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International Drain Meet 2012

First hosted in 2008, the International Drain Meet, more commonly known by its acronym, was an opportunity to meet fellow drainers from around the world and have a laugh with and lots of drink. The people at SilentUK were following in the footsteps of the likes of Perry Farrell and the Lollapalooza Festival, as the IDM continued through the years in various London drain locations. Various events in London in 2012, meant the organisers would need to look overseas to avoid trouble with 'The Man'. So the IDM went International, and Antwerp in Belgium was the location of choice. My first time invited, along with numerous other people, so me of who would be experiencing their first time in a drain. The invites were sent out months prior, time off work booked, ferry tickets booked, cars places filled up. It was then a wait for the off.

I arrived back from a trip around the Gulf states late on the Thursday night, bleary eyed and tired, and I tried to catch up on my sleep. Friday was vegetation day, with one eye kept on various messages from those going in the car I'd be travelling in. A sleek and silver Ford Focus with a 'decent size boot that will fit everything.' Packing again from the flotsam and debris in my room, It was time to have a last shower and head out the door. A train to the delightful suburban hub that is Luton. I made the train with 2 minutes to spare, and was soon whizzing North with commuters and shoppers wondering why the UK's festival season had started early, and why there was a strong smell of rubber. I met with GE058 who'd been on the same train, and we climbed into GE059's silver mass manufactured dream machine. After moving a pack of chewing gum to one side, GE059 realised that maybe his car book wasn't that spacious. As my bags filled most of the boot by themselves. Back at GE059's pad, we were joined by GE046 and partner GE039. Final checks, and it was downstairs to the car again, where thankfully i'd shotgun'd the front seat. Somehow we managed to get all the various bags into the car, and we were off...to Sainsburys at Colney Hatch. I grabbed some John Smiths, because I don't want any of that foreign stuff, and the others grabbed their own supplies.

It was then back into the Luton silver speedster, as GE059 drove with his foot firmly embedding the accelerator into the floor. Our eyelids shifted back into our eye-sockets, and we held on for glimmers of life, heartbeats pumping to a similar bpm as Gabba Techno. We had to meet up with the rest of the Friday evening convoy at a motorway services on the M20. As we pulled in a handful of cars were parked up and the usual suspects milling about chatting. GE064 had some IDM stickers, and they were placed on the cars, and we headed off to Dover as a convoy. All the cars being driven by males, testosterone dictated the speed and driving style. As cars passed each other at ever greater speeds, and passengers extended various hand gestures. GE064 was clearly cheating by having a sporty looking BMW. It wasn't long before we reached the port of Dover, and having amused the customs with our passport photos (let's face it, it's the only reason customs people do the job), it was time to park up for a bit and stretch legs and strike up conversation.

The silver dream machine with suitable sticker on the front.

Stickers didn't stop at being placed on just our convoy vehicles, it was decided the bus should be allowed to join the convoy, willingly or not. Our numbers were also increased by one, when GE096 picked up a hitchhiker, who would continue with us to Antwerp.

The time for boarding came, and we congregated in one of the bars, while others sorted out cheap duty free booze, or climbed up to the ferry's bridge. I was happy to just chill and chat with an American that had come across from the exploring capital of America, Minneapolis-St Paul, the so-called MSP hard-hitters. As well as a Canadian chap from Ottawa.

The ferry journey passed in no time, and it was back into the cars. A more sedate driving approach seemed to follow on the foreign roads, where driving on the wrong side of the road is standard practice. We quickly left France, thank god, and headed on into Belgium, home of the Euro Derps. Once in Antwerp, we pulled up and found ourselves near the Pre-Metro, and odd name for a hotel, but it turned out to be the actual Metro system. No SRT'ing in this time, a grill had been 'fixed' and we all clambered down. All 40 or so of us! Once in we set up camp at the first station, and pitched up on the platform. More beers, whiskey and vodka, and the conversations flowed. Others who'd not been before, set off to explore the Pre Metro. I tried to sleep, but work had started directly above us on the surface tram lines. Endless banging and vibrations rounding loudly in the tunnels.

