Women of Empire Exhibition 1914 – 1919 Canberra


As an occasional admirer of antique fashion, my interest was recently piqued by an advertisement for the Centenary of World War 1 Women of Empire Exhibition 1914 – 1919 in Canberra. This exhibition was in the National Film and Sound Archives of Australia. The pop-up exhibition has been traveling around Australia and New Zealand since 2015.

Now, I’m not usually that much of a purveyor of women’s vintage costumes but this exhibition was really interesting to me. It contained a number of original costumes from the era and the stories of around thirty Australian and New Zealand women affected by the great war. Many of the costumes were not original garments owned by the women but are authentic to what they probably wore at the time.

The Exhibition Curator, Fiona Baversock, has associated each costume with a beautiful summary of each woman’s experience of the war and their life afterwards. I have selected some examples from the exhibition with a short sentence about their significance.

Ella Tucker, who nursed wave after wave of casualties from Anzac Cove on a Hospital Ship off the coast.


Marion Elizabeth Leane Smith, the only Australian nurse with Aboriginal heritage to have served in World War I.


Elizabeth Anne Lassetter: a survivor from the sinking of the ship, Lusitania, which was torpedoed by a German submarine.


Street wear similar to that worn by the author, Miles Franklin, while door knocking publishers in London.


The entertainer to many troops, Florrie Forde. This exhibit contained her original, jeweled cane and ostrich feather fan too.


Founding President of Kennington Branch of Red Cross and organiser of wartime fund raisers, Eliza Jean Lansell.


Women’s Peace Army founder and suffragette, Vida Goldstein.


The philanthropist, Hilda Temple Williams, who helped establish soldier’s club in England for New Zealand soldiers.


In addition to these vintage costumes, there were also small display sections that contained letters and sewn mementos from the period.

Despite one or two areas that were not lit well, the exhibition was certainly interesting and revealed a lot about the women and their lives. The quality and condition of the garments were outstanding.

I believe the pop-up exhibition continues to travel to various destinations until 2019. If you get the chance to see it, go!


Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum: Home of the Somerville Collection


Sometimes, when you’re driving through the country, you come across some really fascinating attractions. On a recent trip, I stopped off in Bathurst for a visit. While exploring the city centre, I came across the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum.

Housed in the historic 1876 Bathurst Public School, the museum contains some 2000 minerals and fossils collected by Warren Somerville AM over a 50-year period. In 2000, Professor Somerville gifted part of his extensive collection to the museum in Bathurst for display to the Australian public.

After paying the admission fee, I moved through the first introductory section. This section outlined how rocks and minerals form and also contained examples of how minerals form their particular crystal shapes. The next few sections contained different mineral types and minerals from different mine locations in Australia and around the world.

Here is a selection that I found particularly interesting.

Huge (size of your hand) calcite crystals from China.


Blue fluorite crystals from China.


Apatite with quartz, siderite and chalcopyrite from Portugal.


Sulphur crystals from Italy.


Crocoite from Tasmania.


Minerals from various mine locations in Australia.


Minerals from the Tsumeb mine in Namibia.


After viewing this fantastic collection of minerals, I moved into the fossil gallery. The most dominant feature in the room of course, was the HUGE fossil cast of a Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur skeleton. I had to use the panoramic photograph feature on my iPhone to capture an image of the whole skeleton.


The fossil gallery also contains examples from all the relevant geological periods.

The extinct arthropod, Trilobite (distant relative of horshoe crab).


A skeleton of a Nothosaurus – a type of reptile.


A fossiled fish from 50 million years ago.


A sabre-tooth Tiger skull.



And, if you’re a child and that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite. There are some hands-on interactive displays to make it really interesting.

In one display, they had molds of a fossiled horshoe crab that you could rub graphite over a piece of paper to creature your own picture.


Here’s my little effort!


It took me about 2 hours to briefly look through the entire museum from start to finish. Afterwards, I headed back to the entrance that also contains a gift shop with all sorts of paraphernalia. Having taken a shine to the trilobites, I purchased this 535 million year old specimen!


If you get a chance to visit Bathurst, make sure you visit this place – it’s awesome. It is both informative and interesting for both adults and children alike.


Posing as a model for a life drawing class: Figure-It-In Life Drawing Sketch Club


In my early twenties, I occasionally did modelling at the local art school to help fund my university studies. Oh, it seems like so long ago now!

A couple of years ago, an acquaintance of mine told me about local art groups that needed models from time to time. So, I followed up on the prompt and contacted some of these groups; one of which is the Figure-It-In Life Drawing Sketch Club in the Civic Pub.

The club runs from the Whiskey Room upstairs on Monday nights. Various artists gather to sketch their model while listening to cool music. During the break, artists can grab great food and beverages from the bar downstairs.

I arrive early and nervously disrobed in preparation for my three hour stint. Despite having modeled for numerous art classes, I still get nervous. It’s just that I want to make the poses work for the artists and inspire them!

My routine started with ten minutes of thirty-second poses as a warm-up. I used a mixture of yoga and stretch poses to limber up for the night. Then, I launched into: ten one-minute poses followed by two-minute and then five minute poses. These allow the artists to generally start to work out the lines and proportions of the model in the setting. Here are examples from two of the artists:



It was at this point, I was well and truly sweating for the art. Fortunately, the host recognised my heated composure and turned the heating down a degree or two for my comfort.

After this section, I commenced ten-minute poses and started using my broom stick prop. Some models like to use props to provide the artists with different perspectives and line. A few artists captured this section of the posing, as follows:

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We then took a break before commencing fifteen-minute and thirty-minute poses. I really like these the best. Generally, I go into a zen-like meditation and practice mindfulness exercises – this is despite being somewhat uncomfortable at times. Posing for long periods does take it’s toll on you physically.




