MAMMA Mia! News that Abba have not only recorded new music but are also planning to tour – albeit as holograms – is so huge, I’m still trying to process it.

I have loved Abba for as long as I can remember. I was a young child when they shot to fame, via Eurovision, and I was obsessed with my mum’s Greatest Hits album (the one with them all sitting on a park bench, Agnetha looking forlorn but wearing fabulous boots). I played it endlessly, miming to tracks like Ring, Ring and SOS and choreographing dance routines with my sister (who was always Anni-Frid because I insisted on being “the blonde one”).

On my bedroom wall was a big pink rosette, with the faces of each Abba member stuck in the middle. It was a thing of beauty.

I continued to love the Super Swedes when they went out of fashion in the Eighties, and over the years I’ve seen countless Abba tribute acts (some okay, some terrible). Best of the lot is Bjorn Again – delightfully tongue-in-cheek but respectful and skilfully pulling off those tricky harmonies – who I’ve seen about 12 times, always assuming it was the closest I’d get to the real thing.

But now there’s talk of an “Abbatar tour”, either in 2019 or 2020. Each of the four band members will appear on stage in virtual form, with digital technology capturing younger versions of themselves in their 1970s heyday. So it’s not actually Abba live, but we’ll see them in their glory, in a live concert setting. Are you keeping up?

Prior to the tour, there’s a planned TV special, featuring new music from Abba. Last week they announced they’ve been recording together, for the first time in 35 years, and the result is two new songs. A statement on the band’s Instagram account said it had been a “joyful experience”.

New Abba songs? An Abba tour? It’s the news we never thought we’d hear and, naturally, it has delighted Abba’s global legion of fans. But it’s not really offering us much. While I’m sure it will be a spectacular show, I can’t help thinking the hologram thing is a bit soulless.

There’s no chance of seeing Abba – the living, breathing, flesh and blood version – live because, as Bjorn Ulvaeus has said, it would be “too enormous”. They have reportedly been offered £1 billion to do a reunion tour but the simple truth, says Bjorn, is they don’t want to. They don’t need the money, nor do they crave the adoration. Agnetha and Anni-Frid appear to live quietly, occasionally releasing solo material, while Benny and Bjorn have their own music projects.

I’d rather remember them as they were, rocking it in their kimono and platform boots combos. We still have Abba’s lovely videos; their decade together captured on Lasse Hallström’s camera, from cheery pop to wistful melancholy, when loss, heartache and the fall-out of divorce finally did for them. There are occasional Abba exhibitions, like Super Troupers at London’s South Bank, which I recently visited. And for the diehards, there’s Abba: The Museum in Stockholm, which I believe already has holograms of the band. A virtual reality tour is pointless, and a little hollow. And it might set off a weird trend; who’s next – the Beatles, Elvis, Michael Jackson? Maybe acts will decide that exhausting arena tours aren’t worth the effort, when a slick avatar can do it all instead.

Abba once sang: “I’m a marionette, pull the string, everybody’s pet, just as long as I sing.” They left a wonderful legacy, but I’m not convinced there’s much dignity in bringing them back as life-size ‘virtual puppets’.

* ACTOR John Middleton's hauntingly accurate portrayal of early onset dementia in Emmerdale left a great legacy; with an episode of the soap now used by the Alzheimer's Society's Dementia Friends campaign.

This week John was at the National Science and Media Museum to see an exhibition of photographs of people from Dementia Forward's singing group. Like John's gently nuanced portrayal of dementia, these striking portraits capture each individual's identity, lying behind the illness that often defines them.

* A FEW years ago some friends from Hampshire came to stay for a weekend. When they told their neighbour they were heading up to Yorkshire she said, with a shudder: "You're going to the North? Goodness...Let me know what it's like."

Yes, there are still people "down South" who think anything north of Luton is all whippets and gas lamps. But that is changing, thanks largely to the work of Gary Verity and his Welcome to Yorkshire team. The Grand Depart in 2014 raised the county's profile in an unprecedented way, and the subsequent annual Tour de Yorkshire has continued to showcase its beauty and diverse landscapes not just nationally, but globally. Tomorrow the cycle race is at Ilkley's Cow and Calf rocks, showing the world that it's far from grim up North.