Tracey Emin: My Life in a Column

I will never go to Euston without feeling the depressing shadow of the abortion clinic
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The Independent Online

I just spent the last few days in Liverpool. How I get to Liverpool is to catch the train from Euston. And at 7.30am on Monday morning, as I raised my head from the Circle Line, like a tiny mole squinting in daylight for the first time, I put on my big purple sunglasses. A wave of depression flooded over me.

It always happens to me at Euston, especially in the spring, when the blossom's budding, the skies are blue, white puffy clouds and April showers. The mixture of spring and the fumes of Euston Road, and the great shadow of the abortion clinic cast down on me. I can always hear myself saying: "Oh, yeah, Euston. That's where I had my abortions."

But the clinic isn't there anymore. It sort of miraculously disappeared a few years ago. A whole hospital just gone, disappeared. Those pro-lifers sure do have some power behind them! No, seriously, they do! They really frighten people - frighten people over something which should be discussed and understood.

I will never go to Euston without a sense of sadness, or a thought for what I did. And that's because I now have a lifetime to think about it. And I think about it without regret, but it still makes me melancholy. This is a hard thing to rationalise, and I think the feeling is different for every woman.

After my first abortion, my guilt was so horrendous that I wanted to die. I had a lot of difficulty coming to terms with what I'd done. This was partly to do with the fact that I was made to feel extremely guilty by my then GP. He actually showed me a photograph of his baby and asked: did I not realise what a wonderful mother I would make?

I felt, even at the time, with all my mixed-up emotions and an infuriating degree of naivety, that it was wrong of him to force his beliefs on me when I was having to make one of the most serious decisions of my life. I've said this many times: no woman wants to have an abortion. But if she comes to that decision, it is because there is an overriding reason why she cannot have a baby.

Going back to the pro-lifers , I agree. The creation of life is a wonderful thing. And for me, with my beliefs, that means right from the moment of conception. It's a miracle. But not everyone is put on this earth to procreate.

In my case I was in no fit state to have a child of my own. And while I was pregnant I was plagued with horrendous visions of myself throwing a baby out of a window, and me jumping after the baby. I just wasn't strong enough. I truly felt bad and very guilty for sleeping with someone who didn't love me enough. God, I was stupid.

On top of all of that, I have a fundamental belief in the soul, so I was really fucked up. What was most important was that it was my decision.

So that's why I always feel slightly depressed when I'm at Euston!

Judging fish

I've been in Liverpool judging the John Moores painting competition. My fellow judges were (and will be again) Sir Peter Blake, or the great Papa Smurf of Pop Art, as we like to call him, Andrea Rose from the British Council and the painter Jason Brookes. We spent three days, from early morning to late evening, in a dark room, looking at more than 3,000 slides. This column is very difficult for me to write at the moment as I keep finding myself nodding and saying: "Yes. No. Yes - yes - no." And last night in Liverpool, in a Chinese restaurant, I realised that myself and my fellow judges were transfixed by a glass door with fish on it. And after a short pause, in complete unison, we all nodded and said: "Yes."

It's amazingly hard being a judge, but it can also be great fun. Sharing the balance of responsibility makes it a lot easier. We were all in perfect agreement not to argue with each other. This was an unspoken rule. Instead we used our energies to argue in defence of the paintings we wanted to stand by. And this is why I've just had a really amazing few days in Liverpool - because I had utmost respect for the others' opinions.

Nevertheless, I did manage to give everyone a lecture on being a judge.

While we were having lunch yesterday, there was a flipchart and I couldn't resist coming over all school marm in the old Liverpudlian court house. I really wanted to make a drawing, but came over shy in front of Peter. I tapped my magic marker and we all made up a rule. Some of them were very funny, and some of them deadly serious, but I can't say what they were because I'm under an embargo. Can you believe someone has asked me to keep a secret for two months!

My favourite moment of the whole adventure was getting a taxi back to the hotel with the others. Peter had the front seat and the taxi driver said, in a very strong Scouse accent: "So, you must be special, like? That you get the front seat and the others all squeeze in the back?" Peter said quite blandly: "No, I'm not special, I'm just older and fatter than the others." I jumped in and said to the taxi driver: "Do you realise, this is Sir Peter Blake?" The driver seemed quite amused and said: "So why's this then? What have you done to go round calling yourself "Sir?"

We cracked up laughing, and as we pulled over to the kerb, Peter opened the door, and explained to the driver: "It's rock and roll."

Life can be so funny. We laughed all the way home on the train from Lime Street to London. I nearly said Euston, but who wants to go there?

(Tracey Emin would like to say that she has nothing against Euston, or the people of Euston, and that maybe a really good, long snog on Platform 2 would make a hell of a difference.)