Tracey Emin: My Life in a Column

Chris and I made a deal: I'd help him give up smoking, he'd help me pass my driving test

Friday 15 July 2005 00:00 BST

But there's always one who slips through the net. On Saturday morning I was sitting in bed reading a book. In fact I was reading Ian McEwan's Enduring Love, trying to brush up on my stalking techniques. (Anyone who's ever been to the cinema with me will know it only takes me two seconds to work out a plot; but the problem is that I kind of interact with the film. For example, in The Usual Suspects I stood up and shouted, while pointing at Kevin Spacey: "He's Keyser Soze!") These days finding out someone's address or phone number doesn't take more than two phone calls. God, life can be dull.

So I had just thrown the book across the room when I got a phone call. It was my little mate Pokey, the actor Russ Tovey to anyone else. "Wotcha Trace, what you up to this weekend?" I tell him I'm in bed reading, not seeing anyone, not drinking. And I'm going to Kent for a week to try and pass my driving test. And then he comes out with a killer line: "Trace, you're gonna miss my play."

Damn. Damn. Damn. Fuck. Shit. Not only am I turning into a thespian, there seems to be no way out of this. But The Laramie Project is a really good play, I'm so pleased I saw it. Gay persecution with a twist in mid-America. And then of course it's me, Pokey, Joe (who lives in my cottage, never has a name been so apt) at 1am, downing vast amounts of sweet wine in JSheekey's in the name of dessert. Alcoholic deception, a great start to my non-alcoholic week.

A rocky start with Chris

My name is Tracey. I am 42 and my hobbies include: reversing around corners; three-point turns; parallel parking; and hill starts. It's fantastic where I'm learning to drive, the coastal town of Herne Bay. The Emerald School of Driving. Herne Bay has few distinguishing features - apart from lots of pensioners in little motorised wheelchairs, and thousands upon thousands of learner drivers. There's a real spirit of camaraderie.

I really like my driving instructor, Chris. We had a bit of a rocky start on Monday morning. I opened the gate to see him smoking a cigarette and that was it - I was off on one. "Oh, you smoke. I can't be near smoke. Do you smoke in your car?" He just stood there and smiled. He'd seen it all before.

Of course he didn't smoke in his car. It was when I offered him a cup of tea and started mincing backwards, clinging on to bits of furniture like a limpet on a rock, the fear of failure written across my face, that we came to an agreement. I would help him to give up smoking, and he would help me to pass my test.

He is making everything very comfortable and simple for me. But my problem is nerves. Today I did my mock test. I ended up shaking, in tears. People have been saying to me: "Try and relax. Don't build it up to be such a big thing. Don't make it so important." But with top lip trembling, I say: "It's the most important thing in my life, the ability to take control and change my life. I'm tired of all the parties, the drunken repetition, the loss of memory. I want something new in my life."

I will drive with the Stig

The problem is that I concentrated so hard on my art, my work is a vocation, and everything else has been pushed out the way, but this time I want to do something for me. I have so much confidence in so many ways, but not this time. Because it matters to me, too much. I have never sat a test in my life (apart from the last driving test).

Throughout my life the only discipline that has been enforced is by me on myself. I didn't have to go to school, because I hated it. I ate what I wanted, drank what I wanted, smoked what I wanted, fucked who I wanted - and that was when I was a kid. And now there's something that I really want, and that is the ability to change my life. So many stupid people drive cars and have babies, and on the eve of my test there is a harsh realisation that I've left it too late. But tough shit, kitty - that's the way it goes.

I will be on Top Gear. I will drive with the Stig. I will take that roundabout slowly. I will indicate as I move on to the dual carriageway. Mirror, mirror blindspot, signal. Minimum of 1.6mm of tread on the tyres. Oh sorry, I thought you said turn right.

This time tomorrow I will know, and it sounds pathetic, but whatever - pass or fail, I will be in tears.

Some people learn to drive and they don't like driving. Me? I absolutely love it. The furthest I've ever driven was at Christmas, to Stonehenge. But remember: Stonehenge isn't just for Christmas - it's for life.

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