Ingmar Bergman, Björn Borg (naturally), then Anita Ekberg and her fabulous chest ... giant photographs of these celebrated Swedes, and many more, are plastered patriotically on the walls of the pristine arrivals hall at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm.
Last Thursday evening, I admired them all, showing my passport to the immigration official next to a picture of Roxette, and thought I must have missed the Abba group shot of Benny, Björn, Anni-Frid and Agnetha. But the Swedes, it turns out, are not nearly as keen on their improbably melodious countrymen, pictured below, as we Brits.
This year, Mamma Mia! The Movie became the highest grossing film at the British box office (£67m, beating even Harry Potter) and the DVD shifted 1.7 million copies on its first day of sale last week. The greatest hits collection Abba Gold went to No 1 in the UK this summer – for the fifth time. It seems we cannot get enough of the sunny optimism of "Dancing Queen" and, erm, "Does Your Mother Know?". Thanks to Mamma Mia!, a generation of kids too young to remember the Seventies now know the words to "Honey, Honey" and are demanding the Abba SingStar karaoke game for Christmas. But, over in the motherland, Swedes themselves are seemingly ambivalent toward their biggest musical export, much in the same way that – in the better-off suburbs of Stockholm – Ikea isn't really a shop at which you admit buying anything other than meatballs.
On Friday night, the national Abba-abnegation was all but proven when my friends Emma and Andreas took me to a fancy dress party. The theme was the 1970s. Anywhere else in the world, this is concomitant with Agnetha wigs and "Money Money Money" on a loop. But the guests, to a blonde, wore giant Afro wigs and nary a spangled jumpsuit was in sight. And what did the speakers blare out all night long? The Rolling Stones.Brit of a mistake
G-A-Y IS the biggest lesbian and gay club night in Europe. A cult event in London's West End that charges considerably less on the door than the average stadium venue, it still manages to book big names; the Spice Girls, Madonna and Björk have all played sets there, while Kylie is a regular. At G-A-Y, stars forgo honeymoon suite-sized dressing rooms in the hope that the pink vote will burnish their credibility. On Saturday, Britney Spears, below, was due to play at the club's new home at Heaven.
Whether it was because she was "relaxing" in the VIP room or simply uninterested, we'll never know, but she refused to go on – and riots ensued. Well, Britney, you messed up. You might think the job description allows diva behaviour: on tour, Mariah Carey reportedly insists on pink toilet roll and "doesn't do stairs", while J-Lo faxes over a two-page list of requirements in advance. But a plain old no-show hits a bad note.