A month in to Bathmatwatch, and I think that this is a good time to recap, and also to let new readers catch up with an FAQ.
What is Bathmatwatch?
Bathmatwatch is a series of daily photographs of an abandoned bath mat in north-west London. It began on November 1st 2006, and is still ongoing.
UPDATE: Bathmatwatch finished 35 days later when the bath mat disappeared on December 5th 2006. A moving tribute is posted here.
UPDATE: The bath mat made a transubstantiated reappearance on February 9th 2007.
UPDATE: The bath mat sent another message from the afterlife on August 5th 2007.
Is it a bath mat? It looks a bit like a carpet sample to me.
It is a bath mat.
Has the bath mat ever moved?
It made some small movements on Day 2, Day 4, Day 7, Day 10 and Day 14, then a giant leap into the road on Day 22, then an equally giant leap along the road on Day 26. In fact, go back to Day 2 anyway. Doesn’t it look young?
Is the bath mat trying to spell something out with these movements?
So far it has spelt ‘L’. We can only speculate as to what it is trying to say and hope that it uses some abbreviations. At this rate it is like Stephen Hawking using a Ouija board. I would like to think that it will say “Love everybody”, but it might say “Leave me alone”, “Leyton Orient rule OK” or “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch". Though if the latter it will end up in Essex and it will cost me a fortune to see it every day.
Why did the bath mat cross the road?
Because the chicken wanted a bath?
Whose was the best picture drawn in the gallery on Day 11?
The joint winners were Ellie and Doris. Well done, Ellie and Doris. John Plato’s entry was, to be honest, a bit scary. Is that a green cat?
What did you see in the bath mat and then draw on Day 11, Salvadore Vincent? Was it a dog or a mouse?
It was a dog.
Has Bathmatwatch inspired any spin-offs?
There has been one rather poor quality spin-off: Suitcasewatch. Please note that this is not officially endorsed by Smaller Than Life.
How many people in the world have bath mats? If only somebody would do some kind of poll that also expressed that figure as a percentage.
The results of such a poll are here. You can vote in the poll here.
What is Bath Mats of the World?
Bath Mats of the World is a project to collect a picture of every bath mat in the world and plot their positions on a map. So far I have collected over five pictures from more than one continent.
Of the pictures sent in so far to Bath Mats of the World, which is your favourite?
They are all great. Interestingly, it has only been women who have sent in pictures of their bath mats. It is a good job that I am not someone who gets sexual thrills from seeing pictures of women’s bath mats who has set up a blog with the sole purpose of getting people to send in pictures of their bath mats, and just deleting any from men. I am not such a person, and anyone who says that I am is lying.
Where is the bath mat exactly?
The exact location is a strict secret. There are some weird people on the internet.
Who is the hero of Bathmatwatch?
That would have to be Martyn Colbeck, who spent 15 years filming elephants in Kenya. Will I still be doing this when I am 51?
Who is the villain of Bathmatwatch?
That would have to be the street sweeper. Boo!
What was this blog like before Bathmatwatch?
I can’t remember. I think that I wrote stuff like this, this and this. And this.
Is the bath from Day 21 still there?
No, it was gone the next day.
What happened to Things Abandoned on the Pavement Within 100 Yards of My Home That I Have Taken a Photograph of #3?
That will have to wait. The picture has been taken and is being stored safely, though the item itself is now long gone. If you thought Bathmatwatch was good, this will blow your minds.
Do you have a bath mat?
No. I just dry myself over the bath. In fact, if somebody gave me a bath mat, I would probably just leave it out on the pavement for someone else to take.
How did you do the CGI for Scrappy-Loo on Day 24? That was amazing!
I used a sophisticated imaging processing program that is only available to professionals within the animation industry. It is called MS Paint.
Is Bathmatwatch all true?
Every single word of it is true. It is not something that I am making up to make myself look more interesting.
Even the suitcase on Day 28? That is one amazing coincidence that it was abandoned there.
Even the suitcase. That scared me a bit.
Is there any Bathmatwatch merchandising available? eg a mug or a T-shirt.
Not yet. Would you like some?
Does your girlfriend know about Bathmatwatch?
