Dear students

As thousands of students prepare to enjoy the really wicked delights of Manchester, a friendly warning: the natives are getting restless
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The Independent Online
Hi. I did not realise it was Freshers' Week until I got stuck in a traffic jam on Wilmslow Road and then I saw you, hundreds, thousands of you, being dropped off at Manchester's halls of residence with your clothes and boxes of teenagehood. Despite what people are saying about the effect of the paltry maximum grant, you did not all look rich. I did, though, get stuck next to one massive white Merc, driven by a stoic Dad, with a lump-in-the-throat Mum, and in the back one flat-topped youth, leaning forward, thinking, "I just can't wait".

Apparently we get more of you than any other European city. No one has ever proved it, but last year there were 57,349 of you at the four universities (including Salford), so it is probably true. And we are oversubscribed, with Manchester University (18,000 students) getting more applications than any other. All over the country there are hundreds of thousands of you absolutely gagging to come here.

Manchester is a good place. It may be decades past its economic heyday and creaking in parts, but it is vital and energetic, reinventing itself into a centre for quality work, arts and particularly music. It is sweet. Unemployment is still bad, as is the poverty and some nasty criminality. But we are trying to get sorted and it is great that you respect it enough to come for three years, with your youthful zest and pounds 500m disposable income.

I have got to be honest, though. You are a bit much at times. After your parents have hugged you and gone, all proud and sad and apprehensive, you proceed to wander round town, Fallowfield, Hulme amd Moss Side, as if they are four corners of heaven - thousands of you. While we work and live and try to understand why you are getting ever so slightly on our nerves, and hope that we are not jealous simply of your youth, because that would be awful.

It is not that. Nor is it traffic jams or other inconveniences - we can take the odd delay and we are smart enough to know that half the clubs, late-night shops and curry houses would not even be here if it were not for you. It is not the sight of packs of you doing your first drunken pukings or interesting hallucinogenics. We all did it - I was a terrible puker right through my twenties, ask anyone.

But there is something that sticks in the craw, we cannot help it. I think it is smugness. However frozen are your grants, you still wear that look, that shining beatific this-is-one-of-the-1,095-best-days- of-my- life look, even if you are freaking out over a Coco Pops or Sugar Puffs decision in KwikSave. There is a vibe coming off you that you are really radical, but actually you are only here because you worked hard for your A-levels.

In three years' time, however wicked it has been, your Mum and Dad will be back. You will be wearing a suit for the first time and a silly hat on your head. If you are a Londoner, you will probably go back after that. Some of you others will stay. You will get jobs and carve out a nice routine. And one day in the early autumn in a few years' time, you will be on your way into town and you will see them, hundreds, thousands of them, and you will think: "Oh no. Students. Are they back already?"

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