Creating content from scratch is difficult. Yesterday, I built this website. Then I went on a trawl for online stories I could update or reframe so there was plenty for early browsers to read. Inevitably, I’ve come across the unexpected. The questionnaire reproduced below appeared in The Guardian in 1999. It’s for the Happy Days interview strand in the paper’s Life and Style section, but my responses are anything but happy!
In the run up to the General Election it’s interesting to watch how language gives us away. You can hear it in those politicians fumbling to find the right answers to fairly standard questions. On TV we can see discomfort in body language. The words are saying one thing, the expressions and attitudes say something altogether different. Jeremy Hunt sounds cool on radio. See the same interview on the evening news and he’s shiny and staring. Diane Abbott messed up her numbers and lost her way across all forms of media. Even without realising it, we give ourselves away when we’re unhappy or uncomfortable or simply uninformed.
I’m sure when I was being interviewed on the phone I delivered my answers in an ironic, look-at-me-laughing-at-myself type way, but to see them written down… Goodness, what a sad story they tell. It’s a salutary lesson in comms: make sure the message and the messenger are always on the same page. If they’re not, the reader or the viewer or the voter on the doorstep will instantly spot the disconnect in presentation and conviction.
Interview: Annie Taylor
Shyama Perera, broadcaster, was born in Moscow. She came to England in 1962 and lives in London with her two daughters, Nushy, seven, and Tushy, four. Her novel, Haven’t Stopped Dancing, is published by Hodder & Stoughton.
Best day out: On holiday near Aspen this summer: early morning in the pool, late morning at the dinosaur museum, Grand Junction. After lunch we drove to the top of the sensational Colorado National Monument.
Best day in: Sitting in bed on a Saturday night when the children were younger, eating fish and chips.
Worst day ever: Telling them their father was leaving.
Favourite book: Nushy’s are the Goosebumps and Worst Witch series, which she reads to Tushy, who prefers Little Red Riding Hood.
Most successful toy: Monopoly, Scrabble, Solitaire and Barbie.
Most awkward question: ‘Is our daddy bad for leaving us?’
Advice for other parents: Real lessons come from the example you set in your attitude to life.