Sue Arnold: My motto for 2006 is when in doubt, just chill out

If only I were more like my late father, who was so chilled he was virtually comatose
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The Independent Online

Plundering the usual resolution options that come up at this time every year - start yoga classes, stop moaning about the health service, call centres and my husband's dress sense, be nice to small children and dogs etc - I thought that for once I'd settle for brevity. In the year 2006 I resolve to chill. It is, after all, what my children are always suggesting I do: "For God's sake mum, chill, it's only a wasp's nest, a bailiff's letter, a masked man with an axe."

Auntie Morven, who belongs to a generation that understands chill to mean only the consequences of going outside at night without a cardigan or what you do to cucumber and cream cheese mousse before serving it with crusty French bread, calls it "buttoning one's lip". She is always advising me to button mine and she's right. Observe, assess, smile enigmatically but say nothing. In a word, chill.

So what if there is a wasps' nest the size of a car tyre in the corner of my bedroom. It's winter, they're beginning to feel the cold, they're becoming lethargic, their movements are slowing down - one really cold snap and that'll be the end of them.

The fact that it was minus 10 last night and half a dozen of the little buggers were dive-bombing me in bed (nothing lethargic about that) is no reason to shout and wave one's arms and try to set light to the entire colony with a spicy orange scented candle.

Far better stay put and keep calm, maybe even listen to that nice CD someone gave me called Fill My Stocking, a Christmas anthology of poetry and prose written and read by Britain's favourite television gardener.

Here's an extract from Like It Was by Alan Titchmarsh:

"Twas the night before Christmas, not too long ago
When the streets of the town were all covered with snow.
No rain filled the gutters, no wind shook the tree,
The trains were on time and the traffic ran free.
And we managed to cling to the hopes and the joys
That we had when we were little girls and little boys...."

No, on second thoughts why not kill two birds with one stone and batter the wretched wasps to death with the Blessed Titchmarsh's CD collection.

I saw him at this year's Chelsea Flower Show holding forth in his usual cheery, avuncular, Mr Nice Guy, ho-ho-ho way to a group of middle-aged female horticultural groupies fighting for his autograph. Someone behind me murmured: "No Dorothy, let's hang on a bit in case he runs into some fools. I can't wait to see him suffering them gladly."

So where was I? Ah yes, chilling or at least trying to - but it's not easy in a family where everyone, except for the patriarch who is Scottish, is volatile. It's all my mother's fault of course.

If only I were more like my late father who was so chilled he was virtually comatose. In his declining years he would have been so much happier back home in his native Burma sitting under a banyan tree, smoking a cheroot, watching the female members of the clan pounding garlic and dried prawns to make balachaung, the local delicacy. As a race, the Burmese are incredibly chilled.

Instead he ended up in a dismal semi in Harrow, barring the door to meals-on-wheels ladies and busybody neighbours desperate to drive him down to the community centre to socialise. He didn't want to socialise, he said, he just wanted to chill.

Like me. For starters I should take a short break from the frenzy of family life and spend time with a friend who has just abandoned London for a smallholding in rural France. No television, no meat (vegetarians are so much less aggressive without all that yang), chickens scratching about in the yard, eggs to collect, horses to ride, long walks, bonfires, bliss. I telephoned her yesterday.

How about me coming out to stay in January? Sure, said Nicky. With any luck, by then she'd have done something about the cockerel. Cockerel? What cockerel? I thought she only had laying hens. Not any more, said Nicky. For Christmas her husband had given her a cockerel so that they could rear their own chicks.

But the cockerel, it turns out, is gay. It takes absolutely no interest in the hens. It doesn't even go cock-a-doodle-do in the morning. All it does is bang on the back door with its beak. When Nicky opens the door it stands there shivering and looking so pathetic she ends up putting it on a cushion in front of the fire.

"Maybe it just doesn't fancy your hens - let's face it, they aren't exactly spring chickens," I said. "Why don't you don't go and get a few young sexy leghorns? Ask Bill to take you."

Bill isn't Nicky's husband but when Richard, who is, goes to London to play (he's a musician) Bill keeps her company. Bill wasn't there, said Nicky. He was in Paris talking to lawyers about compensation for his wife's death.

"What happened?" I said. "She was having an affair with the local farmer and fell into the threshing machine," said Nicky. "They spent days trying to get all the pieces out." Poor Bill. The only good news was, he would probably get millions if he survived the stress.

Maybe rural France with a gay cockerel and Bill isn't an ideal place to chill. Maybe I'll just stay at home in bed with my wasps and take Prozac.

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