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Austerity Dissectology

Hi There! I hope that your weekend is going well and that if, like me, you hale from the UK, you are out there making the most of this Springlike weather which has suddenly descended upon us.

I generally make it a point to keep Fiction Books just that, with the content reflecting the blog’s title. For 99% of the time this remains the case, however occasionally I will introduce a random post featuring one or more of my other passions, hobbies and pastimes.

One of these is an addiction to dissectology, or making jigsaw puzzles. I am not so much addicted to having to have a jigsaw under construction at any given point in time, it is more the case that once I have made the decision to open that box and start touching the pieces, I never know quite when to stop and a five minute search to find the next one or two pieces, turns into a total loss of all time recognition and complete immersion in the emerging picture.

Given the many First and Second World War anniversaries and memorial days which are due to be recognised this year, 2014, my last jigsaw was quite an appropriate selection from my charity shop jigsaw puzzle haul to have chosen and certainly brought home to me just how difficult life must have been as a child during the 1940s, both during wartime itself and in the many years of hardship and austerity which followed.


As war broke out, toys and games began to adapt to the new situation. It was important to keep up moral on the home front, so even though there was a shortage of paper and card, topical board games were soon available with titles to reflect the growing battle – Night Raiders, Bomber Command, Torpedo Attack, Submarine Hunt. Even the daily routine of preventing light being seen shining out from the house after dark was made into the game of  Blacking-Out the Moon, while the card game of Vacuation made light of the need for children to be evacuated.

Many toy manufacturers were switched over to making things for the war effort like gas masks and Tommy guns, which meant that Hornby trains and the construction set Bayco became unavailable. Some things did continue; Monopoly was still manufactured, but the metal counters were replaced with card.

For younger children, cut-out clothes to dress a card doll in different uniforms went under the patriotic phrase “We’re all in it”. While for the lucky few, a proper doll dressed in ATS uniform would have been much treasured. As materials for making teddy bears vanished, any piece of material ended up becoming a cuddly friend. During the last years of the 1940s, a number of new toy firms were established by ex-service men, one such being the table soccer game of Subbuteo.


Image Of Robert OpieThe items that make up this series of jigsaws come from the Robert Opie Collection, which is housed at the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in London’s Notting Hill, although it was formerly housed at Gloucester.

Having saved the packaging and promotional materials around him since he was at school, Robert Opie gathered together the earlier story of mass manufacture from many sources.

In 1975 he held an exhibition at the Victorian and Albert Museum, and then in 1984 founded Britain’s first museum devoted to the story of our consumer society.

The displays give a sense of the evolving culture and life-style since Victorian times, represented through the everyday items that we all take for granted – from motor cars, telephones, holidays and entertainment, to all manner of branded groceries, sweets and household goods.

The Collection traces the changes in social taste and tempo, the whims of style and fashion, the advent of aviation, the jazz age and the gradual emancipation of women. It’s through the fabric of daily living – the song sheets, toys, souvenirs, postcards, magazines and posters – that the rich tapestry of the British way of life is woven together.

“I was struck by the idea that I should save the packaging which would otherwise surely disappear forever. The collection offers evidence of a dynamic commercial system that delivers thousands of desirable items from all corners of the world, a feat arguably more complex than sending man to the Moon, but one still taken for granted.”

Check out The Museum of Brands


‘Austerity Dissectology’

I was in two minds whether or not to purchase this particular jigsaw puzzle, as first impressions of the drab and war focused nature of the toys and games, was not especially appealing. However, as I also managed to acquire the next two jigsaws in this series, ‘Toybox Memories of the 1950s’ and ‘Toybox Memories of the 1960s’, I was intrigued to follow the progression of toys and games during these later periods of relative economic and political stability and to spot the speed of the advancements in the toys and games marketplace.

