47 Up

Today something a bit different: a musing on life, humanity and ageing, spurred by the “Seven Up” series.

I don’t know how many of you have seen the films or heard of the Seven Up project. Just a week ago I knew nothing about it but then I watched “Life Itself”, the biopic on film critic Roger Ebert (who I’d also never heard of before), where he mentions the series and his love for it.

I’m so smitten by the entire thing that I don’t even know where to begin. If you haven’t yet, I suggest that you watch the first part of the project – which was never made with the plans to be followed up, that came later – and you will get sucked in in no time. It was filmed in 1964 in the UK and runs under the catchphrase “Give me the child until he is 7 and I’ll give you the man”. Here it is:

Now imagine these children as they grow up in years by seven. Picture them at 14, 21, 28, 35. How are they doing? How are you doing? Curious? Keep watching then. There is a film for all these ages (and they are all on YouTube). Not over yet. Then they reach 42. And 49. 56 Up is the last one from five years ago, or the most recent, I should say. Director Michael Apted, who is behind this project, has all intention of continuing and making 84 Up when he is 99.

On the age scale I fall to the left: I’m 14 years younger than the participants. I was born in 1970 as they filmed 14 Up. Which just means that they are all likely to die sooner. Just like pets. You get to know them and love them and then baaam.

In a way this was the world’s first reality show, with one big difference. This is how it used to be back when people said what they thought (or what they’d been taught), and not what would make them more popular. The effect of being on television was still not felt (even though this comes with time as the series progresses and one of them is asked for an autograph). They were not flirting with the camera yet and didn’t care for their best angle. They were all out. They were human when it was still fashionable.

Yesterday I read the post on No Facilities entitled “Life after People” in which Dan describes his experience of staying in the hotel without having to deal with a single employee. All was done by way of the phone. Obviously this is the now. As are the staff-less order and check-out options in restaurants and shops that are sometimes even cheaper.

I have so many questions. What will they do with the people? What will people do with their time? We can’t all just blog, can’t we? And how exactly will people earn money? Should robots get a salary too? How about sick leave?

Will there be friend rentals too? Will a robot or driverless car deliver a friend to your door for money?

Is this why I was so smitten with this series, and the internet in general?

Are they my friends as they tell me what is new in their lives every seven years and I silently tell them what is new in mine? Do they get comfort in seeing how the director has aged every seven years as well when he invades their privacy, just as the entire world does in their wrinkles and grey hair?

Are you, bloggers, my friends too when you show me the flower that grew in your garden, the mess your dog did, the landscape you saw from the plane, the poem you wrote in the waiting room at the doctor’s? Sometimes you tell me of a new illness, a new child (or two), or just new hair colour, lunch, film or door. And I don’t even need to wait seven years for the update.

Another reason why this series hits so hard is, of course, the comparison to your own life that you draw without really wishing to do so. (Not to mention that it brings back my phonetic training from the Univeeersssity and makes me write this post in a mixxxxxture of British aaaacceeeents, but this is something you caaan’t really heeeeaaarrr, innit?)

I rarely look back on my life but watching this forced me, in a way. As well as count my privileges. Let’s see.

At 7, I was in the second class of primary school with no idea what my next school would be, and after six years of being an only child just got a baby sister.

At 14, I was madly in love with a classmate, there were Olympic Games in Sarajevo in what used to be our joint country, Yugoslavia, and in September I started a new school, linguistic high school in the centre of Ljubljana where I learned English, Spanish and German.

At 21, I had my first serious boyfriend and we were just about to move in together. I met him at the University of Arts in Ljubljana where I studied English and he studied Italian. We both had journalism as the second subject. In a couple of years we ran an Italian language school but I never listened in (and hence still can’t speak it now… who knew). Also, I passed my driving test that year and went to France for two weeks with two friends. Also also, Slovenia won its independence from Yugoslavia and a 10-day war followed.