No, and I am beginning to worry how I will break the news to her that I will have to arrange Christmas around it.
Why is the bath mat there?
Why are any of us here?
UPDATE: What is Bath Mats in Need?
Click here to find out.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Like The Truman Show, this is only going to end one way. Items born of the John Lewis bathroom department have but a short time to live. (I am not saying that John Lewis sell things of unmerchantable quality, by the way. They are an excellent chain, and never knowingly undersold (except by every shop on the internet, but that's an unfair comparison because they have much better customer service – eg I bought a pair of gloves for my mum's birthday today from a very nice woman. (It is OK – my mum does not, as far as I know, read this blog, and if she does, she does not know it is her son's, so I have not ruined the surprise.)). No, I am subtly using a metaphor for life.)
I don't know what I will do when it goes. It would be wrong to replace it with an identical stained, bedraggled and run over bath mat to spare your feelings. It is important that you all learn about death and grieve properly. It would also be wrong to immediately start another abandoned item watch – that would just be a rebound relationship, forever tainted with the unspoken question: “You're thinking about the bath mat, aren't you?”
We just have to take one day at a time.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
The suitcase is gone. Gone, but not forgotten, as it seems that I have a tribute site: Suitcasewatch.
But fear not – the bath mat's secret location has not been compromised. The site is just a poor spin-off – the Joey of abandoned item blogs. In so many ways.
I am not sure that I should be giving it the oxygen of publicity, particularly when the site owner has a baby and carpenters that he should be spending his time worrying about.
Smaller Than Life is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Bathmatwatch took a disturbing and sinister turn today. As I turned left into the road, I immediately saw that it would be difficult to take today’s photo. The owners of the Honda Civic were clearly loading up their car, as there was a suitcase in the road just behind it. But as I got closer, no one came out of a house and put the suitcase into the boot – it just sat there in the rain.
As I got closer still I saw that it was an old suitcase that had been abandoned on the very same spot that the bath mat moved to on Day 22.
Look! It is the same diagonal white splatter on the kerb in the lower right-hand corner! Of all the gutters in all the towns in all the world, it is abandoned here.
Is somebody trying to tell me something? Am I being threatened? Are they telling me to get packing? Am I getting too close to the truth about the bath mat? Can I handle the truth about the bath mat? Could this suitcase be full of polonium-210? What is going on?
I know that the police are busy, but I am sure that once I have explained the whole of Bathmatwatch to them they will investigate.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Once more I found myself pointing my camera at an empty space (this time under the Honda Civic), mentally preparing the obituary when I saw that the bath mat had moved two or three yards further down the road (the wet tarmac made it difficult to spot it immediately). It has cleared the speed bump's white line, and is now neatly up against the pavement.
It may be that the bath mat is trying to spell something important to me in its movements, like in Paul Auster's New York Trilogy. So far it has managed "L". We can only watch and wait, and hope that it uses some abbreviations.
Hubcapwatch: What sort of car does this hubcap belong to?
Please continue to send in photos for Bath Mats of the World.
Friday, November 24, 2006
It is sad to see the bath mat in this state. Out of its natural environment and away from the safety of the pavement, I fear that there is not much time left. But we must remember the happy times had by it and all other bath mats.
To this end, today I bring you Bath Mats of the World. Please submit a photo of your bath mat, along with its location (it will be plotted quite precisely, so you might want to change this slightly (or a lot)), and any brief comment and URL to the email address on the right.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
The bath mat here demonstrates the perfect angle at which to parallel park, using, if I am not mistaken, Dunlop tyres.
Despite the recent giant leap for bathmatkind, I am concerned that Bathmatwatch is getting a bit boring. The bath mat hasn’t moved for two days, and now that you have had a taste of excitement you will only want more. Audiences are very sophisticated these days, capable of following multiple non-linear narratives, and expecting plot twists that challenge the very nature of the programme’s reality every week.
I have thus used all my scriptwriting talents to address this problem, and have decided to introduce an irritating comedy sidekick for the bath mat. He is called Scrappy-Loo, and is the horseshoe-shaped piece of mat that goes around a toilet. He is also the bath mat’s never-before-mentioned nephew, though I can’t be bothered to work out a back-story for that. He just is, OK?
