The Proust Questionnaire

At ages 13 and 20 the great play-write Proust filled out a questionnaire. It became known as The Proust Questionnaire, despite him never actually penning it originally.

What it is good for is some self-evaluation. Knowing who you are, what you believe, who you identify with, admire, what you treasure, these are all important self-reflection elements.

It’s only 30 questions, ranging from the deep to the silly, so I thought I’d reflect upon myself for a while.

Enjoy.

What is your greatest fear?

Being forgotten. That, or not fulfilling my dreams and potential. but being forgotten means that I would truly be dead, be gone. I don’t like that idea, at all. We have suvh short and fleeting lives, but we have the chance to live on in those we have influenced and inspired. They will say your name in reverence and awe, but once this stops and your name no longer crosses people’s lips you are truly gone. Everything of you is gone and you disappear from time.

What is your current state of mind?

Pissed off, for reasons. I’m not willing to go into them in detail because they involve other people who, until recently, I had respect for.

What is your favourite occupation?

If I take this as job, then comic actor. I’d adore that as a career, same goes for voice actor. But for favourite thing I do now that occupies my time then it’s a toss up between improv and Dungeons and dragons. so just 2 types of improv, really.

What historical figure do you most identify with?

This is a question I really wish I had a better answer for. On one hand, Tony Hancock; the sense of pressure to be funny and giggle my well through life can be somewhat all encompassing, but at the same time my life has very similar problems to him. I understand his pains, just not to the same degree.

Which living person do you most admire?

Eddie Izzard is my inspiration. They are truly wonderful, and reading their superb autobiography “Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens” is the most motivational read I’ve had in so long. He had targets, worked his damnedest to achieve them, and smashed them out the park. From street performer, to stand up, to Hollywood star, all while fighting his ultimate struggle of going public with his alternative gender identity.

Who is your favourite fictional hero?

I’ve written about this before on this blog, and in unnecessary length. Mr. Sherlock Holmes of 221B Baker Street, London, is the greatest fictional for me. Rational, cunning, fierce, camp as hell, he’s got everything I love. Although I’ve come to realise the suppressing of one’s emotions totally is vastly unhealthy, the way Holmes does it has always appealed to me – rational decision is better. Emotions make things difficult and cloud your judgement.

Who are you real-life heroes?

Doctors, carers, comedians. They make people feel better, each in their own way, and they all do an immensely difficult job, whatever they say about the subject.

What is your most treasured possession?

For most of his adult life, my maternal granddad played rugby union for the brilliantly family orientated Morganians RFC, down in Bridgwater. He turned out for them in some guise or other, whether it was the annual boxing day match for the old boys and players, or the odd league match. He was such a fan, stalwart and legend that he even roped his wife in to the family atmosphere of the club, where she acted as everything from food preparation to secretary. I strongly remember the look on his face when we told him that my brother and I played rugby league rather than union, it was a look of horror and pride all rolled into one.

After my granddad’s funeral I was presented with a Morganians RFC players rugby shirt. It no longer fits, is getting tattered, and generally needs some much needed TLC, but I’d never part with it. It represents a part of my granddad’s life I never really got to experience but that I’m very proud of.

When and where were you happiest?

I don’t want to fill this list with improv, but the first thing that came to my head was the recent British Improv Project weekend, where myself and 55+ other improvisers from around the UK turned up, learnt, played, and generally had anarchic fun. This answer will likely change soon as I think about it, but being surrounded by so many creative people, people I love, all having fun and enjoying life was just a joy to behold.

What is your most obvious characteristic?

I’ve been told I come across as a dungeons and dragons style bard; high charisma and charm, loud, friendly, and at times brash. I can agree with this, as I do enjoy meeting new people and being the centre of conversation or attention. I like chatting with people and listening to their stories, but I work hard to get them ‘on-side’ enough for them to be willing to talk to me.

I just like people I guess.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

I’m a coward, plain and simple. I have things I want to do, in some cases need to do, but never have done because it goes against the grain or is a complete change. I have dreams and goals I’d love to achieve but they’d require such a change of attitude or lifestyle that I’m scared to even try. There are things in my life I need to change but, again, I don’t know how people would take it and their judgement, potential as it may be, scares me.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

I cannot abide dishonesty, as it is usually the tip of the iceberg when it comes to people not being trustworthy or honourable. If someone makes a mistake or has bad news to tell, I am never going to react unfavourably toward them. However, if they sugar coat it, omit details, or simply lie to me, that’s a different matter entirely.

