In My Own Time
One of my favourite ways of alleviating everyday stresses is to escape into fictional worlds. Most are much more civilised and pleasant than the real one, but when I'm feeling brave I enjoy Anita Brookner's novels: they are not too cheering, but they are beautifully written. Mostly, however, it's Alexander McCall Smith - in Botswana or Edinburgh - or Terry Pratchett. Discworld is wonderfully funny, even if very, very close to our own world in how people behave. When either of my friends Aline Templeton or Catriona McPherson publishes a new detective novel, I am always keen to get hold of it. For a real break from the unpleasantness of life, PG Wodehouse's Jeeves books are a wonderful tonic.
Classic FM is great if I don't want to choose. If I do, it's most likely a concerto: Dvorak cello, Liszt oboe, Strauss 2nd horn (especially the slow movement). Unaccompanied Bach, too, is always an effective way of being reminded that the world can be a civilised place. Alternatively, a blast of mid-period Queen can restore a positive outlook!
Shadowlands and Love Actually I find I can return to again and again. I like watching originals and sequels together: Superman and Superman Returns, for example, or Mary Poppins, followed by the two Nanny McPhee films.
I don't have time to watch TV, so I buy boxed sets: there's a lovely series, Pie in the Sky, about a detective who really wants to run a restaurant. Radio 4 keeps me up to date with what's going on - Today, for example, although I don't like listening to James Naughtie. Woman's Hour is a treat in the holidays. A perfect comedy week would contain The News Quiz and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.