In 1967 we sat glued to our TVs every week to watch each new episode of "The Prisoner." Patrick McGoohan's character, Number 6, had been kidnapped to a strange and colourful seaside village, presumably on an island somewhere. Week after week the mysterious people in charge tried to break him, and week after week he resisted. Each episode began with his defiant declaration to his captors, "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own." Each week he insisted, "I am not a number, I am a free man," only to be met with mocking laughter.
The series became a cult classic. It was enigmatic and surreal, and had a libertarian subtext that appealed to young people. And the village had charm. Its Italianate buildings were pastel-coloured, and the sun shone. Each day the bedside loudspeaker called out, "Good morning! It's another beautiful day, here in the village."
The series was shot in Portmeirion in North Wales. It was built in the 1920s and 30s by Sir Clough William-Ellis in the style of an Italian village. It's a tourist attraction, somewhat out of the way, which keeps the numbers manageable. I went there and stayed in its ornate hotel nearly 20 years after the TV series had put it on the map. Everything was very much smaller than it had seemed on television, and some of it is fake, like the boat moored by the jetty. Still, it was quite something to walk among the scenes of those epic conflicts of years earlier. Even today I sometimes wear a dark blazer edged with white ribbon, as did Patrick McGoohan's character in the series, though I don't wear a badge with a number 6 on it.