What I Did On My Holiday : perils, pitfalls and Pratchett

Eton_Schoolboys,_in_ad_Montem_dress,_by_Francis_AlleyneThis is the time of year when school children up and down the land are required to produce an essay, project or even, God help us, art homework on the subject of What I Did On My Holiday.

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.
Except once.

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.

I’d devoured them in two or three days. But after that I read them again, more slowly. More important, I adapted key elements to play stories of my own devising.

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.

No. I’d spent the best bit of my Christmas holiday in Sherwood Forest righting wrongs, bossing outlaws about and helping the poor. And that’s what I read out to the class.

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

It went down surprisingly well with the rest of the class. The girls liked the hidden camp in the forest. The boys liked the swords and bows and arrows. Everyone liked the Cunning Ambush.

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.

romantic series extended familyIn 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.

And Speaking of Something to Read… Take a Bargain break in Little Piddling

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Sophie Weston Author


8 thoughts on “What I Did On My Holiday : perils, pitfalls and Pratchett

  1. Joanna

    Loved the story, Sophie, which made me laugh. Down with the Thought Police, I say.

    And an apology to readers not in UK or US. Sadly the bargain offer on Beach Hut Surprise isn’t available except in UK and US. Maybe, one day, Amazon will extend the Countdown Deal feature to other markets. We live in hope.

  2. Elizabeth Bailey

    I love that luggage! It’s my favourite bit of Rincewind tales. The geriatric heroes are a delight too. I confess I am more a fan of the guard tales, but anything Pratchett is a gift to the reading elbow.
    I would have loved your story in that class. Down with the Thought Police indeed. They don’t get the value of daydreaming either!

    1. Sophie Post author

      I really love the Luggage. Especially when he meets his soul mate. Very funny and also rather touching.

  3. lesley2cats

    I haven’t read enough Pratchett. I shall have to invest in more, as your Adventures in Sherwood are no longer available.

    1. Sophie Post author

      After the Virus we’ll do New Adventures in Sherwood in a playground-substitute somewhere, Lesley!

  4. Liz Fielding

    I so loved this post, Sophie. Brought back fond memories of imaginary swords, capes and horses in playground games. Surprised at teacher. I’d have thought she would have welcomed the entertainment after the usual round of desperate offerings. Thankfully she did not crush your imagination.

    1. Sophie Post author

      Looking back, I think she was a tired and dispirited woman who was bullied a lot, especially by the Headmistress, a fearsome woman with scarlet nails and snappy, mean little eyes who terrorised all the parents as well as her staff.

      I think she was probably trying to fulfil her brief according the Headmistress and probably wasn’t long off retirement. Compared with the teachers I’ve known since, including my own generation and subsequent, I wouldn’t say she was ever a natural teacher, either.

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