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Sue Clemson

New Year's Eve 2009 was the beginning of a huge challenge for Sue Clemson - one that would send less patient beings running for the hills. The head of music at Gilberd School, Colchester, constructed the largest commercially available puzzle, a 24,000-piece, 15ft by 5ft creation titled 'Life' on her living room floor. She is believed to be one of only three people in the UK to complete it.

So you're not perplexed by puzzles ...

"No, ever since I was a child, I have loved the problem-solving aspect of puzzles. I find them fascinating, especially hard ones like photo mosaics. I also love a challenge."

But the biggest one in the world?

"It was a present from my husband, Don. He said it was to give me a break from lesson plans. It became addictive, and a dozen pieces put together in an evening was an achievement."

Husband: help or hindrance?

"Don was actually a great help to me, and it enabled us to spend a lot of quality time together. He became as interested in it as I was, and I would have to stop him from putting much of it together without me! My two teenage sons occasionally helped, but got frustrated more quickly."

Were your students interested?

"I have a Year 9 tutor group who I kept updated about it. They didn't believe me when I told them how big it was - when one of the edges was finished, I had to take a photo to convince them. I've taken some photos of the finished piece for them, and I'm pretty sure they will be impressed."

Ever tempted to pack it all in?

Never. I found it so relaxing, despite being paranoid about losing a piece. It helped me to chill out at the end of a long day at school. Plus, I wanted to see it completed. As well as a challenge, it is a beautiful image that has brought colour to our home. I'll miss it when we have to pack it away."

Have you shown it off much?

"The completion of the puzzle coincided with my 50th birthday in early July, so I held a barbeque to let everyone see it. By this time, it had become a talking point between anyone who came into the house, including my sons' friends. Everybody really liked it, but they were also nervous about going too near in case it got damaged!"

What's next for your living room floor?

"Once we have taken the puzzle apart, we will just enjoy the space. Our furniture can go back to its original place, and my sons can walk across the living room floor again. But if a bigger puzzle came out, I would love to try it. A 30,000-piece would be a great challenge. But for now at least, it's back to lesson plans."

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