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Howard Marks has died. I was up at Oxford the same three years as he was, 1964 to 1967, both of us reading Physics. Howard would walk late into the Clarendon Laboratory as the coolest guy in town, carrying his guitar case rumoured to contain the meaning of life inside. As the least hip kid imaginable, I’d carry on measuring the wavelengths of the Sodium D lines or whatever.
I read Mr Nice years later and realised that he was one of the good guys. Journalist Lynn Barber has written about him as a lover at that time. She described how all the northern grammar schoolboys at Oxford were virginal in their innocence back then. That was very true, but not for the want of trying. We didn’t have the savoir to have the faire checked out. I’ve never quite understood how Howard was so savvy so young, perhaps not a trait he always managed to carry with him through life.