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This Student Life: End of Term at the Manchester student house - Home is... where the washing machine is

It's the time of year to catch up with family, meet old friends, eat decent food and... get the laundry done
THE STUDENTS have finally come to the end of their first term in the second year. After three months of juggling essays, parties and work they are going home for a bit of TLC - time out, laundry and cooking.

Parents all over the country are looking forward to seeing their offspring return home, only to find themselves knee-deep in dirty washing and washing- up. How many Quality Street can one person eat? they will ask themselves. And how much telly can a 19-year-old watch without turning catatonic?

"I've just packed," says Rosie, "and I'm taking all my clothes that aren't clean. I'm going home for six weeks and I can't pick my bag up. And I'm going to have lots of cooked meals. My mum always says I treat the house like a hotel because I'm always popping in and out. I only really stay at home to eat and sleep."

Despite the burden on their washing machine, does Rosie's family miss her? "My mum will miss me now because she hasn't seen me for a month and a half, but at the same time they like the peace without me. My brother is 16 and we always fight when I go home. We're always winding each other up. When I go home, I deliberately sit in his seat in the living-room just to annoy him."

Although Rosie loves going home, she feels she's outgrown her old role in the family.

"I feel a bit odd now," she explains, "like I'm a guest."

Leona's mum thinks she treats the place like a hotel, too. But then she might have a point, since she usually gets her mum to drive up from Coventry so she can fit all her washing in the car. This year, however, Leona is getting the train.

"I'm still taking loads of laundry though," she says. "I'm only going back for a month, because I want to come back to Manchester and look for a job. I'm looking forward to seeing my mum and having clean clothes, a clean house and proper dinners."

Both girls are not as bone idle as they sound. They're going to work while they're away, Leona for a local firm and Rosie in the china and glass department of Harrods: "I work over Christmas and through the sale," she explains. "It's hell for a few weeks but then I'll get all this money to pay off my debts."

Although Rosie works hard, she enjoys it. "They pile all the china really high during the sale and it's so funny when someone knocks it over, because when one plate goes they all go." She's also served some famous faces: "Ringo Starr came in with his wife Barbara," she recalls. "He was really charming. He asked me what my favourite thing in the department was, and said that he'd probably get that! I just missed Jack Nicholson once and I was gutted."

Tash is looking forward to going home to London for the holidays, and probably gets the most homesick of everyone. "I'm not a big fan of Christmas," she explains, "but it will be nice to see my daddy and my brother." Tash is particularly close to her father, as he brought up both her and her older brother single-handedly after their mother died when Tash was only nine. "We're very close. I speak to him on the telephone every day. It's a silly thing, really; I don't have to. My daddy's really great." She's not so enthusiastic about this time of year. "I don't get excited about Christmas. I suppose I'm looking forward to eating, drinking and getting merry," she says, "and I'll do some good home cooking."

Ian, meanwhile, isn't going home over Christmas. He'll be working at Revolution, the pub where he has a bar job, but he doesn't really mind.

"I'll make some decent money and have a good laugh," he explains, "and then I'm going to the Edinburgh street party for New Year."

So will he miss any of his friends while they're away? "There's this girl called Heidi," he says, rather coyly, "and I would like to wish her a merry Christmas." So is romance in the air? Ian plays it cautiously. "We're just friends," he says.

Meanwhile, Alistair and David are going to warmer climes. Alistair is off to visit his dad, who works for the North Carolina State University in America.

"Last time I saw my dad it was Easter," he explains. "I'm looking forward to seeing him and meeting up with my friend Tory. And I can't wait to get in a car and drive on the open road." Talk about culture shock. Will he ever be able to adjust back to Manchester buses?

David's also looking forward to some peace and quiet, although he's going to Hong Kong, a place not renowned for tranquillity.

"I have my own spot in the park overlooking the harbour," he says. "I've never seen anybody else there. It's ironic that I'm in this big, bustling city and I've found this place where I can just sit and chill."

He's going to Tseun Wan, to spend Christmas with his mum, and this time he hopes she's got over his spiky haircut.

"We don't really celebrate Christmas here," he explains. "It's a bit like Chinese New Year in Britain. You know people are having parties, you are aware of it, but you don't really celebrate it. I'll probably spend more time going out shopping with my mum."

Both boys are bound to have a fabulous time. It's just a shame about airline limitations on luggage. They won't be able to take their laundry.