I do have to say, that I am not personally of the age group to remember the majority of the games and toys featured in this 1940s jigsaw puzzle, with the possible exceptions of Monopoly, Hornby Trains and of course the cut-out dolls with the paper clothing outfits, which were are still very much in circulation in my 1960s childhood days. In fact, all three are still very much in existence and thriving today, even the cardboard cut-out dolls, which are now considered to be ‘vintage’ and ‘retro’.

To my mind, the puzzle depicts an era when children were made much more aware of the broader worldwide situation of the times in which they lived and became as patriotic as their families and friends. Games appeared to be made which specifically enabled adults to teach the children about the wartime situation in which the entire country was involved in one way or another, and to show children the part they too had to play, whilst still attempting to protect as much of the innocence of their young lives as possible.

It would be good to be a fly on the wall in another 60 or so years time, to see just how the propensity for mindless violence, which seems to be so inherent in many of todays electronic and computerised toys, is portrayed. Perhaps these machines will have been romanticised to some degree by then, or maybe will have been replaced by something much worse, making todays toys appear as dull and lifeless to the then potential dissectologist, as the 1940s selection is to us today!

I visited the Robert Opie  Collection when it was housed in its original location of Gloucester Docks and it made for a fascinating and value for money experience, as well as some laugh-out-loud memories! I would definitely recommend this as an excellent time out.

This item was purchased by me from the charity shop where I volunteer, supporting my local hospice.

Whilst I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a purchase, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from person to person, some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a 4 out of 5.



Written by

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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  • I must admit I’d have been in two minds like you, but I do like puzzles that have a large variety of objects in them, as opposed to chocolate-box photos of scenes (though I have no objection to those either), and that would have swayed me to buy it. I’m sad to say though that I haven’t done a jig-saw since last Spring! Hard to believe so I must get one out soon and start again.

    • Hi Cath,

      Just about all the jigsaws I have in my current ‘To Be Done’ pile, are ones with lots of varied images in them. I seem to have gone right away from the ‘chocolate box images’ these days and have in fact, gone so far as to pass on any such jigsaws, so that they no longer form part of my collection.

      I don’t have a jigsaw constantly on the go, but every once in a while the urge comes over me and it can make for some very good therapy if I am feeling particularly stressed.

      Thanks for stopping by, the comment came through fine this time, so hopefully any wordpress issues have been ironed out.

      Hope that you are enjoying this sudden burst of Spring.

      • I tend to think I should be doing a puzzle all the time, so I need to go over to your way of thinking of just doing one when I feel like it. Much less pressure!

        Yes, I got rid of a lot like that too. I do like puzzles of paintings though. Especially ones of libraries or all fashioned ‘curiosity’ type shops.

        I think what happens is that by ‘allowing’ a comment to be published that’s gone into your spambox, you somehow release my future comments to go through. That’s how it has worked with other WP blogs anyway.

        I’m down with a cold at the moment so not able to get out and enjoy the sunshine, sadly. Hope you’ve not caught any of these winter ills still doing the rounds?

        • I totally agree with you about the ‘cuiosity’ style of jigsaws, especially anything with books of course!

          Touching wood very firmly, we have both been remarkably fit and healthy this Winter, without so much as a cold between us. The only problem with that statement is that it means that the Winter has not been severe enough to kill off the bugs and diseases that it really needed to, so I can see us being in for a bumper invasion of the little beasties this year!

          They are also forecasting a bad time ahead for allergy sufferers this year, so I should think about stocking up on the ‘Piriteze’ now, shouldn’t I?

          Are we never happy with what nature throws at us! LOL

  • I started a jigsaw in January and still haven’t finished it mainly because the pieces are nearly all of the shame shade of gold/yellow and varying shades of green – it’s a photo of a golden retriever. I like puzzles to have more variety like the Toybox ones. I keep thinking I’ll get it out again but don’t actually do so – books have taken over again. Now if it was a really good puzzle nothing would have stopped me until I finished it. I think I’ll probably give this one to a charity shop and get on with something else. I looked at Amazon, through your link and see that there’s one of Sweet Memories of the 50s – that looks tempting – in more ways than one 🙂

    • Hi Margaret,

      I think I would be donating that particular jigsaw to the charity shop as well! … Not my kind of thing at all.

