Culture vulture

20th January 2006 at 00:00
Andy Southgate walks city streets that have a grisly history

Best books

I love Robert Graves: his autobiography Goodbye to All That; I, Claudius; Claudius the God and Count Belisarius, who was a general who reconquered Italy and much of North Africa - the emperor Constantine became so jealous he had his eyes put out so he had to act as a beggar for the rest of his life. I found that very moving, because Belisarius was so loyal. History is in many respects about human wickedness and envy. I've just read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a young Spanish writer. It's a good yarn, set in Franco's Spain. And I like Q, supposedly by Luther Blissett, though really it's by four Italians, about an anabaptist in the Reformation. It's difficult to get into, but then it picks up pace.

Best films

I like anything with a bit of suspense. Troy was good as spectacle, though disappointing on history. I love Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca: a superb actor in a great story, though it's very cheesy now.

Walking history

At weekends my wife and I will shoot up to London and wander along the river bank or just look at old sites. You can see the past. Recently I took a GCSE history group to the old St Thomas's hospital site in south London and then Borough market and Southwark cathedral. We've also done the Jack the Ripper tour round Whitechapel, and a Peasants' Revolt walk, starting in Blackheath and going up through London to Smithfield and the beautiful church of St Bartholomew's Without. It's where Wat Tyler was taken after being stabbed by the Mayor of London (pictured), before he was dragged out again and beheaded. Nearby is where William Wallace was hung, drawn and quartered. I may be coming across as bloodthirsty here.

Treat in store

I'm planning a walk through London's West End and Soho, looking at haunts of nefarious characters. I'll look at books such as Walking Notorious London by Andrew Duncan (New Holland Publishers), and London's Waterside Walks by Brian Cookson (Mainstream Publishing), walk it myself and find the interesting bits, then look up some extra history.

Andy Southgate, 54, is assistant head at St George's CE humanities college, Gravesend, Kent.

Interview by Karen Gold

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