“I’m Kate Howarth and I’m going to be reading from a work in progress, a sequel to Ten Hail Marys titled Pray For Us Sinners
Chapter 2 A Pity about the Dress
Here I was on Bondi Beach with no idea how I got there. Perhaps I’d been subconsciously drawn to the idea of walking into the sea, like Harold Holt, and disappearing without a trace.
As I stepped from the kerb two young men were walking toward me on the pedestrian crossing. One smiled shyly and whispered something to the other. His mate looked me up and down.
‘Yeah, but it’s a pity about the dress,’ he said, with a chuckle.
His friend looked embarrassed but said nothing.
This seemed an odd statement to make. I was wearing what I thought was a nice dress. I’d made it myself and it fitted perfectly.
A short time later two girls, about my age, walked past. They too looked me up and down, before giggling behind their hands. They were wearing mini-skirts, whereas my dress well and truly covered my knees. Suddenly I saw the joke. Having lived in the western suburbs most of my life, and in almost total isolation for the past two years, I was way out of touch with the fashion trends in the more ‘with it’, cosmopolitan, eastern beaches. Suddenly I felt alien to everything around me, as if I’d stepped from the bus into another time zone. If the bus driver and the boy on the crossing hadn’t spoken English, perhaps I could be on another planet.
The aroma from the cafés along the beachfront at Bondi reminded me that I hadn’t eaten since lunchtime the day before. A blackboard menu at the front of Enid’s Café caught my eye. Tea and raisin toast for $1.00. As I waited for my order to arrive I picked up the newspaper left by a previous customer. The Sydney Morning Herald job vacant advertisements took up pages and pages. I wasn’t even qualified to take a clerical job. I didn’t type 45 wpm, and couldn’t present the Intermediate Certificate, both of which seemed to be minimum requirements.
That night I slept in a hotel on the beachfront. The single bed, which sagged in the middle, was as comfortable as a collapsed banana chair. With that and drunks stumbling up and down the stairs all night, I hardly got a wink of sleep. The next morning I was up early so I had time to adjust the hem of my skirt. Even if I felt like Little Dorrit, I didn’t have to look like a Dickensian tragedy.”
ABOUT KATE HOWARTH:
Kate Howarth is an emerging writer. Her first book Ten Hail Marys (UQP, 2010) is a frank, funny and incredibly moving Australian memoir of hope and survival. Shortlisted for the David Unaipon Award 2008, Ten Hail Marys went on to win The Age Non-fiction book of the year 2010 and was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, for Indigenous Writers 2010. Kate lives in Ettalong and is currently working on the sequel, Pray for Us Sinners.
“Relaxing in the serene comfort of Varuna’s library ‘yarning-up’ with Shirley Walker, Janet Hutchison, Peter Bishop and Carol Major was, for me, a dream becoming a reality. Returning in 2012 and looking forward to more Varuna Dreaming.” Kate Howarth
(NB. Kate Howarth will be Writer-in-Residence at Varuna in October 2012.)
Ten Hail Marys, UQP, 2010