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Heatwave Behaviour: a Primer

Or: a pre-made explanation for why you are going to go mad this weekend.
(Photo via Twitter/@daytimesnaps)

Did something weird last night. I was asleep, like I usually am – fan blaring, bandana tied around my face because I read on the Metro yesterday that sleeping with a fan blows dust into your eyes and I didn’t have an eye mask to wear overnight but I did have a bandana so I tied that around my eyes instead, looking as if I was in some sort of non-violent blind gang – and a framed print fell off my wall, clattering into a thousand fragmented pieces. I have to tell you this is a bad way to wake up: 3AM, self-blinded, a heart-attack shot of adrenalin, fan roaring like a jet engine, completely nude, sorry, surrounded by shattered glass.


And then I don’t really know why I did this, but I took a shard of the glass, long and sharp like a dagger, jumped out of bed and just… started stabbing? The air? Like this: hyunnsh, hyunnsh, hyunnsh. As if masked bad guys might leap out from my wardrobe at any time, and I would stab them, in their various jugulars, perfect arcs of maroon-red blood streaking my walls and floor. It took a while to self-examine this behaviour: why I was stabbing, alone and nude, in the panic attack of the dark; why, two full minutes after being clattered out of bed, my heart was still racing as I danced violently around my own room; why I was stood here, slick with a thin film of my own grim sweat, squeezing onto an impromptu knife for dear life. “Heatwave behaviour,” I thought to myself, putting down the glass dagger. “This is heatwave behaviour.”

VICE UK’s resident witch and moon expert Daisy Jones has taken to sleeping with her legs flopped outside her window during the heat, which is a very deranged and possibly dangerous and stupid thing to do, but also completely logical and makes total sense to me, like why are we not all doing this? Why are London’s tower blocks not centipidious with pairs and pairs of overhanging legs?

And so we must consider heatwave behaviour. We do not think of our ‘behaviour’, in adulthood, the concept thereof. When you were a child, behaviour was everything. You were ever well-behaved – a quiet boy, a polite boy, a hand-up-before-saying-the-answer-in-maths boy, a please and thank you boy, a non-hyperactive in a restaurant or public space boy – or badly behaved – shouty boy, crying until you go red boy, sent to your room boy, throwing toys around the place boy, punchy boy, punching your brother in, inexplicably, the ear boy, rubbing your snotty nose on the soiled sleeve of your jumper boy. And every second of your life was lurching from one extreme to the other, proving to your parents constantly that you were, according to invisible and unspoken boundaries, Well Behaved, and not to be sent to sit on the stairs, or Badly Behaved, without dinner. Then you hit 15 and went to the park and saw someone sniff glue and you were like: behaviour doesn’t matter, does it. Behaviour is history’s greatest lie.


This is where we find ourselves now. Society has eroded down to dust. The heatwave is getting to you, and it’s getting to me, too. It’s getting to this guy most of all: tearing at his clothes, the man, rendering his vests and T-shirts in two, taping a radio mic around his neck, sitting, oiled and puce on the This Morning sofa, smelling just faintly like sweat and meat and grease, explaining to lovely Holly Willoughby why he refuses to put his nipples away. It’s just not constitutional, Holly. It’s my right. Heatwave behaviour.

You are doing some strange stuff and feeling some strange things. Perhaps you wet a T-shirt under a cold tap and put that on against your hot, naked flesh (heatwave behaviour). Perhaps you had two pints and got really light-headed and got into this curious interstitial emotion between giddy joy and extreme aggro, and now you’re sort of angry in a way you can’t quite feel the pulse of and when your mum calls to do her weekly check on you and ask how you are (“God, isn’t it hot? I’m in the garden,” and you know this because your mum has not left the garden for weeks, and YES, MUM, it IS HOT) you end up shouting at her, for some reason, slamming the phone down then having to send a long text to apologise (heatwave behaviour). Perhaps you just sucked an ice cube with such tenacity that it bordered on the erotic (H.B.).

None of your behaviour makes sense anymore, and it’s because the sky is on fire and the air feels like a hot dry bath. You keep trying to read about global warming but your brain just scrolls through your head like a PowerPoint slide. You keep entering a fugue state and coming to, 15 minutes later and somehow a mile from work, gripping on to a rapidly-melting Magnum like it’s the safety bar on a rollercoaster. When was the last time you wore trousers, I wonder? Look down at your chest. Are you… not wearing a top? Why do you have a rolled up pipe of kitchen roll with four ice cubes in it, a sort of frosty joint that you’re holding wet against your forehead? Heatwave behaviour, heatwave behaviour, heatwave behaviour.

This is a real phenomenon; your madness is not imagined. University of California researchers tracked years of data from studies around psychology, baseball, the history of war, noted riots, droughts and famines, historical temperature changes, and essentially found – and their findings were more complex than that, but let’s stick with it – ‘the hotter it is, the more aggro everyone gets’, and that goes no small way towards explaining things. Crime increases during periods of hot weather. Internal human processes can only occur in a tight temperature range. You punt a child’s floated football into the exact middle of a canal. The human body loses heat to the environment unless the environment is the exact same heat as the inside of your body and then you just have to sweat instead. You wake up and realise you have sent a “u up?” text to five of the last seven people you slept with, and you cannot even muster the energy to feel embarrassed about it. This is why people hit police cars with batons and start wars and hold a Solero, sticky, against their own forehead. Nothing makes sense anymore because the idea of sense has melted. Heatwave behaviour, heatwave behaviour, heatwave behaviour.

Whatever you find yourself doing this weekend – taking your shoes off and walking barefoot on a bus, letting an entire box of Fruit Pastille ice lollies melt on your bare chest, shaving your head, hand stuff with a stranger in an alleyway, spitting at the sky, inflating a paddling pool in your front room, standing with your legs splayed in front of an open freezer, severing your own toes with pliers – it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. It’s not you even doing it. You have offered up a portion of your sentient brain to the warm dry heat of the sky. Everything you do this weekend is already excused. Enjoy it, baby. It’s just heatwave behaviour.