Words to Share, Happy FM 90.1 23-11-21

A recording of the whole segment with Brian Matthews and host Jan Potter and poetry read in the session below and in an attached pdf

On Your Birthday

On your birthday I’d like to say

How much I love you

Your importance in my life

Your sharing, caring nature

A clarity of thought so rare.

In your presence I feel

Your authentic, boundless concern,

Helping ground me,

Mapping directions ahead

Soothing my dilapidated emotions.

Hard on yourself too often

Always there for those you love

Or, indeed, have befriended,

The thoughtful gestures and acts

Litter the ground around you.

Worthy of a lovely day

Laughter and memories shared

And made in the telling

All of life a story

With you my love and heroine

28/10/21

Remembrance Day

On this day I do remember

The millions of soldiers

And many millions more

Innocent children, women and men

Sacrificed on altars of greed and corruption.

While the fat cats recline

On their padded chairs,

Living in sumptuous surrounds

Feasting on the work of others

Supported by nationalistic fervour.

Brian Matthews, 11/11/21

The Barista

The young man stands

On his feet all day

Smiling at customers

Leaping into the fray.

What’ll it be sir/m’am?

The drink of your choice

Flat white, long black,

Or maybe a latte?

While he dreams

Of adventures he may have

Roaming the country

Building a business home grown.

Meeting a partner

To whom he can be true

Raising a family of his own

A house painted blue.

Times may change

But all will aspire

To build something of their own

A thing that lights their fire.

What will never change

Is that deep human spirit

The need that most have

To say ‘I can do it’.

Brian Matthews, 12/11/21

Sharing Words

The words we share

Everyday descriptions of life,

What’s happening around us.

Or revealing of emotions

The ways we feel,

Unburdening our minds.

So often these are lost

Ephemeral mites floating,

Drifting away on the breeze.

But then one appears

And nets these offerings

Recording that which’s said.

And others then read

Playing with them

Exploring their own minds.

And we all grow

As nuances are teased,

Different for each.

And revelations come

As connections are made

Feelings resonating endlessly.

Brian Matthews, 22/11/21

On the water

On the water again,

The gap so long

Revelling in wind in the face

Water splashing all around.

First came the rigging,

So rusty and slow,

The sailor out of practice,

Overcoming memory lapses.

Then a clumsy launch,

Grappling with ropes and tackle,

Hands slipping and unsure,

But soon the rhythm settles.

A race then starts,

Boats leaping forward

Rushing for the start line,

Heading for the first buoy.

Each jockeying for position

Gaps opening for some,

Others cursing a stray gust,

Or welcoming a surge forward.

Despairing when a mark missed,

Tacking desperately to recover,

A boat suddenly overturning,

The energy builds.

How invigorating this can be

Until time to head to shore,

Muscles so wearied

The soul renewed again.

Derigging a cheerful task,

Followed by loading boats

All helping each other with a laugh

A beverage and snack to seal the deal.

Brian Matthews, 22/1/21

Birthdays Continue

Each birthday is its own

At some surrounded by joy

At others less so.

Cycles around the sun

Cannot be slowed or stopped,

Come they always will.

Times to reflect and rejoice

To review and plan

Contemplate what’s ahead.

Sometimes with anticipation

At others with trepidation

Never sure of what will be.

Of one thing we can be sure

They will happen whatever

We will reap that we sow.

And benefits will come unbidden

Not without a cost, of course,

Consequences always flow.

Brian Matthews, 22/11/21

The day my world changed

A short piece written as the basis for a story in a 10×9 event timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the 9-11 events in the US. The event was cancelled due to lack of interest, unfortunately, so I share this here.

The Day My World Changed

Brian Matthews, 7/9/21

I remember the scene well, 50 years ago. Walking into my parent’s lounge room on a visit, Dad in his favourite reclining chair, reaching for a scrap of paper, asking if I’d ever thought about working in disability. The piece of paper handed over, a name and a phone number leading to a cascade of events.

