Everyone will have been shocked and saddened by the appalling accident on the A-4 between Calne and Chippenham over the weekend, in which four young people were tragically killed. Their friends and family will be consumed with grief, and perhaps more gnawingly, with self-doubts as to if there was anything that they could have done to prevent it. All of our hearts go out to their parents and friends.

It would be wrong to speculate on the reasons behind the crash, and I will certainly be looking very carefully at whether improvements can be made either with regard to speed limits, or to the design of what really does seem to be a dangerous patch of road.

Young people have been disproportionately affected by the events of the last few months. Lockdown must have been a bit of nightmare for at least some of them. They want to be out and about seeing friends and doing stuff. Not having to go to school must have seemed like good fun to begin with; but I am certain that most of them now deeply regret it and are yearning to get back in the new term.

The fiasco (of policy and even more so handling) of the A Levels and now GCSE results must have made things so much worse. They were prevented from taking their exams, and now some algorithm has decided that they may not be able to go to their University of choice. The whole thing is descending into a shambles, and I have written to the Secretary of State both to raise some tragic individual cases from my constituency, but also to let him know that I cannot accept his stance on the subject.

The only way out of it now seems to me to be to accept the recommendations of the teachers, realising that that may well result in ‘grade inflation’- a matter which will make Universities’ entrance procedures  a great deal more complex- but which we can sort out in subsequent years.

Add to all of that the fact that they cannot travel overseas (do you remember the inter-railing and backpacking we used to do?); that there are still real restrictions over what they can do within  the UK; that with the Pandemic economic collapse of recent weeks, the jobs market will inevitably be affected; and that anyhow, they seem to have less clarity of direction with regard to career than we did; throw into the mix the angst and hormone changes that we all experienced in our teens and you have a pretty toxic mix.

So it may not be great getting older (although it is better than the alternative!); and as you read this I will be under the excellent surgeon’s knife putting right some bits which seem to have worn out. But it is, at least for now, a lot better than being young again. If only we could be young, but with all the wisdom and benefits, and relative wealth we now enjoy in later life. I guess it was ever thus….