Tracey Emin: My Life in a Column

The thing is, would I love this woman? Would I love me? Today the answer is yes, definitely
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Life can be fun, all-night drinking binge, playing air guitar like radical mice, dancing when the sun pops up. Running around Spitalfields going mad - culminating in me and my new best friend carrying out a 9am survey outside my house with a found clipboard.

Q: Would you love this woman?

The first victim was apparently Polish, I say apparently because I have no memory of this amusing event whatsoever. Anyway, he got scared and said: "No polease, I in hurry. No understand poleeese."

But the traffic warden (who looked like the funky member of the Art cast) was a different story; he ticked all the right boxes.

The thing is, would I love this woman? Would I love me? Today the answer is yes, definitely. I'm standing in front of the mirror, naked, middle aged, long brown hair with streaks of grey, dark brown eyes, wrinkly forehead. Thoughtful-looking in a simian kind of way. Full lips and a crooked smile, bony elbows, long arms, Egyptian tummy, full thighs. What I like about this mirror image is not me but what else reflects back at me - an amazing strip of pure Mediterranean blue.

I'm in Cyprus, home of my father, land of my ancestors, the place where Pontius Pilate died alone and Cleopatra took a bath.

God, I feel beautiful here. Even with my skin infection on the side of my face and my third-degree burns, I feel good. It's true, beauty does come from within, and without going into too much detail, I have let a hell of a lot out recently. I spend most of my time fighting to do the right thing, I don't just automatically do it. I think, and then I act upon my decisions - but not when I'm really, really drunk.

Well, maybe doing the right thing isn't right for me. Maybe I spent the last 25 years lying, just in denial, in denial of my dark side.

I spat at someone the other week. I didn't just transgress the rules of the club I was in at the time, but the rules of humanity. And I'm sorry for that, but I still have a lot of shock left in me. I will not be boxed in by anything or by anyone, least of all my own mind or my own success. The girl in me will still come out fighting.

Dirty old man

When I was six and we lived in our hotel, the Hotel International, the place was so big. So many rooms. So many corridors, I could go missing for hours, I used to enjoy spying on people in their rooms.

A six-year-old girl looking through your keyhole, a cross between The Shining and Alice in Wonderland, a whole new post-modern Lewis Carroll adventure.

Part of that adventure was a man luring me up to the top landing, into his room. One day, I'd had enough, so, sworn to secrecy, my only option was to bite the entire skin off his elbow. Dirty old git. He deserved it. And I felt triumphant every time I saw his weeping wound.

The only problem was sometime later, when I was at school, and was made to read out loud, and I couldn't. I didn't understand the words and everyone was laughing at me, I tried to run out of the classroom and the teacher (would you believe this name), Mrs Man, blocked the door. So what did I do? Sank my razor-sharp gnashers straight into her elbow.

I remember dangling on as she tried to shake me off. That's no apology, just pure explanation.

Where were you, dad?

In 1996 I came to Cyprus to see my dad. We had a really brilliant time. Every day, I would go swimming and every night he would cook for me. My dad's an excellent cook. He's also teetotal, has been since my twin and I were born. But he still professes to be an alcoholic and says a spoonful of sherry truffle would send him over the edge.

Anyway, every night we would eat, I'd get really drunk and talk, and my dad would listen. One day I told him about lots of things that happened to me when I was little. He just sat there and wept, tears rolling down his face. I cried and said: "Daddy why weren't you there? Why didn't you protect me?" He said he was so sorry and that now he would always be there for me.

But now I'm in Cyprus, I'm here for him. He's 85 and getting slower (even though he did keep us dancing till 1am last night). I wish he wasn't 85. I wish he was younger. The same goes for my mum. I'm just starting to know who I am and they're slipping away. But saying that - who knows when it's time to go?

Minor disaster

Me and my friend Tigs did this amazing hike across volcanic rock. We set out from the hotel around 3:30pm to avoid the scorpions. We decided to climb along the water's edge. It was really windy. The waves were splashing up and the rocks were getting bigger and bigger. Two hours later, with torn heads and ripped-up fingernails, we were only two thirds of the way down and had a minor disaster when my Gucci sunglasses dropped down a 10ft ravine, and there was no way up and no way down. I said to Tigs: "It'll be getting dark soon."

We both imagined the headlines: "British Women in their 40s Found Dead on Rocks", alongside questions asking why they were so inappropriately dressed.

I'm telling you, these rocks were fucking sharp. Tigs had a vague moment of trying to be sensible and said: "Let's go back. At least we know which way we've climbed."

"Tigs," I said, in a grand philosophical moment, "every rock will be completely different on the way back."

Crying shame

Last Word: every time I come to Northern Cyprus, I adopt a turtle. My dad said to me: "Are you going to see if any of your babies have come back." Turtles always return to give birth in the place they were born. I've seen them hatch out. So sweet, tiny little things scraping through the sand trying to get to the first wave. All the odds are against them.

My friend has just had a baby, so I wanted to adopt a turtle in the baby's name. But guess what? The turtle research centre that once stood in the middle of nowhere is now boarded up, surrounded by breeze-block culture.

It's not so easy for turtles to move on. I wanted to cry.