The rest of the week I was happier than a sandboy who was like really happy and phoned all and sundry to tell them about Aria and that Frank had invited us down to Cuff Links on Saturday night. Yeah, I felt great but as the days turned into Saturday afternoon I started getting butterflies in my stomach again. Think I liked Aria so much that I was scared of screwing it up.

“Just be yourself" I'd say to myself “don't be someone you're not by trying to be too nice.”

Mind you, some might say slim had already left town on that one!

I got to the Tree of Life just before last orders.

I pushed open the swinging doors and stepped inside a la The Man With No Name and there she was pulling a pint of wallop and did she look zonking or what!

When she saw me she beamed a smile big enough to make a Cheshire cat look in need of Prozac and the one I gave her back couldn't have been far behind.

“Five minutes I ready Yack” she said sort of looking at me over her shoulder as she disappeared behind the bar and then in what seemed like a whipstitch she was back.

“See , I say you five minutes and I here.”

“You look great Aria. You know like a female version of me” I said as I kissed her on the cheek.

“Coglione” she said laughing, took me by the hand and turning back to the bar waved to a girl working there. Didn't know what coglione meant but guessed it wasn't something out of an Italian phrase book so didn't ask for a translation.

We walked down the hill from the pub to Hampstead High Street to get the tube to the West End chatting and laughing all the way and I felt as if I'd known her all my life.

Like I'd found my soul mate.

As we walked arm in arm down the tunnels to get the tube we heard the train approaching and started running. Aria had high heel boots on which made sprinting more than complicated but we just about made it inside the carriage before the doors closed behind us.

I'd had to pull her to get inside and with her momentum she ended up with her arms around me with her nose touching mine and I wanted to do nothing more than kiss her on the lips but not being one for public demonstrations of affection resisted the urge.

The train pulled away and for a second a vision of the last time I'd been on the Northern Line heading West flashed into my mind. Hump, bad mouche and Jesus being the flash. Well, flashes!

I'd told the lads to meet in The Sussex near Leicester Square and for once during my time in London I actually took the right exit from the tube station so we were there within minutes.

Never been to The Sussex before but it was the only place we all knew so seemed a good idea to meet there. When we went inside it was packed and not a sign of anyone. Me and Aria moved around the bar saying “excuse me” which had little or no effect on the largely male crowd and we were just about to plot up and get a drink when I heard a familiar laugh followed by “sorry, I didn't see you.” That could only be one guy. Parvis!

I'd heard that “sorry, I didn't see you” a dozen times during my time in Sheffield and it usually meant Parvis had burst out laughing, stepped backwards and bumped into someone accidentally spilling their drink all over them and the someone was invariably a bloke the size of a Dutch barn with very little or no sense of humour.

He spilt a whole pint over a skinhead once and I do'´t think I'll ever forget the sight of him lifting up the guys braces in a vain attempt to clean his shirt.

“Hey Jack we're over here” shouted my brother Tommy who was standing with Sean, both with pints of wallop in hand.

“What you having?”

“I’ll have a Pils please Tommy.”

“Not gonna have two then Jack” said Finbar who'd got a nice lean to rest his pint on.

“I'm waiting for your round!” I shouted as I pushed my way through the crowd.

My brother asked Aria what she wanted and she said Pils too. Touch!

I introduced her to everyone bar Parvis who I could hear but not see.

“Hey Finbar, was I right in thinking I heard Parvis when I came in.”

“Yeah, he's over there” he said pointing behind me.

“He backed into a girl like only he can spilling her drink all down her.”

I turned and caught sight of him talking to a girl with waist length blond hair and by the looks of things she didn't look like he´d ruined her night. In fact far from it.

“Anyone seen George?” said Tommy “didn't Frank say he wanted us in before ten?”

Finbar raised his eyebrows and looked over his glasses at me.

“He's probably just getting in the shower” I said but no sooner had the words left my mouth than who walked in but George complete with banana stickers on his shoes.

