Howard Popeck: My secret life


As features editor here and because this virtual community grows, a number of people have asked me about who I am. Not nosey, rather a gentle curiosity on their part I feel. The problem is of course (well …. for me at least) that one can never be certain as to the degree of self-delusion at work when offering answers. Then there’s the insidious challenge that some experiences defy description in the English language at least (might be different in a European language)– well, not in my limited vocabulary at least. Anyway, to start the ball rolling, here is a compilation of questions, and my answers. The truly private aspects of my life remain entirely private.

The house I grew up in

was the nearest house to The Tower of London. It stood where the Docklands Light Railway is now, at the bottom of The Minories. It survived the blitz – just. It was tall and narrow and not quite a slum. When the trains passed by, the whole house shook. We were surrounded by bomb sites (our playgrounds really), and the breath-sapping smells of the cinnamon warehouses near by.

When I was a child I wanted to be

a mechanical engineer. Within 24 hours of being at UMIST I realised I’d made a dreadful mistake. It was the first example of the fallacy that there is always a joy in achieving one’s goals. That stupid statement does not take into account the despair when you realise you selected the wrong goal in the first place.

The moment that changed me forever

was the outcome of a séance in my hall of residence in Manchester in the late 1960s using a Ouija board. I realised then that despite having no religious persuasion or belief, there are forces both internal and external that are very close to us that we have little appreciation of, let alone understanding. My one and only experience of heart-stopping terror.

My greatest inspirations were

and remain in no particular order, Mozart, The Rev Martin Luther King, Pete Townshend, Muhammad Ali, Jack Ashley (the MP), Jack Casady (the bass player), Christabel Bielenberg (the author), Bach, Rudyard Kipling, George Smiley, my wife Rosanne – and countless others.

My real life villain …

is Josef Mengele. To me he encapsulates the utter futility and mindless irrationality of organised religion. He was the personification of evil in human form.

If I could change one thing about myself …

I’d give up meat.

At night I dream of

meeting people that interest me (in this I’m usually successful in achieving a dialogue), the cataclysmic end of the human world (varying, but irreversible), being a mute observer of historic events (something akin to remote viewing I believe), tidying my office (a Sisyphean task) and surreal events that defy my powers of description.

What I see when I look in the mirror

is someone I like to think I know rather well, with a face that reflects the not so good and the good.

And as for all the other questions?

I'm working on them!

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