Living Alone IV

One of the things that happens when you go through the process of leaving home and moving elsewhere is that you do lose people along the way. Especially when you’ve done what I’ve done.

You see, I’ve moved from St Kilda West to St Kilda. Melburnians will understand the implications, but I’ll explain for others. St Kilda West these days is a privileged, over-priced little pocket of real estate, populated by IT professionals who like their neighbourhood clean. They fancy the idea of being near St Kilda, but they never actually go there. I don’t think I’d been to St Kilda myself for about 10 years and I’d consider myself less scrupulous than some.

St Kilda is hookers, druggies, mad people, English backpackers, people who think they are writers though they’ve never written anything. If a St Kilda West person were to contemplate a trip to Acland St, he’d first discuss the possibility of shots with his doctor.

Clarissa’s just not having it. She’s a St Kilda West girl through and through. She will step onto the city side of Fitzroy St but no further. So, well, she’s staying with a friend in West St Kilda who used to put her up years ago. She won’t even come up here for a g&t – ‘do you have a garden?’ she asked dubiously. Well, no, I have pot plants. That’s what happens when you live in an apartment.

So my relationship with Clarissa is strained to say the least at the moment; I haven’t seen her since I moved, and I can’t see things getting better. We’ll see. I’m going to meet her for coffee on the right side of Fitzroy St tomorrow and I will report.

Clarissa gets an email address.

‘What do you mean, he wrote to you?’. It was true. Greg Champion had sent me an email after this post appeared. I didn’t tell her he thought it was funny….

Clarissa stirred her G&T in a manner which could only be described as narky. ‘I’m the one who’s going to write him his best songs this year. I’m the one who’s organising you to knit socks for him. Unless -‘ She looked at me suspiciously. ‘Unless he likes you more than me.’

‘Clarissa -‘ This was really getting ridiculous and I could see it had to be nipped in the bud before this whole Greg Champion thing started coming between us. ‘Clarissa, I don’t even know Greg Champion. We spoke for about 90 seconds after one of his shows. If he were sitting right here at this table I shouldn’t think he would recognise me. I’m sure if he wanted to develop a relationship with a dressmaker’s dummy you’d be the one. But does he? Personally I doubt it.’

We were both quiet as we contemplated the possibility for a bit. ‘And even if he did, what about your work at NASA? What about Neil? And Fevola?’ I still didn’t believe she’d dropped him altogether. In fact she looked rather shifty as I mentioned him. ‘How on earth can you manage all that at once?’

I finished off my G&T. ‘Look, Clarissa, I’ve decided there is only one way to settle this. I’ve set up an email address for you and I’m letting Greg know about it. Either he emails you or he doesn’t. Just don’t blame me if the outcome isn’t what you wanted.’ She looked SO excited, I started feeling bad as I’m sure no good is going to come of this. Still….’Now write this down:

and -‘ Just then her phone rang. Some problem at NASA. Is the red button for on or off? Nobody can ever remember…I left her to it as I took our empty glasses inside.

Clarissa perseveres.

I knew that humans are creatures of habit, we love routine, but I didn’t realise that Clarissa was of that nature too.

She came around on Monday and I suggested going out for a change. ‘But of course we can’t go out’ she retorted. ‘It’s Monday. It’s looking-at-the-new-yarn-you-bought-last-week day’. Of course I’d been trying to avoid this. Two weeks in a row now and no new yarn. I’d thought about getting some out that Clarissa didn’t know I’d bought. It was months ago while she was cruising with Nicole K. But she would have known what I was up to….Clarissa always likes to open the packages herself.

I went to speak, but she said it for me…’You haven’t bought any yarn again, have you? Two weeks in a row now’. I don’t see why I should feel guilty about it, but the fact is she knows something’s up.

Clarissa’s been reading Shakespeare. She’s decided it will help her understand astronauts better. Give her more human management skills: it’s her job, after all. I don’t know if this is more flattering to the astronauts or to Shakespeare. She wagged her finger at me (well, she would have if….) and said ‘In the end, the truth will out’. Oh dear. She’s cast me in the middle of The Merchant of Venice….I think I’d rather be in All’s Well that Ends Well….

Clarissa give me the third degree.

‘So what yarn did you get this week?’ She had the day off from NASA so we were taking an early repast in the garden. Olives washed down with martinis.

‘Not a thing’ was my reply.

She considered that thoughtfully. Since I took up knitting a few years ago not a week had gone by without one purchase or another. An interrogation ensued.

‘Sick?’ ‘No’
‘Away for Easter?’ ‘No’
‘No sales on?’ ‘No’
‘Credit card exhausted?’ ‘Look,’ I said. ‘Can’t a girl just not buy yarn for a week?’.

