LEADING ARTICLE : A warm glow in South Mimms

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Stress over Britain. Stress curling under the doors of the executives of merchant banks; stress seizing the hearts of overworked middle managers in cold embrace; stress entering the industrial estate and paralysing the limbs of the small businessman; stress enveloping the Christmas shopper; seasonal stress taking the round redness out of the cook's face and replacing it with a pinched desperation. And stress gripping the temper of the Yuletide motorist, caught in jams or stranded by snow, with so much to do and so little time to do it.

But yesterday, in the warm, well-lit halls of the South Mimms service station, whose thousands of cheerful lights cast a rosy glow out on to the grim greyness of the M25, stress was being banished. The benevolent ladies and gentlemen of the Royal Automobile Club had met and decided (doubtless over mulled wine and sweetmeats) to assist the beleaguered motorists of Britain. A psychologist would be on hand to counsel the stress away, to exorcise it. Yesterday it was the turn of the country's largest orbital motorway. Today Conrad King (for such is the eminent man's name) will be on hand at Fleet on the M3 and Birchanger on the M11.

Here we reproduce some of the advice that the admirable King will be giving to the patients on the couch. We have tried to help even further by supplying the undesirable alternative in parentheses:

Stay calm and ignore challenges from other drivers (no screaming "Bastard" at the top of your voice if the Volvo driver in the sheepskin so much as glances at you).

Be courteous and use the RAC thank you/sorry sign (which does not consist of a sudden upward gesture with the extended middle finger).

Plan your route in advance, to avoid last-minute arguments over map-reading (we are sick of picking up spouses who have been dumped on the hard shoulder together with shredded editions of 'Routefinder Britain').

Try to relax by listening to soothing music (it is funny how many accidents are caused by heavy metal fans attempting to drive while pretending to be lead guitar).

Listen to weather forecasts before setting out, and plan your journey time accordingly (if Michael Fish so much as mentions snow, forget delivering that donated kidney to the waiting hospital. Go at once to the supermarket, stock up with tinned soup and Longlife milk - you're in for the long haul).

It should be clear by now that the RAC has established a useful precedent with its psychologist, which others might well emulate. Could not the divine Delia be on hand, via radio or television, to counsel those struggling with vast turkey dinners ("think twice before you throw that gravy boat at granny"), or department store Santas stand ready to throw iced water on overheating shoppers? Stress is the enemy of us all. Let us defeat him together.

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