The British public house used to be an establishment of two halves. Turn right as you went in (or was it left?), and you hit the Saloon Bar: a suave, sophisticated, not to mention carpeted, area wherein soft music and plastic pineapples full of ice provided the perfect environment for giggly reps to be bought glasses of Babycham and Calviere by hopeful unemployed-yet-Datsun-owning lads in their best Burlington shirts. On the other side, however, you hit the resolutely all-male, fruit machines-‘n’-Capstan-fog of the Public Bar, the chief signifier of which was an A3 card decorated with a topless Page Three Stunner, her ample charms obscured by twenty-odd packets of Big D (the nation’s number two nut, at least). In the days before Sky Sports, it was considered a prime source of entertainment for prannyish young shavers to ask the barman for two packets of nuts and giggle like idiots at the anticipated location of the subsequent comestible removal. Disappointment often came their way along with the bags of ready-salted, but then the Big D card was little more than a high-salt, high-testosterone advent calendar. Albeit one probably not endorsed by the General Synod.
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And here’s the reason for that Abigail’s Party repeat last night, as it’s a tribute to Mike Leigh – and certainly a definitive one, lasting a hundred minutes. As you’d expect all his regulars like Tim Spall, Jim Broadbent and Lesley Manville are on hand to explain why he’s so fantastic, while the great man himself is also on hand to chat to Alan Yentob and reflect on his career. We’ve actually been in the same room as Mike as a few years ago we saw him while we were visiting the National Cartoon Museum and he was also looking at the exhibits, though sadly we haven’t been invited to contribute here. Not least as we were too embarrassed to say anything to him.
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