Though you may not be able to tell, Scrappy-Loo is not a real horseshoe-shaped mat – he is the latest in ‘CGI’ (computer-generated imagery, like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park), and is just ‘superimposed’ seamlessly into the scene.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
It is the sight that Britain dreaded, like the top blown off another double-decker bus, or a newspaper vendor’s board proclaiming the recommissioning of Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps.
Today was another bright morning, the sun low in the sky. I thought that I could see the bath mat, then as I got closer a sense of panic set in. It simply wasn't there. I looked further down the street – had I miscounted the number of houses? No, this was the place that I had stood for 21 days and made my record. All that I could see was the ghostly outline on the damp pavement, a reminder of what was.
Dispassionately, professionally, I took today’s photograph. As I checked it on the screen, I briefly wondered whether yesterday’s photo would become like the fateful image of Diana in the revolving door at the Ritz, or JFK waving to the crowd in Dallas. A last picture of innocence, forever subsumed by the future-narrowing hindsight of retrospective viewers.
Then I turned around...
Joy rose in my heart once more. The bath mat appears to be heading south for the winter. But it has left the comparative safety of the pavement, where street sweepers may think that it is some kind of distant doormat, and is now playing a deadly game of chicken. Its future is uncertain, but today we should simply give thanks that it is still with us.
The bath mat may be in the gutter, but it is looking at the stars.
Monday, November 20, 2006
It is days like today, pouring with rain, that I wonder what I am doing. The tie that links me to the bath mat is like that of caring for an elderly relative. I might resent the regular chores, but I have made a commitment. This is my life now. Making an anonymous tip-off to the council refuse department would be just as wrong as smothering with a pillow.
And I am the kind of person who cannot give up on an idea, no matter how stupid. It is this attitude that once left me stranded in the middle of the Sahara desert, and now means that I have to leave my warm, dry flat every day, take a photograph of an abandoned bath mat, then try to find something to write about it. Will I ever learn? At least it wasn’t raining in the desert.
I sometimes want to put us all out of our miseries and ask who will rid me of this turbulent bath mat. Then, just a few doors down, I saw this, and it all seemed to make sense again.
Please keep sending me pictures of your bath mats.
And I also need a bit of spare web space somewhere where I can either have ftp access, or regularly email an updated version of a small file. For technical reasons I can't use blogger or libsyn. Can anyone help, please? It is for Something Special (not kiddie porn).
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Saturday, November 18, 2006
The twig is gone!!!
As revealed yesterday, the bath mats are preparing to take over. We must gather intelligence on them and plot their every move. To this end, please send me photos of your bath mat(s), along with their location (country, county, city, full address – whatever you want). I know that at least 47 of you have them (plus two wooden slat ones – they are like the armoured division and very dangerous, especially to toes), so get emailing.
I can then plot their movements on a big map with a long wooden stick. This will be our finest hour.
When taking photos please do not endanger yourself or others, take unnecessary risks or infringe any laws.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Rain-sodden. More leaves. Twig still there.
Sherlock Holmes said that “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Since there is no natural possible reason for the bath mat to have remained on the street for 18 days, we must investigate the remaining, improbable theories:
1. The bath mat is covering a hole in the pavement. This hole is a tunnel that leads inside the head of Des O'Connor. After 15 minutes inside Des's head you are ejected on to the side of the North Circular. You will then spend the rest of the day humming The Skye Boat Song and thinking up chat-up lines that might work on Carol Vorderman.
2. It is a magic flying bath mat, that when stood on naked whisks you to a magical land where chocolate grows on trees and nobody has heard of Chantelle. This will be the main line of my defence at my indecent exposure trial. I will be calling you all as character witnesses, so please prepare yourselves with statements of my sanity.
3. Like The Day of the Triffids, this bath mat is a diversion to distract our attention. Then, when the eyes of the world are on this blog, they will rise up against us. According to my own survey, bath mats have already infiltrated 70% of our bathrooms. The bathroom is the most logical place for them to launch their attack, as this is where we are naked and defenceless, often with shampoo in our eyes. You must either (a) never shower or bathe again, or (b) never read this blog again.
