Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column

'I woke up on New Year's Day to the distant sound of bagpipes and the chants of the Masai'
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The Independent Online

Thank God it's 2007. Last year was so roly-poly. Strangely, being cradled in the two 0s, the 2 didn't seem sharp at all, and the 6 was totally bottom-heavy. Everything in 2006 seemed to be about waiting for it to happen, whatever the "it" was. It was like "we'll just sit here in 2006 until 2007 comes along", as though 2007 was the real year.

We have the 007 factor, the 2 + 7 = 9 thing, and, best of all, the 2 and the 7 look like they're really good friends and could not care less about having a couple of 0s trying to keep them apart. Plus, the 2's just happy to be there instead of the more glamorous (in the numeric world) 3. Yes, I feel it in my bones: 2007 is going to be a dynamic year.

I usually spend New Year's Eve at home in bed, Docket all curled up next to me, at the stroke of 12, my hands tightly pressed against my eyes. But this year was slightly different. I was on a dhow floating around the Indian Ocean. Not the entire Indian Ocean, but sailing round and round in circles. I remember at one point, as great fireworks lit up the African sky, saying to Michael Clark (the dancer): "God this is weird." Then it was as if our boat and the sea were being picked up in the palm of a giant hand, and the moon became an eye staring down at us. And a big, booming voice said: "This is really beautiful." And then I started to cry; apparently, I couldn't believe how beautiful the Indian Ocean was. I wanted to get closer and closer to it.

Then, Michael wasn't on the boat anymore. I was with Roberta Hanley, the film producer. She was sitting on the end of the dhow, gold dress, head up, black hair trailing in the wind like some Egyptian cat-like sphinx. "Roberta!" I called out. "Where are we?" She pointed across the water to a giant sandstone, Gothic-looking castle. "There," she said, "the house is there."

I woke up in the morning to the distant sound of bagpipes somehow combined with the chants of the Masai: drums, horns, a phenomenal amount of noise coming from the beach - or maybe just my head; a clatter of weird shapes and memories from the night before.

Oh no! Waves of embarrassment came flooding over me. The bed did feel like it was at sea. Then I squirmed as I recalled being chuffed at winning the dancing competition, which meant I obviously danced too much. Yes there is such a thing. (Why be remembered, when you could just have a nice time?) And then speaking fluent cat with the Masai.

Kenya is a strange place. You don't stop dreaming. This morning I dreamt again I had a baby. I had gone out to buy it some clothes. I passed a strange haberdashery shop. Outside there were hundreds of boxes full of amazing ribbons and braids, fantastic brightly coloured balls of silk and wool. Inside the shop I found a beautiful cardigan, crocheted in the softest wool I had ever felt. Interwoven between the wool was gold, snake-like thread. I put the cardigan on; it was a deep chocolate, eggplant-brown colour. The gold and the brown totally made me alive. I said to the black, blind, albino drummer (who actually in real life was the one who said I won the dancing competition): "Yes, I'll take it." Then he said: "What about your baby. Your baby needs clothes." Looking in the mirror and safely engulfed in the cosy softness of the wool, I replied: "I will take it, but do you have it in a size very, very small?"

On New Year's Day three of us with our 2007 hangovers took a slow stroll across the dunes. Hundreds of people lined the water's edge, dressed up in finery: handmade floral dresses, tiny children in matching outfits, all brightly coloured and in high contrast to the whiteness of the sand.

I was feeling quite happy apart from my hangover and dodgy tummy. I had survived New Year's Eve without too many major fuck-ups. We walked up the point. The sun was starting to set and the air became cooler. Dave and Roberta wanted to swim. A small sand island hung out a couple of hundred metres from the shore. It was nothing to swim. We joked about our laziness, until we got halfway across, the tide began to pull and, well, we had to put some effort in.

We did a full recce of our newfound land. The sun had just about set when we decided to swim back, but now the 200 metres seemed more like 400, and as we attempted to swim, it was like we were going nowhere. There was nowhere shallow, everywhere was deep. Then Dave, by no means a small bloke, said in his upstate New York drawl: "You know, guys, I'm not that much of a good swimmer."

Roberta decided, no matter what, the three of us should attempt to swim back across together. It was like being in water with an undercurrent rapid - a fast channel straight out to the vastness of the ocean. I could see the headlines: "Three bodies swept up in Indian Ocean. The two women were known to be competent swimmers."

Just as the reality and danger of the situation hit home, a boat came along and rescued us. And then, when we were back on shore, the little sand island, as it slowly disappeared, still did not look that far away.

It's odd the dreams here are so vivid and so perfectly clear. It's because of the purity of the nature, so beautiful and so dangerous. I was right in my heightened, drunken New Year state to fall madly in love with the Indian Ocean, because everything that we love has the intensity to destroy us.

Tracey Emin is on holiday in Africa

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