Tracey Emin: My Life in a Column

'Being 43 has made me depressed. I can still feel the 42, the 26, the seven'
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The Independent Online

God, I'm tired. I've been tired for over a week now. And being 43 hasn't made it any easier. Do you know what? I'm going to be completely honest about this, being 43 has made me a little depressed. It seems so much older than 42!

My galleryist, Jay Jopling, has a little girl who said something incredibly profound once. It was on her fourth birthday. She was looking a bit thoughtful and Jay said to her: "Angelica, how is it to be four?" She looked up at him and said, sadly: "Daddy, I can still feel the three."

Oh, how I can relate to that! I can feel the 42, the 41, the 26, the 29, the 18, the seven. I can feel the whole damn lot of it, 43 years and nine months since my conception - the whole damn lot of it! Crushing down on me like a ton of bricks from God knows where. And you know what? I'm seven years off 50! That's quite shocking timewise, because it was seven years ago that I was nominated for the Turner Prize. A wink of the eye, and seven years gone. And I spent the last week prancing around like some demented seven-year-old.

Christ, am I spoilt. Not really spoilt, but I do sulk when I don't get my own way. I never realised before how badly I handle myself in group situations. Fantastic if I'm the leader, but a nightmare when I feel I'm not in control.

I went to Russia for the weekend. I was really, really excited about it. To Russia With Love and all that stuff. St Petersburg, the Venice of the north; the Hermitage; the bauble-bauble churches; bucketloads of caviar and pole dancing. But the strange thing was, the moment that the plane landed, I came over all nauseous, tired and dysfunctional.

In St Petersburg at this time of year it doesn't really get dark. As the sun sets, the sun rises. It's quite beautiful, but it made me feel extremely strange. Somehow it seemed to make the group that I was with (who are, for the record, really brilliant people) deliriously happy.

I really hated the hotel we were staying in. But, on the other hand, I really hated being out in the streets. I just felt moody, and intolerably uncomfortable, even when I was having a good time. Part of me just wouldn't let go. I have the same feeling when I go to north London! It's nothing specific, just knowing that you're standing on the wrong part of the hemisphere. My highlight in Russia was playing "dirty, filthy". Sitting on the grand terrace on a main shopping street, watching millions of strangely dressed people. (Strangely-dressed in an interesting way - a blend of 1982, Alexis Carrington, Working Girls and Bon Jovi.) The game started off quite innocently, looking at how people were dressed, and my friend made a comment: "I thought there would be hundreds and hundreds of thousands of beautiful women in Russia." I pointed out to him that they'd all left. And it was at this point that we started to look for anybody with style who we found reasonably attractive.

After 10 minutes we'd reached base level - one of us had to point at someone in the crowd and comment at how we thought they would be in bed. Hamish McAlpine got lucky with a gaggle of Japanese girls. Yes, that was my highlight. No, seriously, my friend Stephen Webster had a fantastic party. We went on a few drunken, deranged boat trips. I just remember everyone saying: "St Petersburg's so beautiful!" And me replying: "Have you never been to Venice?" I just couldn't let go.

And the almightly climax was coming home with some Russian bug - and I'm not talking about the 1960s KGB version. I'm talking about the most excruciating 24-hour stomach cramps. I'm not going to go into the bodily functions. Let's just say, on Monday 3 July I woke up not very happy on my birthday. I was in so much pain, and so miserable, that I thought I was going to have to cancel my party. Let's bring on the seven-year-old spoilt brat! I was screaming, crying, stamping my feet, hating Russia more than Sweden - and you know Finland joins them together.

Just for the record, a couple of weeks ago, when I said I hated Sweden, it was a joke. I do actually have a number of Swedish friends. True, they don't actually live in Sweden. And it is also true that the Swedish government carried out compulsory sterilisation until 1974. It is also true that Sweden allied itself with the Nazis during the Second World War. And it's also true that my ex slept with a Swedish slapper airhead. And they serve wine in really tiny glasses! And if you want to buy a crate, you have to queue up and get a ticket with a number on, then you have to go to a little counter with your ticket and say why you want the alcohol. Not my kind of place.

Back to what I was saying. What was I saying? Oh yeah, I know, Russia. On Friday a law was decreed, suddenly, overnight, and all our alcohol was confiscated from our minibars. And by Saturday all the wine in St Petersburg had run dry. Something to do with the labelling - all the wines in the southern states of Russia had to be re-labelled. AAARGGGH!

So on my birthday I was vomiting and shitting and crying, and wondering whether I should cancel my party. Then I had a moment of genius. I realised that if you're going to get married and you're stood up at the altar, you don't cancel the wedding. The wedding continues, but maybe without the bride. And on this happy thought, the pain started to push away. There's an old Turkish expression: "When you love a rose, you learn to love the thorns." Tracey's dead. Long live Tracey!

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