At 28, I was living alone, in the same street as my parents. About that time I visited a friend near London, and another in Romania. I went to Crete for a month with my Peugeot 504. The next year we found our first dog with his brothers and sisters in the trash and raised three, and I started to go to card tournaments where I met my next boyfriend of 13 years.

At 35, I have been living with the boyfriend from the previous paragraph for five years already. I was working for a magazine for Slovenians abroad which that year stopped getting funds from the government and died. We played cards at tournaments and picnics, and every summer went to a different Greek island for a week. I needed two more years to stop smoking and get my first digital camera.

At 42, I went on my first visit to Italy and the next year I moved over here. If not exactly historic, it surely feels heroic to me.

At 49 – ooops, not there yet. Two more years to go.

And two until the next film from the Up series as well. They will be 63. Still all with us, I wonder?

This was fun. Now I’d love to read everybody’s! You will want to do your own once you watch the films, I’m sure. And if you’re British, chances are that you have been following along all this time and the 14 participants are practically family. Imagine that.

I can see that other countries have started similar projects, for example Russia, Japan and the USA, but I feel almost too overwhelmed as it is and don’t know if I should start following these too.

Jung said something to the effect that the meaning of life is to turn into the person we are when we die. The best thing about this series is seeing how with time and added years – the process that often makes us cringe – each individual eventually slides into the kind of happiness that for them is exactly right. Isn’t that a comforting thought?

Here is a quick run through my years because no words can express what a single glance can convey. I don’t have many photos here from the predigital era though. I figured I could leave them behind because I was bound to make new memories. And this is exactly what I’ve been doing.

I wish you all a better future that you could ever imagine.

50 Comments Add yours

  1. If there was ONE photo of you that I adore, it is you as Pippi. Love love love all of these, Manja!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, thank you so much, Liz! ❤ But do you know this documentary series? Can you imagine that the kids from the original film will be 63 in two years? 😮

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know it but will watch the video! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, good, there are eight films. 😉 I couldn’t stop, had to see them all… Have fun!

      Like

  3. Leya says:

    Sounds incredible – I never look back either, but now you got me interested. I will begin with the youtube clip. Then maybe I will start thinking…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Leya, this is a highly interesting project. They picked children from backgrounds as different as possible. And in the meantime I’ve watched the first two parts of the Russian series and it’s mind-blowing for completely different reasons. I’m curious if you’ll be pulled in. 🙂

      Like

      1. Leya says:

        Liked the first one very much…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Great to hear, Leya! 🙂 With each new one it’s more fascinating.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Leya says:

    And I adore your photo session!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. charlotteash says:

    This was really fun to read and fun to see you “grow up”. I grew up watching Roger Ebert on tv. He and Gene Siskel had a show where they critiqued the latest films. This was way before anyone else was doing it. This film series sounds fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Charlotte. Yes, I saw in his biopic that he was a critic star! And so busy till the end. Amazing stuff. I love his style, especially when he hated a movie. 😀 And I’ll be forever grateful to him for this recommendation. Such a ride!

      Like

  6. Maggie C says:

    This sounds like a great project! I might have to take it on. Very fun reading about your sevens. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Maggie, I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. 🙂 Highly recommended. In the times we live now, this is some true content for a change.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. awtytravels says:

    Happy birthday Manja!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, Fabrizio, just moments ago I was thinking: I did this wrong, somebody will think it’s my birthday! 😀 It’s not, it’s in May, or it’s every day, depends how one looks at life. 🙂 Thank you in every case.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. awtytravels says:

        Argh, should’ve read it better… Well happy non-birthday as the Mad Hatter would say!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Grazie. These are better because there are more of them. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  8. JT Twissel says:

    The Pippi Longstockings look is definitely for you! I’m too old and senile to remember much of my life!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohhh, Jan, who’s gonna believe that! 🙂 But yes, I guess many of us would need a director to come over every seven years. 😀

