A couple of years ago, whilst on holiday in Beaumaris, Anglesey, with our friends Wendy and Christopher Ball, the two wives (Christopher and I have one each) suggested that we visit Portmeirion.   I vaguely knew about Portmeirion from watching The Prisoner back in the late 60’s; a mysterious TV series starring Patrick McGoohan.   Frankly, Christopher and I would have preferred to climb Snowdon but we have both been married a long time (between us, for over 100 years!) and have learnt when to give way graciously.

Thus it was that two enthusiastic wives and two acquiescing husbands came to visit the Italianate village on the estuary of the River Dwyryd, near the coast of Gwynedd in North Wales.  The site was acquired in 1925 by the late Clough Williams-Ellis, a self-taught architect, who had always dreamed of building his own village; an experiment in what he called ‘architectural good manners’.

As we explored the picturesque village, and watched a video with a feisty 90 year old Sir Clough telling his extraordinary story, Christopher and I were hooked.  Meanwhile, our two wives, whilst perfectly content with the visit, remained relatively underwhelmed.  By the end of the day, Christopher and I had decided to do a book about Portmeirion, based on seven walks around the village and the peninsular, featuring his poems and my watercolours.

We have paid two subsequent visits to Portmeirion; the first to research the seven walks and decide which buildings/views to include and the second to double check each detail, repeat the walks and produce maps.  Unfortunately our visits were too brief for me to create the paintings (54 of them) on the spot, so I did sketches, made notes and took copious photographs to use as references.

The watercolour of the children’s playground (p 105) proved to be one of the trickiest.  I had visited the playground many times and never seen any children there until our last day.  I rushed over and asked the parents of the three children if I could take some photographs.  They looked doubtful (a sign of the times I’m afraid) but I managed to reassure them with the promise that I’d send them a copy of the book when it was published.

These delicate negotiations took a little time and, having got permission to take photographs, the children stopped playing on the equipment, became camera shy and refused to be photographed!  Later that day I was delighted to see another family enjoying the playground and went through the same palaver with the doubtful adults.  Having offered all my reassurances, they said they would agree to me taking photographs except that, since the children weren’t theirs, they felt unable to give permission!

I gave up and imagined the children in my illustration.  I suppose the answer is to invest in a telescopic lens and pretend I’m a bird watcher.

Anyway, I’m mighty pleased with the book and here is an unashamed plug:

Just published, a book illustrated with my watercolours (54 of them) and with delightful poems by John Elinger (award winning poet and the nom de plume of Sir Christopher Ball).

‘That Strange Necessity: Visions of Portmeirion’ is about the Italianate village in North Wales built by the eccentric, self-taught architect, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. The book is available from Amazon for £14.99, but order signed copies direct from me for just £13 including p&p.

You don’t need to read everything that follows; just find the statement that best applies to you.

‘I have visited Portmeirion and loved it’

Get a copy of this book (a) to remind you of your previous visit and (b) to encourage you to go again and see all the things you missed first time round.

‘I have visited Portmeirion but was underwhelmed’

You need this book to help you see the error of your ways and to fire you up to go again and give Portmeirion a second chance.

‘I have never visited Portmeirion but would like to one day’

This book is just what you need to turn a vague intention into and plan; essential reading, both before you go and when you are there.

‘I have never visited Portmeirion and have no intention of ever doing so’

If you insist – however since more than 200,000 people visit Portmeirion each year, the book will make an ideal present for your friends who undoubtedly love the place.

‘I don’t like blatant attempts to sell me something I don’t need’

Me too, but never having had my watercolours in a book before, I simply couldn’t help myself.

‘I have no interest in Portmeirion, but I quite like your watercolours’

Say no more, 54 of them in this book.

‘None of the above’

Ah well, worth a try.

Send me a message telling me how many copies you want and the address to put on the Jiffy bag.  I’ll send the book(s) with an invoice for £13 each.

The images of my Portmeirion watercolours are on my website www.peterhoney.org.  Just click on ‘Fundraising Watercolours’.  All the proceeds go to charity.

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