My Beds

Twenty years ago Tracey Emin made her iconic work ‘My Bed’.

It’s also twenty years since I swapped my childhood single bed for a double bed.

As I wrote back in February I’ve just gone back to a using a single bed in order to have one that’s adjustable to help me manage my pain.

Tracey made ‘My Bed’ following a period of depression when she’d stayed in bed for several days. I’ve been thinking a lot about beds recently, too, as I’ve been spending an increasing time in mine.

Sometimes my bed feels like an incredible refuge and there are times when I’m out and about, at work or in a meeting, when it’s the thought of getting back to my bed that gets me through.

But there are also times when my bed feels very restrictive, usually in the early hours of the morning when I can’t sleep.

A few nights ago I couldn’t sleep and my bored brain started counting all the beds I’ve ever slept in. It wasn’t the first time I’ve done this but it was the first time I reached an answer that I think is pretty close to accurate.

I reckon I’ve slept in 98 beds, 53 double and 45 single.

Caveats:

• These are beds that I remember so they include none from before I was about three or four.
• Whenever I’ve slept in different beds in the same house, they’ve been counted separately.
• I’ve included as many hotel stays and sleepovers as I can recall but I’m sure to have missed some.
• Touring Backstage In Biscuit Land will have somewhat skewed the figures and goes some way to explaining why over a fifth of the beds I’ve slept in have been in Premier Inns!

I’ve made drawings in my bed, and drawn pictures of my bed, many times before, but here’s a new drawing, illustrating all the beds I can remember.

Thinking about all my beds was an intimate and sometimes emotional experience. I loved remembering the beds in my Gran’s houses with their heavily patterned bedding. Then there are the homemade beds my dad made, first using some slats and a piece of foam and later a seriously tall bunk bed. I remembered all the beds that were so much more than just beds, doubling as swimming pools, dens, castles and crystal-maze-inspired wonderlands, and all the beds I’ve shared with people I love.

In recent years my bed has become more medical, equipped with alarms, remote controls and specialist slidy sheets. Being a single bed it’s harder to share, although not impossible.

Recently I’ve invested in my bed a lot, getting really soft, beautiful bedding and cushions, so that while it might look a bit like a hospital bed, it feels like a bed fit for a palace.

My beds are less messy than the one Tracey created back in 1998. As a wheelchair user messiness isn’t my friend and getting to and from my bed smoothly is something I work hard at.

There have been times when I’ve been stuck in bed for hours because I haven’t had the social care support I need to get up. But there are also all the precious early mornings when I feel, in a good way, independent and alone.

We live in a world where too many people don’t have a safe place to sleep. This is something that all of us should be working to put right. There are several charities, like Shelter, Crisis and The National Domestic Violence Helpline, working to address this and I’m going to try and donate a pound for every bed I’ve slept in. You might like to think of doing the same.

Right now my bed is supporting my body, holding my legs high and my bottom low, and leaning at an angle to stop me feeling sick. I feel lucky to have this amazing bed now, and to have had all the other beds that have gone before it.

Happy ‘My Bed’ anniversary, Tracey.

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