      Like

  9. What an interesting post! On so many levels! I can’t watch that though because the passing of time is something that makes me very sad, even when I think it is beautifully described. Movies with youth flashbacks: can’t watch them! But, here’s mine: At 7 I was in Brisbane, Australia on 2.-3. grade at school, my brother was 3, we had a dog and two cats (I only became allergic when we moved to Finland!). At 14 I was in Helsinki and the best thing in my life was dance classes: street dance (the teacher was American) and dance hall reggae. At 21 I had just landed my dream job at the first airline I ever worked for! Was also studying, traveling and living with my ex. At 28 I was working for another airline, graduated from uni, spent the summer in Crete and then moved to Paris. At 35 I was working at the airport in Helsinki, living with Mr Hubby, and planning to quit my job to travel, which I did 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahh, girl, yours reads like a dream! 🙂 Interesting that you can’t watch the passage of time… I was sure that you’d be interested in this. And how strange that you’re allergic to Bestia only in Finland. And I’d love to see you dance! 🙂 Here’s to many many more happy years. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am very interested in this idea 😊 But I just can’t take it. Someone telling of his dreams or even just day to day life, and then years later everything is different… and so on! Can’t deal with it!
        Anxiety! 😜 😥😲 Many many more happy years to you too, dear!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ps. We were both summering in Crete when we were 28 😄 Good age!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. fkasara says:

    I loved reading this post ❤ Thanks for sharing about your life!
    Here’s mine:
    – 7: after seven years of being an only child, finally a baby brother! Yay! I had a best friend and we were inseparable ;
    – 14: first year of high school, right? I was still not aware what a toxic environment I had just entered (a class without a single male. When they say that bullies are only males, don’t believe that);
    – 21: Uni, which was a bit disappointing…I enjoyed studying but I thought the academic environment was more stimulating. Also the city that hosted it was pretty, but a bit too…severe. I never fell in love with it and I kept thinking about Ireland, where I had been a couple of years before for few months to study English+work;
    – 28: awful period. Several deaths and illnesses within the family. Also my mood wasn’t great and I stopped believing in myself.
    30s > 20s

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your words and for doing it, Sara! 🙂 The first and second are so similar! I had only one boy in my high school. And mostly got to sit next to him. 😉 In my case, however, the girls weren’t bullies but soooo ambitious that it’s small wonder our class gave one current minister in Slovenian government. 😀 I’m glad you are in the better decade now, and that we are all moving in the right direction which ageing is for me. Grazie!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. joey says:

    That was neat. I want to watch the thing, but I need some time. And then maybe I’ll do the thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Joey. Yeah! Looking forward to it. At least you have plenty of kids and will be easier to pin down the years. 😉 And I think you’ll love the series.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Norm 2.0 says:

    Loved the shots of little Manja – cute kid 🙂
    Thanks for the reminder of this Apted series and his unobtrusive way of getting these people to open up to him.
    It has been a few years since I saw 49 (I think) but I’ve seen most of the 7 Up series at different times over the years. It would be interesting to sit down and watch them all in sequence – I may just try this.
    It’s a voyeuristic experience and yes it is easy to become attached to these people.
    Did you notice how much easier it is for everyone to tell their stories when they’re young and it’s all about the future? Not so pleasant or easy in later years when they look back at regrets and mistakes. That’s all of us though isn’t it?
    You’re right, it’s Reality TV long before someone figured out how to over-dramatize and make fake “reality” – which is what made me love this idea.
    The thing I found most fascinating was how socio-economic background had a lot to do with outcomes in almost all cases – or at least that’s how I remember it.
    My own 7 Up would be very boring I think, but that’s probably because I know how it all turns out up to now.
    It does make me think that there may be a post or two in this idea…hmmm.
    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Norm. Good to see that you know it, most seem to not be familiar with it. Hehe, you’re right, we know our outcome but it can still be interesting to view back. I don’t know, I don’t feel they have many regrets, most of them seem to slide into the kind of happiness that it’s just right for them, after they have been striving for it all their lives. That said, not much fluidity class-wise indeed. I find the series very optimistic, though. It’s just how life is. Did you see the last one, 56 Up? But better not give anything away here…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Norm 2.0 says:

