Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column

'I could never live in the country. It's a stupid fantasy. To start with, I'm petrified of trees'
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The Independent Online

Driving through the middle of industrial France, with nothing to do but just sit there humming along to the lyrics of New Order – "What am I going to do... dum – di – dum... what am I going to do?" – I realise this is a golden opportunity to seriously think about... what am I going to do?

A friend of mine recently accused me of eating lotus flowers and swanning around – as in swanning around Europe in my sports car, jumping on and off helicopters and speedboats, hanging out in one infinity pool after another, as if I have no sense of direction.

Now I do have a sense of direction. It's Calais. Just one quick stop-off to see my friend Charles, the would-be King of France. And wow, what a chateau! Stacked with family heirlooms and history. I sleep the night in the Empress's room. It's beautiful and peaceful, and as I look out the window and stare at the heart-shaped lake, created specially by Charles after he had his open-heart surgery, I'm tempted to stay a few more nights.

But the New Order lyrics start to float back into my head, and I'm back on the road – "What am I going to do..." – charging towards Calais. It's strange; the further you travel into northern France, the more anglicised the weather becomes. I'm literally acclimatising.

I don't say this about many places, because I'm far too polite, but God, Calais is a dump! I can say this quite clearly because I grew up just on the other side of the water. I can't help but think about all the refugees and asylum-seekers. What must they think when they get to Calais? One stop before the Promised Land. It's a ferry port. Lots of people get stuck there. Even when the sun is shining it looks as if it isn't. I think the French should have a campaign to make Calais prettier. At least put some national pride into the place.

Yes, maybe my friend is right. Maybe I have been taking it too easy. I sit on the ferry, and not a very nice ferry, either. A dull disappointing ferry, nothing magical about it. I take note of the name and try to remember never to go on this ferry again. I decide it's even worth hanging around Calais for another hour just to avoid this particular ferry. It's like a dole office on the sea. I sit there making mental notes. Start new regime: get up at 7am every morning; swim and row for one hour; come home, have breakfast (one boiled egg and a banana); get to studio at 9am; work for a minimum of seven hours, maximum 12 hours; eat every evening before 9pm; read at least one book a week; and only socialise at the weekend. I mentally modify a few of the points and feel smug and happy about my new lifestyle.

It's now two days later at two o'clock in the afternoon, and I'm lying in bed, trying not to feel angry with myself, or disappointed. I'm giving myself some kind of compensation by revelling in the joys and merits of sleep. I have been asleep all morning. And there's only one reason for that – I must have been really tired. That's why this column is so dull. I feel profoundly tired, as if I need to sleep for about four or five days.

Usually these feelings come with a wave of depression. Maybe this is how everybody feels when they come back from holiday. I want to see nice bright colours again. I want to be surrounded by nature. But instead, all I can hear is the sound of urban chaos. I can hear it like a buzzing drone. It's not just coming through my window, it's seeping into my soul and it's already exhausting me.

In London, there is a strange pressure. It sort of works like a bell jar; it doesn't touch you but it squeezes you and takes your breath away. I hope it doesn't mean that I'm going to go into that I-want-to-go-and-live-in-the-country thing again. It's a stupid fantasy that I let myself get into every few months. To start with, I'm petrified of trees. I always think they are going to rape me. Walking down country lanes, the ivy twists itself round my feet. I'm scared of the wisteria on my roof terrace! It's all very Hammer House of Horror. I'm scared of dogs, but I would have at least 20 of the things. I'd have the gates continuously open, so that I could get away! No, the country possibly isn't for me.

But maybe that's because I always imagine myself alone. I bet other urbanites' country fantasies are filled with grandchildren and extended families. Some ponies, a tennis court and the noise of: "Uggh... uggh...poing... poing... 30 love." And then: "Lunch is ready!" I take off my pinny and serve a delicious quiche! Strawberries from the garden, fresh cream from the local farm, followed by a really slow game of chess, while the rest of the family try to finish the jigsaw of Constable's Hay Wain that they have been working on for two years now. Unfortunately, when little Joey was teething he swallowed part of the shire horse's tail. Peter had to remake the piece out of a Dire Straits LP cover, which matched exactly.

This just can't go on. I've got to get up – if not on track!

Tracey Emin is back from holiday

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