Here I am at the multi-coloured Italian-style Portmerion village near Portmadog in North Wales. Its designer has repeated denied claims the design was based on the fishing village of Portofino on the Italian Riviera. True or not it’s worth a visit for its sense of deliberately fanciful colours and uniquely-shaped buildings. It looks out onto the estuary of the River Dwyrdy so you can’t blame anyone for living there (there are lots of “Private” signs dotted about.)
Anyone who has watched British television knows this is the filming location for the cult series The Prisoner that ran for seventeen episodes. It’s mildly surreal to watch now so it must have been more so when it was broadcast in the sixties. A former secret agent (played by Patrick McGoohan) suddenly resigns from his job and is making a hurried departure from the country when gas is piped into his London flat rendering unconscious. He wakes to find he’s in a re-creation of his apartment but it’s in an isolated seaside "village" packed with odd characters and strange laws. The story of how the agent tries to escape from this bizarre prison begins (.please watch it to find out more.)
I arrived at Portmerion from the rear (not from the from estuary side) and parked in woods besides cars and the odd coach. I sat in the motorhome having a coffee and peanut butter sandwich. My eyes scanned across the green wood....mmm leafy woods provide great cover for people like me who like scaling fences and walls. My eyes soon landed on a fence…..I’m like a gazelle over fences. I locked up and found myself creeping down a bushy decline and then leaping over the fence. From here I passed through woodland and then a gate into the area where a coach was disgorging grey-haired folk. I merged in with them, waved at a pretend person in the distance, shouted, “Elsie....there you are,” and entered the village for free…free! Things are free are more enjoyed. At school I remember finding a box of ten Sony C90 cassettes still wrapped in cellophane and it made my month (still got them and the strains of Rainbow, Whitesnake and Kajagogoo hasn’t faded.)
I was going to stay there for the night but a “No Overnight Parking” sign said otherwise. I drove into Portmadog town, had a stroll around, bought a curry and parked in the harbour. It was noisy outside the pub but horizontal in bed I overheard most of the conversations. Some were in Welsh. One man said someone had “fried in a house fire” and the listener asked, “Was he alright?” (no he fried….it meant he died.) One woman talking about sharing a holiday said, “I can’t get my kit off in front of you even though you’re my best friend.” The next morning the harbour was chocked with fog but as I had some cereal while sat on a bench the sun was already burning it off.