Tracey Emin: My Life in a Column

I'm so lucky to be in bed with Robbie Burns - the experience is truly mind-blowing
Click to follow
The Independent Online

But weary fa' the laithron doup

And may it ne'er be thriven!

It's no the length that makes me loup,

But it's the double drivin.

Come nidge me, Tam, come nudge me, Tam,

Come nidge me o'er the nyvel!

Come lowse and lug your battering ram,

And thrash him at my gyvel.

That's what I've been doing the last couple of days. In bed with Robbie Burns. Mind-blowingly sexy! I put it down to the rhythm myself. The closest I got to any of that was wearing tartan pyjamas. But it does conjure up amazing images, like the Scott's Porridge Oats man walking across the Highlands, when his kilt blows up and he says: "Mornin' ladies!"

The advert always makes me smile. I only worked it out the other day, though. Morning glory! Hee hee hee. The idea of lifting a man's kilt up is a real turn-on. (Why is wearing no underpants called "going commando"? You'd think those commandos would need some protection, with all those barbed wire fences they have to jump over.)

Back to Robbie Burns, it's amazing how sex can raise itself from the grave and take a grip. And as for Burns Night, a room full of men wearing skirts and reading poetry to each other - just too much for my little mind to contemplate.

I eventually let go of Robbie and forced myself out of bed. It's terrible having flu. I can't think. I can't breathe. My nose is bright red. And I'm in the process of moving studios. Still. I thought it was 10 years of shit, but it turns out to be more like 25, or maybe 35. Who's counting the odd decade when it comes to piles and piles and piles of stuff! I've found everything, from handmade miniature trolls' clothes to diamond jewellery. I got rid of at least 70 dustbin bags. Every piece of paper had to be shredded, every piece of fabric cut up, every object broken. And we did have a whole section of boxes for charity. Then everything has to put into a landfill. That's the price of being eBay-able.

My doorbell hasn't been working for a few weeks. I've tried to get it fixed, but it's more complicated than one might think. Every day I write a note that says: "Doorbell not working. Please knock loudly." And every day the note goes missing. It's like my "missing cat" posters. They ended up on eBay for 500 quid.

Up in flames

The moving thing is insane. A fire did seem an attractive alternative. We're always hearing about artists' studios that go up in flames, their life's work destroyed. But no artist would do it. No real artist anyway. We're too sensitive. Too strategic. Most studio fires start with the combustion of turpentine-soaked rags in dustbin bags. But that's not how my work was destroyed in the Momart fire. That was arson. And you know, no one's actually said sorry.

My life has a level of complication which is very unattractive. But in some respects I feel very lucky. For 10 years I lived in a very tiny co-op flat, and I was an active member on the committee. It was always my job to decorate the communal Christmas tree. Sweep up the leaves in autumn. And deliver the pensioners' Christmas presents.

On my landing lived a guy who was a bit of a loner. One day I noticed his door open. It stayed open for three days and three nights. On the fourth day, I and other committee members ventured into the flat. God, it was like a disaster scene! Beer cans, takeaway food weeks old, washing up that was ancient, clothes thrown everywhere. And on his bed, porno mags strewn open, photographs of a very beautiful girl, and love letters. It was really sad.

We put a temporary lock on the door, and the flat stayed this way for six months. The guy was registered missing. He had no next of kin. It was the co-op's job to clear his flat out. And it was my job to put aside everything which had his name on. One of these things was a box with a rabbit's paw in it. The box was inscribed to him with the words: "the luckiest man in the world".

It was then I decided that this could never, ever happen to me.

A dream fulfilled

My beach hut is a long story. I cried and cried when I heard it had been burnt. It held lots of memories. I bought it with the sale of a Henry Moore print. It cost me £250 in 1992. It was a dream fulfilled; to have a tiny wooden house by the sea. But by 1999 it was falling to pieces, and rather than keep patching it up, the sensible thing was to build a new one.

Rather than just knock it down, we took it apart piece by piece and numbered them, then had it fumigated and shipped to America. It took two months to arrive and then had to go through quarantine. It then lay on the gallery floor in pieces until we put it back together again. Proud little hut! It sold for £75,000. Not bad for my first property deal!

But the moral of this story isn't about money. It's about understanding what we have and what we don't have. And I am so lucky to lay in bed with Robbie Burns, even if he has been dead for over 200 years.

Poem: Extract from 'Nine Inch Will Please A Lady', by Robert Burns

Comments