Life’s a bit of a puzzle

By James Arbuthnott

“I’ve got a few little tricks to make life easier,” Rod Kestle says as he picks up a puzzle piece off the desk.

“People mainly go for colour; I go for shape, and you’ve basically got four different shapes.”

“I do the edges first.”

“On this side, you’ll see it’s the same pattern all the way around,” Rod says as he points to the edge of the puzzle he’s piecing together.

“And another little trick is how I know which way the pieces are going to go.

“You can’t tell that by their shape,” Rod says as he turns the piece over.

“See the lines on the cardboard? All those lines go the same way, so I just have a look at the back of them and I know where they go – I can tell by the grain.”

I ask him if he thinks it’s cheating.

“It’s not cheating, it’s using your bloody brains,” Rod says.

Rod doesn’t categorise, sort or place any pieces above carpet because he can’t hear them fall.

He prefers linoleum, usually with Charley Pride, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra or Johnny Cash playing from the stereo behind him.

And he picks up the pieces with a car aerial tipped with blue tack to avoid leaning on his bad leg.

“I’ve been doing them for years, even when I was working. But now I’m buggered I can’t play golf anymore; I’ve got titanium rods from my knee down to my ankle, so I can’t bend it,” he said.

“I haven’t got a knee now and my hips are all over the place, and I’ve got built-up shoes and I’ve got my stool to put my leg on.”

“I can walk a little bit so three times a day I’ll walk to the corner and say g’day.”

Rod gets most of his puzzles from the Salvos and Senior Citizens, where they name and date the puzzles he’s given.

“They get it back if there’s 100 per cent of the pieces there. If there’s one piece missing – bin.”

Rod takes me out the back and says what we find will surprise me.

His vast backyard has a paved driveway and vegetable gardens, a concrete-floor shed and a verandah - and a pile of puzzles.

But he can’t get around much anymore and is looking for more puzzlers to trade and talk with, and maybe for a little competition.

“This one is 500 pieces and I did in three hours,” Rod said.

He says the biggest puzzle he’s done is 3000 and it’s taken him just three days to do a thousand-piece.

“It’s only patience, and yet I’m a very impatient person. I can’t stand in a queue,” he laughed.

“The puzzles switch me off from everything else – I’ve got a bad back and a leg three inches shorter than the other because of all the operations I’ve had on it.”

He says life's difficulties won't get in the way of some quality time spent doing puzzles, and that the hobby is something both he and his wife appreciate.

“She looks after me and I look after her,” he said.

To find out what other tricks Rod has up his sleeve and if you're interested in joining his jigsaw club, call 0429 314 314.