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The best birthday I could have asked for.

You know when sometimes you'll get an idea in your head and then assume it'll just stay like that? Well that's how I'd been living my life for, well... all of its duration, so it never occurred to me that little suggestions in October 2005 would have actually came to me hosting a mini IAM meet just after my birthday at the end of January 2006. It all just started off as off-hand comments about how it'd be nice to spend some time with some of my favourite people around my sweet 16th and ended up with some wicked memories.

The main question was how many people I could invite and who would actually want to turn up. Plenty of people expressed a desire to come but work, money and travel issues caused problems and led to a few people being dropped from the list. I'd spoken to my mum and we'd figured that around 8 people would be able to sleep in our house with some degree of comfort but whether I had 8 people wanting to stay or not would be a completely different matter. I had visions of loud music, happiness and plenty of pierced and tattooed people but I realised that not only was I lacking the long blonde hair and cheerleader credentials to hold an American teen movie style house party, it wouldn't be practical or possible.

After much careful consideration, we decided that the meet would be the weekend of the February 4th. I still wasn't 100% sure on who was going to come but it was pretty much certain that it was only going to be Amy, Stacey, Vicky, Sophie and I. Vicky and Stacey had the unlucky task of travelling from Scotland whereas Sophie was relatively close in Bradford and Amy only lives around the corner. It was settled that it were to be us 5 and that the Scottish ladies would come on the Friday night instead, so they could get a good sleep after such a long journey.

Having maths last lesson on Friday 3rd was the single most horrible thing that's ever happened to me. I sat there staring at the clock, pretending to be interested in the locus between two points on a piece of paper that were pretending to be ice cream stalls on a beach. I longed for it to be 2.50pm so I could leave the lesson and go into town and meet Stacey and Vicky. Eventually the clock ticked ten to three and it was the usual mass of bodies raring to escape from school with the familiar smell of nicotine as soon as you left the building and the proclamations of "thank god it's Friday". Amy and I made our way to the bus stop and then into town to meet the ladies. Butterflies danced around my stomach with stilettos on as Stacey text me and told me where they were in Leicester.

Turns out they were in a little café in one of the back streets in Leicester and when Amy and I arrived there, we only saw Stacey – trust Vicky to be in the toilet when we made our big arrival! – and I gave her a huge hug and we did the whole "oh my god, I can't believe this is happening!" thing that is so familiar with people who spend all their lives on the internet and then brave the wide world and find it ever so daunting. We sat in there for a while talking about the journey and getting pierced and anything else we could muster up to talk about whilst I picked my way through a strange pizza bread concoction.

We had decided that one of the first things we'd do was get pierced – how apt. The only place I really trusted in Leicester was just around the corner but low and behold, it was closed. I'd recently been getting random ear piercings at Kazbah so we decided to give it a try there. I nervously got my medusa pierced – but that's a whole other story – and we heard Vicky scream as she got her nipples done. Turns out that Kazbah isn't as bad as I had thought and I've been getting pierced there ever since.

Going back to my house seemed like a good plan but as it was boring there and the cutest little park had just been re opened there, we decided to go there for a bit in the cold wintry evening as Amy and I recaptured our youth whilst Vicky and Stacey watched with much amusement. A relatively early night was to be had because of it being such a long day.

It was weird getting up in the morning. I'm used to my friends being over to stay but it was odd waking up to a room with two people in that seemed to have just jumped out of my computer. Once I got over the initial weirdness, we all got ready and dressed and suitable for going into town to meet Sophie.

We all went to the big bus station in Leicester and awaited Sophie's arrival. When we saw the lady in red, there was the whole greeting thing I'd become familiar with but this time with cakes! I was presented with a miniature shopping basket full of little cupcakes. I felt like little Red Riding Hood when walking to Caffé Nero, just without the red coat and the whole wolf thing.

We all sat and munched and drank in Nero, getting to know one and other and talking about again, how weird it is and deciding what we were going to do for the rest of the day. We decided to head on up to the place where the bowling alley is and go see what we could do up there.

We made our way to the Meridian Park in Leicester, poorly navigated by me, only to find out that there were no lanes available until midnight. I hadn't pre-booked because I didn't know how many people were coming and therefore how many lanes we needed. We were disappointed but not deterred as we went and played on the various arcade games. Amy and Stacey found a particular fondness to the dance machines...

