Journalist and speaker Pandora Sykes co-hosts The HighLow, the weekly pop-culture and current affairs podcast, with Dolly Alderton. With a cult-following, trust us when we say The HighLow is a lockdown listening essential. Here we catch up with Pandora to find out a few of her favourite things, and ask where is the first place she’ll travel to, as soon as we’re free to roam again.
Pandora’s debut essay collection, How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right, is published in July.
You’ve recently returned from maternity leave, straight into lockdown, and now you’re back to hosting The HighLow. How's it going?
I love working from home, it doesn’t make compartmentalising particularly easy – when you go into an office you have that physical distance from your mothering/home self – but it’s my safe place and means I can work in a revoltingly comfortable outfit. That’s definitely the biggest benefit!
What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened as a result of starting the HighLow?
I think the most surprising thing was that it grew into something popular and that we were able to turn it into a business. We really never had any grand plans for it – and I know that sounds naïve, and that’s because we were naïve! I am very lucky that I get to work with one of my best friends every week and that there is now a community of listeners, some of whom we got to meet last year when we went on tour.
Your new book, How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right?, is out in July. What do you hope people will take from it?
I wanted to be able to go into depth on some ideas that I’d been thinking about for a while. Typically my work is quite instant and short in terms of dispatch and I really wanted the opportunity to delve further into the idea of choice, and how women often feel addled about the life they lead. It’s about lots of different things – small and big. Information overload and never-ending Whatsapp messages, but also how wellness damages as much as it benefits women. I hope that women will come away comforted – that there isn’t any one right life. All we can do is think about the life that’s right for you.
Do you have a favourite book of all time?
I have lots – but One Day, by David Nicholls, is always a joy to read.
Which podcasts are you a particular fan of?
How important is travel to you?
It’s a luxury to explore – I think during the pandemic we have realised that more than ever. I’m lucky to have been to some truly gorgeous places and I have been dipping into my bank of travel memories pretty regularly the last few months!
What’s your earliest travel memory?
Traipsing through the Scottish highlands, with my family.
Where in the world are you happiest?
Outside, with my family.
What’s your favourite photograph that you’ve taken whilst travelling?
I took one of my husband on a rope swing in Jamaica, several years ago, which makes me smile – it’s so free and energetic.
When we’re all free to roam again, where is the first place you’ll go?
To my parents’ cottage by the beach in Norfolk.
Do you have a favourite hotel?
I think Palazzo Avino on the Amalfi Coast is the prettiest hotel in the world. Sitting outside it with a drink, is the biggest pleasure.
And a favourite destination you can’t get enough of?
I love Cornwall. I don’t know it well but I’m really looking forward to taking my children again. I also love Italy – we’ve visited the Amalfi several times and Cinque Terre, too.
Do you have a favourite London restaurant that you’ll head to when things open up again?
Anywhere! I would happily go anywhere!
You've said that flat whites one of the daily luxuries that you really miss. Any tips for the best in London?
There’s a little café called Sonora in Kensal Rise that makes very good ones.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever packed in your hand luggage?
When you have children, you end up with the strangest things in your hand luggage.
What do you never travel without?
Headphones, Nurofen, lip balm, chewing gum and a big warm scarf.
What’s your top travel tip?
Pack fewer clothes! You never need as much as you think you do.
Have you ever had a packing fail?
I went to Morocco about 12 years ago and they delayed the flight by 33 hours. That was quite a long airport experience…
Do you pack heavy or light?
Medium. I’m much better at pruning now that I have to pack for two babies as well.
Quick fire questions
Podcast or paperback? Paperback.
Train or plane? Train (I’m scared of flying – but I recognise it as a means to an end!).
Cut it fine or leave plenty of time? Plenty of time, although I normally end up with just enough.
Sightseeing or sun lounger? Bit of both!
Early start or slowly but surely? I am being so boring but again – bit of both.
Plan every detail or wing it on arrival? Used to be the former, now I opt for the latter.
Pandora’s book, How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right, is out in July 2020 and available to pre-order here.