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My ABBA tribute – at the police station

Blog | By Jem Clarke | Jun 17, 2022


Like the Swedish supergroup, Jem Clarke's got a new look for his relaunch

Jem Clarke is in his very, very early fifties, is five foot zero inches tall and has never left the family home in Cleethorpes, which he still shares with his parents…

Mother has been buoyed by my first substantial job of the year – and became particularly giddy when she heard it would involve two days a week working in an office in a far-off city.

‘With multiple trains, he’ll be gone before we’re even up,’ she gabbled excitedly as she scraped butter substitute onto a celebratory crumpet. Crumpets are normally reserved for surprise death notices of perceived enemies. Father and I often reflect that if Mother could find a tall enough stool to reach the computer desk, she would make an excellent troll, in every sense of the word.

My own attitude to my return to full-time filing duties is a little mixed. At age fifty-and-change, I will be the oldest by decades among the new starters, but I’m excited by the prospect of listening to Voyage, the new ABBA album, on repeat during the lengthy commute.

I have some loyalty to the Super-Swedes. I incurred the wrath of my father when I ran up a huge telephone bill using the Dial-a-Disc service after becoming addicted to Fernando, and had my first snog to Super Trouper.

‘A little bit ploddy and over-eager to engender any romantic feelings’ was my date’s review of the song and my kiss.

Annoyingly, I bumped into the same person a couple of years ago, and she can’t remember even kissing me, let alone dancing to ABBA. I insisted she must because it was such a significant moment in my life, but she rationalised, ‘I’ve probably kissed a lot more lips since then than you have.’ Unnecessary.

I hatched a plan: just like ABBA, I could use my new job as a ‘relaunch’ of Jem Clarke as an object of attraction. Unfortunately, unlike ABBA, I could not pay for a hologram of how I used to look three decades ago. So I settled for my first-ever hairpiece – £30 (thanks, Amazon) – and a pair of white skinny jeans.

‘Am I rolling the years back, Dad?’ I asked, emerging with longer, blacker hair and drainpipe legs.

‘Yes, but only inasmuch as you’ve just reminded me of Max Wall.’

I had to trial this look for ‘walkability’ and ‘credibility’. Luckily, that very afternoon I had an appointment with a senior police officer. He had invited me to meet with him at Cleethorpes Police Station to discuss my lengthy email, rounding up my many concerns about a decline in local policing baseline standards.

I felt safer going in my new ‘disguise’, in case I was later targeted because of my complaints. For good measure, I teamed my tight white trousers and flowing faux locks with a walking cane.

The police station is only a street away from my house and I was soon rapping with my cane on the locked station door.

To no avail. Peering in through the gloomy glass, I could see the station lobby was unmanned.

I used all my ‘SAS-are-you-tough-enough’ smarts to sidle along a small ledge until I dropped down into a yard at the back of the station. I knocked on the back window with the over-eager impatience of a trainee bailiff.

In hindsight, I realise the police are understandably jumpy in these times. Suddenly, the fire exit was kicked open and an officer wearing body armour appeared, yelling, ‘Identify yourself!’

I threw my cane down and, for no good reason, raised my wig in greeting as if it were a hat, explaining as best as I could, ‘I’ve got an appointment at four o’clock.’ Desperately trying to recall the name of the officer, I squealed suddenly as I remembered: ‘Marsh – Willy Marsh.’

‘Wait here,’ barked the officer. I was led, shamefaced and de-wigged, through what looked like a 24-hours-in-police-custody theme park. Real police-folk sat at desks, looking intently at cyberscreens, while doubtlessly sharing off-colour jokes. I was taken into a room and the officer announced, ‘All right, Sergeant. I’d like to introduce you to … Willy Marsh.’

I suddenly realised where I’d gone wrong. Marsh was in fact the name of the district that a Sergeant Will policed. And now they thought I was called Willy Marsh. It was so confusing that I just went with it and we had a genuinely useful conversation. He even unlocked the front of the police station to see me out.

I walked proudly out of the police station, having fulfilled my civic duty – and no one had sniggered at my trousers. I put my earphones on and listened to the emboldening lead ABBA track, I Still Have Faith in You, and waved confidently at a couple I knew as they passed, my chest as swollen as my taut-trousered testicles.

Then the police-station door re-opened. A voice yelled, ‘Oy, Willy! You forgot your wig.’ A hairpiece was frisbeed at me, landing on my shoulder.

I wish ABBA better luck with their comeback.