HOW WE MET

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GORDANA PESIC AND KEITH ALLEN

Gordana Pesic, 33, was born in London to Yugoslav parents. She studied law in Belgrade and has been assistant general manager at the actors' and journalists' haunt, the Groucho Club, for six years. She lives with her fiance in north London. Actor and writer Keith Allen, 42, was born in Wales. He has worked in comedy and serious drama - from Channel 4's Comic Strip series to the BBC's Martin Chuzzlewit. He recently appeared in the film of Trainspotting. He lives in London with his girlfriend, Nira, and has two children from a previous marriage.

KEITH ALLEN: I think I met Gordana at the Groucho Club about eight years ago, but I'm not exactly sure when or how it happened. When I started going there, the first thing I became aware of was her fantastically powerful voice. You can't help but hear it wherever you are in the club and it's often followed by a deep maniacal laugh. I love her huge, booming accent. I knew she struck terror into people's hearts and could be very tough. I was never scared of her and for some reason she took to me.

I think I was probably the first bit of rough that came into the place. Gordana has a sense of working-class ethics and I suspect she recognised an element of that in me very early on. That sort of thing is important to her. She knows I'm not like the other media luvvie types who go to Groucho's.

I see Gordana a lot because I virtually live in Groucho's. All my social interaction takes place here and I've built up a coterie of really good friends. I kind of live in a world of my own while I'm there and she's part of that. I love the convenience of it and the fact that you can play snooker or Perudo, the South American dice game people play there, late at night.

I remember early on in our friendship, I invited her out. We went to a nightclub, and I left her there on her own. I introduced her to some bloke I knew, got very drunk and disappeared. She ended up going out with him for 18 months. I was responsible for their relationship, now finished, which I'm not convinced she ever forgave me for.

We got much closer and saw more of each other when my girlfriend Nira started coming to Groucho's in 1993. Then she became best friends with Gordana and it all fused together. Gordana lived with Nira for a year and the three of us went on holidays together to France and Greece. We'd sit around reading and drinking massive amounts. When Gordana gets drunk she becomes very Yugoslavian. She starts to talk in an accent and shouts. You can always tell when she's had one glass too many. She gets very demonstrative and passionate about everything. It's hilarious to watch.

A few years ago, I had a fight in the club which genuinely wasn't my fault. I remember Gordana stepping in to stop it and then the management sent me a letter telling me how welcome I was there as long as I curtailed my fighting. She has always been very supportive. I know that she defends my corner.

I'm very much a confidante of Gordana's. I give her advice about her emotional affairs which I like to think she respects. People are terrified of her but she's not that tough underneath. In fact, she's very sensitive.

Gordana's got that kind of gypsy quality - I don't know if it's the Croat or the Serb in her. There's something unique about her, she's not like anyone else I know. She's a very honest person and what you see is what you get. People will fall about laughing when I say this, but one thing we have in common is we're both sensible.

Both of us are down-to-earth and straight with each other; we're very uncomplicated people. Since we've met, there's never been any pretension. It's something to do with the fact that I'm Welsh and she's a Yugoslav. For some reason Gordana really reminds me of Wales.

The main difference between us is that she's a Catholic and I'm not. And unlike me, she's a highly moral person. I don't think she disapproves of me, although it might be unusual for her to have someone like me as a friend.

Gordana can be argumentative but we've never fallen out. Sometimes she might not wholeheartedly agree with some of the things I do and say. When that happens, she will take me aside and say, "Keith, you're being stupid."

The quality I like most about her is that you're always sure exactly where you stand. She's incredibly direct and if I ever piss her off or behave badly she tells me. I love Gordana's strength: she's a very powerful character. And she has a very generous spirit; I know I can rely on her and that she'll always be there for me.

GORDANA PESIC: I met Keith about eight years ago, some time before I started working in Groucho's. I can't recall exactly where. I can remember early on in the friendship, when I was working there, someone picked a fight with Keith and I had to drag him off this other bloke. He was actually quite cooperative - he always is with women.

Before I knew him well, I thought he was a bit of a nightmare at times, although he never was with me. I'd seen him behaving unreasonably, mainly to men. He tends to show off in front of other males. It's that Jack the Lad image he likes to portray.

Once I got to know him, I realised a lot of it was bravado. He's definitely vulnerable underneath. And when it comes down to it, he's capable of some very kind gestures. People are really shocked when they hear that Keith's gone to the rescue of somebody in a bad way emotionally. But he's certainly done that for me.

About two years ago, I got dumped the day before Valentine's Day and I was in really bad shape. Keith's girlfriend Nira was on the phone to me and then Keith called up and said, "That's it, I'm taking you out for lunch tomorrow." There's been other times when I've been unhappy or too wrapped up in my job and he's dragged me out for a meal to give me a good talking-to.

Keith's brilliant when you're down in the pits. He makes me feel better about myself, not through insincere flattery but by looking at the positive points. I've seen him depressed a couple of times but he won't really let it show. I think Keith covers up any particular blackness he may feel. I always bang on to him about what he should be doing - not that he listens at all.

For some unknown reason, Keith often has women hanging around that fall in love with him. There have been some real lunatic females who decide to send him love letters or poems. It's unbelievable. But I think he really likes these people falling for him. Nira seems very understanding about it.

When I first met Nira, I bonded with her immediately and we all got very close. I lived at her house for a year when they weren't actually together, although you could have fooled me. He was off doing wild things with various people and Nira was dating too. But he spent an awful lot of time there - I remember so many mornings going to the bathroom only to see Keith's hairy bottom emerge from it.

A couple of years ago the three of us went to France; I'm very nervous about flying and I was so scared he was going to take the piss out of me because of it. As it turned out, he was really scared as well. We nearly missed our flight because Keith and I were on the Bloody Marys trying to summon up Dutch courage. He'd rather die than admit he's scared of flying - it doesn't go with the image - but I know for a fact that he was.

Keith can be irresponsible at times, but only when he knows there is someone to step in and stop him. He'll do things like play the piano at the club at 3am when I'm trying to get rid of people. But he's reasonable with me - if I yell at him to stop, he will. He knows that I'd slam the lid on his fingers without a shadow of doubt.

What's really nice is I can hurl abuse at him and fly off the handle. He knows it will pass in a moment. Sometimes I think, "Oh no Keith, not now," if he starts showing off about his knowledge of the "acting business". I don't mind having a row at all. He raises his voice, which I enjoy because I like shouting as well. We also send each other up.

I admire Keith's generosity - he doesn't care about material things and loves to treat people. He paid for me to go to France. I was feeling quite low and he wanted me to have a nice time.

Another reason why I love him is that he doesn't count favours. I don't think it would occur to Keith that he'd done anything for you anyway. And if he did, he would never throw it back at you - even when he's being vile. Now I'm pregnant, he wants to be a godfather, which would be great. He's full of energy and really good with children.

I think Nira has been a calming influence on him. She's the one factor in his life that's constant. Keith likes to make out that he's wild, but he is behaving himself more these days. Now, if he's out all night it's with Damien Hirst or Alex from Blur rather than some crazy female sending him love letters. !

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