Friday 19 May 2006
Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column
'What do you mean, I'm too late for breakfast! Don't you know who I used to be?'
I dreamt I was in a strange casino with lots of friends and Chinese people on stage. We had taken a weird journey across lots of bridges. There I was holding the mic with Neil Tennant, singing "West End Girls" really badly. But instead of singing "West End Girls", I hollered out: "East End Girls! Meow! Meow! Meow!" Another one of those amazing/horrendous Kafka moments. But it wasn't a dream. It was true.
I spent the last couple of days in Newcastle, drinking mainly, and attending my friend Sam Taylor-Wood's private view. It's rare these days that the art world comes together and supports a friend. And that's what made this trip so special. The anecdotal highlights are as good as any from the last 10 years.
Most of us were staying in the Malmaison hotel. I've got to be honest, I don't remember getting back to the hotel at all. And I always know when someone's helped me to bed because I wake up half dressed, with two sets of keys. When I went down to breakfast, everyone was talking about the fire alarm that had gone off at 5am, so loud that you could hear it from miles away. Everybody was standing on the street half dressed, including Norman Rosenthal, director of the Royal Academy, pyjama-clad with no slippers; half the sexy girls who work at White Cube, in various states of undress; three fire engines; various international collectors and the hotel staff. Me? I slept right through it.
We discussed this over breakfast, and I tried to get some attention from the waitress, to be told it was 10:20am and I'd missed breakfast by 20 minutes. I did my John McEnroe impersonation: "YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!"
There was public outrage, and I must admit I did go into a small rant of, "Do you know who I used to be? Just two eggs - boiled for five minutes," only to be told the kitchen was definitely closed. There were more screams of objection, especially from the writer Harland Miller. He pointed out that we'd all been woken up at 5am by a false fire-alarm and kept on the streets for half an hour. Cries of: "Hear! Hear!" - a mass movement of breakfast solidarity!
Just when I was about to say, "I might write about this in my column," an apology was sent from the kitchen. I tucked into two perfectly boiled eggs and was told that breakfast would be on the house. I apologised sincerely to the waitress, saying I was totally aware that it wasn't her decision, but sometimes rules have to be broken. But I did have one clear complaint about the hotel: that fire alarm just wasn't loud enough!
It's really brilliant going to other parts of the UK. Last weekend I was down in Broadstairs. I don't mean I was "down"; in fact I was very happy. I've been happy for ages now. Usually it makes me scared, as I'm waiting for the bad to come in. Maybe it's the fear which is bad in itself, and being happy is cool. Mind you, it's really bad for your work. Trilby says it's just a new challenge, which is a really good, positive way of looking at things.
Last weekend I did something fantastic. I organised a surprise birthday party for Mum. I was apprehensive because I never know how she's going to react. My Mum generally enjoys her own solitude. And, unlike her daughter, she likes to be in control. Champagne and cream tea at The Walpole Bay Hotel went down a treat. My Uncle Colin, who died in 1982, had two children. A half-sister and brother, they met for the first time. I kind of felt like a cross between Oprah and Families Reunited. It was very difficult not to cry.
There were about 25 of us. I really wanted my Dad to come, but I thought it might wind Mum up. The climax was calling Dad and asking him to propose to her on the phone. I'd already got Mum to agree, if he asked. She was running round the hotel trying to get my phone off me. At the point when I was about to ring Vivienne Westwood to get the dress sorted - "Think, Mum, a stiff taffeta, a cross between Boudicca and Princess Diana..." - Mum's eyes lit up. She said: "You'd like it, wouldn't you?"
I put my head down and thought. It's romantic and naive but, yes, I would like it if Mum and Dad got married. I said to her: "Well, what's the problem? Don't you like the idea of Dad's shoes under your table?" I haven't seen Mum laugh so much for ages! But then we were all laughing. All very happy. And somehow all together. It's amazing to come from such a dysfunctional family - how we all have something wonderful in common, an undeniable sense of humour.
Halfway through tea I gave a speech and my brother Paul told a joke.
There's three balloons. Mummy balloon, daddy balloon, and baby balloon. Baby balloon is now six, and Daddy balloon has decided it's time baby balloon slept on his own, so baby balloon is tucked up in his own bed. In the night, baby balloon gets up and tries to get into bed with mummy and daddy balloon. First he tries mummy balloon, but there's no room, so he just lets out a little bit of her air. There's still no room, so he goes round to daddy balloon's side and lets out a bit of his air. Baby balloon then tries to wriggle in between them. But there's still no room, so he lets out all his own air. SSSWOOOOOOSH!
In the morning, daddy balloon is really angry and he takes baby balloon aside. He says: "Do you realise what you've done? Not only have you let me down, and your mother down, but most of all, you've let yourself down!"
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