The Cat Curls Up
And a very good afternoon to you. You catch me looking at a catalogue of old chairs – nothing I would sell in my store, but from an aesthetics viewpoint it reminds me of some of the – things we used to think were fashionable.
Take this one for example – the infamous box seat, so popular in the early seventies for the style conscious and space conscious young person about town. Actually, the only thing they really turned out to be good for was walking into or falling off.
There was a flat I visited in the Knightsbridge area in the mid seventies, when Habitat, god rest their soul, were just starting out and making this sort of thing popular. I had thought it was empty, but after raiding the bedrooms I discovered the error of my ways – walking into the main room, I disturbed this eighteen year old girl, wearing a short sleeved white crotched top, pale blue mini skirt, white knee length socks and flat shoes, sitting on one of these box contraptions and staring at me.
Naturally, I had to reassure you she was in no danger, but that I would have to take steps to ensure she did not raise the alarm – and therein lay the dilemma. The only seats in this damn flat were these box ones – and the floor was wooden. It was a warm day, and I did not want to inconvience her any more than I needed to. Still, I had to make sure she did not raise the alarm.
In the end, I found some washing line, and told her to sit with her band on her head while I tied her legs together below her knees. I then played the rope down, and tied her ankles tightly together, before I fed the rope down under the chair, and then crossed her wrists behind her back, before I pulled the rope and used it to tie them tightly together.
It could have been more comfortable, but the alternative would have been having her lie on her stomach across the seat and tying her wrists and ankles to the castors – not something I recommend for long periods of time. Finding a head scarf, I used it to cleave gag her, raided the house, and then made my getaway.
Yeah, I know – not the most elegant of affairs, but it was the seventies – somehow elegance had a completely different meaning then.
Take another example – Someone had the wonderful idea of effectively putting a bean bag on legs. The same structure of seat, but supported on a thin metal construct with four legs.
There was a young singer at the time called Mindy – just Mindy. This was after Glam, and before Disco was the purported king, and I guess had she been around as a signer ten years later she would have been what was called a Mall Star – singing for the young teenagers. But I digress.
The reason she comes to mind and this chair ties in happened when I broke into her home in the Chilterns, looking to see what I could find. There was a maid in residence at the time, who I regretfully had to leave in her room bound hand and foot and tape gagged, dressed casually in a white t-shirt and hot pants.
It was proving to be a most profitable evening as well – when I heard the front door open while I was searching the main room. I ducked behind the floor length curtains and watched as the light went on, and said Mindy came in, wearing a dusky pink one piece garment, like a leotard, but with a large white collar and cuffs, as well as pink tights.
She had obviously been to some sort of dance rehearsal, as she sat in one of that style of chair – a chocolate brown one, and leaned back, running her hands through her long brown hair.
Well, I had no choice really – I came out of my hiding place, walked to the chair and stood over her as she had her eyes closed, and said “Good Evening.”
She opened her eyes like a shot and would have screamed – had I not put my gloved hand over her mouth and said “Please, I’m not here to hurt you, just rob you. Now, will you be quiet?”
She nodded, and then allowed me to bind her wrists together in front of her, as well as her ankles and her legs below her knees, before I tied her wrists down to her legs.
“Where’s Elizabeth,” she said as I tied the last rope.
“Your maid? Comfortable.”
“She’s not my maid.”
I looked up at her, and said “Ah – my apologies. Would you like her to be in here with you, or you with her?”
“In here with me,” she said, so I pressed the long strip of white tape I had torn off the roll over her mouth, and then left her, carrying the said Elizabeth in and placing her in a matching chair on the other side of the room.
I presume they freed each other eventually – after they got together.
Now this one – you tend only to see this style of chair these days as part of a child’s table or play set, but yes, there was an adult version of the plastic box seat you see in this picture. Moulded in one piece, and as far as I can recall the second most uncomfortable chair in the world to sit in.
And yet style always seemed to win out – late ’75, and I was in Manchester taking care of a few things – one of which included a few nocturnal visits. One of those was to a flat owned by one of the leading designers of the time – a woman who had worked with Mary Quant, but struck out on her own.
So naturally she wanted to be seen as trend setter, and her flat was furnished in such as a way as “promote” that look. Including a low glass coffee table with four of those chairs around it.
I was dressed as I always was for work in those days – the classic black jumper, trousers, shoes and gloves, but as I stood wondering why anyone would want furniture like this, I completely missed the door opening and closing behind me, until this deep voice said “I have a gun. Please, turn round with your hands in the air.”
First rule of burglary – check for weapons, so I knew the chances were she was lying. I turned round to see her standing there, her black hair cut in a bob, wearing a black wrap round dress with white piping that was held in place by a metal clasp at her left hip, and black knee length leather boots.
“If you really have a gun,” I said smiling,”then show me it.”
She looked at me, smiled and said “All right – you got me. Who are you and what are you doing in my flat?”
“I’m a cat burglar, and – I’m a cat burglar,” I said with a smile as I walked towards her. Taking her arm, I said “and as a cat burglar, I regret to say that I must make sure you cannot raise the alarm for a while.
“Hmmm,” she said as she looked at me, “if you insist.” She then sat in one of the chairs, her legs crossed and her hand under her chin, and said “and how do you intend to stop me raising the alarm?”
For whatever reason, this was one of the rare occasions when I actually had some rope with me, so I said “with this” as I took it out of my pocket.
