James GRAY   Conservative MP for North Wiltshire

Chippenham’s Miss Kitty Sparks was 100 last Tuesday, and it was great to come down from Parliament for her party. 50 or more friends (how many would come to your 100th Birthday?) were there and Kitty was as sharp as she always is, quizzing me about our new PM, and opening and reading her cards without glasses. She strolls into town most days to get her shopping, and is a regular attender at our Ladies Luncheon Club. She was a midwife in the East end of London during the Blitz, when since there were no tin hats available they used upturned pots and pans. A lifetime of helping people, commitment to the community (and a love of jigsaws) has kept Kitty fit and healthy.

Looking at Kitty Sparks made me think “there’s hope for all of us.” In a couple of week’s time we will be remembering the dead of the two world wars with the immortal words “Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn.” Kitty shows us that age can be worn gracefully. A keen interest in other people and a lively curiosity about everything going on around us keeps us that way.

My commitment to doing what we can for the 387 ‘children’ being evicted this week from Calais’ Jungle Camp is as strong as ever. But I must admit to a tremor of concern at the pictures of the fit and bearded youths, masquerading as ‘unaccompanied children.’ The Home Office really must keep a grip on the situation and not let it become an influx of economic migrants in camouflage.

Perhaps it’s the arrival of autumn, the glorious colours, the preparations for winter to come, the autumnal equinox, which makes me think of the passing of the years. I love the way the year turns, marked by annual events – Christian festivals, Remembrance Sunday, our birthdays, anniversaries and special dates of all kinds. Those are the milestones which mark off our passage through this life.

I was touched as I came down the stairs in Chippenham Station one evening by a tiny child – less than two years old I would think - in her Mother’s arms, but holding out her little hands and mouthing “Daddy” to the man on the stairs behind me. She has all of her life ahead of her. But for now what mattered was her Daddy coming home from work. That was her whole world, and all was now well in it.  Kitty Sparks has so much to look back on and remember over 100 years. Yet she also has so much to look forward to. Every day has its adventures and its rewards.

If the little child in the station or the two newly baptised babies on Kitty’s knee at St Andrews Church the previous Sunday  live to be 100 (which is nowadays increasingly likely), they will be able to say ” I knew a lady who was born two hundred years ago.”  It’s like us knowing someone who was born shortly after Waterloo. Not bad going.