Thursday, 16 June 2011

The Italianate Village of Portmeirion

 When I first went to Portmeirion, it was for a weeks holiday in the September of 1988. When I arrived, the first thing which struck me, was the smallness of the Village! I had expected somewhere a little larger. But as Clough Williams-Ellis {the architect behind Portmeirion} said of the Village, "Portmeirion is basically tiny." Well he got that right.
   So I settled myself into my self-catering cottage, prepared to be a prisoner for one teeny weeny week! And as I began to explore the Village in ernest the next day, following in Patrick McGoohan's footsteps for the very first time. But I found much of the Village seen in the Prisoner, not to exist at Portmeirion. Especially what we see in The General, Hammer Into Anvil, and It's Your Funeral.
   I quickly found out that rushing about, trying to see everything in Portmeirion at the same time, doesn't work. You have to sit down and just look, drinking the whole atmosphere from a bench. And on Sundays, there's the Brass Band Concert to attend, the Band even played the Prisoner theme music, very atmospheric.
    Oh I was dressed in full Village attire. Turtle neck jersey. Beige trousers, deck shoes, and piped blazer. No.6's house being the Prisoner shop run by Max Hora at the time, whom I had met the previous day. But the next day, when I went to purchase merchandise, I found the Prisoner shop to be closed!!! I looked at my watch, the time was ten thirty, and the Prisoner shop, as I was to learn, didn't actually open until after eleven O'clock!!! I've known people go to Portmeirion for just a few hours, as part of their holiday in North Wales, only to arrive and find the Prisoner shop to be closed. And having only a few hours in the Village, they leave never having been able to step one foot in the Prisoner shop, and having left disappointed!!! Then again the shop can be closed for five minutes, when that happens, there's a scribbled note on a Prisoner shop paper bag, stuck on the shop door. Well there was in those days.
   But boy oh boy, when the shop was open, and you stood there in what was the Prisoners house, for the very first time, it was quite amazing. And to be in the Prisoner shop, always well stocked with all mammer of merchandise connected with the series, and I bought something of each item, to take home with me after my holiday.
   There's a quirkiness about Portmeirion, with it's arches which you can only just walk through, even though from afar they look huge. And the Fire Station, marked on a pair of doors. There is no Fire Station, because it is just as you see it, two doors marked Fire Staion in red lettering on two doors simply attached to the wall of the Hercules Hall.
   I would go running about on the beach shouting 'I am not a number. I am a free man.' And go in search of the cave of the Therapy Zone. There is a cave, just round the headland from where the graveyard in on the beach in Arrival, the lighthouse on the headland, there's no bell, there's no light!! But there is a small cave, in the cove where No.6 found that body washed up on the beach in Dance of the Dead.
   I used to got to Portmeirion at least twice a year. Once for a holiday, and again for the Prisoner convention held there annually. And there would also be the occasional day visit. It was always like coming home, going to Portmeirion. and when I arrived there, it felt as though I had never been away. A real home from home.
    Have I been back to Portmeirion in recent years? No. I have to say I haven't. Why? Well, it' not the same somehow. The last time I was in Portmeirion, was when I was getting ready to leave Six of One: The Prisoner Appreciation Society, and somehow things there didn't feel the same. I suppose in my early days of visits to Portmeirion, it was like going there on a pilgrimage. Oh I still hold Portmeirion in my heart, and have many happy memories of my times there. These days I'm no longer the Pilgrim that I once was. Besides which Portmeirion has been 'messed about with,' and is no longer, for me, the place it once was. Besides it's so damned expensive to actually stay there now, and my purse in not as full as it once was.
I'm Johnny Prisoner

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