Dedicated volunteer Michael Barry has the most tedious job in Britain – checking charity shop jigsaw puzzles for missing pieces.
Retired builder Michael spends hours every day assembling donated jigsaws to ensure they can be completed by whoever buys them.
Over the last two years he has made over 300 puzzles – some with up to 2,000 pieces – and rejected 147 for having missing pieces.
The pensioner takes huge pride in ensuring customers are not disappointed – despite most of the puzzles selling for just a few pounds.
Widower Michael, of Bath, Somerset, said: “I like to do my bit for charity and it’s the only thing I can do. It’s my passion.
“I don’t watch much television, I just sit and do puzzles. It’s very peaceful. I do it all for fun.”
Michael volunteered for the role two years ago when a new charity shop, Help Us Give Support, opened in his home city.
The shop – known as ‘HUGS’ – donates all its profits to the Forever Friends Appeal, which fundraises for the Royal United Hospital in Bath.
Michael thought it was the perfect job after being a keen fan of puzzles for 40 years.
He now completes puzzles containing anything from 100 to 2,000 pieces, spending around six hours every day stooped over his table.
After losing his wife, Rosemary, 10 years ago he has thrown himself completely into the role.
He said: “Sometimes I can stay up until one in the morning.
“I have my dinner and then I get the puzzle out, sometimes I sit for hours and only place two pieces.
“What can you say about puzzles? It’s challenging. It keeps the mind ticking over. You can get really difficult ones.
“I have about 16 to do at the moment and that will take about a year.”
Surprisingly, Michael doesn’t find it frustrating when there is only one piece missing and he has to throw the other 999 pieces away.
“You can’t sell them with a piece missing,” he said.
“I had one the other day and it just had the corner piece missing. It’s not fair if you buy it and can’t complete it.
“Some charity shops say ‘sold as seen’ but if you buy it, you should be able to finish it.”
Michael’s wife Rosemary died 10 years ago, leaving him free to dedicate his time to the shop, which sells a 2,000 word puzzle for just #4.
“My wife hated them,” he said. “she couldn’t stand them. She would go off somewhere else. She wouldn’t help at all.”
Local people have applauded his public spirit.
His neighbour Glenna Gillingham said: “Mike is an amazing character. He is very well known in the area, and is an absolutely great guy.
“He spends hours in his flat doing the puzzles and he never complains. Every day he comes to the shop to pick up more puzzles. It is amazing work by one of life’s and Bath’s true gems.
“The money the shop raises for the RUH is vital to the welfare of all Bathonians, “she added.”