'Ninety days of no homework," said Calvin on the first day of his summer holidays. "All I am going to do is watch Cartoon Network." He leaned over to grab the remote control, and knocked over one of his observation jars. Six insects began buzzing frantically around the living room. "I won't be here, you know," said my husband. "I'll be in the Himalayas, on a three-month 'Escape From Your Child' retreat." "No fear," I said in my best fake-bright voice. "I have a plan."
After an hour spent trying to return all six bugs to their home, we drew up a long list entitled Fun Activities For Eight-Year-Olds Without Going Anywhere. Activity Number One was summer camp. This was an instant winner, because Calvin made lots of new friends and got plenty of exercise. It also kept him out of the house from 9am to 3pm for four whole weeks. The downside was, he got very sunburnt, despite the fact that we spent a fortune on suncream.
"No more summer camp for you," I said when he came home on the last day looking like a bar of melted dark chocolate. "Where's that list I drew up?" Thus followed a month of long evening walks, trips to the bowling alley, violin lessons, shell-hunting on the beach, cycling along the Corniche at night, and looking at stuff through his new microscope. Then came the day when he ran out of bugs to peer at and his cycle tyres went flat.
An "indoor play date" was next on the agenda. This involved Calvin getting together with his equally harum-scarum friend, Senuk. "I think it's a bad idea to let these two clowns loose in our homes," said Nadee, Senuk's mother, who is a very frank and practical person. "What if those bugs escape again, and multiply?" So, under the eagle eye of Calvin's nanny, the boys were packed off to the games arcade in Al Wahda Mall. They tried each ride (twice), consumed vast quantities of snacks and chased each other around the play zone.
Later, Nadee and I met them for lunch at Noodle House, where they put on soup aprons, pretended to be Huns and began a chopsticks fight. "This is not good," said Nadee, giving me the evil eye. "What else you got?" "A picnic in the park," I said, ticking the last item on my list. It proved to be a resounding success, never mind that ants took over the cake and a mynah bird made off with my jam sandwich. The boys had such a lovely time they didn't want to leave.
"I think we should put up a tent and live here," said Calvin, who was on all fours, collecting creepy crawlies. "But we wouldn't be able to get the TV connected," said Nadee slyly. "I'd miss Cartoon Network," admitted Calvin, "But nothing beats bugs. I think I'll keep some as pets. They can fly around the house for exercise, can't they, mom?" Twenty-four days, six hours and nine minutes to go until school starts. But who's counting?