Posted by Richard Rawlinson
From 7 Up in 1964 to 56 Up today, this remarkable documentary series has been filming the same group of people for a biblical seven days of their lives every seven years for almost five decades. Catch 56 Up on ITV at 9pm this Monday, and, if the last two episodes are anything to go by, expect the participants to keep stressing that we’re only getting a tiny, distorting glimpse of the life journey that’s made them who they are. This historic social record has got me musing about how difficult it must be to capture the essence of someone in a funeral eulogy.
As a student I once told my grandmother I had a Saturday job in M&S in order to save up for a holiday on the continent. Her response has stuck with me. ‘When I was young, I had a boyfriend who took me dancing in a hotel on the weekend,’ she began. ‘My mother enquired how he could afford to treat me in this way. When I asked him, he confessed he lived very frugally during the week. So in my day, we went without in order to have a bit of luxury whereas you take jobs so you don’t have to make such sacrifices. And let me add I think your way is better!’
At her funeral several years later, I was struck by the realisation that I would never have the opportunity to really know her story, fears or desires; the inner workings that made her unique. Sure, there were some anecdotes I cherished, but so much was missing. I wouldn’t have wanted such insights shared at her funeral either.
It’s another thing to take up genealogy or employ one of many online companies such as The Memory Works – here – which offer personal and family biographies as leatherbound keepsakes. A lot of elderly people wish to leave a record of learning, love and legacy for future generations.