On the sixth day of Christmas...



My true love sent to me: six geese a-laying. In the song, this seems to refer to the six days of creation.

Six, traditionally the number of years it took to deliver a five-year Soviet economic plan, was also the number of the character played by Patrick McGoohan in the stylish 1967-8 TV series The Prisoner. The 'prison' set was the resort village of Portmeirion in Wales, but this strange place, with its bizarre customs, and people referred to by numbers rather than names, is really just an allegory for Britain and the wider world.

In each episode, Number Six insists "I am not a number. I am a free man," but in fact he cannot escape and cannot fit in. "You have no values," one of the residents rebukes him. "Different values," is his terse reply. He wants to live his own life in his own way, rather than be part of some regimented, impersonal and illiberal culture. Many people in the 1960s could not understand what The Prisoner was all about, for this too was a time when the prevailing culture, in Britain at least, was of conformity and deference, though it was at last starting to be challenged by individualists like Number Six.

Today, when diversity is more celebrated, the message is perhaps clearer; and it is explained more fully in Chris Tame's thoughtful commentary, Different Values. Beyond doubt, The Prisoner is a libertarian classic, a portrayal of how oppressive a culture can be, without any of us realising it. Except, perhaps, for the true individualist.