PC 213 7 Up!

Just to get it out of the way, this PC is not about a carbonated drink popular in the last century, 7 Up! First marketed in 1919, this lemon-lime-flavoured non-caffeinated drink became a staple for the soft drinks industry.

The easily recognised green can

It’s thought the name referred to the seven ingredients, namely carbonated water, sugar, citrus oils, citric acid, sodium citrate and lithium citrate. The brand’s owner, Keurig Dr Pepper, announced in May 2020 they would no longer produce the drink due to falling demand; interesting, as fizzy drinks account for some 34% of the UK soft drinks market – the market leader Coca-Cola had sales of £176m in 2018.

There is a theme though, around the number 7. A Prime Number, Seven is a favourite digit: ‘The Seven Wonders of the World’ for instance (why 7?); God worked for 6 days to create the world and rested on the 7th; the business guide chose ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ – why not 6 or 8? In ‘As You like It.’ William Shakespeare wrote about the seven ages of man (and woman); “All the world’s a stage” and “One man in his lifetime plays many parts – his acts being seven.” Shakespeare was born in 1564, some 30 years after the foundation of the Jesuits, which today is the largest Catholic Order of Man and has its first Jesuit Pope, Francis. A well-known Jesuit saying is “Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man.” And it may have been this that was the inspiration of one of the first reality TV programmes.

In 1964 an Australian TV Producer working in London, Tim Hewat, tasked Michael Apted to find a set of children that reflected the class make-up of Britain and interview them about their hopes and fears, their aspirations and ambitions ……. and of course uncover what actually happens! It’s been suggested this was almost the first Reality TV Show.

Michael Apted 1941 – 2021

The programme, Seven Up, made such an impact that it was decided to re-interview the group every seven years. ‘Sixty Three Up’ was broadcast in 2019 and featured the remaining 11 active cast members. Last week Michael Apted died aged 79. He apparently regretted he only had 4 girls in his original cast of 14, acknowledging that “The biggest social revolution in my life has been the change of the role of women in society.”

Some of the participants in 63 Up! with their 1964 photographs

For those who avidly followed the series, there were some surprises as well as some predictability about the way the fourteen lives unfolded. I suspect you my readers collectively cover those Shakespearean seven ages and, as you read my little notes, will no doubt reflect where you are on these seven year steps; what you were doing when you were 7, or 21, or 42 or what you are doing now? Did it feature in your thoughts as a seven year old?

My own life could compress into these stages somehow, inevitably in an extremely sketchy outline. I predated the first Seven Up programme by 11 years; my first 7 Up would have been in 1953.  I was living with my mother and brother in the servants’ accommodation in the top of 15 Royal Crescent in Bath, a glorious Roman and Georgian city. (See PCs 164 & 165) My grandmother played the piano …….

…….. and her husband was an Ophthalmic Optician who had a practice on the ground floor. My parents had divorced and my mother made hats to make ends meet. I came back from school one afternoon to find a goldfish had jumped out of the tank and my mother was too squeamish to pick it up!

14 Up – 1960 I remember a romantic notion of wanting to be a farmer, although I knew no one who farmed! Boarding schools in Somerset and Wiltshire. Found difficulty finding my feet. My brother was at the same school and I was naturally ‘minor’! Athletics in the summer; the CCF; “A from Andromeda” on a black and white TV the highlight of a Saturday night;  a school swimming pool fed from a spring; Elvis on the record player.

The seven years from 14 to 21 are quite naturally the most interesting to look back on from a developmental point of view. Growing physically, growing emotionally and growing mentally! But in one hundred words?

21 up – 1967 Growing in confidence as a person, although always finding academic life challenging. Played and enjoyed Rugby; played and enjoyed the trumpet. O and A levels – What to do? I wanted to be an architect but that profession was going through one of its cyclical downturns so got selected for Officer Training. Hitchhiked through Europe one summer. Drove to Greece with 5 others in 1965 before joining Sandhurst. Pushed from pillar to post; grew from schoolboy into young adult. Commissioned in July 1967.

28 Up – 1974 Periods in the Army in Germany interspersed with three years at University. Sailing in The Baltic and in Sardinia. 

Racing to Bermuda 1976

35 Up – 1981 Married. Daughter Jade born 1980. Raced from Tenerife to Bermuda. Operational tours in Northern Ireland. Bought first house.

Commanded 43 Air Defence Battery (Lloyd’s Company) RA 1982-1984

42 Up – 1988 Left the Army after 20 years. Divorced. Living in London. Working for Short Brothers. Two weeks out of four abroad. Read Florence Scovel-Shinn’s The Game of Life and How to Play it.

Such an inspiring book

49 Up – 1995 Redundancy in 1991 very cathartic. Lived in Canberra Australia for four months. Worked for Morgan &Banks, a Recruitment and Outplacement Company in London.

56 Up – 2002 Started my own business coaching company The Yellow Palette in 1996

63 Up 2009 Had a rescue Labrador, my beautiful Tom. March 2009 started hot yoga

70 Up 2016 Married again; moved to Hove in 2012. Hot Yoga becomes a daily ritual. Started writing what became Post Card Scribbles in 2014.

Back to ‘Seven Up’. The assumption driving the episodes was that the social class into which the children was born would create obvious winners and losers. In fact they have showed that achievement, fortune and contentment are influenced by more fundamental things than class. They showed that our lives unfold through both circumstance and our own choices and it’s up to us what we make of them. We all have a choice!

Richard 15th January 2021

3 thoughts on “PC 213 7 Up!

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