I think that it is elementary which you should do.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Rain and a twig in the upper right corner.
Like a cuckoo, or Diana Ross, the bath mat is taking over. The incarnations of this record will undoubtedly be:
Smaller Than Life
Smaller Than Life, featuring Bathmatwatch
Smaller Than Life and Bathmatwatch
Bathmatwatch and Smaller Than Life
Bathmatwatch (ex-Smaller Than Life)
I'm a Bath Mat... Get Me Out of Here!
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
The bath mat's location is, of course, top secret. It is like when a pair of rare eagles nest together – the public is not allowed to know exactly where in case some lunatic steals the eggs. It has been the same ever since school – one person has to spoil it for all the rest. Though I imagine that an omelette made out of eagles' eggs would be very tasty.
I fear that I have already given too much away about the bath mat's location though, and each morning I dread finding a note attached to the bath mat that reads something like “Bathmatwatch Sucks! (What about doing more stuff like your clever satires on government policies and organised religion? They were great and acted as much better calling cards for your writing.)”
I saw Se7en again the other night, and what would be even more chilling is if, like at the scene of the second murder (Greed), one morning I found that the bath mat had simply been rotated by 180°. I might not notice till I got back home and compared the photo with the previous day's and saw that the dog was standing on its head. (It is a dog, not a mouse.) I would then have no choice but to go back and look at the back of the bath mat, where there would be a message written in fingerprints that read “I am in your flat! (And what about doing more stuff about how your obsessive nature causes minor disagreements with your girlfriend? Those were really funny. This bath mat stuff is getting old.)” Admittedly, my stalker would have to have used quite a small finger.
But what if I have two stalkers, working independently of each other? Or, indeed, any even number of stalkers who all rotate the bath mat by 180° between me taking a photograph each day? I would be oblivious to their existence, and could only hope that they would get into an argument about who gets to stab me that culminated in them all stabbing each other to death simultaneously.
This is why I must be careful.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
(You might want to open this in another tab/window.)
And did bare feet in recent times
Walk upon this old bath mat blue?
And has the rain of shower or bath
Now been replaced by morning dew?
And did the naked and the wet
Stand forth on this absorbent weave?
And is where dampened bodies dried
Among the fallen autumn leaves?
Bring me my towel; And now my pants;
Bring me my talc (my feet perspire);
Bring me my Lynx deodorant!
Bring me my dressing gown of fire!
I will not cease my Bathmatwatch,
Nor shall the words of doubters scotch,
Till we have somewhere warm to stand
In every bathroom in the land.
Monday, November 13, 2006
The bath mat has undergone possibly the largest single day's movement – a massive shift to the right and a straightening back against the wall, leaving it clear of the left-hand paving slab for the first time. It is fitting that this seismic shift has happened today as there has been a lot of debate in the comments boxes about whether the bath mat is actually a bath mat or not. I am a rational person with a scientific background, so I am happy to consider the possibilities with an open mind:
1. It is a bath mat. I am the only person here to have seen it “in the flesh” so you’ll have to take my word for it, but it really does look like a bath mat. Er, that’s about all I have, but people have done more with less. Is it too small to be a bath mat? I don’t know – how big are your feet?
2. It is a doormat. No doormat is this colour or made of this material. It’s definitely the colour you’d see in a bathroom. And it’s not next to a door (there is a perfectly adequate doormat several yards up the path, next to the door – the clue’s in the name, guys), and nobody seems to be wiping their feet on it. If it had been used as a doormat in the past it would surely be much dirtier.
3. It is a carpet offcut. Zoom in and you’ll see that it’s not an offcut as it has finished edges and rounded corners. This theory is a non-starter.
4. It is a “carpet square”. Again, zoom in and you’ll see that it’s not any kind of carpet tile or offcut. And as for it being square, yesterday’s photos dispel that myth. But could it be a carpet sample?
To those who still say that it is just a piece of carpet, I say “What is a bath mat, if not a piece of carpet?” Can any of you prove that this “piece of carpet” has not been used as a bath mat?
