Thankfully Aria phoned a cab from the pub and the next thing I remember was waking up with her snuggled up to me.

Looking down at her at that moment made me forget my meeting with Mr. Maton but then it came flooding back to me.

Yeah, today was judgement day and I was hoping for anything but the black cap!

I removed Aria's arm from my chest and got out of bed as quietly as I could thinking I'd managed it without waking her but as I got to the door on my way to the bathroom I heard her say

“you OK Yack? You like me for to come with you?”

I went back to the bed sat next to her, took her hand and said

"it's OK Aria. Go back to sleep” and kissed her on the forehead.

A nice thought but I didn't think showing up with my girlfriend to support me would enamor me to Mr. Maton.

I walked down the hall towards the bathroom and you could've heard a pin drop and I wondered if that is how it must have been for those taking the long walk to the guillotine. Well, except for the odd few hundred shouting “off with his head!”

I got into the shower, grabbed hold of the hair wash shower head and pointed it down to make sure the water went down the plughole until it warmed up enough to shower not realizing I'd pushed the knob in the wrong direction so I got sprayed with freezing cold water from the shower head above. Don't know if you've ever done that but the shock is enough to give you a near fatal heart attack. Good start to the day!

Fortunately, the water warmed up quickly but I couldn't help thinking it might be an omen for the day like starting off as it was meant to go on perhaps.

As the water cascaded over me I tried to visualise how I would behave with Mr.Maton and I'd go from on the one hand thinking I'd end up in a bin liner to on the other …well, thinking I'd end up in a bin liner and as I dried myself all that came to mind was an overwhelming feeling of impending doom!

I went into the kitchen with my stomach in knots but thought I'd have to force some breakfast down to give the butterflies in my stomach something to do.

I tried to eat some toast with my coffee but I didn't have an appetite and ended up staring at a soldier so long I could have shared it with the neighbours next door without inviting them around. I dunked it hoping it would look more appetising but the end dropped off and fell into my coffee leaving the grease from the butter floating on the top. Don't you just hate that and any vestige of an appetite I might have had just disappeared.

I put my navy blue second hand 60s suit on thinking I'd make myself look serious and stared in the mirror for what must have been half an hour sorting out my hair and have to say I thought I looked the part.

As I picked my keys up getting ready to leave I looked over to Aria who was awake but still in bed.

“Break your head Yack?” she said.

Think she meant to say break a leg but it felt like such a nice thing to say I didn't have the heart to correct her so I walked over to the bed, bent down and kissed on the lips.

“I like being with you Aria. You make me happy!” I said. Something I'd found myself saying with increasing regulatory in the short time I'd known her.

She looked up at me and just smiled that Aria smile which made me feel I could walk over hot coals while being forced to listen to “Agadoo” on repeat!

“OK Aria, how do I look?” I said as I put my wallet in my inside pocket.

“Molto Bello!"she said smiling.

I took that to mean nice, bent down to kiss her again and said

“see you up the Tree tonight my luv” and as I said it I thought where did my luv come from? Never said that to anyone before!

“See you Yack. Good luck!” she sort of half whispered.

I looked back and smiled then closed the door and made my way to find Finbar. Didn't take me long!

“D'ya think you could fooking stay in Aria's place now and again? On Sean's floor again all night!”

“Stop moaning it´s good for your back. Anyway, we might be dead by lunchtime so might be the last time you have to bond with Sean.”

“Oh, I feel much better now” said Finbar. “Any chance of a coffee on the way?”

“If you hurry up. Come on we can't be late.”

We made are way up Cricklewood Lane to where it meets Finchley Road and just as we reached the corner we saw the number 13 coming down the road on its way to Golders Green station.

“Quick the bus is coming “I said to Finbar setting off running not waiting to see if he was with me.”

“Hold up will ya!” shouted Finbar as he lagged a few yards behind. ”Meeting of our lives and running for a bus!”

With that I just stopped in my tracks. Finbar caught me up and stared at me as if I'd gone doddle alley tap as the number 13 went sailing by!

“What's wrong with ya? We´ve missed the fooking bus now!”

I looked at Finbar and said “you're right. This could be the most important day of our lives and we're running for a bus” and stuck out my hand to wave down a hackney.

As I jumped into the cab I felt as if my consciousness had changed and a sensation of peace come over me.

“Hope you've plenty of cash Jack as I´m boracic” said Finbar tucking his shirt into his trousers.

“Who was buying the coffee then?” I said.

Finbar muttered something but I interrupted his Mutley impression.

“Don't worry, I've got more cash than a person who's got loads of cash.”

Finbar raised his eyes to heaven and said “OK. What's the plan then?”

“The plan is we respond to any situation thrown at us and be assertive” I said “acting like I thought acting assertive would look.

“I take it we haven't got a plan then” said Finbar.

“I would rather describe it as a flexible plan”

I was about to go on but the cab driver interrupted and said

“I suppose at some stage one of you is gonna tell me where you'd like to be dropped. You do know the meters running?”

“Cranbourn Street please, the tube exit!”

