Follow the thread
It's 4.30 on Friday afternoon, and the trickle of exhausted teachers stumbling through the swing doors of Bauble's Bar is turning into a torrent.
Bauble's Bar is the most successful of a long line of virtual drinking places in the TES Staffroom's Personal forum. It was started last summer by the eponymous poster and is likely to go into voluntary liquidation today, but only after it hits the Staffroom record of 10,000 postings.
Ten thousand postings equates to 1,000 pages on the TES website. So, while maybe some of the dialogue is more daytime soap than Dickens, in word-count terms we're in similar territory.
It's all fantasy stuff: a 24-hour "bar" with a regular crowd and endless banter. The gang starts to arrive soon after the end of the school day.
They order "drinks" (GT usually, though there is a small, hard core of absinthe gluggers), choose someone to sit next to, and launch into whatever has got to them that day. Here's a typical exchange... M (slumps down beside SS): "A VERY LARGE Baileys. I hate children today!"
SS (shifts up for M): "I also hate children today.In fact, I'm hating my job right now. I'm too tired..."
(In case you're worried, I can testify that both M and SS are good teachers and do not really hate children.) As you can see, many posters provide their own stage directions. Webturtle (btw, apologies for the gender-shift in a previous column, WT) even supplied fashion and decor notes when she pioneered the bar's midday opening as an espresso bar straight out of Fellini.
As the evening draws on, conversation heats up. Every so often Bauble appears to take orders or to break some social ice. People post links to some vile new alcoholic drink or cocktail recipe. Stories are told, jokes swapped, confessions made, friendships cemented or fractured.
Around 11 o'clock, the place empties out, leaving just the resident drunks and the host.
But what's this? It's only 19.16 and the thread has gone crazy. Everyone is piling in, trying to be the one who can claim the 10,000th post. And the winner is... oh. Mixu, sexysheep and laptop babe must have posted at exactly the same moment - 19.24 on the notoriously inaccurate website clock.
But it's Mixu who wins the virtual bubbly.
And Bauble, if you're reading this, there's a bottle of real TES champagne waiting for you. Contact us.
Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website. www.tes.co.ukstaffroom