I’m not going to suggest that the “carpet camp” Doubting Thomases be rounded up and burnt at the stake. That would probably be “politically incorrect”, even though they are heretics and clearly wrong. Instead, I will just challenge their beliefs with humour and satire – perhaps a scatological musical starring a chat show host, or some badly-drawn cartoons. Or maybe a book entitled The Kashan-ic Verses. I don’t think that any of these would cause any problems.
Ultimately, it is like the Turin Shroud. (But with the face of a dog, not Jesus. Or a mouse.) I can’t afford to get it carbon-dated or anything, but I could look on the back to see if there is a label that says something like “bath mat” or “carpet sample – light blue sculptured”.
But wouldn’t you rather have faith?
Sunday, November 12, 2006
There has been some discussion recently as to whether the bath mat is actually a bath mat at all. I will write at more length about this tomorrow (so long as it is still there, of course), but I would first like to just dispel the myth (some might say “heresy”) that it is a “carpet square”.
As you can see, the bath mat is clearly rectangular, not square.
And yes, that is the same 30cm (12") ruler in each photograph. Answering the question “What are you doing outside my house?” would have been bad enough, without having to face a supplementary query of “And why do you have two rulers which look superficially identical, but on closer inspection differ in length by the ratio necessary to make this carpet square look like a rectangular bath mat?”
Saturday, November 11, 2006
The first serious rain of Bathmatwatch, and the bath mat is looking quite bedraggled. The dog's eyes are harder to pick out now (and it is a dog, not a mouse). Lots of new leaves on the left hand side as well, suggesting that a mainly westerly wind has blown them up against the bath mat. We can only hope that the sunshine and wind will create good drying conditions today. We are lucky that the bath mat is on the sunny side of the street.
Friday, November 10, 2006
What do you see in the bath mat? The Virgin Mary? A pair of boobs? Barney Rubble? Draw what you see, email it in with your name, age and URL (if any) to the address on the right, and the best ones will be displayed in The Gallery. We're sorry, but we can't return any of your pictures.
Salvadore Vincent, 36 – Dog
Thursday, November 09, 2006
I strolled happily out of the front door today. The sun was shining, the street sweeper wasn’t due back for days, and Bathmatwatch had reached double figures. I trod my well-worn path right then left, then in one well-practised, fluid movement took my phone out of my pocket, slipped the lens cover back and lined up the viewfinder without breaking step.
But disaster! I had forgotten to switch my phone on!
Abort mission! Abort, abort!
Like a spy who is about to hand over the top secret microfilm, but then at the last moment spots that his handler’s cover has been blown, I had to just carry on walking, even though it would mean that the beautiful Russian woman who had hinted that she would like to have sexual intercourse with me would end up dead. Then a bit less like a spy I tried to remember my Pin and walk at the same time while it searched for the network.
I cannot believe that I had been so complacent. Less than a fortnight in and I had let my guard down. WWMCD – What would Martyn Colbeck do? He certainly wouldn’t ask the elephant if she would mind giving birth again as he’d forgotten to switch his camera on, would he? Admittedly the subject of my study is slightly more stationary than a herd of migrating pachyderms, but the principle still holds. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.
I then had to risk everything by returning to the scene of my botched mission. I pretended to receive a phone call, then made a series of elaborate facial gestures that implied that someone had just asked me to return to my house for some reason. I looked at my watch, mouthed something more into my phone along the lines that it was a bit annoying that I was being asked to do this, but OK I would do it just this once, then turned around. There is no other way to do a U-turn on a pavement without looking like an idiot.
The bath mat is at a slight angle again – not as much as on Days 4 and 5, but there has also been a significant amount of leaf movement. There has been little wind here, so it’s possible that there has been some contact with a human or animal again.
If you have not already done so, please vote in the Great Bath Mat Survey in Day 9’s post below.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion.
All quiet on the bath mat front.
After the highs and lows of the past few days it is good to be able to simply take a picture of the bath mat. Being slightly more relaxed has helped me to think about it a bit, and I have realised that I am spending a lot of time and effort photographing a bath mat when I don't actually have a bath mat myself. I wonder whether Alanis Morissette would find that ironic.