You see, George had never been on time for anything in the three years I'd known him so it was a bit of a shock to see him almost on time.

“I'll get you a drink in Frank's place George. We'd better get a move on or we'll be late” said Tommy.

Tommy was the opposite of George and was always on time. Especially for booze!

I shouted over to Parvis and he came over with the blonde on his arm. Funny thing was her clothes were actually covering a fair percentage of her body which was rather unusual for a girl with Parvis.

“Hello lads. OK if I bring ......?”

“Trella” she said saving his bacon as it was rather obvious he'd forgotten her name but she didn't seem that bothered.

“On the tip of my tongue it was” he said playfully squeezing her cheek.

“Yeah I bet but we'd better get a move on” I said in between gulps of my drink.

We all downed the dregs and went outside to get our bearings.

“Covent Garden's up here” said George.

So off we went up Long Acre without seeming to care that George had the sense of direction of Quincy Magoo in a hall of mirrors after a bottle of vodka.

“What do people find interesting about someone covered in paint standing still for hours?” said George as we passed Covent Garden tube close to the piazza.

“I've never got that either” said Finbar as we passed a large group of smiling faces transfixed by a bloke dressed in gold with what looked like a pole sticking out of his arse.

“Only thing I hate more than blokes standing still covered in paint are jugglers” said Sean which was a bit of a turn up as Sean was the tall silent type who said little except when it came to choosing wallop.

“Well, you're in luck then” I said “as there's what looks like a convention over there” pointing to the piazza?

“Clowns!” said George.

“Clowns” said Finbar “what about them?”

“Hate them more than blokes standing still covered in paint and jugglers.”

“Glad we've got that cleared up then George” I said.

“Mime artists! Hate mime artists as well” said George who seemed to be on a roll.

“I hate Paul Daniels” said Finbar.

“You don´t like Paul Daniels?” I said.

At which point everyone said “not a lot!” and burst out laughing whilst Aria and Trella stood there looking at us if we were mad.

By now we were in sight of Cuff Links and I could see Frank who was standing outside the door in a black chrombie with black gloves and his black wavy hair gelled to the point where it could have stood its ground in a tsunami.

His size ten feet always seemed to be at ten to two and he held his hands clasped in front of his holiday money like he was standing in the wall as a free kick was about to be taken.

A group of blokes went to go past him but he stopped them and after a brief interchange they went to the back of the queue that was building up. He looked over and when he saw us he raised his hand as if to say stop and when we did waved as if asking me to come over.

“I'll be back now” I said and went over with Aria.

“Hello Frank, how are you? This is Aria. Everything alright?”

“Hello Aria” he said smiling and then looking at me said very deliberately in his subwoofer like voice “I´m alright but what are you doing here?”

“What? Didn't you say come down and bring the lads. Wasn´t that the last thing you said to me in the greasy?”

“Indeed it was. But what day did I tell you to come down?”

I sensed that I'd made a rick but couldn't quite work out what.”

“Saturday?” I said in a not too confident squeaky voice.

“I think you'll find I actually said Friday” he said looking at me like he was expecting a penny to drop.”

I was sure he said weekend which to me could be Friday or Saturday but made out it was my fault.

“Shit! Sorry Frank.”

Frank moved us away from the front of the queue and said quietly so people couldn't hear “it's OK you can all come in but not at the same time. The owner's here.”

“OK Frank we'll split up. Sure we ain't causing you any trouble?”

“We? Don't you mean you?” He said smiling.

“Just get me a large brandy when you're in.”

“Cheers Frank” I said as I turned and went back to where everyone was waiting.

“There was a bit of a problem but don't worry I've managed to sort it” I said.

“Yes” said Aria “Frank say Friday and Yack think Saturday.”

“Good luck Aria. Grass me out why don't you!” I said laughing.

“Easy mistake to make” said Finbar “just a day out!”

“Yet he who has not sinned...! “I said looking at Finbar.

