Wear the lilac towel day

Today, May 25th, has become a day of considerable significance. Two fantastic authors, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, have made May 25th a day to remember. Back in 2001, two weeks after the death of Douglas Adams, fans began Towel Day. On Towel Day you carry a towel with you in remembrance of Adams and his excellent series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. As the great book says:

“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

In the words of Ford Prefect: “If you want to survive out here, you’ve got to know where your towel is.”

Also on May 25th we’re now celebrating the work of Terry Pratchett and raising awareness and money for Alzheimer’s Disease. In Pratchett’s book Nightwatch, the men who fought and died in the Revolution are remembered by people who “wear the lilac” every May 25th. Bringing that tradition into the real world, Pratchett fans are now wearing lilac sprigs to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s. You can even buy a spring here. Or you could just pick some. But that wouldn’t get much money to Alzheimer’s research.

On Twitter a few of us were talking about this and suggesting that we wouldn’t want one or other day to get the upper hand, as it were, leaving the other day less noticed. The net result of that conversation was that perhaps we should all wear towelling robes on May 25th. The robes would be lilac in colour and have DON’T PANIC embroidered on the back, with all sales proceeds going to www.alz.org or www.alzheimers-research.org.uk.

You heard it here first. Get on board. And if anyone wants to manufacture those robes and donate the profits to Alzheimer’s research then I’m sure karma would reward you generously.


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12 thoughts on “Wear the lilac towel day

  1. Dunno where you’d go about getting them manufactured, but I’m all for buying one.

    What’s it take to design something like that? I assume it’d be quite easy.

  2. And such are the dangers of posting a comment before really thinking about it. As it turns out, lilac robes can be found in under 7 seconds on Google eg


    Ironically enough, these come with free embroiding (not in big letters across the back sadly, but I wonder if it’s worth asking them?), are currently on sale, come in lilac, and are called the Velvety Terry!

    I love the interweb.

  3. Funnily enough, I also found an embroidery/monogram shop about 10 minutes down the road from my house. I’m wondering if it’s worth dropping them an email to check out one-off prices and also bulk prices.

    I was thinking the big “Don’t Panic” across the back, and maybe “25th May” on the front left breast. Any thoughts?

    I wonder how popular something like that could be as a fundraiser?

  4. The design sounds great. As a fundraiser you’d have to figure out how much to get the robe and the embroidery done, then how much for shipping it out around the world. Then you have to figure your retail price to make a profit to pass on to Alzheimer’s research. Then you have to figure out the time and hassle involved on your part and if you can manage it.

    Then you have to find a way to market the product and (assuming the internet got behind you, which it probably would) you’d have to manage the demand.

    And before all that you need to consider the legalities and tax responsibilities.

    Sadly, these are the reasons there isn’t more of this kind of grass roots altruism happening.

    What might be a better idea is getting an Alzheimer’s research charity (with all that legal stuff in place) to take on the idea themselves and have them source, produce and sell on the robes. Maybe a simple email to one of those charities is actually the best option?

  5. Well…stay tuned but maybe don’t hold your breath. I’ve emailed off a bunch of enquiries, however half of the recipients are in the UK and possibly beyond, and the tax implications…may be complex. Happily I should have it all figured in the next 364 days, so in the meantime I’m happy to pretend it won’t just fizz out.

  6. I’ll continue to look at this over time and plonk any updates here as I receive them (or direct anyone to any future website if it takes off, not that I’m getting ahead of myself).

    The official Towel Day mob have since informed me that Douglas Adams actively supported Save The Rhino (http://www.savetherhino.org) and Dian Fossey Gorilla fund (http://www.gorillas.org), so in addition to Terry’s personal favourite the Alzheimers research trust of the UK (http://www.alzheimers-research.org.uk), it looks like there are some worthy recipients of anything that gets raised.

    In the meantime, anyone with any suggestion, tips, offers to do a bunch of stuff or anything else, please drop me a line at lilactowel@gmail.com because I’m making this up as I go along.

  7. I’m kicking myself for not seeing this post sooner. Monsterbat (my son) & I wore our towels conspicuously and proudly but they were not lilac. I’ll look into Alzheimer’s charities that don’t fund vivisection, though it’s a little late for the official Towel Day.

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