“How many members of ABBAMAIL does it take to organise a group photograph?” Quite a few it would seem. But when you have a room full of people who work in graphic design and the media, and throw in a few with “control issues”, everyone seemed to have a view about staging the “official” group photograph. While at first the graphic design people set about trying to organise something that would be well staged, well-lit and look good, it was eventually the “control freaks” who took over and got it all happening.
For just a brief moment, my mind went back to school photographs, the annual ordeal usually held in the middle of winter where the greatest concern for girls was whether or not they’d crossed their legs properly. For the boys, it was whether or not they’d be tall enough to avoid the embarrassment of sitting cross-legged in the front row holding the “school board”. All through primary school I’d been fairly short, and was usually one of the kids in the front row. And then suddenly in high school I found myself one of the tallest, and thus in the back-row. As I cast my eye around the room, I realised the passage of time meant I was probably one of the boys in the front-row once again. Avoiding the embarrassment, I took control by finding myself a spot in the back-row perched on top of a bar stool.
It was one of those “surreal” moments in an otherwise “surreal” day. Although I hate the word because of its common mis-use, surreal was often used yesterday to describe the tenth anniversary celebration of the ABBAMAIL mailing list, a fan community I’ve been a member of since the very beginning. Having a party, singing “happy birthday”, cutting a cake and making some presentations to Graeme and Grant was great way to formally recognise the impact ABBAMAIL has had on our lives. And with this sense of occasion, came some reflection that we’d shared something which blurred the lines between common interest and friendship.
And through ABBAMAIL I’ve made some friends: good friends who I see all the time, talk to and see most weeks, as well as people I see from time to time who lead entirely different lives. And there’s also people from overseas who I have met, and people from overseas who I’d like to meet because they’re either so fabulously interesting or just plain cute. Although I’ve been an ABBA fan since 1975, was a member of the Australian ABBA Fan Club during this early period, and had my own ABBA radio show as a teenager, it probably wasn’t until I came to Sydney in the mid-nineties that I began to have social experiences involving other ABBA fans.
Getting involved in organised “fandom” and having the ABBAMAIL connection has allowed me some wonderful experiences and memories. In particular, the many ABBA conventions that have been held, the many informal gatherings, often associated with overseas fans visiting Australia, as well as regular events like Wednesday night drinks and Eurovision Parties. Most memorable too, was the common experience of going to the “Mamma Mia” opening nights in Sydney and Melbourne, including meeting Bjorn at the “Show Party” held after the opening night in Melbourne.
Speaking of Melbourne, my friend Sue is up for the weekend, and she came along yesterday. Along with Wesley, a teenage son of ABBA-fan Norma, Sue was the only other non-ABBA fan in the room, and was thus the official photographer. As I wandered around chatting, I kept looking over to make sure she was okay, and most of the time she seemed to be enjoying the conversations she was having. I’m still not entirely unconvinced she doesn’t really think we’re a bunch of fruit loops, but at the end of the day, she told me “there’s some absolutely lovely, fascinating people” in the group, and I’m inclined to agree.