Patience is a virtue for devoted Take That fans

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Ten years ago, they were telephoning special hotlines, distraught with grief at the end of an era. Yesterday, they were in ecstasy, screaming with joy. It's a rollercoaster ride, being a loyal Take That fan.

After topping the charts on Sunday with "Patience", their first No.1 single in a decade - and a year and a day after they announced they were reforming - the band made a personal appearance at the HMV store in London's Oxford Street.

And there to greet them were some of the same fans who, a decade ago as schoolgirls, were in floods of tears when the group split. "I'd do it again in a heartbeat," said Rachel Grant, 24, who had queued since 3.30pm on Sunday to see band members Gary Barlow, Jason Orange, Mark Owen and Howard Donald sign copies of their comeback album, Beautiful World.

When the band broke up, she said: "I took three days off school and cried. I was devastated." She had come prepared, she added, with "a sleeping bag, a chair, food and thermal socks".

"I had a few hours of sleep," she said. "The TV crews coming round in the morning woke us up."

Lisa Vale, 26, from Dagenham, and her sister, Yasmin Johnson, 18, from Hornchurch, were first in line, having queued since 6am on Sunday. They were rewarded with bouquets of flowers from the band. Ms Vale said: "You don't think about the cold when you know what you're going to get at the end of it. It was freezing but I think the adrenaline kept me going."

She added: "10 years ago my mum wouldn't let me camp out." Her sister added: "It was absolutely amazing. I can't even think. I kissed every one of them."

Caryn Webb, 43, from Croydon, confessed to have met the band 20 times. On Sunday, she celebrated the chart-topping single with champagne: "Once a Take That fan, always a Take That fan. We have waited 10 years for this."

The success of "Patience", which comes after a 30-date sell-out tour earlier in the year, suggests that Beautiful World is likely to head for the top of the album charts rapidly, possibly knocking their rivals Westlife off the top position, which they also achieved in the singles chart on Sunday.

It also represents a massive vindication for the four Take That members, who were long overshadowed by the huge success enjoyed by Robbie Williams after he left the band in 1995, a move that precipitated the final break-up.

Williams mocked the subsequent solo career of Barlow in a hidden track on his Escapology album, "Where Has Gary Barlow Gone?"

Although Williams' last album, Rudebox, topped the charts in October, both singles taken from it, "Rudebox" and "Lovelight", have failed to reach the top spot.

Both sides have appeared to patch up their differences. Williams has approved of the band's comeback and withdrawn his criticism of Barlow while speaking admiringly of the latter's settled domestic life in contrast to his own troubles with drink and drugs. And Williams and Take That have spoken of performing again together. That would give the fans something to scream about.