Sunday, April 20, 2003

Watty's been wandering:

All over North Wales and Merseyside, to be exact. Oh, and a trip on a tram in Croydon, too. And a walk in the country - the kind I don't often do nowadays. It's been a lot of fun, if tiring. I have several observations to make, not all chronological (where's the fun in that?) and not all in this post, but I'll make them anyway.

Apparently, bets are being taken now on the UK's first 100oF day happening this summer. If April's anything to go by, it's a dead cert. Twice in the course of the last four days, the thermometer in my car read 32oC - admittedly, the true temperature was around 26o or so, but even so - this was in the middle of April. Earlier in the week, it was snowing. I am naturally sceptical towards claims of significant climate changes, but I do wonder...

I have longed to go back to Portmeirion for nearly 20 years now, and on Friday, I finally made it.

A more perfect day for it I cannot imagine. Admittedly, the glorious weather brought out the tourists - but I can't complain, that included me. I wandered around, taking pictures like they were going out of fashion (the link should load quickly enough; they're all thumnails - some of the images are quite big, though), and trying to work out where the giant chess board had gone. I think I'm a little sad that the whole place is so determinedly commercial now - every building not given over to the hotel is a shop of some kind. The whole thing is very tasteful, of course, but I still would have preferred some of the mystery I remembered to still be evident in the closed and shuttered buildings to the insistence that I should buy yet more postcards, or fudge, or pottery, or watercolours, or whatever. But I wandered around the grounds a lot more than last time, and I photographed a lot more (oh, you noticed), and I definitely want to go back in fewer than 20 years this time.
And I discovered a real curiosity. I still don't quite know how to describe it; I imagine Derrida would have a field day with it. It's a map. A map, in the end, of an imaginary place, but nevertheless, a real map. In a way, it's a map of a map. I'll try to explain.

I imagine that most people reading this are at least familiar with The Prisoner; if not, feel free to go off and familiarise yourself for a while. The Prisoner took place in a location only identified as "The Village". Many (but my no means all, of the outdoor scenes were filmed at Portmeirion, but The Village was no more Portmeirion than it was Borehamwood Studios - it was a fictional place. In the first episode, Patrick McGoohan's character (I'll skip over all that "Number 6" stuff, shall I?) is seen examining a map of The Village. The map only appears in that one shot, and while it is clearly based roughly on Portmeirion, it is by no means a map of Clough Williams-Ellis' creation. However, imaginiation is no barrier to commerce, and on sale in the Prisoner shop in Portmeirion is a very accurate facsimile of the map of The Village. Now, this may be a unique map - a clear and accurate representation of an imaginary place, sold to people visiting the real place which inspired the imaginary place, but almost entirely useless to them in getting about, since some of the buildings and streets on the map are in the wrong place, while others simply do not exist. I almost bought one - I wish I had, now.

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