I just dry myself over the bath, so don’t really need one as I don’t get the bathroom floor wet. After a short induction period when she moved in, my girlfriend has now learnt to do the same. Years ago in another house I had a wooden slat “bath mat”, but after one too many toe-stubbing incidents it found itself out of favour.
Is this a trend nationwide? Do we have fewer bath mats than we used to? Is this how this bath mat came to be out on the street?
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
I was just taking today's picture when I looked down the road and saw something to strike fear into any lover of Bathmatwatch: the unmistakeable flash of hi-vis jacket through the parked cars that can only mean one thing: a street sweeper. The street sweeper is the natural predator of the abandoned bath mat, and what I thought was going to be a routine spot turned into the kind of battle of wits where the only rule is the law of the jungle.
He was coming up the opposite side of the street, making a worryingly thorough sweep of bits of old firework. The bath mat’s side was yet to be done. It was in mortal danger, but I knew that I had some time. The street sweeper would have to get all the way to the top of the road, then turn around and start the other side yet. I forced myself to walk around the block, then checked again. The street sweeper had made little progress and was yet to cross the road.
But what could I actually do? I had a feeling that saying “Excuse me, could you leave that bath mat please, as I like to take regular photographs of it and post them on the internet” might come across as slightly odd when said out loud. But worse than that it would break the golden rule of Bathmatwatch: to only observe. It’s not called Bathmatinterfere, is it? I am merely there to document, and whatever happens is Nature’s way. Martyn Colbeck would never intervene, even if a really cute baby elephant was in danger.
I made myself come home and had a cup of tea to calm myself, but I couldn’t get any work done. So I slipped out again. The street sweeper had crossed the road by now and was heading off into the distance. Like the Angel of Death and the Israelites’ first-born sons he had passed mercifully by.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Godspeed you, Ryanair, and get me home, though I fear it will be too late. Perhaps, like Tristan and Iseult and the ship with the white sails, Gatwick Airport will fly a dirty blue flag to signal that the bath mat is still there when we land, and a black one if it is gone. But there is no flag – is no news good news?
Then the agony of train and tube until the sweet relief of spotting it, tempered only by the knowledge that I can't get my camera out immediately, but will have to walk right past it with my girlfriend, spurning it until I can “just take the rubbish out”. Our bins have never been in less danger of overflowing.
Luckily there was still just enough light. I didn't want to use a flash, as although there are still a few fireworks around it might have alerted somebody. It is pushed back snugly against the wall, though inspection for any images of deities will have to wait for better conditions tomorrow.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
I am with my girlfriend in one of the most beautiful places that I have ever stayed. This is the view from our balcony. The local restaurant has run out of space on its walls for the awards that it has won, and the Guinness really does taste better here. But my mind is elsewhere...
Saturday, November 04, 2006
A cold and frosty morning. My girlfriend caught me slipping out with my mobile phone, and I think that she is suspicious that I am having an affair. The fear that I am breaking the sanctity of our five-year relationship by having sexual intercourse with another woman must be terrible for her. But I fear that the truth – that I am sneaking out and taking regular photographs of an abandoned bath mat – would hurt her more.
Friday, November 03, 2006
The bright sunlight that hampered me yesterday worked in my favour today. As soon as I got to the top of the road I could see that not only was the bath mat still there, but that it had moved slightly. Approximately five degrees of anticlockwise rotation has been applied to it. How this has occurred, I can only speculate, but I can't rule out the possibility that somebody trod on or somehow tripped over or kicked the bath mat. Interaction with a medium-sized to large dog is also a theory that I am considering.
And for those that are concerned that I am somehow faking all this to make my life look more interesting, I asked for the name of a common household object in yesterday's comments box that I would photograph next to the bath mat to prove that the photograph was taken after that suggestion was made. Here is the bath mat next to a bar of soap. You will see that the shadows are all in the correct places, unlike on those dodgy moon landing pictures.
Seeing the bath mat like this has made me question my earlier 'Born Free' attitude towards it. Perhaps I was wrong to anthropomorphise it in this way, and the smell of Imperial Leather so close by actually made it yearn to be trodden on by clean bare wet feet once more.