In a pub, the winner of a popularity contest, as captured in a reporter’s photograph, balances an empty pint glass on his head and grins a rubbery wet slop of a grin. In the background, unwitting members of the public, alongside some of the man’s friends, are also grinning. Their mirth has been caused by an off-camera remark, now forgotten. The winner has taken a vow of silence. His agents say it is nothing tactical: let his plastic expression speak simply for itself. He has never said anything and never will. And silence will amplify silence, if he’s truly won.
I watched him stare at his pint for an hour. He barely drank a drop. He does this every day at the same time, with the same words to the girl at the bar, shuffling to the same seat. These days he keeps his overcoat on. It is cold in the pub and word is they can’t afford to light the fire. The back exit opens intermittently for smokers and we shudder as a bitter draught blows through. It’s not for the pint I come but for company: his company. He shakes his head, like dad has done for years.