Simon Winchester

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 October, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 October, 1993, 12:00am

Did you always want to make a living the way you are making it now? With quite different ambitions I read geology at university. A very deaf aunt thought it was theology, and left me ?500 (HK$5,800).

What else did you want to be - or would like to become? My dearest wish was to join the Royal Navy, but I turned out to be red-green colour blind, which can be a spectacular disadvantage at sea.

What objects do you always carry with you? One credit card, An Apple Powerbook 170, two sharp pencils, a pocket notebook and the Swiss army penknife Explorers' model, cash, keys, a small cigar cutter.

What did your last meal consist of? Six Wheat Thins, two slices of Cracker Barrel cheese, a packet of peanut M&Ms and a carton of orange juice.

When do you lie? For about five minutes every four hours, if I am writing a long piece. In the other sense, less frequently than politicians, more so than diplomats.

What are you reading at the moment? A new biography of Cortes, the Spanish conquistador, by Ricard Lee Marks.

If you could change one feature about yourself, what would it be? Female friends have suggested that genital reduction surgery might be appropriate.

What talent would you like to possess? Since I have the buoyancy of a uranium brick, greater swimming ability might be useful.

If you could come back as anyone or anything, who or what would they be? A sequoia tree in the Muir Woos national park in California, ageless, awesomely beautiful, revered and majestic.

What decision are you putting off at the moment? Where exactly to live if and when we leave Hong Kong. Whether in fact to leave at all.

Which person, historical or living, would you like to have a relaxed dinner with? Alexander von Humboldt, the greatest explorer of all time.

What was the last item you bought? An Eddie Bauer canvas travelling bag, with innumerable zipped pockets.

Are/were you closer to your mother or your father? My mother. I rarely had the opportunity to speak to my father.

What do you wear to sleep in? My wife prefers me to wear nothing. If I'm alone Joe Boxers.

What do you dream about? I forget, but I'm told that on many mornings I report highly complicated visions of faraway places.

What really irritates you in other people? I have no time for people who are stupid or dull, or who don't read books.

Is there a single possession that you value above everything else? My library, particularly the atlas and reference collection, which is very good indeed.

Which era would you like to live in if you could go back in time? The Dark Ages of Europe, to find out what really went on.

What is your current state of mind? Delighted to find this is the penultimate question, as I must get back to work.

How would you like to be remembered? As the writer of a truly superb book, as yet unwritten.