        As far as the regrets go, maybe it’s just the way I remember it. It has been a while so I’d like to go back and watch them again.
        Have not seen 56 yet but now that I know it’s available on YouTube perhaps a viewing marathon will be in the works during the Christmas break.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Good idea. I think it’s a great commercial for ageing. 😀 And if this British living is not eventful enough for you, check out the Russian version. Great for perspective… They did the first part in 1991 when it was still Soviet Union and the kids were from its different parts.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Dan Antion says:

    I am catching up with the posts I skimmed during the holiday celebration here. I’ll have to give some thought to the 7-ups in my life – I just arrived at the 9th. I have to admit, the notion od renting a friend is a bit scary. Thanks for the mention.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome, Dan. I wish you have great celebrations of all sorts. In a way, our life is getting scarier by the minute.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dan Antion says:

        I like to think that sharing good thoughts with each other helps. I know reading them helps me.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Most certainly. That’s why we do what we do.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Joanne Sisco says:

    What a great post! I had heard about this series, but I’ve never seen it. I like the idea of sitting down at a quiet time and simply watching them all (or as many as possible).
    I like the approach you took to tell your own abbreviated version – the little bio summaries and the photos. I would have to think about my version of this 7-up. It’s a great challenge and it would be interesting to read other’s retrospective 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Joanne. I’m glad you’re intrigued. I guess it’s completely different to watch all in a row or slowly, as they happen, every 7 years. I hope you do yours! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Jolene says:

    I love this post Manja! It is so personally relatable and wonderfully revealing at the same time. I have watched 7 Up (and Roger Ebert happens to be one of my fave film critics!) and these documentaries on the chronicles of human life are one of my favourite genres. Our upbringing plays such a large part in our lives, and despite the rags to riches stories the media feeds on from time to time, the truth is, for the most part, we are what we’ve been (or what our lot has been).
    Your pictorial chronicle is also delightful. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Jolene, I’m glad to hear from you and that you like the series. I’ve also realised that the media are showing us the extremes, while in fact a life is a mercifully calm thing ending more happily than it began, especially if you consider teenage years. Not switching back even if it was free! Thank you and always welcome!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jolene says:

        Here’s to a mercifully calm existence! 🥂

        Liked by 1 person

  16. lexklein says:

    I’m afraid all my 7-year increments would overwhelm your Comment section, so I’ll just say this is a fascinating idea, and I enjoyed learning about the show and reading your own snapshots in time. Although this is a hasty assessment, I think that of these ages, I might have had the purest sense of happiness at 42 Up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, Lexi, 42 is indeed the answer then! 😉 You can do your own on your blog if you ever feel so inclined. It’s mind-boggling that these children will be 63 when the next chapter rolls around in 2 years.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Omg THAT 🎂 CAKE!!!
    I’m going to check the film.. and also wanted to say: I didn’t know all that about u 🙃😂 so really enjoyed that your shared small “pictures”/pieces of ur life in diff phases! 🙂 with us here 📖😮😁👋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hihih, RayNot, indeed, it was great. But you can see from my face and position that I was NOT in a good state at that time, despite the cake. In just four months everything was different after I went to Italy. Italy is the answer. But it brought me a LOT of kilos. :p Here nobody walks! I must not stand out! And yet I do walk with the dog, twice every day. And I don’t drink such beers at all, this was Oktoberfest! Alert: If you start watching these films, you will have to see them all. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can watch them all I like “series”, u kinda live their lives one day at a time 🙂
        But cake been eaten and that’s the only matter 😁
        Nobody walks? 😱 hm. I wouldn’t survive. I walk at least 10,000-15,000 steps a day. Often more

        Liked by 1 person

  18. ada says:

    Wow. That bierkrug is a serious one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hihih, especially for Tuscany. I don’t do that much though. Too heavy. 😀 This pub has an Oktoberfest party every year.

      Like

      1. ada says:

        Yes, it looks very Oktoberfest-like :DDD

        Liked by 1 person

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