This Student Life: `I don't think I could live with lads again'

Summer Term, week 8 at the Manchester Student House; It's the end of term and so goodbye to quarrels over girly pin-ups, dirty plates and silent sulks. By Cayte Williams
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The Independent Culture
THE STUDENTS have come to the end of their second year at Manchester, and everyone is packing up their things to go home or abroad. Alistair is off to Africa and America; Tasha, Rosie, Robbie, David and Ian are going back to their parents for the summer; while Leona is staying on in the house on her own until she moves into her new place in Fallowfield.

"I'm not looking forward to staying here on my own," she says miserably. "It's a huge house and it's going to be really weird with no one else around." Leona is not having a good time. She dropped out of college, and while everyone else is in a state of post-exam euphoria, she is working all hours in a local bar.

Meanwhile, with no love lost between him and the women, Ian can't wait "to get out of the house". The men, according to the women, have spent most of the year running around the house being unbelievably noisy.

"But we've learnt to live with it," says Rosie philosophically. "They put up these pictures of half-naked Loaded girls on the sitting-room wall but we just ignore them. David put them up, but thinks they're funny. I think Robbie and Alistair secretly like them. But then again, I suppose I'm biased."

Rosie and Ian have not got on, to put it mildly. They are hardly on speaking terms, and during the year mild dislike has escalated into a full-blown personality clash.

"It's been difficult sometimes living here," says Robbie, "because when two people don't get on it creates an atmosphere. Leona doesn't like Ian very much either, but Tasha gets on all right with him because she's one of the lads. All the blokes like her because she's straightforward."

In fact, Robbie has found living with the women to be an experience. "When boys have a problem they talk about it, but it's different for girls," he explains. "They bottle things up and you don't know what's wrong. With Tasha it's different. If you've got a problem with her you can talk it out, but the other two get moody. I spoke to the other lads in the house, and it pisses them off, too."

Robbie lives on the first floor with the women, which allows him quickly to sort out any problem with them. "If someone has pissed me off, I pick a moment when I can talk to them on their own and chat it out. If you leave things they get worse and worse. And Alistair is really good with everyone. He's never had a disagreement because he's so sorted and cool.

"Everyone likes him. I really admire him because he knows exactly where he's going to be in 20 years' time."

But what is the problem with Ian and the women? "He's so straight-talking, he seems a little rude," explains Robbie. "The girls think that he's getting at them, when it's just his sense of humour. It's very dry. He's quite direct, but basically he's a really nice person. But if he doesn't really respect someone, he doesn't give a shit, and that's why he let loose on Rosie. Things like that can ruin a household."

Despite the atmosphere, they all seem to be having a good time in their last week in the house. The men have been to see the band All Saints. "They were wicked," says Ian, "but there were all these teenyboppers there and we all felt really old." Then there was the house party, where Ian poured vodka and tequila simultaneously and the guests used the shed doors as barbecue fuel.

"It finished at 9.30 in the morning," says Alistair, while all Tasha could remember was various lads mooning at every opportunity. "Someone took 18 pictures with my camera," says Rosie, "so I don't fancy taking that down to Boots."

Rosie is dreading her mum coming to Manchester next week, because she will see the house for the first time.

"She's coming to pick me up so I can go home for summer," she explains. "I know that she's going to take one look at this place and be horrified. I don't know how I've managed to live in all this mess. I suppose you just get used to it. There's no way I was ever going to tidy up anything, because someone would come along and dirty it all again. The top toilet is out of bounds because someone was sick in it at the party, the middle bathroom is filthy, and I won't even go near the one on the ground floor."

The women pick their way through dirty plates and full ashtrays to switch on the television set for their favourite soap, while the men play loud music from their rooms. "I'm supposed to move in with Robbie and his mates next term," says Leona, "but I don't know if I could ever live with lads again."

So are they all going to miss each other when they move out, and will they keep in touch? "I'm definitely going to keep in touch with Leona and Rosie," says Tasha, "and I'm sure I'll bump into the others one day."

Alistair is more casual. "Well it's part of student life, moving out, isn't it?" he says. "You have to move on." Meanwhile, Robbie is looking forward to going home. "It hasn't sunk in that we're all moving out, and it won't until everyone's moved their stuff out; then it will be really sad. But it will be nice to go back to my parents to be looked after. I can't wait to see my family," he says.