My Proust

Be good… but not too good!

An exercise we did recently while working on our new website was to each answer the ‘Proust Survey’.

Marcel Proust (in one moment of his life)

This is the questionnaire that Vanity Fair has been using since the ’90s to elicit revealing or witty insight from celebrities. It’s known as such, because Marcel Proust was a famous early advocate (nothing to do with VF), and in fact he repeated the exercise several times over his life. The Proust has been trending this year, and we’ve seen it used as an icebreaker, a party game, and not least, a bio format.

Here, then is my Proust:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

There is no real substitute for a ball struck squarely and firmly*… But a sunny afternoon by the lake with a couple of Tetleys is not bad.

*I have long believed this was an old expression (that I would hear occasionally in my youth), but google results suggests that perhaps Billy Bragg made it up?

I think I know that guy!

What is your greatest fear?

Falling from great height.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Neal Cassady or Aristippus

Cassady not looking too shabby here!

Which living person do you most admire?

I’ll take Bob Dylan while I still can.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

I am not too tough on myself really, but I don’t always listen well, and my fashion sense is pretty mediocre.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Disinterest, or casual selfishness.

What is your greatest extravagance?


On what occasion do you lie?

When the truth is not helpful.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?

Chin, forehead, and hair.

What about ‘puffy eyes’?

When and where were you happiest?

Kynance Cove, one day in 1975

An island/sandbar off New Providence, one day in 1996

Disclaimer: this is not the actual sandbar

An outrigger off Boracay, one afternoon in 1998…

Stole this pic from

But Bali during the 10th Century might have been real nice for me…

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

It would be useful to be taller.

If you could change one thing about your family what would it be?

My great-grandfather’s profligacy. (dad’s mum’s dad, for the record)

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Anytime I score a birdie, it’s good.

If you died and came back as a person or thing what do you think it would be?

A pelican.

Teach me now how to be… else pluck me alive from the sea.

What is your most treasured possession?

Either Marmite, or my memory.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Nothing to blow your nose on.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Geoffrey Boycott (but probably the less I know, the better)

A century of centuries

Joni Mitchell (also has some issues)

In the morning there are lovers in the street. They look so high. You bump against a stranger and you both apologize.

W.G. Sebald

… or anyone who creates/designates parkland.

What is it that you most dislike?

Vegemite. Out of Africa (the movie). TV News.

How would you like to die?

Either in my sleep, or watching England win the world cup. (That one’s a bit like Mark Twain and Halley’s comet, since I was born just around when they won it the last time.)

NOTE: I’ve since revised this objective to: in my sleep, age 83.

What is your motto?

Be good. … But not too good!