22nd April 2005 at 01:00
Bill Hicks invites himself to a TES forum party. But he won't be dishing any dirt on the assembled posters

In March, a poster called rubyruby wrote the following in the TES personal forum: "I propose we have a TES night out in Manchester on Saturday 9th April!"

One month and several hundred postings later, I was on a train heading for Manchester Piccadilly, 100 TES biros in my bag and cash in my wallet.

I was to be the self-invited guest at your party - and I was going to be late. Rubyruby had chosen the venue: the Hard Rock Cafe at The Printworks.

As I swerved through crowds of shoppers, I began to worry. Would anyone actually turn up? Would they get on? Would they turn on me, the Censor?

The joint was already heaving at 6pm, but it wasn't hard to pinpoint the forum gang. Copies of The TES had been stuck to the wall. Beneath them, 20 or more people were chatting away as if they'd known each other for years.

The red wine, Bacardi Breezers and cranberry juice were flowing almost as fast as they do in Bauble's bar on the forum.

I introduced myself to a smiling woman who turned out to be slieber24, our famous American. The game for the first hour was guess my username.

Not so difficult, in the case of the forums' star couples - HellvixenMrVixen, all the way from Sussex, and angry jedijanemk - who arrived to the congratulations of their online intimates. But I have said enough: I was a guest, not a reporter. I will not spill any indiscretions; you do that well enough yourselves online. I'll not even say anything about the poster who later reported me as being a Norman Bates lookalike, nor about the ragged crocodile of teachers that staggered around the local restaurants in search of a table for 18.

As I left the Hard Rock, well after midnight, a hard core were drinking on.

I could swear I heard ElaineC and ladymary debating which night club to move on to, but I could be mistaken.

At 7.46 the next morning, Jacob, who as far as I know drank as much as anybody else, started a new thread: "Our skool trip to manchistre by Jacob junior aged 8..."

It's a good read, but Taster wasn't satisfied: "Well done. That clearly took AGES to type. NOW DISH THE DIRT!"

Dirt? You should have been there, Taster. I won't launch on the pious stuff about building virtual communities. A group of teachers of varying ages, from all parts of the country, who met on the forums, had a great night out. Now more meetings are being arranged. Maybe meet you all again somewhere. Meanwhile, thanks.

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website. www.tes.co.ukstaffroom

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