THE NOT OK JOHN ARE YOU OK TEST

BY MAX PORTER

The psychologist and sometime mime artist John Llewellyn-Lloyd grew up in rural Wales (Dolgellau) with his aunt, the surrealist painter Myffanwy Harman. His childhood was wild and carefree. His aunt, the daughter of Quaker hill farmers, was loving, kind and unconventional. She had a single disciplinary tool. If she felt John’s behaviour was inappropriate, or dangerous, or disrespectful, she would say “Not OK, John.” She never told him he was bad, she never told him he was rude, she would simply, calmly, tell him it was “Not OK”.

Fifty years later John Llewellyn-Lloyd founded the famous Llewellyn Lloyd London Lifestyle Laboratory (LLLLL) which became hugely influential in post-war psychology, especially in the burgeoning fields of personality testing and psychometric examination.

The Not OK Are You OK Test was a work of private passion for Llewellyn-Lloyd, underpinning many of his more famous tests. It is a series of semi-serious prompts for discussion, an analytical spring-board. Biographers have understood it to be not only a cornerstone of his professional thinking, but also the closest thing to a memoir he ever penned. He never published it. Famous personages said to have privately completed the test include Harold Wilson, Dylan Thomas, Miles Davis, Elizabeth Taylor (the novelist), Joyce Cary, Sun Ra, Nikolaus Pevsner and Elizabeth Taylor (the movie star).

The Not OK Are You OK Test which follows has been assembled from Llewellyn-Lloyds private notebooks and grouped in sets of 5; ‘political’ ‘social’ and ‘sexual’. The fire that destroyed the LLLLL, in which Llewellyn-Lloyd lost his life, prevents scholars from knowing with any certainty how many questions there were. There is no surviving evidence that Llewellyn-Lloyd ever penned a set of answers, although he refers in letters to “the OK feedback memories”. The answers that follow this test have therefore been assembled from Llewellyn-Lloyd’s private correspondence and are likely to be of very little practical help.

 The following test is a reconstruction of a therapeutic tool, but it is also as a historic document, a tribute to one of the great adventurers of the civilised mind and its cavernous complexities.


Are you OK? Read the following scenarios. Try to visualise the scenario and place yourself bodily within it. Do not rush. OK is personal. Your OK will not be anybody else’s OK, nor should it be socially normative or inherited. Think, really think, is that OK? And answer either (a) (b) or (c):

(a) That’s OK

(b) I don’t know whether that’s OK or not

(c) That’s Not OK

SECTION 1: POLITICAL

1.     Look at that, somebody has put the stamp upside down on their letter to the village newsletter. The Queen’s head is upside down.

2.     I was given the slipper as a boy, and it made me stronger. So I will give my child the slipper.

3.     I wish to sell more bacon, but the bacon has passed its sell-by date, so I have re-labelled it with sell-by dates a month hence.

4.     We told the campers that the water out of Hessy Stream was poisoned, so the campers have left and gone down the coast.

5.     Aneurin Miller was caught stealing eggs from Gorsyllwych Farm, so on Friday afternoon he will lose his right hand, chopped off at the wrist. This is how we have always dealt with thieving.

SECTION 2: SOCIAL

1.     Look at that, someone has daubed BED THE DEVIL on Margot Alton’s front door following the revelations of her relationship with Edward Bullough.

2.     I was not allowed to speak to Old Harold, because my parents had heard tell of what he got up to in the Boer War.

3.     If I see a polite notice asking me not to let me dog shit, I am so angered that I encourage my dog to shit.

4.     We turn the signs around so tourists get lost. We knocked down the map of the village. We littered at the picturesque view spot.

5.     Aneurin Miller fell off his bar stool, so he has been barred from the Red Lion. This is how we have always dealt with drunkenness.

SECTION 3: SEXUAL

1.     Look at that, the chemist is selling a little rubber sausage with a nose for tickling the inside of a lady.

2.     I was not allowed to see my parents in the nude. I never did. I didn’t know women lacked penises until I was 20.

3.     I wish to invite a third part to our bedroom celebrations, and I have no preference for either sex.

4.     We noticed that the supply teacher’s trousers bumped in the crotch during his reading of the honeymoon scene in Rebecca. We did not tell the headmaster.

5.     Aneurin Miller went with a man in the army. He told us.