      Once I get a jigsaw started, I also like to be able to get on with it and get it finished, which is silly really as we have plenty of space to work on it and I have a sufficiently sized board to take 1,000 pieces, with space to spare. Mind you, I am the same with books. I look forward to starting a book, then can’t wait to get it finished and move on to the next one. What’s that all about?

      I have beaten you to those yummy loking puzzles, I’m afraid! I struck lucky in the charity shop and managed to pick up ‘1950s Sweet Memories’, ‘1960s Sweet Memories’ and ‘Cadburys Poster Art’, so I’m all set for a trip down memory lane!

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comments, which are always so interesting to read. Have a good week.

  • Interesting post. Whilst not a fan of jigsaws myself (I’m afraid I haven’t got the patience) I have a friend (a fellow blogger) who loves them so I’ll be sure to pass the details of this post on.

    • Hi Tracy,

      That would be good, thanks. It is always good to connect with others who share a common interest or hobby, although my jigsaw collection is becoming more and more like my book TBR mountain, just a TBD (to be done) pile insread!

      I do have quite a bit of patience, although generally I don’t sit still for two minutes at a time. When I am in front of the puzzle board though, it is quite easy to lose myself in the moment, or the hour, depending on what’s happening around me!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, even though you don’t share an interest in this subject, I appreciate it.

  • Hi Yvonne, I do know you love the jigsaw puzzles!
    ‘Austerity Dissectology’ sounds like a good puzzle as do the Toybox Memories ones. Glad you’re enjoying them.
    How interesting that back then games were geared towards teaching children signs of the times. Sadly nowadays most video games are full of mindless violence and teach nothing. It’s crazy how little some of today’s youth even know what it going on worldwide. Even the simple act of sitting down to piece together a jigsaw puzzle might seem like a bore to kids today, they’d rather play video games or be on their phones. I’ve told my children that when I was little, we’d invent our own games and there was no internet. They look at me as if I’d sprouted a second head! lol

    • Hi Naida,

      I think you are so right about the children of today not knowing what is going on in the real world. If you mention watching the news or reading the newspapers to our nieces and nephews, they do indeed look at us as though we were completely stupid and seem quite happy living in their much more violent and disparate ‘virtual’ world.

      Jigsaw puzzles, arts and crafts. crosswords or general knowledge puzzles and yes … even reading a book, are all completely alien concepts to them. They immediately put us in this little box marked old and crusty. Take away their iPads, iPods, gaming machines and mobile phones and they would be completely lost and bored within minutes. Basically young people appear to have lost the ability to entertain themselves and are seeking instant gratification in everything they do.

      For me, the relaxing qualities of having the satisfaction of making something from scratch, can’t be shouted about too loudly.

      Thanks for your comments, they are always so interesting and I look forward to our little chats.

  • Thanks to Tracy for pointing me this way for this post.

    I found this fascinating! I can totally relate to what you said about being able to lose yourself in a puzzle. While I normally have a very short attention span (even when reading, unfortunately), I can easily lose track of time when in front of a puzzle. I find it to be a tremendous stress reliever, especially with music in the background. And yes, I have a TBD pile in addition to my TBR pile.

    • Hi Kelly,

      Thanks to Tracy for linking us up and Hi to Kelly and thanks for stopping by. It is good to meet you, your comments and visits will always be welcome, I love a good chat!

      It isn’t so much that I have a short attention span, more that there is always something to be done and I just can’t sit and relax whilst those chores remain outstanding. Hubbie’s philosophy is that there will always be jobs to do and that I should allocate some ‘me’ time, to do something I enjoy and do it for myself.

      The only time I can truly lose myself seems to be when I have a jigsaw on the go, although hubbie then complains that I become so engrossed that I rarely hear what he is saying to me and seldom answer sensibly, if at all! I guess I can’t win really, however jigsaws are definitely good therapy.

      Enjoy the rest of your week.

Written by Yvonne