Men's shed friends John and Chisal

John Ilsley, 79, and Chisal Perera, 66, met at a Men’s Shed in Strathmore three years ago. John took Chisal under his wing and the pair are now both making their own wooden models of the HMS Victory.

John:

Chisal joined our Men’s Shed not long after I started. When he first joined us, he was a bit of a loner, you know what I mean? So, I thought to myself, 'I'll help this guy out'. I virtually took him under my wing.

I'm very proud of Chisal and how he's come along. He's learnt a lot. I was an electro-plater by trade. I did that for 46 years. I took early retirement some 21 years ago. After I left work, there was a void because, in my working life, I used to have a camaraderie with the guys. We'd laugh and joke with the women as well. Three or four years ago, someone told me about the Men’s Shed, so I thought I'd give it a go.

I wasn’t much of a woodworker when I started, definitely not. The only woodwork I’d done was when I was at school, some 65 years ago. To tell you the truth, the guys here helped me develop my skills. Taught me how to use the machines and, importantly, the safety aspect of it as well.

Since I've been here, I've upped my skills, made quite a few projects. I started off making drink coasters, then I made a queen-size slat bed, then I made toy trucks and cranes and semi-trailers.

Currently, I'm working on a model of the HMS Victory. Last year, I toured England and I went down to Portsmouth and I saw the HMS Victory, and I thought to myself, 'That's a nice ship. I'll have a go at making it’. I mentioned it to three of the guys and they all said to me, ‘Well half your luck,’ and to me that was a challenge.

So I started making a prototype and learned a few things, then Chisal started making one so I was able to tell him, ‘Don’t do this, do it this way’, so my next one is going to be a lot better and

Chisal is able to learn from my mistakes.

Chisal and I have built up a very good friendship. I'd say I enjoy the camaraderie with the guys just as much as I do working on projects.

Chisal:

I came to Australia in 1983 from Sri Lanka. I joined Australia Post in 1985 and worked until 2010. I was a manager for customer service. When I retired I knew that I had to do something, and I learned from a friend that there's a place called a Men's Shed.

When I joined the Men's Shed, I didn't know how to use a drill. As John said, I was a little bit lost, isolated and lonely. He's the one who helped me to start doing things. I was scared of all the machines, so John was the one who said, 'Don't worry, just take it slowly,' and told me that the people who are working here, the supervisors, are very nice people, very experienced people.

From then, I started to build my own things. I made toys and now I’m making a model of the HMS Victory, learning from John.

John gives me a lot of good advice about Australian culture and life. It’s hard to have that understanding about this country without having a connection with people. He's a very good man.

I found this place is somewhere you feel like coming to at every opportunity you get. Sometimes you can't come because of other commitments, but it's very good. The guys here are first class, they are very helpful and I can’t speak highly enough of them.

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