And then began the fun – if you look at the photo, you can see that tying someone to a chair like that is next to impossible. She, however had a set around a table – so I asked her to sit round, took her arms behind her back, and tied her wrists together with her hands palm to palm. I then took the ends of the rope down and tied them around the back legs of that chair.
Once that was done, I took a second chair and got her to put her booted legs on the seat of that one, crossing her ankles and lashing them tightly together, before taking the ends of the rope through the hole in the chair back and tying them to the rear legs of that chair.
As she squirmed around, she was kind enough to tell me where her safe was, before I pressed a strip of Elastoplast over her mouth, and left her to enjoy the rest of the evening.
I mentioned Habitat earlier – you’re probably too young to remember it, but in the 70’s they were the byword for elegance and fashionable home furnishings in London. The sort of thing that Sunday supplements lap up. By the eighties, they had become a student haven – and were even known as Shabitat until a discount store took that name.
Why am I bringing that up? 1977, and I was in a house in Morden, making my way through the rooms, seeing what I could find, when I went into the main bedroom.
Now, I like the idea of ethnic prints as much as the next man, but this was wrong. The bed, the wall behind it, and the ceiling above it, had this white and peach abomination of an attempt at an ethnic print, as did the covers over the walk-in wardrobe.
What was worse was the ‘chair’ hanging from the ceiling by a metal and leather pulley system. It was, quite literally, a slightly bent piece of plastic – and in the chair was a woman in her early thirties, wearing a short sleeved white top, a long white and peach diagonally striped skirt, and a similarly patterned large headscarf covering her hair and head.
I’m not sure who was more shocked at what sight – me at the décor, or her at me. At any rate, she asked why I was there, and I naturally replied that I was there to rob her.
She then proved herself to be one of those rare people I met in my time – she was excited by the idea of being robbed, and asked how I was going to restrain her. I held up a roll of duct tape, and she actually smiled and nodded as she stood up and walked over to me, turning with her hands behind her back.
I decided to make her comfortable, however, and asked her to put her arms by her side, before I taped them to her waist, and then her forearms to her side, and her upper arms to her body. She wriggled round slightly, before lying down at my suggestion on the bed, and I taped her ankles, calves and thighs.
Tearing off a strip of tape, I asked her to purse her lips, but she then asked if I would kiss her. A gentleman never refuses a request from a lady, so I kissed her, and then smoothed several layers of tape over her mouth, before relieving her of her valuables.
As I say, there were many things that passed for chairs – bean bags, boxes, plastic, hanging baskets or airplane seats – but the most spectacularly silly of them all? The inflatable chair.
Inflatable mattresses are bad enough, but the plastic three layer chair, with the seats, armrests and back support – man oh man were they a pain in the derriere. Once inflated, they were difficult to move, and squeaked like hell when you sat in them.
And how do I know this? Because before I became a man of wealth and taste, I had a couple of them in my home. I’ll give you a couple of minutes to laugh about that.
All done – good, because it wasn’t the funniest time I ever saw one of them. I broke into a flat in Stepney, and made my way through the bedrooms, collecting some very nice pieces of jewellery, when I noticed the light was on in the front room.
My own fault really – I should have checked the flat front and back, and I was just going to leave it, when I heard the squeak of one of those chairs, and muffled calls. My curiosity got the better of me, and I opened the door to the room.
“Htthhllru,” the leggy brunette in the inflatable chair said as she looked at me. She had her auburn hair pulled back in a ponytail, and was wearing a tight striped vest top, denim hot pants and a pair of long brown suede boots with a guard up to her knee.
That wasn’t the funny thing though. What was was the fact she was tightly bound, with ropes around her arms above and below her chest, her hands behind her back, her ankles tied together with the rope going around her feet, and her legs above and below her knees.
She also had a knotted silk scarf tied into her mouth, the knot visible between her lips.
“Having fun,” I said as she struggled, and made several muted but clearly abusive comments to me.
“Well carry on,” I said as I closed the door to the squeaks and the screams, and left her to explain to whoever did that to her what had happened
Now, I know I have been somewhat disparaging of these styles, but some were acutally not that bad. Take this one for example.
Yes I know it looks big and chunky, woth the two heavy wooden panels at each side, and the four upholstered rolls froming the seat, but they were surprisingly comfortable. Indeed, I’d almost be tempted to have one in my flat above the shop, but I do not.
One lady comes to mind with this – a housewife I met in Watford in the early eighties. The house had been empty when I entered, but I took rather too long to admire her jewels, and I walked down the stairs to see her come in.
She took off her coat, to reveal a yellow blouse and white trousers with brown shoes, and politely exquired what the hell I was doing in her house.
I equally politely replied that I was robbing her, and asked her to keep quiet. Well, she obliged, and asked what my intentions were towards her. Having reassured her all I was going to do was restrain and silence her, she nodded and we went into her front room – and there was one of these chairs.
Sitting in it, she turned and allowed me to cross and bind her wrists behind her back, and then she watched as I bound her ankles and legs, before lifting them and tucking them under her as she made herself as comfortable as possible. We sat and talked for a while after that, about art and other matters, like a normal couple – until I paced a sponge ball in her mouth, and taped it over, before I left her with a promise to call the police.
Don’t worry – I did so. Now, excuse me while I leave you sitting in that Queen Anne chair – a customer awaits me.