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:

ClarissaatNASA@yahoo.com

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 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 needs a break.

I’ve scarcely seen Clarissa over the last couple of weeks and yesterday when she dropped in she was exhausted. We were sitting in the garden having a martini and she was drinking hers out of a straw. Forget picking up the glass, she couldn’t even drag the olive out. That tired.

It’s all the trouble they are having at the space station. ‘If it isn’t one thing it’s another’ she said to me. ‘First Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper loses her tool box.’ ‘Well,’ – Clarissa is relaying to me what she said to Heide – ‘I said to her “If you’ve looked in all the obvious places, look in the silly spots. Could you have put it in your undies drawer? Or in the freezer?”‘

Clarissa shook her head. ‘How can you just lose a $100,000 tool box? She thinks she dropped it while she was out walking….they call it space walk. More like spaced-out if you ask me’.

I passed Clarissa her olive and she munched for a bit before continuing. ‘Next up there’s a problem with the solar panelling and now the equipment they are using to turn their pee into drinking water isn’t working either.’ She shook her head. ‘At this rate, I’ll just have to head up there myself to sort things out.’

Now she glared at me. ‘Trouble is, I’ve been invited to another tupperware party and I really don’t want to miss this one.’ Oh dear. She’s never going to forgive me for what happened last time. Especially since she found out there really was a stripper…

Clarissa gets an invitation.

Clarissa is so excited. She’s been invited to a Tupperware Party and she’s never been to one before. She’s going to get a cheese holder, and a baking tray, and a plastic Breville Whiz and -. She thinks there is going to be a stripper. I keep trying to tell her that the girl who is holding it is married and her husband would not appreciate strange men disrobing in his house. She doesn’t believe it for one moment. Apparently all the Tupperware parties she’s heard of have had strippers. Must be a raunchy lot, those astronauts’ wives.

Anyway, there is worse news to come for Clarissa. She was relying on me for a lift but I can’t go. I haven’t told her yet – I think I have to get a couple of G&Ts into her first. Even then – well, I’m a bit put out just thinking about how she’ll feel, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Maybe if I finish the hat she’s been at me to knit her that would soften the blow. If only she wasn’t SO excited about it.

Clarissa and the world economic downturn.

I’m worried about Clarissa. She’s been watching all those TV Presidential debates, anxiously hoping for some word that the space program won’t be jeopardised by all this money ‘…they are both just giving away’ – ‘Giving away’ she keeps saying. The fact is, she is worried she is going to lose her job.

‘Yes, I am the only indispensable one at NASA, but you don’t know how things are’, she says darkly. ‘There are jealousies, power struggles, there is talk of my being replaced by some sort of software’. We were sitting outside. Clarissa positively gulped down the double gin and ‘easy on the tonic’ I’d made her. She sighed. ‘The enemies I have made….ever since I became Neil’s confidant. You just don’t know how difficult it is for me’.

‘Anyway’, she said, pulling herself out of the fug she’d gotten into. ‘I hear you’ve started knitting hats. I was thinking a little something in some sort of royal blue, maybe that silk you’ve got stashed away. It’s to go with that skirt of your’s I’ve been wearing. What do you think? It would be just the thing, wouldn’t it?’

‘Gee, is that the time?’ she said before I even opened my mouth in reply. ‘Got to go, but I’ll drop around on Saturday to pick it up.’

Clarissa confronts the inconceivable.

Clarissa and I were in Albury on the weekend, checking out the movies in our hotel when we came upon Red Planet.

At the point Clarissa and I started following the movie the astronauts were in deep trouble, not least because Amee, the artifical intelligence machine that is supposed to help them goes feral. Amee decides to kill the astronauts, all three who are left.

Clarissa was clearly profoundly shocked by what she saw. Yes, I thought. The servant turning on the masters is disturbing to observe. But it wasn’t quite how she saw it. ‘How could she? She’s their superior in every way. She has the intelligence and the strength of all the astronauts put together. For her to attack them – well, it’s like a human being putting mice in a container and then taking pot shots at them with a rifle. How could she?’

