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A writer's life in the island fast lane

How many octogenarians living in Phuket gained their Doctorate degree from London University studying the works of the great Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson and have just published a book about their adventures living in Phuket?


By Baz Daniel

Saturday 20 January 2018, 11:00AM


Dr Patrick Campbell (left) and Baz Daniel holding copies of Patrick’s latest book ‘Phuket Days – A Life in the Island Fast Lane’ a memoir of his life in Phuket.

Dr Patrick Campbell (left) and Baz Daniel holding copies of Patrick’s latest book ‘Phuket Days – A Life in the Island Fast Lane’ a memoir of his life in Phuket.

The answer is of course one – Doctor Patrick Campbell – with whom I recently had the immense pleasure of sharing supper in charming Wine Lovers restaurant at Fisherman Way on Wiset Rd.

As we munched our way through a meal of delicious fresh sushi and sashimi, then wonderfully healthful salads and pasta all washed asunder by an aromatic Kiwi selection from Wine Lover’s extensive stock, Patrick told me about the fascinating life journey that brought him to settle in Phuket 15 years ago.

Patrick is well known in Phuket as a colourful personality and also through his many authoritative articles in the local press, particularly about gardening and the environment.

He graduated from Keele University in England and taught English literature at Middlesex University and at several universities in North America. He has a deep interest in theatre and was the founder of the first Master’s Degree course in performance arts in the UK.

Patrick is a man of many talents, particularly in the arts. He has written analyses of several books of poetry; intriguing books on psychoanalysis and performance; and on body art and several critical studies of poets.

Why would a man of his erudition and experience move to such a hedonistic pleasure ground as Phuket? The answer is enshrined in Patrick’s new and partly autobiographical book Phuket Days – Life in the Island Fast Lane.

He is a man much like many living here, who enjoys young, available female company and is fascinated by the kaleidoscope of human excess and folly for which Phuket is well known.

“Phuket is like a stage where everyone is an actor in an absurdist comedy of errors,” Patrick says, “It’s insane, but it’s never boring.”

It is perhaps no accident that Patrick was drawn to Alfred Tennyson for his higher studies. Tennyson, like many artists of his time, was alarmed by the quickly-changing mid-19th century industrial and mercantile world with which he had little in common.

Growing up in rural Lincolnshire, the fourth son of the 12 children of the rector of Somersby, George Clayton, his deepest sympathies were called forth by an unaltered rural England and the conflict between what he thought of as his duty to society and his allegiance to the eternal beauty of nature seems peculiarly Victorian.

In many ways, Patrick’s own sensibilities are similarly affronted by the conflict between the advancing dehumanisation of the post-industrial era in which he is now enmeshed.

He eloquently expresses his love for nature and the rural life in Plums to Persia, the autobiography of his early life in rural Worcestershire in the English West Midlands.

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Having grown up within such a charmed rural idyll, it’s unsurprising that Patrick now rails against the callous urbanisation that is overtaking his beloved Phuket.

His anguish is evident both in his regular articles and columns for this newspaper and other media, and Phuket Days clearly spells out the apocalypse that we Phuketians are creating by our behaviour.

“Phuket has undergone rapid and destructive urbanization since I settled here and many of its attractions are now under severe threat,” says Patrick.

In Phuket Days he eloquently describes two very worrying factors that seem to be determining the island’s disastrous trajectory.

“Our present rate of mainly unplanned and destructive development, without building the necessary supporting infrastructure, is just not sustainable.

"Waste treatment, garbage sorting and re-cycling, traffic management and control of vehicle emissions, water management and maritime protection, all these things are being ignored in the headlong rush for instant profits without longer term environmental management and protection.

“There also seems to be a complete lack of political will to manage and protect the country from the ravages of rampant commercialization.

"Corruption and short-term self-interest seem to be endemic to the Thai political and administrative classes, no matter who is in power. In all honesty it is very hard to feel even the slightest optimism for Phuket’s future,” he says.

Sitting on the charming terrace of Wine Lovers overlooking the lawn and dancing fountain of Fisherman Way Business Park digesting the wonderful supper that the owner Khun Gumrai served us, it was easy to think that all was well in Phuket and the fun could just roll on forever.

Yet just a few metres away from where we sat, the traffic tail back from the notorious Chalong “turning circle” was gridlocked even at 10 in the evening. Huge coaches full of low budget Chinese tourists stood belching poisonous black fumes into the night air.

It was a stark illustration of what Patrick was saying and one that Tennyson himself might well have found dramatically poignant.

 

 

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