- How did your year start?
- Book Chat is about embracing what we already have, rather like avoiding fast fashion, isn’t it?
- They also support a Microsoft campaign…
- What do you think is a waste of time?
- As a working mother of two children, how do you balance everything?
- How many books do you read in a week?
- What did you learn about reality shows from your documentary Unreal?
- Were you in a music video for Fame Academy’s Alistair Griffin?
- Which author impressed you the most?
- More: Sixty seconds
Journalist, author and broadcaster Pandora Sykes, 35, reveals her foray into pop videos after reading 20 books a week and why she can’t take reality TV anymore.
How did your year start?
Good thank you. I recently started a book podcast called Book Chat, which I do once a month with a novelist named Bobby Palmer. I’m launching a newsletter this week called Books + Bits, which recommends podcasts, articles, and documentaries, and also creates a little bi-monthly shopping list of second-hand stuff and independent brands—little life-improvers.
Book Chat is about embracing what we already have, rather like avoiding fast fashion, isn’t it?
I agree. We only choose Books who are older than two years. I have so many books on my shelf that I have never read and have massive gaps in my literary education. New books are expensive too. I’m always on the lookout for second-hand websites. In addition, every second book fair is about new books. Bobby got me reading Wuthering Heights again. I hated him for reading it at GCSE. But I actually really liked it.
They also support a Microsoft campaign…
Yes, I’ve worked with Microsoft Surface, who have looked at how we spend time, which really fascinates me – what we think is time well spent and what time is wasted. Overall, 87 percent of respondents said their best way to spend time is with their friends and family, which comes as no surprise. But some of the things people hated the most were ironing, queuing and waiting for someone to be late, which made me laugh because I see it as an opportunity to do a little spontaneous reading.
What do you think is a waste of time?
I do not like Cook, I wish I had. I’m bad at making time for exercise. I’m not good at queuing – I’m impatient, but I’m trying to reframe that as time to think about life. I’m also bad with unplanned interruptions. I work from home, and when the doorbell rings and I’m in the middle of something, I find it annoying. Or if I meet someone on the way to the hotel Pipe I didn’t expect this, I don’t think I have time to chat. It’s about reshaping those things as rewarding.
As a working mother of two children, how do you balance everything?
I’m constantly toying with different work-life balances. I used to work long hours and never said “no” to anything that wasn’t personally compatible with young children. But now that my daughter has started school, I enjoy meeting people at the school gates and going to the same cafe, pub and church – having connections I didn’t have when I was working 12-hour days and trying to not to let motherhood get in the way of work.
How many books do you read in a week?
It depends. I was a judge on the Women’s Prize For Fiction and we had 20 books to read, so I read 14 hours a day for seven days. I thought I stay away from books. I usually have to read for work, so I’ll make it a part of my work day.
If I read for pleasure, it’s two to three hours in the evening after I’ve put the kids to bed while my husband watches TV. We are not one of those romantic couples who spend every evening together over a bottle of wine. That’s great at times, but with young kids you really need that downtime without talking.
What did you learn about reality shows from your documentary Unreal?
So much. There has been an irreconcilable debate about where the responsibility lies. Is it the TV commissioners, the local producers, or the contestants who willingly pitched in? We were so lucky with the access we got.
I enjoyed chatting with Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt – we were obsessed with The Hills growing up. They were entertaining and have all sorts of conspiracy theories about producer manipulation.
Were you in a music video for Fame Academy’s Alistair Griffin?
I was so embarrassed. It’s funny to watch again, but also weird because I was 15. I was spotted on the tube by the producer who was making NSync videos. They said, ‘Have you ever been in a music video?’ I went to an audition and told my mom it would be fun, but it was incredibly embarrassing.
Alistair Griffin was about 25. They didn’t know I was 15 until they asked me if I could move the car. The poor man looked so uncomfortable. So we didn’t kiss, we just hugged.
Which author impressed you the most?
Puppet [Alderton] and I loved meeting David Nicholls because One Day is such a groundbreaking piece of fiction. So does Graham Norton. It was amazing interviewing him. He was confused that he was on the penultimate episode of our podcast The High Low. He said: “I’ve been told this podcast is hugely popular, but I’m on one of the latest episodes – what’s up with that?”