Mr Pussy’s Chair
Mid-afternoon in Spitalfields, Mr Pussy snoozes
Is that an old fur hat on that chair in the corner? You would be forgiven for making such a simple mistake, but in fact it is my cat, Mr Pussy, slumbering the hours away in the armchair that is his ultimate home, the place where I first laid him down as a tiny kitten and the place where he has spent more hours of his life than anywhere else – even if it has now moved over two hundred miles from one end of the country to the other. It is Mr Pussy’s chair.
My mother bought this chair in 1963. She had been married five years and had a three year old child, and she was still struggling to furnish our house. She was patient, doing without and waiting until the opportunity arose to acquire suitable things. She had very little money to spend but she wanted furniture that would last, and the passage of time has proved she chose wisely. I think she bought this chair in a sale and, although I do not know if it can truly be memory on my part, I see her searching among the cut-price furniture in the shop and filling with delight to discover this handsome Queen Anne style wingchair that was within her budget.
It was a deep green velvet then and one of my earliest memories is of standing upon the seat, safe between the wings of the chair, and reaching up vainly attempting to grasp the top. I yearned for the day when I would be tall enough to reach it, for then I should grown up beyond my feeble toddler years. The chair seemed huge to me and I could climb beneath it comfortably, much to my father’s frustration when he was sitting in it on Saturday afternoons and attempting to take note of the football results from the television, in order to complete his pools form and discover if he had become wealthy.
He never became wealthy yet he never gave up hope of winning either, sitting in this chair and filling in the football scores every Saturday, for year after year, until he died. Just a few weeks after his funeral, I bought a small black kitten for my mother as a means to ameliorate her grief and the tiny creature slept curled up in the corner of the armchair, seeking security in its wide embrace. It was his earliest nest. By now the green velvet had faded to a golden brown and the cushion has disintegrated, so that if a stranger were to visit and sit down quickly upon it they would fall right through the seat. Yet this did not matter too much to us, because we kept the chair exclusively for the use of the cat who did not weigh very much.
Eventually, to rejuvenate the chair, we had a new seat cushion made and a loose fabric cover of William Morris’ Willow Leaves pattern, which is still serviceable more than ten years later. Once my mother began to lose her faculties in her final years, I often sat her in it that she might benefit from its protection, when her balance failed her, and not fall off onto the floor as she did from chairs without wings. After she died, it became the cat’s sole preserve and it still delights me to see him there in the chair, evoking earlier days. It is almost the last piece of furniture I have from my childhood home and, although I do not choose to sit in it much myself, I keep it because I can still see my father sitting there doing his football pools or my mother perched to read the Sunday supplement.
One day, I mean to have the armchair reupholstered in its original deep green velvet but until then, by his presence, Mr Pussy keeps the chair and the memories that it carries alive. I realise that Mr Pussy is keeping the chair warm for me and I am grateful to him for this service that he offers so readily.
You may also like to read
and take a look at