My eight-year-old is designing a city. It's called SkyPad, and it is going to be in Abu Dhabi. Calvin has been at it for a month, feverishly making sketches and creating complicated blueprints. The crowning glory of SkyPad, Calvin says, will be the main square, which will be decorated with flags representing every country in the world. "Every country in the world?" my husband asked.
"Yes," said Calvin. "It's international, you see. The buildings will be covered with maps. There'll be big globes everywhere, proper light-up ones. And a model of the solar system, which I will control by remote. And it'll have the biggest airport in the world, because the only planes allowed will be Airbus A380s." Calvin has been crazy about travel ever since he turned two and was given his own seat on a flight from Bangkok to Bombay. While the two other toddlers on the plane ran up and down the aisles, Calvin spent most of the three-and-a-half-hours with his nose pressed to the window - he left his seat only twice, once to visit the toilet and the second time to find the cockpit.
By the age of three, he could identify more than 40 countries on a map, and nothing made him happier than when looking at an atlas and jabbing his fingers at continents and oceans. By the time he was four years old, he had taken to sculpting his tea-time biscuits, one bite at a time, to resemble the shapes of his favourite countries. "Look, mom - Egypt. Now for China." Then my husband went and bought him a huge floor jigsaw of the world, beautifully illustrated and full of interesting details. Calvin would spend hours poring over it, often falling asleep on it - which is something he still does.
At the school's end-of-year PTA meeting last month, his class teacher remarked that "Calvin is a fount of knowledge and knows some amazing things. The trouble is, he needs to realise that we really don't want to know how long the Great Wall of China is when we're in the middle of doing fractions." But Calvin, who seems to channel the spirits of the world's greatest explorers, remains undeterred. "When I grow up," he announced one evening, after several hours of perusing his Big Book of Flags, "I'm going to be a pilot and buy an A380 and visit every single country on earth."
Putting away his toys that night, I came upon the old jigsaw lying under a table. It was covered with little red arrows marking the absurdly convoluted route he plans to follow on his journey around the world. Sitting on top of it was his piggy bank. It contained his entire coin collection - including the precious five-rupee Mauritius one that a friend recently gave him - and was labelled "My A380".
I don't doubt for a minute that Calvin is going to fly around the world in his very own jumbo jet. What I'm wondering about is whether he'll let me come along. And whether I can spend my retirement in SkyPad. firstname.lastname@example.org