Dad told the tale. Having a few beers in a pub across town, complaining to a well dressed fellow next to him about his concerns for his university drop-out son, no prospects, no skills, a good work ethic (instilled by him and Mum) but only labouring jobs in his future, and he was soon to marry. His sounding board listened patiently and then said “Well, I work in the administration of a new Centre built for people with disabilities and I know they are looking for nursing staff”, proceeded to write the details on a piece of paper then, of course, they talked of other things, probably football I should think.

I remember, after leaving, thinking about this option and wondering what it meant, discussing it with my fiancée who was as clueless as me, not knowing then how this would affect her as well. The phone call was made within a few days, an interview and psychological testing to follow and in early March 1972 (the 10th or the 14th, I can’t remember) I walked into a unit for people with multiple disabilities and events rolled on.

In short, I took to disability work like a duck to water and my, by then, wife soon followed me. Though we parted 25 years later, both she and I had long careers in the disability field. My career was lengthy and diverse, starting as a student ‘Mental Deficiency Nurse’, completing my nursing certificate, becoming fascinated by the newly developing intensive training methods, undertaking and completing an Honours Degree in Psychology at Flinders University where I was appalled to find so little disability and mental health content, working in Queensland developing disability services in regional areas, working in Autism in South Australia and developing services when the condition was poorly understood, then back to intellectual disability, returning to work in the Centre where I started my career but this time in a senior training role, lecturing and completing a PhD in Psychology at Flinders University, developing University level courses in Disability, Developmental Education and Mental Health, and ultimately heading up the Disability and Community Inclusion Unit before my retirement in early 2013.

While I could tell many tales about a lengthy career including setting up and running a cutting-edge disability service with my second wife before our retirement, it all came back to that day that changed my life. That conversation in a pub between my Dad and a stranger, those scribbled details on a scrap of paper that disappeared so long ago……

Poetry reading Happy FM 31-8-21

The Poems read in this ‘Words to Share’ segment

The Narrow Path

We all walk the narrow wire,

Do we live or do we die?

No answers appear

Until one fateful day.

It is the natural course

That we all know

But when the curtain closes

Regrets litter the ground.

What could have been said?

What could have been done?

Questions left unasked

Never to be answered.

Rejoice we must

In what the person gave

The love they shared

Their acts of kindness.

Put aside perceived faults

Things that might have been neglected

We all have one life

A journey not a race to achieve.

Listen to the tales of others

Of words and deeds unheard

Learn about the life

Parts to you formerly unknown.

Brian Mathews, 27/7/21

Excuses

We all do this

Make excuses for this

More excuses for that

Reasons why things weren’t done.

Knowing that, if important enough,

A thing would be done

But justifying our actions

Explaining away our oversights.

Life demands are always there

And this maintains our interest

Our need to do and be

Particularly for those we love.

That there must be priorities

We all understand

As with the guilt we feel

When important things are left undone.

But guilt needs to be

A trigger for action

Not a club wielded

In endless self flagellation.

If tasks are not completed

This helps us to decide

What is really important

And what is just a maybe.

This too speaks to others

Actions do talk louder than words

We show our feelings through our doings

Words are powerful but not enough.

Brian Matthews, 24/8/21

Blindsided

Blindsided once can be devastating

But twice in such a short time

Can leave a pool of despair.

We look for reasons

That don’t exist

As the story unfolds.

Lashing out at others

A common response

Leading to pain for all.

Using our mutual strengths

We can stand on the rocky road

And even carve a path ahead.

Supporting each other critical

Avoiding blame and detraction

The pettiness that lives in us all.

Embracing warmth and love

Demonstrating genuine concern

Creating a way to be in this new reality.

Brian Matthews, 23/8/21

The Presence

The touch, the presence

Social stroking so important

Words are important

But rarely enough.

We long to feel

The aura of another

Not always the physical

The vibrations satisfy.

The comfort of a shared activity

Words that may seem trite

The Earth not shaking

The comfort in each other.

Brian Matthews 13/8/21

We shared a bedroom

We shared a bedroom

Just him and me

A world in which we talked and played

And fought and plotted.

