Things I Watch When I Am Ironing #5: The Man In The High Castle, series 1

My husband describes The Man in the High Castle as a ‘morbid soap’, and he’s not wrong. Laugh a minute it ain’t.
After the action of the first couple of episodes, not much actually happens in the rest of the series. No-one ever has a proper conversation – they all just look meaningfully at each other and then look away, also meaningfully. However, this creates an impressively oppressive atmosphere – we have no idea what is going on but we know it isn’t anything nice.
Most impressive is the setting – a grubby, run-down America, with pompous Nazi symbolism and mystical Japanese culture pasted over the top.
There are too many coincidences and mumbled misery to take it all too seriously; the chances of Juliana running into Joe the amount of times she does is ludicrous, for a start, and why does Frank’s friend Ed take the gun back to work to dispose of? I mean, the place is full of suspicious eyes and the Japanese have been crawling all over it. Drop it down a drain, for gawd’s sake!
But in most parts, the storyline is solid and the acting is excellent. Top US Nazi John Smith discovering his son has an incurable disease was cleverly handled without histrionics, and the relationship between gentle Mr Tagomi and nervous Juliana was touchingly portrayed.
The closing scene (with the i-ching consulting Mr Tagomi opening his eyes to an alternative 1962 America) was so beautiful and compelling I watched it three times. Man in the high castle posters
After a few episodes of running around and hard stares, the ending of the final two episodes was masterful. It turned the whole premise of the series from ‘what would have happened if?’ to pure sci-fi. Do these films show the future, or a scenario of different futures? Or are they not the future at all, are they different realities? Are we in a time-travelling situation here? Hitler had racks and racks of films – did they help him win the war? Do the films change depending on the things he does? Is he the man in the high castle?? Bring on season two.

Things I think about when I trek to the airing cupboard:

  • Who was the second man in the film Juliana and Frank saw being shot?
  • Is Joe Blake John Smith’s son? Has that actually been said, out loud, by anyone?
  • Why does the nasty Nazi want to kill John Smith? I know it all has to do with the plot to kill Hitler, but that’s as far as I can go.
  • What conditioner does Juliana use? Is it some sort of Japanese concoction? Because, despite all her troubles, her hair is unfailingly divine.

Cloud Strife + Aeris Gainsborough – a match made in gaming heaven

Final Fantasy VII logo

I played Final Fantasy VII when it was first released – yes, I am that old. I had never played anything like it before, but had read about it in the game magazines that were the only way to get info on new releases in those far-off days.

It took me hours to work out what was going on with the fight engine, and I was weeks in before I realised how materia levelled up, having run away from hundreds of fights in order to get on with the game. I still mourn those lost experience points…
It was the early days of the internet, when our office had one designated machine connected to a creaky dial-up that charged you by the minute. I sneaked onto it after hours to print out a list of the enemy skills and where they could be found, and then for a detailed run-down of how to breed a gold chocobo and get the Knights of the Round summon. And I still couldn’t defeat the Emerald and Ruby Weapons.

FFVII characters

The gang’s all here

So, following the thrilling news that they are finally remaking FFVII, I am playing it through again, and am totally reaching those Level 4 limit breaks.
Despite it being 19-year-old it is still brilliant. The dialogue is crap, obviously, and the storyline simplistic, but it still has all the elements of a compelling game.
A cast of superb characters (Red XIII and Vincent still my faves – please let there be Vincent in the remake. Dump Yuffie, but keep Vincent); a long but linear storyline; a near-perfect difficulty curve (something so many games fall down on); a slick battle engine; an even slicker magic system; the most haunting soundtrack in a game EVER; and humour. Cloud dressing as a girl to rescue Tifa, complete with perfume and sexy undies – what was all that about?

Cloud on a gold chocobo

Knights of the Round here we come

It also had one of the biggest shocks in gaming history, right at the end of disc one. This was way before GRR Martin did for Ned Stark – we just weren’t prepared for one of the main characters to be wiped out with no chance of rescue or redemption.
The remake has to be exactly the same but in HD and with better dialogue. And if you need any beta testers, I’m your girl. As soon as I breed this gold chocobo.

The torture of Sisyphus

I loathe housework. I loathe the relentless drudgery of it . It is physically exhausting but mentally infuriating.
It makes your back, calves and ankles ache, it dries out your hands and splits your nails, grazes your knuckles and scuffs up your knees. And it is so demeaning. It takes no intelligence or analytical skills but it is all-encompassing. You can’t do anything else – even listening to the radio is impossible once the vacuum cleaner is going.

Woman mopping

In those shoes?? Seriously???

I resent the hell out of it so much. Resent the fact that it is me and only me who does this, who knows the sheer hard work that goes into cleaning behind bookshelves and clearing out badly laid fires, picking up stupid odds and ends, sorting out various vital pieces of paper, scrubbing the grubby backs of dining chairs, dusting behind precarious mirrors and wiping, wiping, endless amounts of wiping. And in a day or two I will be doing most of it again.
I detest the way it unravels so quickly, how I can walk into a room a couple of hours after scouring it clean and immediately see the stray piece of cotton on the rug, the displaced cushions, the once-artfully folded throws strewn around and the crumbs on the chair arm. NONE OF IT DONE BY ME. How sweet, how neat and calm it would all be if there were only me to waft about in it once I had cleaned. But people have to sit in it, live in it, and I have to do it all over again. There is no pause button on a clean house or an empty ironing basket.

Happy woman cleaning

No. No, it’s not.

I used to diligently clean every cranny of our hateful old, crumbling kitchen, even when the drawer doors fell off and water started coming up through the floor tiles. I’d get up at 5am every Wednesday, while the children – then little more than babies – were still in bed in order to gouge grime out of the badly designed doors and inaccessible cupboards.
Then eventually we took out a loan (still paying it off…) and got a new streamlined kitchen. While it was being fitted I was parked up in a pub car park while my baby daughter slept in her car seat and saw the old kitchen units going past in a skip on the back of a truck. All that spraying and wiping had come to nothing.

The lesson? As long as the dust isn’t bringing on asthma attacks, and the grime isn’t breeding salmonella, leave the damn stuff. One day, the house will be rubble and you will be dead. All those hours with a dishcloth will have come to nothing.

“Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day. The housewife wears herself out marking time: she makes nothing, simply perpetuates the present… Eating, sleeping, cleaning – the years no longer rise up towards heaven, they lie spread out ahead, grey and identical. The battle against dust and dirt is never won.”
Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

The non-existent new year calendar

There is an empty space on my kitchen wall – this year, for the first time since records began, we have nothing to replace the Minecraft calendar that was consigned to the recycling bin on January 1.
Not so long ago, we were awash with ’em. Handmade calendars used to fly home from school every December, colourful collages of autumn leaves, felt-tipped sunshines and beaming snowmen.
They always had those tiny stamp-sized page-to-a month calendars stuck on the bottom, the kind of things only schools have access to, like coloured pipe cleaners and stacks of flat blue paper towels with zero absorption ability.
More recently, they have been big, glossy numbers, showcasing Doctor Who and irritating perky Clara. For two exciting years we had fortune telling calendars, that actually spoke when you pressed a button, like those seaside booths you don’t get any more (just how old am I??).

Old Salty calendar

I never trusted a word Old Salty said


I know phones have made calendars, like watches and family life, redundant, but there is nothing like circling a date with a big fat marker pen and writing ‘my awesome birthday’ on it.
I’ve kept the fortune telling ones, in the hope that sooner or later all the dates will match up again, even if the year is wrong. No idea how to work out when that will be. I’d need a calendar in order to do that.