On the whole I am not an easy person to gain one’s trust from, but once I have it I will trust you to the end of the Earth. Being lied to after this is a punch to the gut, as it taints everything that has occurred in that relationship to date.

What is your greatest extravagance?

This question starts a run that I’m having difficulty answering, but I’ll give it a go. My greatest extravagance is likely lunch food or awesome boots. Those that know will agree with the latter point, especially when they see my overly long and divine Christmas list.

But I do like me some shop bought lunches, even though I could prepare the food at home for a smidge of the cost – I just love those creamy prawn mayo sandwiches, and anyone who disagrees is lying to themselves.

What is your favourite journey?

The train journey to Edinburgh. It always starts off awkwardly, the jaunt from Leicester to Peterborough is in parts tediously boring until you get to Stamford. But once the train pulls into Newcastle the journey is just stunning. Newcastle is a beautiful city to travel through, with the bridges over the Tyne a true testament to ambitious engineering. And the further north you go the more beautiful the scenery as the rails snake toward and away from the coast. One day I would like to drive the route and stop whenever I fancy, just to enjoy the vistas and rolling countryside.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I found a photo of me from 6 weeks into university, when I think I was at my most attractive.  I dislike the weight I’ve put on over the years, and looking back at that photo I feel genuinely angry at what I’ve done to myself. I used to have the outlines of a six pack, and those somehow overly sexual lines on the hips. If I could get this back, or rather lose it, I’d be so very happy.

What do you consider the most over-rated virtue?

Humility has it’s place, of course. No one likes the guy who boasts about every small detail of his life, but I do feel that we are too humble as a nation, at least in part.

Off the top of my head I could not tell you what my friends are most proud of recently. Not because they have not done anything of note or achieved their goals, but because we are humble. We should be far more open about our successes, our struggles and how we overcame them, but we seem to have been trained as Britons to remain quiet and humble.

When we are able to be proud of genuine achievements, we will be truly free.

On what occasion do you lie?

As not to hurt someone. I try very hard not to lie [see above], but I do understand that there are times that it is necessary. I shall not go into details about occasions when I have lied to protect people, because they may end up reading this.

Which words or phrases do you most over-use?

A Romanian volunteer started working at Vista, the sight loss charity where I work as a  marketing and communications assistant. It took him, a man who was speaking in his third language, just a few hours to realise that I said ‘smashing’ as a reply to nearly everything and had decided to take the mick out of me.

I hadn’t realised that I did this, but the second that it was pointed out I instantly realised how much I was saying it. It then hit me – I was honestly, and still do, saying ‘smashing’ as a reply to every promising or positive statement.

Why? Not a clue. I think it’s a wonderful phrase that is criminally underused, and if we all used it the world would without doubt be a happier place. It has connotations of a more calm, slower world, and of foppish decadence, which is a world that I never knew but for some reason keep being told that I would fit in with perfectly. I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or not.

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

Weight. I’m a shallow man, which is odd given how deep my waist has become. For more information, please see my previous response re: my weight.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

During my second year of university I hit a mental health wall and spiralled, dangerously. My memories of the year are severely limited, which is a serious shame as I know I had some of my happiest moments – led in plays, doing some brilliant lighting design, and meeting some people I hold very close to my heart. But I was also getting through about 2 litres of gin a month, and on bad months 4 litres.

During the summer from 2nd year into 3rd, I still drank but forced myself to calm it down. It did help that I ran out of money (another reason why that year was bad), but once I stopped drinking my mental health recovered with it.

I’ very likely damaged my body doing this, but as I’ve been now “sober” for 4 years I’m hoping I’m better.

Where would you like to live?

The city of Bath has a pleasing mix of modernisation, Georgian architecture, and Roman remains. It is a woven tapestry of culture, sport, a youthful energy in a ancient city.

Not only do I love the design, the infrastructure, and most of all the history that permeates every inch of the city to the point where you can almost smell the odours of the past wafting down the streets and alleyways, but the town has something no where else does.

