Admirable Artists, Creative Crafts

Foreign Languages

The man waiting for me tells the story of his life through the pictures on his body. He watches as I park the car in his driveway and greets me with a gruff g’day. I’ve driven from my work in a regional town through the Australian bush, and I arrive with a deep peace instilled by a drive amidst the tall eucalypts, through which the sun streams ethereally. When I turn off the engine the peace is complete, and I take it in for a couple of seconds before I step out of the car.

I dodge the puddles which are so plentiful they could have been artistically created as a feature of Nick Angelo’s driveway, approaching the more solid ground of the concrete slab in front of the shed which serves as his combined office and workspace.

I walk into a three metre squared shed, filled from floor to ceiling with impeccably-organised tubs and stack-a-drawers. Every inch of shelving contains something of use to this man’s job – and I recognise less than five of them. Leads of every width, ending in jacks of different colours and shapes, sit alongside single plugs. A couple of small meters sit with dormant needles within easy reach of his work desk, ready to measure something electronic when plugged in and switched on. I can’t stop looking at all the bits and bobs, simultaneously – discreetly – trying to interpret his tattoos and wondering what stories they tell.

Nick clears a space for my hi fi and places down the three parts which make up the system, alongside both metre-tall speakers. I don’t even know that one part of this system is called a tuner until he tells me. This is the input part through which every other part must go, he explains. I feel incredibly dumb as he starts talking: he’s using words I’ve never heard, to explain concepts I’ve never understood. I learn more in five minutes talking to this man with an entirely different skills set to mine, than I do in months of discussions with my colleagues.

As a teacher I am constantly intrigued by how people learn, especially (as a teacher of languages) where foreign vocabulary and other cultures are concerned. I feel like I’m in a foreign language environment now, in a foreign culture I have only glimpsed from the periphery. This rough dimaond, who may never have finished formal schooling and may have worked at manual labour in years gone past, is incidentally teaching me life knowledge: without intention he is increasing my understanding of this strange land of electronics in which I have found myself wandering.

It brings me infinite joy to see how different people navigate their lives, utilising vastly different skills with expertise. I’m thankful that we’re not all the same, that our global community is comprised of individuals with an infinite array of talent. I like to meet others from different walks of life, who have travelled alternative paths: it keeps life interesting.

Two short days after I left my hi fi in that little shed in the bush, I receive a phone call to tell me my record player was all fixed. To demonstrate its sound Nick holds his phone up to a vinyl of KISS blasting out of its speakers. While I don’t share his taste in music I cannot dispute the quality of the sound.

Financially poorer by a more-than-fair fee, I have earned specialised knowledge I lacked before I met this man who is infinitely skilled in ways I can only dream about.

I paid in currency but the real price was actually income for me: it was the dividend of my life-long learning, the gift that allows me to traverse this foreign land with more certainty and familiarity, next time.

I have my next load of electronic equipment in need of repair set aside and ready to go through the magic of the bush to Nick’s shed: the physically small space housing infinite knowledge and know-how.

Visit Central Vic Electronics here – and be impressed by Nick Angelo’s know-how:


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