This week I've been showered with accolades. It's been a week of extremely strange, wonderful letters. One letter I received was from the University of Kent, inviting me to accept an honorary PhD, to be made a Doctor of Letters this summer. I was really chuffed and quite taken aback. I kept having to explain to people: "But you're not a real doctor. People don't actually call you a doctor." The other week I was on a plane where they actually asked: "Is there a doctor onboard?" And then quickly followed with the words: "Medical doctor". I said to my friend: "Lucky they got that in quick or half the plane would be on their feet."
A few years ago, I was made an Honorary Fellow by Kent Institute of Art and Design. My gown and puffy hat suited me, and I was quite proud of them. Once when I was a guest speaker at the Oxford Union, I said to the union President, about half-an-hour before the talk: "Is there somewhere where I can change into my gown?" At which he just presumed I meant a dress by some top fashion designer. When I appeared in my university gown and hat, he said: "Where did you get that from?" I replied: "What? Do you think I stole it?" and I remember, when I walked into the grand hall, I'd never heard so many wolf whistles. But it is odd that if you are a little bit rough around the edges, and you have a good education, let's say you went to a good university; people somehow think that your dad must have pulled a few strings to get you there. I must admit it winds me up the way that people make assumptions about you just from the way that you speak. It's not so much about a regional accent. It's more a class thing. I try to take people as I find them. You never know what you might miss out on if you dismiss somebody from the first moment you meet them.
I like being a doctor of letters. I think it suits me. And people who know me well know that I love sending all manner of messages and notes through the post. I like it in an old-fashioned kind of way. It's how I imagine myself being when I am old and happy, sitting cosy by the fire with a cat who has broken the Guinness Book of Records for being the oldest cat on the planet — happily sitting there, writing letters and sending them out into the ether. I love that familiar plop as a letter or package lands on the floor by my front door. There's always the excitement of the unknown as you go to open it. I guess I'm just like a kid at Christmas wondering what's inside the sparkling parcel.
I have received some cracking letters this week. One from Africa -an ex-mercenary is putting me straight. It's a fascinating letter that describes the whole history of the mercenaries. It was a very thoughtful, sophisticated letter -something which would be quite hard to achieve in conversation. That's what is so amazing about letters. There's a timelessness about them, where the thoughts hang in space. Then you have time to deal with these thoughts. Especially in terms of an argument which, for the record, I am absolutely useless at it. I have no chance of ever winning an argument. I am too emotional and react very immaturely to certain situations.
Back to the letters, I had a lovely one from the NSPCC who want to induct me into the third NSPCC Hall of Fame for the support I have given them over the last few years. I became all teary when I read the letter. When you speak on behalf of people or children who don't have a voice, that's the reward in doing it, hoping that you are making a difference somewhere. But to be honoured for doing it is really lovely.
Even my cat received a letter today with a big pack of cat food. The letter was charming and put a smile on my face. But not as half as big a smile as the letter I received last Friday. "May I offer my sincere apologies that you did not receive the letter of 28th November. I have the greatest pleasure in inviting you, on behalf of the Council and Senate of the College, to accept an Honorary Doctorate of the Royal College of Art" -a double doctorate! Now, who shall I write to tell them my news?
Adapted from Tracey Emin (16 February 2007) My Life In A Column, Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/columnists/tracey-emin/tracey-emin-my-life-in-a-column-440058.html (Accessed: 24 September 2019).