File picture: Pixabay

Marske-by-the-Sea - His long-suffering wife must think he’s a few pieces short of the full jigsaw.

For Ken Robinson has spent more time tackling this enormous 34 000-piece puzzle than with her.

The 74-year-old grandfather shut himself away for up to four hours a day over the past two years as he painstakingly slotted together the pieces to finish the complicated jungle scene, which measures 18ft 6in (5.5 metres) by just over 5ft (1 metre).

And he admits his obsession to complete what the box boasted was ‘the puzzle with the greatest number of pieces in the world’ almost wrecked his marriage to Christine, 71. The retired lorry driver, who has an entire room of his bungalow in Marske-by-the-Sea, near Middlesbrough, devoted to his hobby, confessed on Thursday: "I nearly got divorced because of the time I spent on it."

"I would disappear upstairs at 9pm when there’s nothing on telly and still be there at 1am. The time just goes. I’ve been told off quite a few times by my wife. I definitely need to take her out for a posh meal now to make up for it."

Mrs Robinson did not seem too upset. "There was one good thing – it meant I could watch whatever I wanted on television," she said.

Mr Robinson divided the jigsaw into a dozen sections, each containing about 3,000 pieces and on its own board, so he could move the puzzle around and work on one area at a time.

He said: "When I did the first 3 000 I thought 'I’m going to be here a lifetime' – so I increased the time I spent on it. It was very satisfying to put the last piece in." His puzzle room is covered in jigsaws. Until he tackled the jungle scene, the biggest was 18 000 pieces. He guards them to avoid losing any of the contents.

"I’ve found the odd piece on the stairs before," he said.

Now the 34 000-piece jigsaw, made by Educa and retailing at around £250 (about R4000), is complete, he has no room for it – the scene is too big to put up in his home.

He hopes to find a suitable place to display it, preferably to raise money for charity.

‘I’ve got nowhere but as it’s on boards, it can be moved,’ he said.

However, the bad news – for Mrs Robinson at least – is that Educa has now produced an even bigger jigsaw – a 42 000-piece city scene that costs over £300 (nearly R5000).