When money's too tight to mention

This Student Life; Week 8 at the Manchester student house; Red phone bills and raised voices, but Ian's real problem is the nightlife - or lack of it.
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The Independent Culture
THE M-WORD has been a preoccupation with the students this week. Money, the stuff that makes the world go round, is spinning a bit out of control. For a start, they haven't paid the telephone bill and the red version's been sitting on the hall table for a dangerous amount of time.

It's not that no one wants to pay it. It's just a case of highlighter- pen paralysis. As anyone who's ever lived with nine people and one telephone will know, working out the bill is horrendous. It's a laborious process where each person highlights their calls, initials them and argues about the ones left over. The process can take months.

Ian, by sheer force of will, has got most of the house to work out what they owe and write their cheques. "It's only Leona who hasn't, and I've told her enough times," he says. "As soon as she works out what she owes, we can send off the cheques."

Ian, the no-nonsense Yorkshire boy, has had rather a week for straight- talking. Not only has he told Leona off but he and Rachael have not been seeing eye-to-eye. "About two days ago I'd just come back from work and she was in the living room going on and on about the landlord," he explains. "I started shouting at her and stuff. I said: `I've got enough to worry about, and where I live is the last thing on my mind.' The house isn't bad, you know, but now it's all become worse."

The landlord seems to be getting his revenge on the students, the only way that landlords can. "He's sending the estate agent around to check the state of the place, and if it's not right, he's going to charge us pounds 100 for professional cleaners," says Ian. "And now the council tax people have been around because he's grassed us up. He was so nice at the beginning but now he's going against everything we do. I know Rachael had good intentions, but she took it too far."

The irony of it all is not wasted on Rachael, who only really wanted value for money. "I'm thinking of moving out," she says, "but I wouldn't go until everyone was safe here." Ian is full of remorse. "I really regretted the argument afterwards," he admits, "and Rachael's been very touchy since." Everyone else has kept their distance from the landlord problem as they know Rachael is doing her best, but no one feels the pressures of earning money more than Ian.

Still, a nice little group outing on Saturday night was a great comfort. Peruvia, Manchester's swankiest club, proved that money might buy you a nice house, but it can't furnish you with taste in music. "It was cheesy music for rich people," says Ian in disgust. "I'd never been to a place like that before. It was more like a hotel than a nightclub."

David even dyed his hair orange and sprayed it with glitter, but then he was expecting to have a little more fun than the Gucci-clad crowd allowed. "It was ridiculously posey," he exclaims. "You could smell the money. I'd never go back again. The blokes all looked like body builders, the women were gorgeous, and the music was rubbish." Peruvia is home to Manchester United footballers, models and soap stars. As far as our students are concerned, they can keep it.

Unfortunately, there's not much choice in Manchester. It was the clubbing legend, The Hacienda, that gave the city its reputation as a nightclub capital, but now there are few good places to go. "That is because of the Moss Side and Cheatham Hill gangs," explains Robbie. "The gang culture got to the clubs which were then closed down because of guns and drugs. Now everyone goes to Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield. Manchester still has a reputation as club heaven, but it's just not true any more."

In fact, the city is crying out for somewhere decent that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Which leads us on to Dave's new project. Like Alistair, he's turning into a Student Entrepreneur. "My friend Tom and I have formed a club promotions company called Cosmic Hole," he says proudly, "and we're doing our first themed night at Elemental, one of the few new clubs in Manchester, on Wednesday. It's called Mistletoe Madness and vodka, peach schnapps, Bacardi and tequila will all be a pound."

Everyone hopes it will be a success. At least he'll be quicker at paying the phone bill.


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