Every year for the last two decades, I’ve spent a week in another world. Specifically in a town-sized folly/ersatz Italianate village/prison for secret agents/luxury hotel, located in another dimension/the 1960s/North Wales.
Portmeirion was built by the early twentieth century eccentric Clough Williams-Ellis, who referred to his life’s work as ‘a home for fallen buildings’. And so it is. A combination of indolence and a tech mismatch (this despite being in a House of Geeks!) means I’ve no pictures to show you but you can check out the main website here, although it doesn’t really do the place justice.
Like many other geeks, I came to Portmeirion via The Prisoner – the original series that is, an episode of which is shown at 6pm every evening on Village TV. Beloved and I visited on a hot summer day back in 1991, and were entranced by the quirky yet beautiful village and gardens set in a wooded vale looking across a sandy estuary to the mountains. When we found you can actually stay here, either in the hotel proper or by hiring the larger houses by the week, we were hooked. Over the last two decades we’ve cumulatively spend several months, and far too much disposable income, in The Village.
Back before I gave up having a proper job for the glamorous life of a writer we used to stay in the hotel for special occasions; although such decadence is now beyond our means, the annual spring gaming holiday is an ongoing institution. This has always been a social event, with between 10 and 14 of us staying in a pair of adjacent houses. This year, it being the twentieth anniversary of our first holiday here, a select half dozen of us have gone on to enjoy a second week in Chantry Cottage, this being the first place we ever stayed (there's a picture of Chantry here, if you page down - not really a cottage at all, is it?). I’ve not been in this house for a while and was somewhat surprised to find that this house has one more bedroom than I remembered it having. But then, that’s The Village for you.