Alan Cooke has written a book. Let’s face it, it’s not his greatest achievement. After all, this is the man who as a youth served as a Royal Engineer, completed a tour in Cyprus and took a “stroll up the beach in Egypt” during the Suez Canal crisis. He also started the Hash House Harriers in Phuket, was instrumental in building Phuket’s Deep Sea Port and served as the British Honorary Consul in Phuket from 2001 to 2008. For the latter, his dedicated assistance provided to British nationals, especially during the 2004 tsunami and the disastrous crash of One-Two-Go Flight OG 269 at Phuket International Airport three years later, saw him awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) personally received from HM Queen Elizabeth II.
“Cookie”, as he is affectionately known on the island, has achieved much more than that, as his autobiography Our Man in Phuket details. At only 190 pages, his memoirs are not overly terse, nor boring. A self-confessed “contract-signing itinerant expat”, his work and travels have taken him all over the world – the Seychelles, Libya, Ghana, the Bahamas, Sumatra, Wales – with tales to be told from every stop.
At first glance, the long list of Alan’s achievements, it may appear that Our Man in Phuket is nothing more than an extensive resume. That Alan is nothing more than a career man, though an extraordinary one whose accomplishments are well worthy of recording in print. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the book provides a glimpse into who Alan Cooke really is. The book is testament to Alan’s boundless energy. Even his “retirement” in Phuket could not contain him to his “little” furniture store, Island Furniture. Alan found himself also called to help create the Phuket International Boat Show (PIMEX), acting as initial consultant to Gulu Lalvani in the construction of Royal Phuket Marina, and to lobby successfully in the abolition of some and the reduction of other boat import taxes and duties to Thailand.
His journey to Phuket has been a long one, starting with Alan, recently demobbed back to the UK at the age of 20, simply responding to an advertisement in the Evening Standard saying “Diver Wanted”. The rest, as they say, is history. His distinguished career in submarine construction has seen him work on the massive Dubai Dry Docks and even the Channel Tunnel. The portraits Alan paints of life in far-flung places lost in another era are vivid, from Libya before Muammar Gaddafi and still under the reign of King Idris to Dubai as a shamble of mud buildings to Ghana, still lost in post-colonial whimsy, complete with cricket.
Yet it is his exploits along the way, and the people Alan has met that people should read this book for, which lends itself greatly as to why Alan found himself inextricably drawn to the Hash House Harriers, the famed international “drinking club with a running problem”, of which he formed the Phuket chapter during his visit whilst building the island’s Deep Sea Port. Alan’s fondness for the Hash, and for cricket, are both well known, and made very clear in the book for those who are not familiar with him. And both will stand among his lasting legacies in Phuket, especially with the Alan Cooke Cricket Ground (ACG), serving as the home of Island Cricket League.
If anything is missing, from the pages, it is family. Alan in the early pages of the book admits he is a parent much like his own: children are loved, raised and sent free into the world to live lives of their own. This book is Alan’s tale, and not of his wife of 38 years or their children. For those with any doubt as to what Phuket has to offer, Alan, literally a man of the world, had this to say about his retiring here: “Had I made the right decision about Phuket? After a year the answer was a clear yes.”
Our Man in Phuket, published by Kris Books Co Ltd, is available at Island Furniture, the Alan Cooke Cricket Ground in Thalang and at select Sengho Books shops for B800, and on Amazon and Book Baby for Kindle, Nook, Apple and other readers for $9.99. For more information about the book, visit OurManInPhuket.com.