Sunday, 28 July 2013

Portmeirion's Place in Britpop History

I've been remembering the Britpop days.  And not just because of the current Liam Gallagher love child  scandal.  I recently interviewed the musician Jess Mills, whose album is coming out early next year - it, incidentally, will be amazing: just listen to her previously released single, Fighting Fire - see, amazing!  (Incidentally, my estimation of Tessa Jowell went up about three hundred fold after chatting to Jess, who is the daughter of Jowell:  despite heading up the Olympics Committee, Jowell made her children apply for tickets through the ordinary ballot.  It transpires that not all of New Labour favoured nepotism.)  We were talking about when Blair's government came to power, which was just as I finished school, and one of the songs that was still being played on repeat that summer, even two years after release, was Supergrass's Alright.  The video was filmed in Portmeirion, in Wales. Which is one of the weirdest things I've discovered since finding out that one of the album shots for Pulp's Common People was taken in my parents' local bus station, in Thirsk, North Yorkshire.  

Well, we're just back from Wales, and I have just taken great delight in unpacking my latest acquisitions:  Portmeirion storage jars.  Before I went on holiday, I would have told you that I don't like Portmeirion.  It transpires that, faced with wall to wall examples of it, I manage to find beauty in certain aspects. . . 

It all started innocently enough.  On discovering that Portmeirion was literally just up the road (we were staying in Barmouth, which, incidentally, is heaven - indeed, so heavenly that my husband and I started looking at houses there) we decided to visit.  I hadn't done any research, and thought that we were going to see a pottery in a pretty village.  I was, therefore, totally unprepared for this:

It's a neo-Italianate village, built between 1925 and 1975, and it is bordering on hilarious, while being truly brilliant.  It's hardly Britpopy - I certainly didn't feel young at all - if anything I felt like I was walking around a television set for a Poirot; I kept expecting David Suchet to appear, stroking his moustache.  Should I ever decide to host a murder mystery weekend, Portmeirion is where I'll do it (and I could, too - the whole place is a hotel/ self-catering accommodation.)

There's also a pottery, or rather, a shop.  But I didn't buy anything 1.) because Andrew was with me and 2.) because I still thought I was going to visit Blodwen (read about it here) and that I was going to invest in a Welsh blanket.

Well, I tried to visit Blodwen.  As in, Andrew drove us the entire way to Cardigan - which took about three and a half hours because the one problem with Wales is that everyone drives at 40mph - to discover that Blodwen is only available online.   Ho diddly hum.    So a couple of afternoons later, my mother and I found a shop in Barmouth selling Portmeirion and I invested in that instead.  So now we own this:

Sholto loves Sweet William.  It's one of the only flowers that he recognises, along with daisies.

And this:

Esmeralda was wearing a dress with pansies on it that day.

Incidentally there are flowers everywhere at Portmeirion.  Just look at these hydrangea.  Heaven, no?

There are also tree stumps with money buried in them:

There's a completely fake boat:

A random Buddha:

And a shell grotto which Esmeralda loved so much we could barely entice her to leave:

(Andrew had dressed her that day.)

I still think that it is very weird that Supergrass filmed in Portmeirion.  I also still don't like any Portmeirion aside from the storage jars, and maybe the mugs.  But whatever your reasons for visiting, go.  Truly, it's brilliant.