‘Well, yes,’ she replied. ‘But you can’t’. She fixed her eye on me. To be honest I couldn’t hold her stare. ‘There’s something going on here and I will find out what it is’.

How does a dressmaker’s dummy, whether or not she is NASA’s most important employee, see right through a person? It’s plain mystifying.

Contrary Clarissa

One thing strikes me about Clarissa at the moment. I have no idea where her head’s at (so to speak). She’s just all over the place. One moment it’s fighting for Somalia, the next moment it’s crocheted bicycle covers. I’d say it was hormones if…you know….

We went to the Brunswick music festival the other week and now she’s asked me to knit her a pair of socks. I looked rather dubious but she said ‘Oh, they aren’t for me’ (that was not a great surprise since she doesn’t have any feet). ‘They’re for Greg’. She simpered. Honestly, simpered. There is no other word for it. We’d been to see Greg Champion, you see, and Clarissa has been giggling ever since.

I figured she needed a reality check. ‘Clarissa’ I said,

(a) Greg has a beautiful girlfriend, have you thought about that? You saw her that night.
(b) He is tall. You know what they say about tall men. Big feet. NOBODY knits socks for men with big feet, let along for men as a favour to somebody else.
(c) What about Fevola? You can’t be carrying a candle for Fevola one day and fancy Greg Champion the next. Get some consistency, girl.’

As usual she had an answer for everything.

(a) She may be a beautiful girlfriend, but can she write? I’m going to send Greg some songs for him to play on Sat morning. They’ll be the funniest, cleverest songs he has ever received. They will make him fall in love with me.
(b) His feet aren’t that big, really, he has quite refined feet for a man of his size. AND you are a fast knitter, are you not? She stared at me. Daring me to disagree, I suppose.

She muttered something about not liking how Fevola had played on Saturday. It’s all very well, she said, to get those goals at the end when they are desperately needed – she was talking about the game against Brisbane – but if he’d gotten them earlier on they wouldn’t have been desperately needed, would they? It was logic hard to argue with. But was it enough to make a girl turn from Fevola to Champion??? I feel like there is more going on here than I’ve been told about….I’ll let you know if I uncover what the real story is.

Clarissa surfs the Net.

Clarissa is thoroughly mollified since Sonia has written in to confirm that she is indeed real. But now that she’s found out how to use the internet she’s been surfing about to find references to herself – as you do.

‘Can you believe this?’ she said to me as I was cutting the lemon slices for the drinks. ‘Somebody wrote a post about me called Meet Clarissa, HAL’s better half.’ She’d printed it out for me to look at. ‘Hah’, she snorted. ‘Better half. More like better three-quarters – and then some, wouldn’t you say?’. Well, I would have, but she pushed right on.

‘Not to mention he was just a character in a movie. It’s hardly the same thing at all.’ She sipped at her G&T and continued. ‘As for that Stanley Kubrick….well, you know I went on that cruise with NK [You can read about that here]….she was telling me -‘ I’m sworn to secrecy, sorry, so I have to cut it off right there.

Clarissa dons an apron.

I could tell as soon as she came in today that she’d found out. I bustled her out to the garden, made the G&Ts on the strong side and waited for the outburst.

You see, somebody named Al wrote in the other day and intimated that Clarissa, much as he loves her, is a figment of my imagination. I thought about deleting the comment there and then, but let it go and hoped Clarissa wouldn’t get wind of it. It turns out one of the astronauts’ wives reads the blog and told her.

‘What does he mean?’, she said,

I’m glad to see….your imagination continues to run riot.

‘Without me there wouldn’t a spaceship up there which didn’t come back to earth by falling down’. She handed me her empty glass. ‘I’ll have another one of those and while you’re making it, listen to this. The Space Station is changing crews at the moment. So, 3 o’clock this morning I get a call. It’s Michael Barratt . Guess what he wanted?’

I passed Clarissa over her drink. She didn’t really want me to answer. ‘They are cooking pancakes. They want to know if they have to flip them downwards on account of being Up There. Honestly. That’s what I have to put up with. So I say to him, “Michael. You are up there with the Bodies in the Space Environment experiment studying the effect of gravity on you humans and you can’t even figure out its impact on a pancake. Get a grip lad. I’m going back to bed.”‘

I went to speak, but Clarissa hadn’t finished yet. ‘I’m going to ask for a payrise. It’s one think keeping the darn things up there, but cooking lessons too. It’s way beyond the call of duty don’t you think?’.

Clarissa goes shopping.

‘What do you mean, you went to Sunspun with Sonia?’. Sonia’s my friend, you see. I found it rather unlikely that she asked Clarissa to go to Sunspun with her and not me. As the story unfolded it was like science fiction.