At any rate, the movie certainly had me a bit rattled. In future I’ll be thinking more carefully before getting into a full-blown argument with Clarissa….even if she thinks that’s something she’d never do….

Clarissa is only human. Practically.

I get sick of that thing Clarissa does: ‘You humans…’ she’ll start off. Anybody would think she comes from a far, far away galaxy where the beings have brains so big they need two heads for them.

But in fact, she is practically as human as you or me. Her niece did a family tree recently. Clarissa may behave like an astronaut, but according to her family tree she is a dress-makers’ model, begat from a long line of dress-makers’ models. It turns out her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother was Marie Antoinette’s clothes model. In fact she caused a bit of a contretemps during the French Revolution. They beheaded Marie, as is well known….but what to do with the dummy? It had no head, after all. After much dispute it was finally agreed that the dummy could go free – a decision without which Clarissa would not be here. Robespierre and his mates have a lot to answer for.

Clarissa, an astronaut and Foxtel

Clarissa was grumpy. ‘Honestly’, she began as she stirred her G&T viciously. ‘Clayton Anderson – he’s a flight engineer – rings me up to ask me how to fix their Foxtel. They’re on the International Space Station and apparently they can only get Dancing with the Stars in Russian. They’ve rung the Foxtel Help Line, but they keep being queued. So I say to him, “Welcome to the real world matey, queuing is just what happens when you ring Foxtel” -‘

I had to interrupt there. ‘Yes, but Clarissa, they AREN’T in the real world, are they? Not really. They are 350 kms away from Earth.’ ‘Well,’ she sniffed, ‘Be that as it may, it is not in my job description to sort out astronauts’ TV reception problems. I’m there to tell them how the rocket works – and God knows they need enough help with that.’

She took a sip of her gin. ‘Anyway,’ she said changing the subject. ‘How are you getting along with that Jo Sharp Lace Panel Sweater? I’ve got a skirt I think it will look rather nice with, so I’m looking forward to borrowing it’.

Clarissa and I go to the football

Of course we went to the game last weekend – the Saints versus the Pies, that is. I had my bag checked by security. He didn’t look far and then waved me on with ‘Ah, Sudoku. Good girl’. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or nervous. Is it really true? That terrorists don’t do Sudoku?

When Collingwood kicked a goal in the first quarter the bloke next to Clarissa yelled ‘Goddard, you’re hopeless’ to the St Kilda defender. ‘How interesting’, Clarissa noted, ‘That it is more important to insult the opponents than to cheer your own team’. She loves to make superior sociological observations.

But in fact she was in there with the best of them. When St Kilda’s Delsanto missed a sitter early on, Pies’ supporters’ call of ‘Ya mug, Delsanto’ went up all around us. ‘Yes’, jeered Clarissa. ‘Deary me, Nick. One suspects that you couldn’t steer a small service rocket through a black hole without checking the lag coefficient of the Lagrangian coordinates first.’ Apparently, if you move in the right circles, that is a rather amusing insult. But I can’t say there were any astronauts around at the time.

Clarissa and the Carlton boy

‘I had a dream last night’. I was having a G&T, but Clarissa was on call – expecting some astronaut to ring up – so she was having a weaker-than-usual martini. It was the extra olive that made it weaker.

Clarissa stirred and then continued ‘I was with Brendon Fevola. We were playing a game of chess -‘. I had to break in there. ‘Clarissa. You aren’t seriously telling me that. Don’t tell me that was the best you could come up with for something to do with Fevola’. For those of you who might not know, Brendon is an ace footballer and well, girls like him.

Brendon Fevola warming up for a game of chess.
Brendon Fevola warming up for a game of chess.

‘I like chess. And he’s a good player’, said Clarissa, indignantly. ‘Not that he was ever winning. Until…’ – and did I see Clarissa smirk now? – ‘…I didn’t notice that he could mate me. I don’t know how I could have missed it…’ Well, Clarissa. I think I do.