All in all, this summer has been pretty amazing so far, hasn't it? (Such a risky thing to commit to print - I imagine the minute you started reading that sentence, perhaps in the middle of your holiday, just as you were enjoying the feeling of the sun on your neck and the sand in your eyes, the clouds gathered and the kids burst into tears because their sandcastles were washed away by the biggest rainstorm ever witnessed on British shores.)

Still, it's been good. We've had stretches of sunny days, one after another, like they do in hot countries. Public transport has given us that delightful sensation of being slowly baked, like a McCain oven chip. You might, if you were brave, call it a heatwave.

There, I said it. Foolish, really. When such proclamations are made (admittedly by the Met Office, not me) entire newspapers are devoted at once to the weather and the British public goes collectively bonkers.

There are other single words that can provoke extreme reactions, but they are usually negative and serious. Genocide, for example. Or paedophile. Heatwave, on the other hand, doesn't really merit the hysteria it attracts. For a start, there is no universal definition of the word - it's generally taken to mean a prolonged spell of unusually hot weather, but there's no magic moment when a few hot days suddenly become a heatwave. Also, if you took a British heatwave on holiday to Turkey and told your hosts it was special, they'd think you'd lost it.

That's the other thing about heatwaves and our interpretation of them. Generally, when the Met Office (the albatross of the "barbecue summer" still hanging heavily round its neck) cautiously announces a heatwave, we all start to celebrate. Any naturally hot country would batten down the hatches and prepare for crop failure and the death of its elderly.

But, in this soggy land, the event is so rare we can't help but wear far too little clothing and burn like kindling. At this point, I ask you all to give yourselves a long and detailed lecture (with graphs) on climate change.

Happy holidays.

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

This article first appeared in the 26 July 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Wanted: leader of the Labour party