Part 85: Heatwaves

summer 2

Every so often, if you live in the UK, you’ll be privy to conspiratorial predictions. Rumours half-heard in staff room whispers as you make your morning tea, snatches of conversation artfully eavesdropped on public transport, phone calls to your mother about the possibility of Dad cooking trout on the barbecue when you visit home next weekend.

“Apparently,” you’ll hear the people say, sotto voce, in stifled, disbelieving tones – like starved wartime housewives sharing word of a channel to black market venison – “we’re about to have a heatwave.”

Us Britons love the thought of a heatwave. Of stripping down to nothing but flesh and sheerest cotton, of drinking Pimm’s and/or ice-cold larger on greenest grass, of emitting tinkling laughter as a good-looking stranger – following the path of a badly thrown Frisbee – stumbles into our orbit. It’s our go-to fantasy backdrop; the only time we conceive of ourselves as in any way sexy, as a nation.

Of course, when rumours of a heatwave materialise into reality – and particularly if that reality lasts longer than a week – we tire quickly.

There are things we forget about hot weather – like, that it’s quite uncomfortable and that it encourages all the bitey insects to gate-crash your garden party. And that Pimm’s is not really the greatest alcoholic beverage – it takes ages to get you drunk and it tastes, mainly, of cucumber.

Also, there’s the beach and the park and the barbecue in your parents’ garden, but then what? What do you do in a heatwave – other than sit there and apply sun cream? Nothing, I guarantee, that wouldn’t be more pleasant in milder weather.

This is why the heatwave is such a great metaphor for relationships, which seem like an inspired idea until you start one and remember stuff you forgot when you were single. Like, that regular sex gives you cystitis and that men are never as competent with a screwdriver as you might have hoped (and no, I did not intend that as an innuendo).

The relationship, like the heatwave, also throws up the difficult question: what do you do once you’re in one?

Of course, I know what I’d do: sex and then, hopefully as a fortunate consequence, birth a baby with little fat hands to bite. But after that I mean – after the wedding and the baby and the sex. The day-to-day – doing the washing, organising Christmas, falling asleep on the sofa in a delicious shaft of sunlight – these things are, obviously, simpler and more pleasant sans lover.

Or maybe I’m just saying that to make myself feel better. Who knows? I’ve lost all perspective. We’re in the middle of a heatwave and, instead of frolicking in the sun with all the shirtless young men, I’m typing words on a laptop in the hot-box my bedroom has become.

My mind – which, as you’ll know, is usually razor-sharp – has turned into a lump of play-doh, sweating tackily in the heat. Great fat flies have descended upon my apartment like an apocalyptic swarm of locusts and I do not have the emotional strength to swat them to death with a rolled up Closer magazine.

To top it all off, my flatmate has eaten the Cadbury’s Crunchie Rocks I bought to see myself through the week and swanned off on a date with a dentist. And there are no Mini Magnums left in the freezer.

So being single. Erm, yeah. I think you might be best advised to tune in later in the week, by which point I’m confident both the rain and the courage of my convictions will have returned.

*Image by Victor Habbick at

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