Ups and downs

“Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”

As many of you read this (wishful thinking) I will hopefully have just cuddled my son Thomas for the first time, a mere 46 days (1,100 hours) or 792,00 heartbeats (Twintime ™) since he was born and yet like his sister, he is still 9 weeks too early for this world. Only time will tell what he will become.

Since the twins were born 107 days too soon I have avoided “Googling” anything medical in case I didn’t like what I found. In fact my last desperate medical google was “Viability” on the day they were born. I bend the truth slightly as I did wikipedia “Stoma” when he went for his second batch of surgery but only to see what it was not to read success or failure rates.

In other ways the internet has been tremendously useful. Via Facebook and Twitter we have felt your collective love and many people have been in touch to relay their stories, many happy but some unfortunately terribly sad. There has also been my poorly written if well meaning blogs and through indulging our tale in reciprocation I have read the words of others all of which usually come with comments sections.

Comments sections can be wonderful places but it is also were the plankton of the internet likes to feather it nest. With trolling on the rise they can be deeply unpleasant places and one comment which recurs time and time again, obviously giving a moment of great self esteem to the writer, is “Nobody ever asked you to have children!”

How can you argue with that? They have the upper hand. The world is an overpopulated place, how dare we bring offspring into the world without mapping out their course through life ensuring we have put enough money away to cope with every eventuality that life may throw at them. How jolly naïve of us not to consider that our twins could have been born at 24 weeks + 5 days instead of the anticipated 40. Mustn’t grumble, our fault for being unprepared. Hang on though, actually just who is prepared for the journey of life? I cannot even consider Thomas & Mias world beyond tomorrow at the moment. I don’t consider my journey through life to have been planned at all, merely a series of accident and coincidences tinged with moderate successes and occasional failure.

In 1963 Granada television decided to find out if our children’s paths were indeed mapped out when World in Action ran a program entitled 7up. To be factually accurate it was 1970 when they decided to follow up the series when the kids were 14 that a chain of events leading to possibly the greatest documentary series of all time was actually put into motion. I was yet to be born.

By 7 my life felt far from mapped out. My home life was happy enough and I was reasonably good at school. Through childhood I progressed to be a skateboarder and through this hobby began to make and edit skateboard videos at age 14. This led me to consider a career in television.

In 1991 Granada had transmitted the latest instalment in the “Ups” series 35up. I remember watching it with my parents at home and worrying awfully about Neil who was still wandering nomadically throughout Scotland.
In this same year, long before I even considered having children, one of the proudest days of my life was walking into the reception of Granada TV in Manchester to be interviewed for the position of runner. At the time I was working in the laundry at Bolton hospital separating sheets from faeces and surgical debris. The laundry was a busy place full of husband and wife teams working to a score of Steve Penk playing pranks on Picadilly radio (as it was back then.) It seems topical to bring up that there was also a predatory air of sexual banter from the unhappily married women and spinsters in the folding room. They frightened me with lewd talk the sort I wouldn’t hear again until much further on in my career.

I didn’t get the runners job initially as the jolly lad sat next to me outside Colin Marsdens office was first choice. Unfortunately the £75 a week they were offering wasn’t enough for him to quit his job at Netto so I got second dibs which I accepted. Some years later that lad went on to become Peter Kay and I started making brews for a living at Granada Television in September 1991. (When I say working it turned out to be mainly drinking.)

One of the reasons I was proud to work for Granada was basically it was the bollocks when it came to TV production. What I was not to know was that anyone who writes a thesis charting the decline on Granada basically starts their diary around September 1991. I like to think I was not personally to blame for the slow downfall of the what was once labelled “The Greatest TV Station on the planet”.

In 1998 I was newly married and owned my first house. Career wise I was still at Granada working in the Telecine department. At this time most things were still shot on film and our department, amongst many other things, was where this film became video tape. The rushes for 42up were no exception. This would be the first year that the ups series would be cut on a non-linear computer based system and not hand crafted on a steenbeck. The lack of a neg cut would give me considerable pain in 2012 but thats a tedious diversion. Bruce was marrying Penny and Neil was finally happy. Tony was driving Taxis and all the working class kids were living life whilst the posh kids had fulfilled their potential whilst denying that their privilege and success were in anyway intrinsically linked.

In 2005 I had a 6 year old son James, we had moved to a new development in the shadow of Eagley Mills but sadly in sympathy with Granada TV’s fortunes, my marriage was also failing. Career wise I was now the senior finishing editor at Granada (mainly because Danny Ward had gone off to pursue a career in offline) but with the station in decline, I was considering an attractive offer to move across town to Sumners. I on-lined edited all of 49up and this made me feel I had finally fulfilled my potential.

In 2012 I had divorced and re-married. I now had a 3 year old daughter Lilly with my new wife Jo. I had left Granada to become staff at Sumners from were I was eventually made redundant before going freelance then starting my own company. ITV was on the rise and had become a great place to work again. We now lived at Browntowers in Bromley Cross, a tall stone structure with a mezzanine wetroom I had created in my own image. Although I had been in constant dialogue with Kim, the editor on the “Ups”, it was looking as though I was going to miss out on working on 56up. Fortunately through a stroke of good fortune, I was able to play a small role in restoring the series into HD. I did enough to ensure my name is on the end roller. Shortly afterwards Jo discovered she was carrying twins.

As I write this blog, Sumners as I once knew it, is coming to an end and many of my former colleagues, like so many before them, are staring a Christmas redundancy in the face. When I visit Thomas at St Marys, I pass the BBC’s former home; New Broadcasting House where I worked many times. During my visits it has slowly been reduced to rubble.

Who knows where 63up will find me? James will be 19 and at University, Lilly will be 10 and in her final year of Junior school, Thomas and Mia will both be 6 years old and at Infant school. Having married well, I hope I will not be divorced again. Television will no longer be produced in Manchester and the Granada building where 7up through to 56up were made, will probably have long since been reduced to rubble and redeveloped. With the changing climate of ITV, will 63up even get made?

Whilst visiting Mia recently, I took Lilly to visit the hospital laundry at Bolton. I was sad to find that due to “Outsourcing” it had recently closed. I was allowed to have one last wander but with the machinery lying dormant it was merely a conduit for my memories without the imminent danger of inappropriate conversation. Too often the past is a different country.

I started this blog trying to make a clever point on the back of reflecting how my life has changed against the fixed point in time which is the “Ups”, although I may have failed, the clumsy metaphor is that life changes dramatically even in 7 short years. I cannot think beyond the end of the week at the moment but I know that in 7 years time I will reflect on this time with a wonder of how did we get through that? Some things I do know is that with Jo by side getting through this is merely a formality and I know that my children have been given a blank canvas. James has shown an interest in editing, perhaps he will work on 70up?

Love and kind regards, Ian x

56up won 2 RTS North West awards on Saturday and will go on to win a Bafta.

p.s. to see how I haven’t changed this is my first “blog from when I was 9 years old at Cub Camp

One response to “Ups and downs”

  1. I think your blog is very informative and enlightening. It just bring us closer the experiences parents face when their children pass through the neonatal unit. Really i have to say that its really brave and amazing that you captured these memorable moments like Tom and mummy’s first cuddle on video. Many years to come, you’ll be glad you did when the twins are all grown and it’ll be almost unbelievable they passed through the NICU.Like in my case, my son except for his speech and scoliosis, you’ll almost forget he spent a whole six months in the neonatal unit at birth.I’m really looking forward to meeting the Tom and Mia one day:) Regards to Jo, our lovely teacher. Here’s my blog

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