You won’t believe this….I still don’t quite believe it myself. Clarissa has managed to get a shopping trip to a yarn shop financed by NASA.

‘You know the astronauts are always getting me to fix up their Foxtel reception -‘. An interruption while we took our G&T inside today….I live right next to where the Grand Prix is held. Very noisy. ‘Well, I started thinking that they needed something else to do. I’ve been reading that book you gave me about the history of knitting and when I got to the part about sailors knitting to fill in the long voyages – it was so obvious! Of course that’s what astronauts should do too.’

Before you can say ‘Dr Who’ Clarissa had organised a meeting with various honchos at NASA: Toni of Human Capital Management, Brenda from Diversity and Equal Opportunity, Joyce in Education….the list went on.

Clarissa is no dummy, that’s for sure. ‘They are all women’, I couldn’t help observing as she rattled off her list of names. ‘It wouldn’t be that they all knit, would it?’ ‘I wouldn’t know about that’, she said with a shifty look in her eye.

It turns out that NASA has been given a lot of money as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Apparently there is a website called which accounts for every penny spent by NASA from the money it has been given. Presumably there will be a section on knitting there in the foreseeable future.

Well, I was sitting there feeling pretty left out of things. Frankly I was regretting saying to Sonia that I’d give her my last jar of tomato chutney. When all of a sudden Clarissa put something in my hands with a ‘Oh, and this is for you’. It was a present! I opened it up and it was 7 balls of Rowan Cocoon. ‘Why Cocoon?’ I asked, wondering if she knew it was one of my favourites at the moment. ‘It reminded me,’ she said, ‘of that documentary that won an Oscar a while back – remember Cocoon? As it happens I’ve been to the planet Anterea. Lovely, the Antereans. Really nice. So I thought….’ Now I feel awful. Sonia was under strict instructions not to tell me what was happening so the present would be a surprise, of course. Okay, Sonia, you can have the chutney after all, if you read this!

Clarissa’s brush with the dark side.

I cannot begin to tell you how worried I am about Clarissa. She came over the other day dressed like this:

Clarissa in army gear
Clarissa in army gear

I went to make her usual gin and tonic, but she said she’d prefer Somalian Tea
Obviously it is some reaction to that terrible hostage situation where she was taken by Somalian pirates. Click here for the details. I’ve started wondering if she is suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

And while I was in the kitchen grating the fresh nutmeg with which Somalian Tea apparently has to be made, she hopped on the internet in my computer room. When I came in she hurriedly closed the screen she was on, but later on, after she’d gone, I followed her tracks. She’d googled Somalian Liberation Army and – try it if you like – you are truly on the dark side within a link of there.

What IS she thinking? Of absconding back to Somalia??? Of joining her captors? What about all that money Obama paid to set her free? TAXPAYERS’ money, I might add.

There must be hope for her yet. Notice the head gear in the picture. She should be wearing a military beret, but even in her unbalanced state of mind, a smart felt hat was as close to a beret as she could bear to get.

I’m tempted to call Neil. Perhaps he can get her out of this fug she’s in.

Clarissa takes up bicycle riding

Clarissa has bought a bicycle. I can’t believe it. Well, actually, I have to admit I AM jealous. I can’t ride a bicycle myself, and the idea that even Clarissa can do it – well, what can I say….

It all started with this site: Copenhagen Cycle Chic

Clarissa and I had always assumed that in order to ride a bike you had to dress in completely gross clothing and wear shoes that were impossible to walk in. You had to look like this:

Shot by Denise Young, NZ.
Shot by Denise Young, NZ.

But in fact it turns out that this is a bit of a crock – bike riding is only like that if you believe the advertising. The idea that riding a bike is all about buying the right STUFF – that’s what marketing wants to sell you.

In Copenhagen, it transpires, riding a bike is about style and serenity. It is about quality of life. It transpires that riding a bicycle can be chic.

Copenhagen Cycle Chic
Copenhagen Cycle Chic

It almost makes me want to learn. The only trouble is that Copenhagen is obviously a city which views the bicycle as culturally, aesthetically, environmentally important. As Melbourne does not, one could never hope to emulate the quality of life. Bicycles in Melbourne are squashed into a transport system based on cars. They are not valued, they are just barely tolerated.

How different is Copenhagen:

…the bicycle [is] an integral part of life in the Danish capital….Copenhageners have demystified the bicycle and use it without any form of bicycle ‘gear’. Just as the bicycle was meant to be ridden when invented.

Chic yes. Cute too:



Copenhagen Cycle Chic….Copenhagen Cycle Cute.

I guess there are probably knitted versions out there. The patterns for these can be found here.