“But we've got to meet Ossie at the Charring Cross Road tube exit!” said Finbar.

“Cranbourn Street please” I repeated and the driver set off down the Finchley Road towards the West End.

“We've got to meet Ossie in Charring Cross Road which is exactly why I asked the lads to meet us in the Cranbourn Street tube exit. We go together as a group. Safety in numbers and we show we can't be pushed around.”

“What!” said Finbar. “From what I saw of him the other night he looks like he could push the lot of us around with one hand.”

“Which is exactly why were gonna start off asserting ourselves” I said.

Finbar looked at me and was about to say something no doubt detrimental about my heritage when I said calmly “have faith Finbar. It'll be OK.”

We spent the rest of the journey in silence which I didn't mind as it gave me a chance to run scenarios through my mind and anyway I could never be bored at looking at London streets.

Every now and again I'd glance over to the taxi driver and catch him looking at us in his rear view mirror with an expression as if to say “what have I got here?”

The traffic built up as we approached the West End and the cab slowed to a snail's pace whilst the meter seemed to speed up.

Thankfully, as we approached Cranbourn Street I could see Vinny and George waiting for us outside the tube. Must have been the first time George was on time in his life.

“Can you stop just here, pick up my mates and take us to St. Martin´s Lane please” I said to the cab driver.

“Are you mad it's just down the road!” he said looking like he was up to the armpits of us.

“Yeah, I know but we wanna make an entrance and there'll be a drink in it for you.”

“How big a drink?” asked the cab driver.

“A big one with a cherry floating on the top and one of those umbrellas stuck in it” I said.

Finbar rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath “you've never bought a big drink in your life.”

The cab pulled up outside the tube and I opened the door and shouted over to Vinny and George “jump in lads.”

Thought they might say something like “it's just down the road” but they just jumped in.

“Good morning gentleman” said Vinny who looked like he'd just finished a shoot for Male Vogue.

“Hello Vinny. Hello George. Looks like you've got a few more fruit stickers on your shoes George” I said.

“Yeah, thought a few lychees might brighten things up” he said in his deadpan delivery.

“Didn't think lychees had enough space to put a sticker on” said Finbar.

“Now can you go to St.Martins's Lane but pass Charring Cross tube exit on the way please” I said to the cab driver.

He looked at me and breathed out heavily but said nothing. I supposed he was thinking of his big drink.

The street was chock-a-block and we stopped in front of where Ossie was standing. He was looking rather impatient looking around and starring at his watch. I rolled the window down and shouted
“Ossie, over here!”

He looked over at me and started to make his way towards the cab but I shouted “see you at the club” and told the driver

“drive on please” and off we went before Ossie could us.

Finbar looked all Zilly and George raised his eyebrows and the cab driver said “are you friends of his?”

“Yeah, sort of. Just having a bit of fun. You know like you do!”

The cab pulled up outside the club in St. Martin's lane and I asked the driver how much it was but he came over all nervous and said “you're alright lads.”

“What about you're big drink?” I said.

“I´ve just gone all tea total” he said.

Finbar looked even more Zillyish!

We got out of the cab and Finbar grabbed me by the arm and said “are you fooking mad? I'm not so sure this Ossie bloke's gonna appreciate your Welsh humour.”

“Exactly Finbar but be quiet coz here he comes.”

Ossie strode towards us with his immense muscles looking like they were gonna rip his coat open by bursting out from the inside and if looks could kill we would have smelled of formaldehyde.

“What you playing at Jackie boy?” said Ossie with his eyes fixed on me ignoring the rest.

“I asked the cab driver to stop for you but he said he couldn't take five” I said looking straight back at him but being careful not to look cocky. “Come on, lead the way Ossie. We don't want to be late on our first day.”

Ossie paused for what seemed like a week then walked on ahead without even acknowledging the rest of us and we followed close behind.

As we got closer to the club door I could feel us tensing up and the butterflies returned for a brief flutter around my stomach but as Ossie opened the door I felt a strange calmness come over me.

The club was dark and as we passed reception I could hear voices and then a sudden burst of laughter.

We passed along a short corridor which opened into a vestibule which had small sofas and then an arch which opened out into a large circular area which looked down onto the dance floor.

“There you are Jackie boy and on time” bellowed Mr. Maton.

“Punctuality is so important don't you think” and with that he turned away from me and the lights went on.

Standing in front of us were a group of young blokes and girls with the girls dressed in black leotards and fishnets and the blokes in black trousers with white belts and black shirts with white ties.

Just behind Mr. Maton was a bloke holding a glass of champagne and next to him was Frank. Put me off a bit when I saw Frank.

“Well, what do you think Jackie boy?”

“Of what Mr.Maton?” I said.

“Of your team?”

“I choose my team Mr. Maton” replying so quickly that there was hardly a pause between team and I.

His jolly look deserted him and he turned his body to make sure he was looking directly at me and moved towards me menacingly.

I'd made my mind up in the cab that submissive wasn't the way to go and was gambling I was gonna be proved right.

You might say I was betting my shirt on boxcars. Just hoped my first roll didn't throw up snake eyes!