The Canary Gin Bar is the greatest watering hole in the world. It has one of the biggest, widest, and rarest range of gins I’ve ever seen, and a rainbow of tonics available takes your breath away. It has 3 floors, 2 bars, and staff highly trained in cocktail-making, and a soundtrack of obscure music genres floating about the place. It’s my favourite place to forget myself.

drinks2.jpg

And once you fall out of their at 1am, you are but a 4 minute walk from the world famous Schwarz Bros., a burger ‘restaurant’-cum-hole-in-the-wall which is, and I don’t say this lightly, the greatest foodery in the world.

What is the quality you most admire in a man?

The ability to show one’s emotions and (ergh) feminine side. Men are cursed by societies toxic masculinity, where we are told to ‘man up’ and ‘grow a pair’. It is not a coincidence one of the leading causes of death in men is suicide – because when you live in a society that tells you your emotions make you weak, and you find yourself suffering under the pressures these emotions bring, there’s one very clear and obvious “solution”.

We need to remove this emotional stigma, and we do that first by having strong male figures who show and accept their emotions.

What is the quality you most admire in a woman?

See above, but flip it. Strong women are criticised. Sexual women are criticised. Non-sexual women are criticised. [Insert adjective here] women are criticised.

A woman who doesn’t care what people think about her, and does her own thing, insists to, is a quality I wholly admire.  The strength that requires is immense, to push against the whole weight of a society that expects you to go down a certain route and forge your own path, regardless of the criticism and shaming you will almost always face.

Those women will one day become the great inspirations for the next generation, and the generations to come after.

What is it you most dislike?

I don’t really have a thing I hate universally without context. Context is everything for everything.

What do you value most in you friends?

Them. I have common themes throughout my friends, I like them for who they are. That is what I value most highly, and appreciate more than they can possibly imagine.

How would you like to die?

Quietly, at home.

I used to joke that I wanted to go out aged 107 in the middle of an orgy, because at least then I could guarantee going out with a smile on my face, but it was just that; a joke.

I want to go on my bed, or sat in a very comfortable wingback chair. I pondered about going with my family around me, but then I’d likely feel the pressure of saying some wise old final words when I know I’d probably say something dumb like ‘this pillow needs fluffing’ or ‘move from the window, you’re blocking the light’.

I’d like a dog at my feet, a fire roaring away in the heart, and someone holding my hand. I will be old, ancient even, and content. It won’t be heroic, it won’t be a struggle. With no fanfare or duress, I will simply slip away, calmly.

If you were to die and come back as a person or an animal, what do you think it would be?

I’ve had many pets in my life and had the joy of playing with many other people’s. With this experience in mind I have decided to come back either as a cat, a fluffy ginger thing, or an octopus.

Now, I never had an octopus as a pet, but they are obscenely clever animals and madly fascinating. I would enjoy the sensation of the 8 arms, the 9 separate  brains and hearts, and the feeling of intellectual ascendance over everything around your in the ocean. I cannot imagine the fun they have, flopping around the salty brine.

But why a cat?

I am a creature of leisure, and enjoy being pampered, having my headfussed, and on occasion stretching out in a sunray. They are creatures of grace, independence and mystery. As Chris Addison says, cats are like my money. I’m not too sure how they work and have no idea where they go.

If you could choose an object to come back as, what would you choose?

There are so many potential gags to be made here, all of them very blue. Dildo, bra, etc, etc, cue the childish giggles.

I chose to come back as a piano. I am not particularly musical anymore. I used to sing in a choir and am competent behind a drum-kit, although many would argue that this is the ultimate proof of my lack of any musical talents. I’d love if I was able to produce delicate, beautiful songs, but more than that, the piano is the focus of whomever is playing it, and depending where the piano is placed, can also be the centre of an entire theatre or performance space.

Regardless of grandeur, when the piano is played it is the pure focus of the person playing. That dedication and attention is something I will always crave and, well, need.

What is your motto, the words you live by or that mean a lot to you?

Be good and true.

Who has been the greatest influence on you?

My dad. This doesn’t need expanding upon, every who has ever met the pair of us almost immediately compares us.

I am his not-so-mini-and-also-kinda-ginger-mini-me.

Published by Adam Unwin

Yeah, I write stuff occasionally, make things up on stage, and like saying words other people have written in a dramatic way.

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