My family tree has exceedingly stunted branches - one boozy, Irish and Catholic, the other teetotal, English and tepidly Protestant. Childhood Christmases were therefore a muddle of Orange and Green attempts at festivity, neither of which were much fun. My worst Christmas was NOT the one at which I was served a slice of my own finger after impetuously reaching for a piece of turkey while it was being carved.
All around me my classmates propped sunburned forearms on their desks, licked their Black Beauty pencils, and scribbled happily with effortless Total Holiday Recall, while I sat paralysed by Complete Holiday Amnesia. The little I remembered was too shabby or too shameful to reveal and so I wrote accounts of purely imaginary holidays.
Holidays which didn't involve boredom, tears, divided loyalties or a father who blundered into stationery objects when he'd had too much to drink. These lying essays were probably my first formal forays into a genre which now has a respectable name: creative non-fiction.