“Frank said it's OK but we'll have to split up and go in two groups so why don't you Tommy, George and Sean go now and me, Aria, Parvis and...”

“Trella” said the girl with Parvis who seemed to be making a habit of getting her name in before we had the chance to forget it, “yeah and Trella go for a drink and meet inside later.”

“I'll go with anyone as long as I can get a drink in the next five minutes” said George who was the only one who hadn't had one.

“OK. See you inside” I said and me, Aria, Parvis and Trella went off in search of a drink.

Aria took hold of my hand as we walked and gave me a look that could have melted a choc ice in the Boomerang Nebula.

Didn't have to look too far as there were tons of pubs close by but we chose a place called Bar Luna. We went to the downstairs bar and ordered bottles of beer which came back with lemon segments stuck in the throat of the bottle.

“Lemon with beer just don't do it for me” I said as I pulled mine out and threw it in a bin.

“Me neither” said Parvis but he pulled his lemon out and started sucking it.

“Brought tears to my eyes that did “I said.

“What? It's lovely” he said biting the remnants from the lemon skin.

Aria pushed hers down into the drink and took a swig.

“You must for to push it in and move it around” she said.

“I know” said Parvis “but I was thinking of doing that it a bit later.”

I jumped in with “where you from Trella?” knowing if Parvis started on sex we'd never get him off it.”

“I Espanish from Espain.”

“Oh yeah. Where in Spain?” I said.

“I was born in Albacete but I live in Madrid for much years.”

“Albacete, cagar y vete!” said Aria.

“¿Hablas español?” said Trella all excited.

“Si. Mis padres tienen una casa en Marbella y vamos todos los veranos.”

“Let us in will you? We don't speak Spanish.” I said.

“My parents have apartment in Marbella and we for to go all the summer for many years” said Aria.

Aria and Trella seemed to be getting on like a house on fire so me and Parvis went to the bar to get another round in.

“So you spilt her drink down her! Accidentally or on purpose?”

“No, I would never do that” said Parvis “but if an opportunity presents itself you have to take advantage.

She's nice don't you think?”

“Yeah, she seems very nice” I said dipping into my back pocket for some change to pay the barman.

“Maybe she'll last longer than till tomorrow lunchtime then?”

We took the drinks over to the girls who were speaking Spanish so me and Parvis carried on talking.

“Not sure what I'm gonna do” said Parvis looking unusually serious.

“What d'ya mean? Couple of drinks and back to your place for your food's par for the course isn't it?”

“I'm not talking about her. Doctorate isn't really motivating me so I'm not sure what to do.”

Parvis had been studying engineering in Sheffield and had got accepted to study a PhD in Imperial College.

“If you don't wanna carry on studying you shouldn't have any trouble getting a job” I said.

“It's not that simple as my visa is to study so I'd have to apply for a visa with permission to work which wouldn't be automatic and I don't want to be deported.”

“You speak very serious” said Trella.

“Just discussing the merits of lemon in lager” I said.

“We must for to go, no?” said Aria.

“Yeah, don't wanna cause Frank any trouble as the queue'll probably be big by now” I said in between mouthfuls of lager.

Parvis looked at Trella and said “are you ready...?” but before he could finish she said “Trella” and we all burst out laughing. The girl had a sense of humour ta boot!

Sure enough the queue was around the block when we got to Cuff Links but Frank waved us straight through taking me by the arm and whispering “I'll have a large brandy” as we passed.

It was mobbo inside but after pushing through the crowd we bumped slap bang into Vinny with camera in hand.

“Just stop there. It'll make a lovely smudge” he said.

“Hello Vinny. Frank told me you were working tonight but I didn't realise it was here.”

“Yeah been here all afternoon...get in a bit closer will ya.”

“Patatas!” said Trella.

“We say cheese luv” said Vinny as he pressed the shutter.

Vinny led us over to where the lads were and said

“Got a right Geoff Hurst on me so who's going next door to get in the Britney's?”