I gave up on the idea of sleeping, and went to chat with the chaps also still up in the tunnel just outside the station area. One of the them had found a bicycle, and I welcomed the chance to go for a spin. Admittedly it lacked breaks, and any air in the tyres, but it was still an experience I'd always wanted to have. Riding a bike in the Pre-Metro. Tired a bit more, I went back to try to sleep again, and remembered I had some ear plugs, now I was certainly going to sleep!

The morning came, and someone had been up to mischief during the night, a gravestone placed near the head of sleeping controversial explorer GE096, and a spunking penis that I managed to capture dropping it's load onto GE002!

Everyone got together, and it was time to leave. The small problem of workers nearby was on everyone's minds. And so, I pushed up the grill and climbed out, rapidly followed by 40 or 50 other explorers. The workmen didn't seem to notice for a bit, and then just looked on bewildered. One walking up to the grill after we'd all piled out. Seemingly unaware there was a huge unfinished metro system down there.

The next problem was the fact that 3 of the cars had been towed, having parked on the side of the road that the builders were using, and 'verboaten' written on signs. Bloody foreigners using crafty tricks to capture people out, why they don't speak English i'll never know! So while the drivers headed off to the cop shop and then the car pound, and erm, then the cop shop. Pretty much everyone else raided the nearby Carrefour and ended up eating in a grassy area between the tram tracks. I acknowledged the rather interesting range of processed meats in Carrefour.

Being seemingly the only one in the black and with a credit card, I was the one to bail our car out. Thankfully the cops waved or forgot to charge us the €50 part of the fine, but at the car yard I still got whacked for €180. God bless sub-contracting. We hopped in the car and rushed off to catch the dying light at the chamber du commerce, and decided this would be a good place to crash. We then returned to the car, and changed into our dazzling outfits.

An hour later, after GE002 and co had taken their time eating a meal, we all piled off out the pub, and headed off across town to the venue. A bizarre long crocodile chain of mostly men in black tie and waders, women in dresses and waders. It was quite the site, and something I was proud and happy to be a part of. As was everyone else.

Once all inside, one individual apparently started off going left, and like sheep, we all followed. Unaware this person had never been in the drain before, and had no idea which way to go. So we all walked for around a mile or so before reaching the point in the picture below. Do we go left or right? Then someone figured out we'd gone the wrong way! So the large crowd of people had to walk all the way back. Some of the more diminutive women were not happy, I don't think many of us were.

On finally getting back to the starting point, we kept on going right, and then finally found the venue set aside for the party. Music and lights were supplied by tapping into the power at the visitor centre on the surface. Good times followed and much talking and drinking. Even some dancing.

A little later in proceedings, and it was time to do some speeches. The American's and Aussies, as the ones with the loudest voices, stood up to give thanks to the local explorers who'd arranged the access and lighting, music etc. Thanks were also given to all the nationalities that had attended, England (GE059 from Scotland must have been a little peeved!), Belgium, France, Holland, Ge rmany, Italy, Sweden, Australia and 'who could forget the f**kin Americans!'  Canada was also represented, but as it was only Witek, who cares!

Speeches done, next up was the group shot, a memento of the wonderful people that had made the effort to attend, and were there for a good time.

And this was the result, I count around 70 heads, with a few more here and there.

One of the organisers got a bit miffed that people might try to steal 'his' man fudge, and tried to prevent others taking it. That, or he was pissed and crashed out on the sewer floor, having to be stretchered out! (pic by spungletrumpet)

It was a good night, but sadly not long enough, that and our time there was also limited. So I left with a few others to hit the city cathedral. It was sad to leave, but a lot of times in this game, you don't get to choose, events dictate instead.

Big thanks to the Belgium locals for setting the event up and sorting access. Thanks to go to GE006 and GE002 for coordinating the rabble that came. Also big thanks to GE059 for driving me and others there. Further thanks go to GE031 for taxiing the drivers of the towed cars around.

So until 2013...