gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,

Women's History Month: Glenda Larke

Glenda is one of several friends who said "I really shouldn't be writing a post for you - I'm not interesting enough." Yet Glenda works in rainforest conservation and writes top-notch fantasy novels. I found her view of herself rather astonishing at first and then I realised it's why we need Women's History Month. We need to be able to see women like Glenda, to appreciate their lives and their work, even if they themselves think "Pfft, I'm just ordinary." If you want a bio (to prove that Glenda would have to work very hard to be uninteresting, you can find one here. In a perfect world, we'd all appreciate our own personalities and lives and talents, but in this imperfect world, at least we can appreciate the personalities lives and talents of other women.

I’m here under false pretences. Gillian wants blog posts from interesting women and I don’t think I am. Well, I shan’t dispute the “woman” part; it’s the “interesting” I have an issue with. I spend most of my days sitting in front of a computer, hardly a world-shaking existence. But I suppose I have led an unusual life. I blame my childhood and a love of reading for that.

I was brought up on a farm without playmates, pre-TV. (Pre-plastic of any kind, if you can imagine that…) So I lived in books and in my imagination. Part of my pre-teen reading was a stack of tattered National Geographics – all in black-and-white with the index on the cover instead of a photo. They were piled up in the wooden wash-house on the other side of the back lawn, just the place for a quiet read when there were chores to be done. Talk about telling a farm kid there were places to go and things to do that didn’t involve housework…

At nineteen, I stuffed all the money I had (money earned from making beds and cleaning loos in a holiday hostel on an island) in my pocket (no ATMs or credit cards back then), and headed off to New Zealand for a three month hitch-hiking holiday. Alone. Geez, it’s a wonder my mother didn’t have a heart attack. I came home unscathed, but with the certain knowledge that I wanted to see more of the world.

As a child, entertainment was scarce – no TV, films, dance lessons, records. Nothing but books. Many of these had the pages out of sequence, or printed upside down. (My aunt worked at a printers, and we were given all the books they messed up.) If I ran out of reading matter, then there was my imagination. And that was where the making up stories came from, along with the certain knowledge that one day I would be a writer of fiction.

And then I married. A foreigner, a Muslim, a scientist, an Asian – all the things I wasn’t. (Talk about exposing a wannabe fantasy novelist to the scaffolding needed for world-building! I couldn’t have done anything better.)

Does that make me an interesting person? No, I don’t think so. But it certainly gave me an opportunity to see interesting places and meet people vastly different to myself.

I’ve done interesting things, or more often had interesting things happen to me. I’ve climbed mountains, skin-dived with seals and penguins, been followed by a wild tiger, been chased by irate wasps through a mangrove swamp, been surrounded by an Australian bushfire, camped on the beach of a uninhabited tropical island, been on a fishing boat in the Malacca Straits that promptly started sinking as we left the coast behind, ceremonially slipped the engagement ring on the finger of a young woman, been attacked by a skua with the wingspan of a roc, watched the sunrise from the top of Kinabalu, seen the midnight sun from my tent, killed a cobra in my house, sat next to prime ministers, seen with my own eyes a revolution play out in the streets of a city while a cabinet minister took us out to dinner and pretended nothing was wrong, chatted to a queen, tramped the Headhunters’ Trail in Borneo and the Arctic taiga and the Hungarian steppes, watched the sea birds twist and turn on a far-off tropical atoll in the middle of the South China Sea…

Does any of that make me an interesting person? No, I don’t think so. In fact, it might well make me a crashing bore who talks too much…

But it does make me a lucky person. And oh, what a store of interesting memories I have to draw on - and mangle - for my fiction.

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