I assumed that meant who's getting the drinks in so said “I'll go, it's gorra be my round.”

“I help you Yack?”

“Yes please Aria.”

“Go with him and take a photo Vinny. It'll be priceless” said Finbar who'd spotted us and come over to show us where the rest were.

“We're over there” he said pointing to Tommy, Sean and George who'd miraculously found a lean.

“I'm gonna get a drink for Frank first to give it to him on the way out. Anyone want a wine or spirit while I'm at it?

Everyone stared at me as if I was mad.

“OK. I'll get me coat” I said and went to the bar with Aria. It was three deep with people holding out notes hoping to get the bar staff's attention and my heart sank.

Never was any good at getting served quick so thought I'd be there an hour but a girl came from behind the bar pushed a brandy glass into my hand, smiled and said “this is for Frank.”

“How much do I owe you?” I said.

“Don't worry, you can pay later” she said.

The brandy was larger than a very large double and I passed it to Frank as I got to where he was standing controlling the door.

Frank took the glass and put it down on a shelf close to the door alongside a few that were already queued up and led me to the bar where we could buy beer that was literally next door.

“Hey Kai” he said to the doorman “this is Jack and Aria, they´re with me.”

Kai nodded and let us in.

The bar was dead trendy. You know, where everything looks so good you're almost scared to ask how much a drink is.

“It´s very nice Yack” said Aria.

Thought I´d find the toilet first as I didn´t fancy having to make my way through the scrum in Cuff Links.

“I need to find the sandbox Aria, shall we meet at the bar?” I said.

“Where?” she said looking puzzled.

“Sorry I mean the toilet.”

“Ah! I see you in the bar.”

When I found the toilets I was confronted with two doors. One had an apple on it and the other a lemon and no trace of a “gents” or “ladies” sign anywhere. Having no clue on how to decipher the signs I just plumped for the door on the right, the apple.

“Sorry, got the wrong door” I said as I bumped straight into two girls rearranging their finery in front of the mirror and giggling at my mistake.

“Could only be on the left then” I thought as I made a hasty retreat so pushed open the door with the lemon. Biggest toilet I´d ever seen and it had what looked like a water fall as a wall and not a urinal in sight.

I looked around for a sign of anything you might find in a toilet or at least the ones I was used to going in when I heard the door go behind me.

After a while it dawned on me that no one had come in so I looked around but saw nothing. I looked back at the waterfall wondering if I should go against it when I heard a click like a door latch closing but still no sign of anyone.

This was starting to freak me out but I needed to go so I turned back and went over to the waterfall convinced it must be the urinal and anyway by now I'd gone passed caring as I needed a waz there and then.

I pulled my zip down and started doing my business making a sigh of relief like you do when you've been dying looking over my shoulder every now and again as the emptiness of the place spooked me. Next thing the light's gone out and I´m in the pitch black.

Stepped back to look for a switch and the light came back on and was I relieved or what. Must be a time or motion sensor I thought.

When I finished I pulled up my zip and turned around wondering what a wash basin might look like.

In the middle of the room was a table with the only thing that had any resemblance to a tap sticking out of the top but with nothing that looked like it could turn the water on. I walked around the table trying to figure out how the water came out when the light went off again.

Couldn't see anything except the dim emergency light so started waving my arms around hoping the light was controlled by motion but nothing. “Can't stay here all night” I thought so decided to try and retrace my steps to find the door which wasn't easy in the dark.

No sooner had I taken a few steps than I banged straight into someone. I nearly hit the ceiling with fright and my heart which was doing rather a good impression of an E-MU SP 12 on acid jumped into my mouth and I was hoping for dear life that it was a someone rather than a something.

As I came back to earth the light went on and I found myself staring right into the face of a woman. As my eyes cleared and her features became clearer I could see that she wasn't just any woman. It was Frank¡s mystery blonde. “Babushka!”

“You must be Jack..... Jack as in Jack .....not Jack as in John!”