Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Visistors

Today’s been a particularly surreal day. We had to wake up at 1.45am this morning British time to make it to the airport on time, and I’ve been drifting in and out of sleep ever since. Revellers were still singing in the hotel reception when we got in the taxi. I vaguely remember sitting and listening to a group of people singing A Day In the Life whilst wondering what my name was!

I don’t remember a great deal about the plane journey. Unfortunately, as my dear friend Fiona has experienced several times, whenever I fall asleep on an aeroplane, I tend to wake up again almost immediately in a slight panic; a process which often involves an involuntary hand movement. Today, poor Alison got smacked across the chest at least three times, which must have been just hell for her, because she was also trying to sleep.

I travelled back to London from Luton airport in a haze, and arrived back in Highgate at about 9am. Nathan was still asleep, and it was lovely to get into bed with him for a cuddle. We subsequently slept until 1pm. Nathan is still jet-lagged from his trip to the US, so we’ve done very little all day. The hot weather has sort of broken. It’s muggy, and slightly rainy, so I feel like a wet dog.

I’m watching telly and suffering slightly from a jippy tummy, which I think has been caused by a combination of awful food and brown hotel water. I now long to get back into a regime of early starts and plenty of exercise. It is tempting to immediately start writing the Requiem for London, but I think there’s still a great deal of research to be done before I can get on with that.

I forget to mention yesterday that one of the women on the conference yesterday suddenly announced that her father had photographed ABBA back in the early 1980s! She threw it in rather casually; almost as though she were slightly embarrassed by the fact. I obviously immediately swamped her with questions and discovered that, not only had her father photographed ABBA, but he’d actually taken the album covers for Super Trouper and The Vistors; that dark, brooding, epic and haunting photograph that I’d lost myself in so many times as a child. I know every corner of that photograph. I have studied every picture on the wall behind the band. I still remember the slightly gluey smell of the inside sleeve, the sofas that I used to sit on whilst listening to it, and the sense of sadness I felt when I peered into the faces. ABBA knew the album was the end of the road, and it showed.

She revealed that the lamps in the photograph had actually come from her house, and that her brother currently owned the one which lights Agnetha on the left-hand side of the picture.

They’d apparently done another photo shoot for the album cover, which featured the band coming out of a car onto a darkened street. This was rejected. To my knowledge I’ve never seen any of these alternative photos, and wonder how much they’d be worth now. Unfortunately, after her father had died, she sold and threw away many of the photos that he’d taken. ABBA, to her, were just a slightly embarrassing pop group, of whom most Swedes felt greatly ashamed. She seemed genuinely surprised that I was so interested in her stories.

350 years ago, and Pepys went to visit Lord Sandwich. He was stopped on many occasions during his journey across London by trainebands from the City of London; groups of Militia, who wanted to make sure that people were seen to be mourning for the Duke of York’s son’s death. Many of the shops were shut. Pepys went to an ordinary; a tavern where they could eat and drink as much as they liked for a fixed fee, which in this instance was 18d. Pepys said they had “very good cheer.” The place, in his view, was very good value for money. He got very drunk with Mr Creed and his wife, who we’re told sung absolutely beautifully.


  1. I'm sorry to say this, but Rune Söderqvist photographed ABBA for The Visitors sleeve. He is very much alive and there is no such thing as an alternate photo session of ABBA getting out of a car in a dark street. It would have looked too similar to the 1975 ABBA album cover. I don't know who this woman claimed to be, but she wasn't telling the truth.

  2. Well, me and my big mouth again! It seems Lars Larsson was the photographer for The Visitors sleeve and he did die (in 2003). So it might be true after all what the lady told you... Sorry for my error! Take care!

  3. I am so relieved! She seemed so nice... And very genuine. The way it all came up, I would have been surprised if she was just making everything up. She said he did, I think, four album covers, including Greatest Hits Volume II, The First Ten Years, and, I think, Super Trouper.