What if a man finds himself a prisoner in a place of great beauty, unable to go home? What if he loses his name and is known only as Number 6? What if he raises his fist and refuses to conform, saying, “I am not a number. I am a free man!”
Debonair, charismatic British actor Patrick McGoohan asked those questions in the 1960s during a visit to Portmeirion Village in Wales. The result was The Prisoner, an iconic miniseries that remains a cult favorite.
It’s not surprising that Portmeirion inspired a classic. Sitting on the edge of an estuary, Portmeirion has the look and feel of a hillside Italian village in miniature. Upon seeing it for the first time, I let out an involuntary gasp at the stunning, elegant buildings and the abundant nature surrounding them.
Portmeirion was the brainchild of Clough Williams-Ellis, who asked himself, what if he could create beauty without disturbing the surrounding environment? He spent 50 years working on the answer.
What if? It’s my favorite question. Sometimes “what if” paralyzes me with fear when I’m trying something new and fear the worst. “What if” helps me plan ahead and solve problems before they happen. “What if” ponders my fate had I made different choices as a young woman.
As a writer, I rely on “what if” to come up with story ideas. What if an ambitious female money manager gets caught up in the Madoff scandal and loses the life she knew? What if a troubled young woman with low self-esteem and a burgeoning alcohol problem is the only person who can stop a dangerous bully? What if my great-great grandmother, the one who bore a child out of wedlock and died ten months later of typhoid, was not the victim her story would suggest?
“What if” brought me to Wales. When we decided to visit the U.K., I said, “What if I ask Juliet Greenwood, a Welsh author I met online, if she wants to meet in person?” I did ask, and she said yes. We met first in her home, then she joined us later to relax in Portmeirion.
Juliet recently wrote about her visit here. As you will see, she gathered some incredible nighttime photos!
Juliet is one of those writers for whom I have great respect. She works hard at her craft and has created two lovely novels, Eden’s Garden and We That Are Left. Getting to know her better in person in Portmeirion made the experience that more magical.
What if I worked as hard to build my stories and skills as Juliet does? Hmm. Something to think about.
Rested and recovered with creative juices flowing, we left Portmeirion for Bronte Country. What if we find a Bronte ghost walking on the moors? More about that next week! As they say in The Prisoner, “Be seeing you.”
It looks like a magical place! I enjoyed this small study of “what if.” The question can open so many doors, positive and negative. I don’t ask it enough about my writing and ask it too much about my past.
So true, Tina. I use “what if” as an exercise for my anxiety disorder (it helps me look at the worst possible outcome and realize it’s often not that bad), and it’s helpful. However, it can get me into trouble!