21st October 2005 at 01:00
After a round of karaoke in the TES forum's gin palace, Bill Hicks hits the tearoom for shakes and cakes

Remember Bauble's Bar? The place where TES forum users go after a hard day's teaching and let their hair down, loosen their belts, and let rip?

I wrote about this online watering hole back in January, when it was about to celebrate its 10,000th posting, and the eponymous proprietor was threatening to close the whole thing down and go into early retirement.

Here, we were slightly worried that once past 1,000 pages, the sturdy TES website chassis might start buckling under the sheer weight of traffic.

It didn't. Nor did it show the slightest sign of twisting or bending when Bauble's ever-expanding clientele pushed their rowdy but good-natured virtual hostelry through the 2,000 page barrier, and then the 3,000. Late in September, as the bar hurtled towards its 4,000th page, habitues vied with each other to claim the 40,000th posting. And still it expands, still the tired teachers tumble in, order their G Ts and swap jokes, stories and insults. Early this morning (in Bauble time, at exactly post 42,237) fairynuff Sellotaped a notice on to the nicotine-stained walls of the old joint:

"***FRIDAY AFTERNOON KARAOKE*** If you've got the pipes, we've got the tunes! EVERYFRIDAYNIGHTINBAUBLE'SBAR!"

Sure enough, by 4pm, a knees-up was in full swing. Fairynuff's renditions of Blondie hits countered by AmbroseBrierly's When the Boat Comes In. Not even Chewie, hitting the planks with three verses of When I'm Sixty-Four, could cool things down.

But Bauble's is not to everyone's taste. In the world of online bars, it has turned into a bit of a super-pub, a gin palace. Some prefer more intimate, or less alcoholic, ambiences.

And so new premises have opened both here in Personal, and in the specialist forums. Over in Modern languages, Fifi's cafe-bar continues in fine polyglot style. On a recent evening, Petite Joueuse was demanding a triple cognac to prepare for an imminent Ofsted visit. A resident gallant, PierreImport, sidled up: "Mon Dieu! Un cognac triple?? You must be feeling it... or is it numbing the pain?I I will have a coffee to keep you company and so I can walk you home."

Two weeks ago, malfunkshun ventured into Personal with an announcement: "I have noticed the lack of tearoom facilities on this site. Bars, pubs... yet no tearooms. So I'm going to make one. Cos I ain't a drinker, and I can't be the only one who'd prefer a PG pyramid and a teacake. Welcome all. Thick wedge toast available, scones, pastries, toasted sandwiches, very reasonable and magnificent view of the south west Wales coastline... smoking permitted."

Malfunkshun's seaside tearooms have been a roaring success, but what of the latest venture? Not a bar or a club at all, but a sweet shop?

Piscesgirl: "Lemon sherbert, anyone?"

Good luck, piscesgirl. One in the ribs for all those eating healthily.

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

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