It's reading week at Manchester University and our students are on the road. Rosie's visiting her chums in London, Dani's tackled a field trip to the Lake District, Tash is visiting a friend's posh house in Edinburgh and Alistair is experiencing bath-parties, football matches and fireworks on a trip down south. Poor Dave is stuck at home (a trip to Amsterdam fell through) but he and Robbie are enjoying the thrills of a new washing machine. What it is to be truly domesticated.
Meanwhile Ian, the workaholic of the house, has stayed at home. This little piggy can't go partying because he's got a bar job to attend to. Like many students, he's got to juggle lectures, dissertations, partying and part-time work - and he'll probably end up with the kind of time-management skills a high-flier would kill for.
Ian works as a barman at Revolution, one of Manchester's numerous student watering-holes, and he often has to work up to 30 hours a week. "University is my main priority," he says, "but money is a major factor. Sometimes it's difficult because I have a heavy student workload, but I also need to do paid work." When Ian started work, he gave his university timetable to his boss, Jill, so that she could fit shifts in around it. It wasn't a problem because she is both flexible and understanding. "She's sound. If I need a night off, I tell her a week in advance," Ian says of the manageress, "and she's really good about it."
Ian's dad is disabled and his mum is unemployed, so Ian can't afford to miss a shift. "I've been working since I was 17, back in Leeds, and even then I used to work during exams," he says. "Working in this bar is the best job I've ever had because I get on really well with the staff and you get trained up properly. Nobody is better than anyone else. There's no hierarchy."
Revolution is also central to Ian's social life. "I don't really feel left out when I can't go to things with my housemates on account of work because there is always something going on here," he continues. "After a shift, we sometimes get a half-price drink and then we go on and have a bit of a laugh."
Although he won't actually admit to it, Ian's rather sexy, and his ability to attract girls has not gone unnoticed by his workmates at Revolution. "One night, a friend told me that this good-looking blonde had just come into the bar and left me a parcel," he explains with undisguised glee. "My friends hyped it up into this big event, and I waited until the end of the night before I opened it. I thought it was a box of chocolates because the card said: "To my Jay Kay-lookalike, I've been watching you at the bar and I think you're sexy." (Ian often gets compared to the lead singer of Jamiroquai.)
"So we all gathered around and I opened this parcel. It was a box of chocolates, but there were no chocolates in it. It was full of beer-bottle tops, wine-gums and cigarette butts. The lads at work had bought me chocolates, eaten them all and re-sealed the box." With friends like this, who needs dieticians? However, the lovely Ian was unfazed. "It was a really good laugh," he says, and goodness knows, he needs all the fun that he can get.
"Most of the time, I'm really, really tired, and I've been known to fall asleep during early morning lectures," he says of his hectic life.
"Sometimes I don't actually get home from the bar until 3am because we're talking and winding down, and then I have to go and work on my computer for college. Usually I finish at around 9-10am and then have to go into college in the afternoon. Sometimes my first lecture is at 12am."
How does Ian cope? "I've got quite a lot of stamina," he explains. "I see it as a goal to achieve what I can. I put 100 per cent into it. If I get a good degree, hopefully I'll benefit financially." And if it all gets too much, there are always his workmates to call on. "We all help each other out," he says. "I've got everyone's number, and if I can't do a shift, I'll call people up and eventually get someone to cover for me. Most of the people who work at Revolution are students and they know I'd do the same for them."
Ian thinks this juggling of essays with earning isn't that rare among students. "I don't think I work harder than most people," he explains. "Everybody has their financial problems."
At university, Ian's tutor and head of year knows about his workload. "I've got a student loan of pounds 1000 and a pounds 750 overdraft with the bank and I'm worried about leaving college with a huge debt," he says. "My workload by the third year will be huge and I'll be lucky if I can work at all. So I've organised a gap year when I'll just work to finance my third year."
When Ian decided on which college to go to, earning money came into the equation. "I got three As at A-level and could have gone to Cambridge but I wasn't sure I'd be able to get a part-time job," he says. "It was an intense course and it wasn't as big a city as Manchester. I knew getting a bar job here wouldn't be a problem."
Still, there's one thing he doesn't have to worry about. Remember the missing loo-seat? Ian found it underneath the guy who slept in the bath.
"When he got up, we found it," he says, relieved that his hard-earned cash didn't have to be stretched further.
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