This Student Life: Week 4 at the Manchester student house: Stay out of the kitchen

At last, the landlord is cooperating - but the mould in the sink is as virulent as ever.

Throw nine people into a house together and before long you're going to get your hard-core chums who make the place go with a swing. So far it looks as though Dave, Robbie, Leona and Tash are in the eye of the house hurricane. While Alistair, Ian, Rachael and Dani dart around town, the Fallowfield Four are making sure the living room gets lived in .

They're the ones who spend most of their time at home; Leona and Tash because they are enjoying the more relaxed side of student life. Tash's motto - "can't be bothered" - is holding strong, while Leona's devotion to daytime soaps is proving the age-old theory of what happens when an irresistible force (the telly) meets an immovable object (the sofa): not much.

Meanwhile Dave and Robbie are still providing the in-house entertainment, but this week it left home and hit a local Manchester club. Nostalgia got the better of them and they organised a Flat Boys reunion for those lovely lads they shared a Loaded-strewn apartment with last year. "We're all really different personalities, but when we get together we gel really well," says Dave of himself, Robbie, and ex-flatmates Ewan, Stu, Chris, Tom, Joe and Charlie. Tash and Leona left the house long enough to go to the misty-eyed reunion, while Alistair and Ian couldn't resist seeing some old chums make chimps of themselves. They were treated to the usual student mooning parade, eclipsed only by a competition among various ladettes to see how many of them they could spank on a time limit. I suppose you had to be there and, interestingly enough, Rachael and Dani weren't. "The boys get on really well with Leona and Tash," reveals Dave.

"We like Rachael and Dani but we don't see that much of them. They like going out to different places. They're not into getting that pissed."

While Alistair is often out planning party nights (he's organised another one at a Manchester club, Isobar, this Thursday), or Ian is working every other waking moment or Rosie is quietly getting on with her own stuff, it's up to the Fallowfield Four to keep the heart of the house pumping. That other heart of the house, the kitchen, is in need of urgent surgery. It's built on to the back of the living room and is suffering a washing up by-pass. No-one cooks in it either. It's fast becoming the Kew Gardens of home-grown fungi, as interesting fur grows on mounds of unwashed plates, dishes, pots and pans.

"We're going to end up with some horrible disease," predicts Leona. "The smell is really awful. I'm actually getting used to it, but it's really embarrassing when friends visit. And it gets cold if you open a window."

Still, one can always be philosophical about it. "I have a theory," expounds Alistair, who goes around to his chums for dinner if it all gets a bit too much. "There are millions and millions of germs in there, but living with so much E coli builds up a resistance. We're never going to get sick. Nobody cleans it, people leave everything out and it's just disgusting. I used Ian's wok a couple of weeks ago and forgot to wash it up. Now it's got all this greeny-blue fur growing over it." He's looking on the bright side. "Now we could go to it for penicillin jabs."

Not any more. Ian has just bravely washed it up, but he's feeling magnanimous. "It's typical student life, isn't it?" he ponders. "You've got so many things going on with essays and working. Washing-up isn't a priority."

No wonder Rachael and Dani are keeping themselves to themselves. They've got their own kitchen on the top floor. "When we moved, Rachael and I painted the rooms upstairs," explains Dani, "and now we write our shopping list in chalk on one wall in the kitchen, and the places we want to visit on the other." Their rooms are bright, cheerful girly spaces with tasteful posters and pale walls. If downstairs is pandemonium, this is peace. And it's a million miles away from the squalor below.

"I'm not a Home Counties person, you know," says Rachael, just in case we think she's got lacy curtains up there. "I went to see the opera Don Carlos last week with some friends, and most of us fell asleep. I had to wake up my friend Paul for snoring too loudly." But she's a musical girl, and is still determined to form her own band. "I've got a few numbers to ring this week, and I hope to have something organised by the end of the Christmas term."

The student house might be big and beautiful, but it's been in desperate need of repair. The landlord has finally got around to some essentials. "At last we've had window bars installed on the ground floor and a burglar alarm fitted," says Ian, "but it's taken us a long time to get it sorted." The students think the landlord is giving the lowest service but getting as much money from them as possible. So at least some factors of university life never change.

And finally, is Alistair is turning into a rugby groupie? "We're holding a surprise 21st party for one of my best friends, who plays for Newcastle," he enthuses. "The England stars Rob Andrew and Rory Underwood will be there." But before we get the wrong idea, he's being very cagey about his love-life and seems to have several irons in the fire. "I'm going out with different girls. I'm not sure what will happen," he says. Will he get his fingers burnt? Only if they ask him to clean their cookers.















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