An old pub in a quiet part of a busy city, and an elderly regular, watery-eyed and pale as paper, is sunk in his usual seat waiting for something to happen.
He looks at the TV, then at his newspaper, then at his watch. He stares into space, and perhaps into the past. He lines up the spare beer mats, then shuffles them out of line again.
Then, at least, some real excitement: a mixed group of twentysomethings enters, laughing and chattering. They are all tall, stylish, and distinctly Mediterranean.
The Regular’s glittering eyes track them across the pub carpet. Two per cent of a smile appears on his thin lips.
The Visitors are quietly excited to be in a Real English Pub, staring at the ceiling, the ornate bar, the prints and mirrors.
They all thrust bank notes at one woman, apparently the best English speaker, and shove her towards the bar as they take over the table next to the Regular.
The Regular, his neck long gone, slowly turns his entire torso so he can watch them. The smile increases by another degree.
“Where you from?” he gargles in their direction.
The Visitors freeze and mutter attempted translations at each other. The second best English speaker, bearded and quiffed, acts as spokesman.
“We come from Greece.”
The Regular nods – of course, he thought as much.
“Well, me – I’m a Weegie.”
Silence. Baffled blinking.
“I’m from Glasgow.”
Bulbs light up.
“Ah! Glasgow! Yes, we know it! Alex Ferguson! Celtic football club!”
A lucky guess, apparently, as the Regular is not offended, but after this breakthrough, conversation stalls.
Lagers and gins are sipped as the Greeks look anxiously at each other – when is it acceptable to start talking among themselves again?
After an uncomfortable while, the Regular shifts some phlegm about, and leans closer.
“So,” he says, “here’s what I’m wondering…”
“When are the English going to give you back those Elgin Marbles?”
And with that, the conversation really catches light.