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My Cultural Life 2023

As featured in the Sunday Independent, 23 April 2023, here.

Author and historian Turtle Bunbury: ‘I’m not normally one for zombies but The Last of Us hit the spot with its ace script’

What are you reading?

I started ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel on a long haul flight to Australia and then made the mistake of putting it down after 100 pages. Ten years later, last New Year’s Eve, I resolved to start again. I’ve just finished it. What a sure-footed genius she was, and so humorous too. I loved it.

I’m now on to ‘Enchanted Life: The Memoir of a Magician’ by our neighbour Herbie Brennan. He’s a New York Times bestseller who’s somehow written 116 books and sold over 10 million copies so I figure I’m in safe and charmed hands.

What are you watching?

This is such a golden age of TV’ness. Every which way you look, there’s something enticing to consider. I’m not normally one for zombies but ‘The Last of Us’ hit the spot – an ace script, near-perfect casting, sheer unpredictability.

I’m now petrifying myself all over again with ‘The Terror’ (Amazon Prime), about the ill-fated voyage of two Royal Navy ships into the Arctic in the 1840s, with Ciaran Hinds and Jared Harris in top-notch form.

What are you listening to?

I’ve lately launched a podcast series for the Guinness Storehouse – their first one, in fact. It’s called “Behind the Guinness Gates” and it looks at the massive links the brewery has with Dublin heritage and present-day Irish culture.  The focus is on history and craftsmanship, hopefully keeping it accessible for all. I just think history plays out superbly well ‘on the pod’, so long as its delivered with suitable passion.

I listen to two first-rate historical podcasters regularly, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History and Dan Snow’s History Hit, and bow to their skills.

In between the talkies, I have a musical playlist that carries me from Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt through the hazy nostalgia of my youth to whatever songs my teenage daughters persuade me to listen to. One of them can rap almost as fast as Eminem so that entertains me muchly. The other has a very sweet singing voice that I’m looking forward to hearing more of. It’s amazing to hear them singalong to, you name it, Marvin Gaye, Tears for Fears, Snow Patrol. Goes to show, good songs are here forever.

What live cultural event are you most looking forward to attending?

The Festival of Writing and Ideas in Borris, County Carlow, never disappoints. Three days of fascinating people chatting to each other about fascinating topics in a very chilled setting. I just wander from tent to tent, plonk down, open my lobes and hope that some of the wisdom in the air sinks in by osmosis.

It’s probably high time I moshed out at a rave or a rock concert but, for now, I get my crowd kicks at the Naas Races, a lovely boutique-style course in County Kildare, with a superb layout for viewing the action and an always-excellent assemblage of horses.