They are supposed to have had some wonderful new experience to share with their grateful class mates. At least, I suppose that’s the idea.
Might be a bit of a damp squib this year, I’d say. For a lot of people, anyway. But for some of us it was always torture.
Not necessarily because you’d had a bad holiday, either. Just because of the impossibility of a) selection and b) giving enough context without boring the pants off your class mates. Ten-year-olds make a tough audience. I speak from experience.
What I Did on My Holiday at Christmas
At my primary school one year we got the assignment when we went back in January as well. (My mother blamed the teacher’s Christmas-through-New Year hangover. Though she didn’t tell me that until after my 21st birthday.)
Me? I’d spent my holiday reading.
Well, I loved books and that’s what people gave me for Christmas. That year, I had netted a particularly fine haul: The Scarlet Pimpernel, Robin Hood and A Little Princess, as well as assorted school and children’s adventure stories.
Robin Hood, which was a very old copy from a beloved godparent’s own shelf, turned out to be the most fruitful.
So what did I tell my class mates I’d done on my holiday?
Gone skiing? I hadn’t but others had and I could have plagiarised, if I wanted. Only it sounded cold and a bit frightening to me.
Been to the pantomime? I certainly had and I liked it, especially staying up late. But the parents’ behaviour had been embarrassing. They’d shouted “Look behind you,” a lot and giggled like maniacs. Not really for sharing.
In quite a lot of detail, actually. Well, I’d been playing it for a week at least, by then. I’d built a whole world and several new characters.
What I Did on My Holiday – Audience Response
The teacher wasn’t impressed. I’d overrun my time and I’d shown off. (She was probably right there.) Even worse, I’d used a sneery voice for the wicked baron, deliberately trying to make the other children laugh.
In her view I hadn’t written a composition about What I Did on My Holiday at all. Where was my family? I’d told lies to the class, just for fun. Lies were Wrong. I suspect she thought the same about fun, looking back.
Nobody agreed with her. I knew the difference between play stories and lies and so did my class mates. Several of them even wanted the next instalment. (We took it out into the playground, the week after, well away from the Thought Police.)
In the autumn term I was back to plugging away grimly at an evidence-based What I Did on My Holiday.
But I think that may just have been when I first realised that I really, really wanted people to enjoy my stories.
What I Did on My Holiday by Twoflower
So you will see why I hooted with laughter when I read Terry Pratchett’s Interesting Times. It’s one of his darker books, I always think, where shining good-heartedness and innocence has a really bad time at the hands of Authority. In this case, that serious tourist Twoflower has returned home to the Agatean Empire and written up his travels. What I Did on My Holiday proves thoroughly subversive and he ends in prison.
His daughter tracks him down to prison and recruits a hard crew of geriatrics and an incompetent wizard, Rincewind, to break him out. (Pratchett always has a soft spot for healthy cowardice and genuine incompetence.) Rincewind, you will remember, had inherited Twoflower’s homicidal Luggage, made of sapient pear wood and pure aggression.
As an added bonus, the defeat of one of the nastiest villains in Pratchett makes this a thoroughly satisfying tale. Well worth reading, if you’re in a mood to throw things, or kill some politician moaning about Unprecedented Times.