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Dan arrived with his friend Jim and after some game playing, we sat down at a table in the bar and chatted for a while. It occasionally got a little uncomfortable with everyone not really knowing what to say to each other. My lack of confidence to talk to these people who I could talk for hours with when not face to face disappointed me more than anything and I felt that I'd made people come and visit for no good reason. I think it was noticed by people that I was uncomfortable but maybe not because I was uncomfortable with myself, rather than the company I was in.

I got a bit camera happy and decided to take a photo of pretty much everything under the sun – which may explain why my "birthday meet" folder on my computer takes about 3 years to load. Though, I did manage to take a lot of nice ones of myself and each of the ladies.

(Click to enlarge)

Eventually we decided that we were all pretty peckish as we hadn't eaten all day – well, apart from the cakes – so we made our way across the park to the space-ship-esque building with the lovely neon sign that declared it as a Pizza Hut. We said bye to Dan and Jim as they were going back into Leicester to go out for the evening and sat down in the warm and dough-smelling building and ordered a feast fit for kings. Conversation seemed to get better as the meal went on and a lot of it ended up being focused on whether or not Amy would actually steal the glass she was drinking from (whilst it was funny at the time and how to us, stealing was big and clever, it's not, and I don't advise it) and would she get caught. Turns out she did nick it and didn't get caught – oh the rebellion! We rolled out of Pizza Hut and into Vicky's car and went back to my house. Amy didn't stay however, as she was feeling pretty ill so it ended up just being the 4 of us.

Alcohol was what was needed to make the evening just that little bit better so we marched down to the local ASDA in search of the Beers, Wines and Spirits aisle. I linked arms with Stacey and told her how wicked it was for her to be here and still how strange it was that it was just a little casual idea all those months ago. The brisk walk in the cold evening made the heating at ASDA more than welcome and we went and decided what alcohol to buy. We ended up with a bottle of vodka and a bottle of apple Sourz. For anyone who hasn't had Sourz, they are missing out a great deal. It is now my shot of choice whenever I go out in Leicester and every time I see the bright green bottle it reminds me of Stacey saying "We should get this, it's so nice" and the hilarity of watching people drink it.

(Click to enlarge)

The evening turned out to be a lot calmer than my rave up idea of several months before, but it was good. Even though my confidence was still pretty low and the conversation was occasionally pretty sparse it was nice being in the company of three people I really genuinely liked. We seemed to be ok sitting watching crap Saturday night TV, eating Curley Wurleys and drinking. Yet again we ended up going to bed pretty early with Vicky and Stacey again on the double mattress and Sophie sleeping in my bed instead of Amy.

The morning came around and it seemed to be the end of the adventure. Sophie's coach was leaving at around 2pm so we made our way into town sufficiently early for her to get it in time. We all seemed subdued as we sat around waiting for the coach and talking about how it's been good and how Sophie won't come see me with a hangover next time so she's more talkative. We amused ourselves by looking at odd banners on the side of buildings and the small woman who looked like an oompa-lumpa from the new Charlie And The Chocolate Factory film until it was time for everyone to leave. Sophie got on the coach and then Vicky and Stacey left via car. I told all of them to text me when they got back so I know they made it with all their limbs intact.

It was sad saying goodbye for various reasons. Not only was it bizarre to get back to the real world after being with these familiar strangers for so long, but it reminded me that everything would go back to being the same again. I needed something interesting to happen at that point in my life and while this satisfied my need, I knew it was a bit of lost hope to think it'll continue to be as good as it was. Admittedly, it probably wasn't the best weekend as I hardly spoke and people seemed bored but to just be there with the people meant so much more than anything else.

My faith in the IAM community went through the roof and I knew that even though some people couldn't make it, the people who did were there because of who I am. Not what I look like or because of what I claimed to be but because of what and who I am as a person. Even though my confidence started off low, it's continued to rise ever since and I feel that this meet was the cause of that. It's been over 6 months now since the last meet I attended but as I'm still only an unemployed 16 year old student, there isn't much I can do for ways of travel to get to other meets – especially ones in pubs – but I know that that'll change in the future and I can only hope they're as good as the first.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 06 Sept. 2006
in Culture

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