all the windows and doors being open to allow the breeze to, well, breeze through. I needed to concentrate on something other than the phone being out of order, the stair lift refusing to move upwards (or presumably
downwards) and the constant need to inspect the laminate flooring in case it is starting to lift.
The helpful engineer from Outreach had replaced the box
on the windowsill, the original box being completely waterlogged. (I am not sure if “box” is the right term but all the leads plug into it. I’m sure someone will know better?) Unfortunately, despite all his engineering, the telephone still
wouldn’t work, hence my need to buy a new handset (or two.) Bless him, he left me his mobile number to call when my new phone arrived from the Amazon Jungle so that he could call in and connect it up for me. He had obviously summed me up as One Needing
a Helping Hand. His kindness was repaid many times over when, a few minutes after his departure, I noticed that he had left a serious piece of kit behind. Fortunately, as he had given me his mobile number, I was able to summon him back - when it turned out
that the piece of kit he had left behind was worth a couple of grand. This is proof, if proof were needed, that a generous heart will reap its just rewards.
Menton is known as the “Pearl of the Riviera” and is one of France’s best kept secrets. While the wealthy flock to the glamour and the glitz of Monte Carlo and Cannes, the discerning (and, presumably, certain jigsaw puzzlers) have found their
way to this “city with a village feel” which boasts the sunshine record for France along with botanical gardens, a world famous restaurant and a museum dedicated to artist, writer, film-maker, designer and poet Jean Cocteau. Not to be confused
(as I very nearly did) with Jacques Cousteau, the underwater explorer.
Honestly, I haven’t even pieced together all the edges of the jigsaw and I am already
in love with Menton. I may never actually walk its narrow streets and alleyways but by the time I have inserted the very last jigsaw piece (always assuming there are no missing pieces) I will feel as if I know every nook and cranny of this beautiful place.
And the imagjned scent of lemons will have completely obliterated the smell of damp carpets…