Invited to share their ideas, visions and predictions for the new millennium with Prince Charles, schoolchildren in Gloucestershire came up with practical and sometimes surprising suggestions. Heather Neill reports.
In the future I would like to see the cars that we have now would not exist. I would like to see the 'plane cars' instead that I have invented. They would not give out any pollution because they would all be solar powered. They would go along in a humongous tube on huge pillars. They would have really bright lights on top of the tube. The cars would be either white or silver to reflect the light. There would be an automatic speed limit of 90 miles per hour."
Ralph Ward, aged nine, of Randwick school in Stroud, has a very clear view of how to improve life in the future, and he told Prince Charles about it when children in Gloucestershire were invited to write to the future king (a resident of the county) with their advice and hopes for the new millennium. The prince helped to choose the eight winners of the Gloucester Schools Millennium Writing competition - of whom Ralph is one - and invited them to a reception at Highgrove last week.
Ralph doesn't explain his "plane cars" in detail, but it's possible James Bond has had an influence here. Other letter-writers are more down-to-earth, and some attempt to re-write the royal role. Budding activist Emma Pagan, aged eight, of Longlevens junior school, wants more direct action: "Please help to build more homes for the homeless so they can have lovely meals, nice warm beds and a sizzling fire."
Fergus Nunneley, aged seven, of Longney C of E primary, promises not to use any sprays when he is a farmer and he "will plant blackthorn hedges and more woods with ground cover for foxes, rabbits, hares and birds to nest in". He's not the only one to appeal to the environmentally-minded prince.
Twelve-year-old Sophie Slingerland of Dene Magna, Micheldean, hopes for "more kindness to animals and plants". Otherwise, she warns, "I see the world slowly falling apart and the human race disappearing!" But it's good to come across a maverick among these idealistic winners. Natalie Fullard, aged 10, of Gretton county primary, is bored with being sensible and looks forward to eating unlimited quantities of chocolate ice-cream. She's a rebel: "I shall wear clothes that clash like orange and red. I will wear high heels that are 20cm tall and also keep drawers full of make-up."
There are also some splendid ideas among contributions from non-winners. From the gloriously politically-incorrect Daniel Crosbie, 10, from St Gregory's school in Cheltenham: "I wish we have slaves, we pay them pound;4 a week and they do the shopping." From the practical Colin Stallon, 11, from Brimscombe primary: "Stop people carrying big bags to school because it can damage their backs".
From the far-seeing Richard Preece, 11, from St Peter's school: "I predict the first settlement on a different planet will be in 2025", and from Rebecca Evans, 10, also from St Peter's: "I would like to have electric chairs that walk so we don't have to get up." At the same school, Lacy Church, 10, believes there "shouldn't be dentists because most people don't like them".
Tanyn Watkins, nine, from Offas Mead school has a kind thought: "I think earthquakes should happen in the morning so people can go somewhere they won't get hit." Then there is Ben Bland, nine, from Innsworth junior school who thinks, mysteriously, that "Wales should be better at making things".
Some correspondents have more straightforward ambitions: "I'll be the richest and sexiest football player in the world," says Chris Hope, 12, of Churchdown school without a shadow of self-doubt. Suzanne Murray, nine, from Longlevens school, puts her cards on the table: "I would like to be in the Royal Family and marry Prince William." Well, if you don't tell him, how is he going to know?
Some can't wait to grow up: "You will learn to drive a car when you are 12, and you won't need a driving test for a motorbike," says Dale Harper, 10, from St Peter's, while Elizabeth Payne, 11, from St White's sounds stern:
"When I grow up I will be a policewoman because you get to put naughty people in prison and that's good."
Oliver Miles, nine, of Parton Manor wants a practical improvement: "I want the future to have rubbers which, when you rub out, it doesn't even make a smudge."
Daniel Watkins, 10, from Severnbanks primary, feels quite capable already. "Have you ever thought about if children could have jobs so the family can buy more food and they will be going to work? They will not be bored because they will be going to work. But that's only for ages eight plus because people under that age will not have a clue what they are doing."
Rosaleen Burden, 10, from St Peter's, is a mistress of diplomacy: "I think fox hunting should be banned, but too many people like it so I thought of mechanical foxes."
The winners (from top): Fergus Nunneley, Longney C of E primary; John Dunn, Parton Manor junior; Emma Pagan, Longlevens junior; Kelly Field, Shurdington primary; Natalie Fullard, Gretton County primary; Ralph Ward, Randwick primary; Sophie Slingerland, Dame Magna; Joseph Ogborn, Gretton County.