Down by the bridge over the railway

Sliding its slopes on rusty corrugated iron

Probably the odd asbestos sheet

Tadpoled in pools where poorly drained.

The old coal tower a dangerous magnet

Never talked of to parents

Climbing the ladders

Exploring abandoned, silted bins

So many adventures and memories

Into my adult years and now

Saying goodbye to him a slow process

In my heart he will always have residence.

Brian Matthews, 12/8/21

New Neighbours

A block of land bought

A simple step at first

Soon with trouble fraught.

As Covid soon hits

Building planning starts

But schedules are the pits.

Promises, promises they hear

Timelines gently extending

How did everything become so dear?

Time heals all, so they say

Inching forth until complete

And finally there comes the day.

All is finally in its place

Though massaging still needed

Just watch this space.

So welcome you both we will

To our friendly community

New neighbours, Disa and Bill.

Friends for many years past

Living just around the corner

In Normanville at last.

Brian Matthews, 11/8/21

We Shared a bedroom – part of my grief journey

We shared a bedroom
Just him and me
A world in which we talked and played
And fought and plotted.

Down by the bridge over the railway
Sliding its slopes on rusty corrugated iron
Probably the odd asbestos sheet
Tadpoled in pools where poorly drained.

The old coal tower a dangerous magnet
Never talked of to parents
Climbing the ladders
Exploring abandoned, silted bins

So many adventures and memories
Into my adult years and now
Saying goodbye to him a slow process
In my heart he will always have residence.

Brian Matthews, 12/8/21

Part of a longer sequence of my Vietnam tales from 5 years ago

Friday, 12th of August, 2016
There are many cave tours that can be undertaken from Dong Hoi, where we have been staying for the last few days. We reviewed these and decided on the tamest at Phong Nha. Many of the tours that are available require walking and climbing for many hours and, talking to the younger tourists we met, we decided to give these a miss. We were told that the ones at Phong Nha were were very impressive and involved a boat trip through caves, followed by a stroll at your own pace back to the entrance to the caves to then be picked up by the boat you had hired to make the initial trip.

While the boats take 14 passengers and the usual drill is to congregate at the ticket office until there are enough people, we decided to take one on our own. We have had enough of being packed into small spaces with other tourists and at 360,000 dhong (about $28 Australian) it seemed a small price to pay to choose where we sat and to go at our own pace. This provoked much hilarity from locals who exclaimed and pointed as our boat passed returning boats packed with other tourists. Many of the tourists, interestingly, were Vietnamese and it clearly made sense for them to minimise the cost, but there was the usual mix of young European backpackers, and people from a mix of other countries. Didn’t identify any other Aussies there today, which is not unusual; I can count on one hand the Aussies we have met on our travels here.

The boat trip to the caves took about 20 minutes and there was impressive, mountainous scenery surrounding the river/lake that took us there. Vietnam seems universally lush and beautiful without the obvious poverty of many other Asian countries. I think it was lucky that the Americans did not win the war as I am sure rampant capitalism would have created the underclass so prevalent in other free and democratic countries in this part of the world; I know, I’m an old bolshie but the evidence here seems to fit so well with my bias.

Once we came to the cave entrance we moved into something out of a dream. Impressive designs within the cave created patterns and shapes that were exciting and wondrous to behold. Lighting throughout the whole cave system highlights the stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over the eons as well as interesting quartz and other features that attract the attention of viewers of this rich visual stimulant. Of course, Babara and I were clicking away with our cameras unfettered by other viewers as we had planned. On reviewing my hundreds of photos I found almost none of the ones taken on the boat were useful – back to the manual (which I accidentally incinerated on our last trip to Bali, but that’s another story!). Barbara hasn’t reviewed hers yet and I am hopeful that she had more luck.

