Tracey Emin: My Life in a Column

'The church bells are part of the territory. What don't make sense are the tons of sand, girls in bikinis and loud drums'
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The Independent Online

The bells, the bells, the bells. The drums, the drums, the drums. The bells, the drums. The drums, the bells. The drums, the drums, the drums. The bells, the drums. The bells. OK, I know where the bells are coming from. I know I have a hangover from complete hell on this godforsaken Sunday morning. Our almighty maker has decreed that I suffer the noise of ringing bells. I live opposite a Grade-I listed church, in my Grade-II listed house, which unfortunately, according to English Heritage, is not allowed to have double glazing. I did say to the reverend: "You might know when it's St Swithin's day, for example, but I don't. Maybe you should give us some prior warning when there's going to be a massive bell-ringing session?" A few days later, a letter came through my door.

"Dear Parish neighbour, we at Christ Church Spitalfields are very proud to announce that we are a main contender for the Guinness Book of Records' bell-ringing record. At present the record stands at 48 hours, and we do hope that we will have your consideration and understanding, that not all our bell-ringers are professional, and at certain times during the attempt to break the record, amateur bell-ringers may be required to take over." I had to laugh.

But you see, I love my local church. It is a truly beautiful building designed by Hawksmoor. A church for the poor, just outside the city walls. It's been here a lot longer than I have, so even when I have a chronic hangover, I more than tolerate the bells. I appreciate them for their beauty. (That's an absolute lie.) The fact is, it's part of the territory. Huguenot street. Huguenot church. Huguenot bells. What doesn't make sense are the vast number of drummers, girls in bikinis, palm trees, tons of sand, and really, really loud fucking drums! On a Sunday morning, around the corner from where I live!

Do you know what? It starts at 10 in the morning and goes on until 11 at night. Oh, I forgot to say what it is exactly. It's a beach in the East End, in a car park! I'm not being a spoilsport, but would you like it at the end of your street? Four thousand drunk people, on a Sunday, pissing all over the place, leaving rubbish everywhere. Surely the right place for a beach is by the river, or by the sea? Tower Hamlets council is so dodgy. They didn't even consult the residents. I'm going to get a really big drum and go down to the council offices. I'll bang it really hard, non-stop, and see how they like it.

Sleep is really important. It's time when our whole bodies and our minds regenerate. At the moment I'm desperate for a nap. I've really been overdoing it and it makes me very snappy. Yesterday I shouted at a cement mixer. When I was three, my mum and my nan took my twin brother and I to Watford market, and somehow my brother got lost. I suppose he was only lost for a few minutes, but when you're a child, time seems to relate far more in cat years than in human years. To me, the few minutes seemed like hours. I can still remember my mum running around, hysterically screaming at men in hard hats to turn their cement mixer off. She was convinced that he was in there. It was probably the worst thing she could imagine at that time. It's incredible how in times of fear we throw ourselves into more fear. What frightens me most in life, if I'm honest, is abandonment. There's a good reason for this. It's because I was left when I was little.

My dad's been writing a book. He's 85 now and he's got to page 270, all written in longhand, a strange mixture of little letters and capitals, broken English and a wild use of phonetic spelling. He's told me that as he's been writing, it's made him sad looking back on his life. He said he feels guilty, knowing that the women in his life, and his children, must have suffered. I believe that it's really good he's working all this stuff out. Better late than never, Daddy.

My mum left me as well. She hasn't quite got round to putting pen to paper, but I bet it's going to be a cracker, too! The last manuscript she wrote was when she was 30. The one and only copy she had, she left on the Northern Line. And my dad's last great foray at being a literary genius was executed at May Day Hospital, in 1963, while he was recovering from severe alcoholism. It's amazing what's hereditary!

1963, oh what a year! Kennedy was shot and I was born! In fact it's my birthday next week. Monday 3 July. I share it with many greats: Julie Burchill, Franz Kafka, Ken Russell, to name just a few. This year, being 43, I thought I should calm down on the party scene. Grow up a little bit. And I pleaded with all my friends not to give me any presents. I really don't need anything. It's a great way to feel on my last week of being 42. On Sunday night I'll go to bed excited, just looking forward to another year.

St. Swithin's day if thou dost rain

For forty days it will remain

St. Swithin's day if thou be fair

For forty days, beach revellers, Beware

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