Reasons to be grumpy
I can almost never remember my dreams, which I consider to be a very good thing, but for some reason I woke up remembering a stupid, annoying one this morning - "got out of the wrong side of the bed" is the traditional phrase - so if I'm a bit grumpy today, forgive me.
But my day wasn't improved by reading about the latest shooting atrocity in America: a 15-year-old boy gunned down with a shotgun - shot by his neighbour then "finished off" at close range. His crime? Running on the lawn. The context?
A child is killed by a gun every three hours in America. According to the latest statistics, nearly 1,000 children under 19 are shot dead every year. Another 800 use guns to commit suicide, and more than 160 die in firearm accidents.
Forty per cent of American households own guns, but those guns are 22 times more likely to be involved in an accidental shooting, or 11 times more likely to be used in a suicide, than in self-defence. On average, more than 80 Americans are killed by gunfire every day.
But, as the story makes clear, gun control has entirely disappeared from the American agenda - indeed controls are being relaxed. So this killer, who his neighbours knew to be unbalanced, was allowed to have a lethal weapon that could be casually unleashed on a child.
Then in Britain, the number of 16-year-olds not in any form of training has risen, from 9.4 to 12.6 per cent. This is the "underclass", and they'll stay that way unless they can somehow be lured back into education.
The figures come in the wake of a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which showed that the UK was 27th out of 29 industrialised nations in terms of the percentage of youngsters staying on after 16. Those figures were described as a "scandal" by David Miliband, who was Schools minister at the time - but today's report shows the percentage who go straight from school either on to the streets or unskilled employment is growing.
Now just about everyone I know is saying, "next weekend, next weekend" life will feel better. It is almost a mantra. That's because we'll suddenly get another hour of daylight when the clocks go forward. Why we are deprived of it all winter in Britain is one of those great little mysteries. But there is a Bill (albeit a private members' bill with almost no hope of passing) now in the Lords to give us that extra daylight.
Either way, I promise to get some more cheerful stories soon....