When you reach the point where it is too low for boats to continue you are taken back to a beach area about half way along the watery tunnel. To my surprise, this is where the fun really began. For almost an hour we wandered through easily navigable caverns that contained even richer visual excitement than what we had previously experienced. To say the cave system is huge is an understatement. There was no sense of confinement with a series of caverns, many of which were larger than a movie theatre. The roof towered above us and artful lighting highlighted the hues of the crystals in the rocks while huge, often squat, stalagmites towered above us. In places the walls looked as if they contained huge jelly fish with tendrils cascading down. In other places there were series of crystalline features that, with the lighting, created a range of colourful exhibitions of nature’s power to impress.

While the experience was originally a very pleasant one with cool air acting as a balm to the heat and humidity of the day, as we wandered it became apparent that this would not offset the sweat being generated and we became duly very damp. By the time we had reached the entrance of the cave where we were to be picked up, I was as wet as a hippopotamus in addition to being a comparable size. My camera battery gave up the ghost and Barbara’s followed suit a few minutes later. I have found, though, that ejecting the battery and reinserting it gives a little more life and so I continued to take a few shots until the end of our trip. A couple of ice creams at the stalls stationed at the pickup point were a welcome treat!

Back in the boat for our cruise to the start of the adventure, Barbara noticed that her bag had been rifled. There was a very young boy who was ‘helping’ his mother who had a look through her things and, fortunately, only helped himself to some delicious peanutty treats that we had bought from a stall prior to out trip. We had given him some on the way to the caves and, I guess, the temptation was just too much for him. A lesson for us as Babara’s little bag contained her iPhone and iPad mini, though I had the wallet, and the consequences could have been much worse. I don’t think his Mum knew what he had done, though, as he had been sitting on the boat while she waited for us closer to the exit point from the caves. We were a bit miffed at first, but laughed it off and shared the rest of the treats with him on the way home and gave his Mum a good tip (1/3 of the cost of the trip) as she had to paddle us around the caves by hand (the first part of the trip was powered – husband sat at the back doing the important work – but clearly the petrol fumes would have been dangerous in the caves as well as damaging the formations created by nature).

Once we returned to the starting point we decided to have a beer and rehydrate and, of course, the lady selling us the beer pressed us into buying a few t-shirts, and a range of treats for later on. It seems to us that the sellers in Vietnam are not as intense as in other Asian countries. One lady at the next stall complained loudly that we had bought nothing for her and demonstrated how mean we were by displaying her baby boy with a bandage on his head and bemoaning his fate, but this was trivial compared to the badgering we have received in Thailand and, particularly, Bali. It is interesting, though, that many of the other travellers we have talked to have complained loudly about the harassment at markets and tourist places but we have not experienced this in the places that we have visited and stayed so far. People have loudly encouraged us to buy their goods and sometimes we have, as my mounting pile of t-shirts attests (I just love the ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ one but just haven’t found one with the Vietnam flag in my size yet!). Mind you, none of the other tourists who have complained to us have ever been to Bali.

The trip back to our hotel in a modern airconditioned car driven by a responsible and careful young man who spoke no English but played pleasant music softly on his radio, was as pleasant as the drive to the caves. We opted out of a minibus option as we have previously experienced how 22 seater minibuses are often equipped with fold down seats between each row of seats leading to a capacity of about 30 and little room to move. It did lead to some interesting (and intimate) involvement with other passengers but we have decided to avoid these experiences in future wherever possible. We passed through lush mountainous countryside in valleys that were full of trees, pawpaw plantations, banana trees, rice paddies, the occasional buffalo wandering on the road and roadside stalls selling produce that seemed targetted more at locals than the tourist trade. The roads we travelled on were high quality and the volume of traffic more akin to those in Australia than my expectation of an Asian country. I marvelled, as I had often before, about how similar the kilometre markers were to small grave stones, an observation I had initially found to be a little ominous.

So, back in our hotel for the heat of the afternoon and a stint at reviewing photos taken, munching on treats purchased on our trip, and some time spent writing about our experiences (this time on my Pages App on my iPad so that I could use my wireless keyboard – I’m sure I’ll get Repetitive Strain Injury in my right thumb if I keep trying to document our travels on my iPhone)

Our Vietnam adventure continues…..