The best thing that I like about modelling for artists, is that it’s all about me in the raw and being a part of the artistic process. If you ever get the chance to try it, have a go! Apart from a little pocket money and feeling sore the next day, you also get to meet some really interesting people along the way.

Of course, my dream is to be a muse for a famous artist like Picasso. Wouldn’t that be fabulous?

Joining the gym: my first two weeks

Active Leisure Centre Gym

Recently, I went in search of a health facility that might cater for my varied physical activity needs. I did a bit of online searching in an attempt to identify somewhere that was reasonably priced, close to my home and didn’t involve me signing into a lock-down contract for a year.

In the end, I settled for the Active Leisure Centre in Erindale. It has a 25-metre swimming pool, gym, group gym training areas and training halls for indoor sports.

Active Leisure Centre Pool

I called the memberships officer, to ask about pricing options. The officer showed me around the facilities and explained that the majority of their clientele were not bodybuilders. Perfect, I thought to myself! There is nothing more intimidating than going to a gym facility where you feel, well, below-average.

At the time of asking, I settled on their Health and Wellness promotional package at $18.50 per fortnight by direct debit. If the ‘culture’ of the facility doesn’t feel right for me, then I can opt-out with two weeks notice – no problem!

The package came with three complimentary personal training sessions. I just had to use the complimentary sessions within the first month.

I made an appointment with my new personal trainer, Sarah Lawrence. During the first session, Sarah asked me what my goals were and then she took some measurements of my chest, waist, arms and thighs.

My goal is to increase my strength and fitness so that I could maybe “be a fitness model for middle-aged men.” I was hoping to raise a chuckle from Sarah but she was ever so polite. Then Sarah took some photos of me to compare at a later date.

Day 1 My first personal training consultation

We discussed an eight-week plan and I purchased an additional six-pack of once-a-week personal training sessions to kick things off.

After a few days, I met Sarah again who walked me through the exercise program that she had drafted. We went through technique and how to use the equipment; then how to check off the exercises I had undertaken on my sheet. I did a workout on my own a few days later which really physically challenged me but in a good way.

I also took a Body Balance group gym class in the interim. The class is a mixture of yoga, pilates and Tai Chi but to music. I’m not sure if I’m a total fan of this class, yet! Generally, I like to ‘settle-in’ to my yoga poses and this class was a little more action with flow.

On the second week, I met up with Sarah again for my next personal training session: 1RM testing. The 1RM stands for “one-repetition maximum” or the heaviest weight you can lift once with maximum effort. Sarah explained to me that this testing is to measure my strength now and compare it in another two months time to determine how well my training has worked. The two exercises we did on this testing were squats and bench press.


Here’s a photo of Sarah having a great time loading up a plate for the barbell on the bench press apparatus.


Although, there weren’t a lot of plates on the bench, I was struggling a little – especially with my left arm which requires some development.


After my 1RM testing, I then did a fitness test. This meant doing three sets (20 repetitions, then 16 and finally 10) of four exercises with a light run in between each set, while recording the time to do it! This really blew me out physically and I’m looking forward to hopping back into training to have a bit more zest, next time I do the test.

So far, the experience has been very rewarding as it is challenging me in a good way. Even though I’m a lot older than when I went to gyms in my twenties, maybe my body can richly reward me both physically and mentally.

In a short time, I will post some updates to let you know how I’m going.

Canberra Nara Candle Festival 2017


The Canberra Nara Candle Festival celebrates the sister city relationship between Canberra and Nara, Japan. Since 2003, it has been held annually within Canberra Nara Peace Park and Lennox Gardens adjacent to Lake Burley Griffin. Based upon a similar annual festival in Nara, the festival highlights many aspects of Japanese culture that interest Australians.

I arrived at the Canberra Nara Candle Festival just before 7pm, about a half hour before sunset. The festivities had already been in full swing for three hours. Unfortunately, I had already missed a number of interesting activities like the Iaido demonstration. No matter, I was there for the bright lights and candles anyway! This is how the 2000 candles looked, prior to lighting.


The first stall I went to was the Embassy of Japan for the calligraphy. There was quite a line of people waiting to have their name written is Japanese. Here’s mine:


After strolling around a number of other stalls, I went in search of food. The lines of people queuing was horrendous. One stall, Donburi Station, had a line about 40 metres long for some time. I settled on chicken Yakisoba ($10 for plate) from a stall that was raising money for orphans from the tsunami that Japan experienced a few years ago. The meal also included pickled ginger and raw seaweed as condiments – delicious!


After securing an after-dinner coffee, I settled in to watch a number of musicians on the main stage. The highlight of the night, as far as performances went though, was Wadaiko Rindo. Wadaiko Rindo are a taiko drumming group. The enthusiasm that the group generated while hammering out a number of highly energetic songs was really infectious.


I had headed over to the lit candles on a number of occasions during the evening, which many people were also enjoying. The coloured lighting in the trees further added to the enjoyable spectacle. I’ll certainly try to make it again to next year’s festival.




Welcome! And, thank you for stopping by.

My name is Karl Skewes. I live in Canberra, Australia. The reason for starting this blog is to connect with others and share my thoughts on lifestyle, health, men’s fashion, physical activity and life in general.

I am a 55 year old dreamer and family man with adult children, who is seeking new directions in life. Professionally, I am a biochemist who has worked in a variety of public health settings. During my last job, I spent 17-years working for a medicines regulatory authority. Currently, I am on a career break to explore new directions in my future working life.

My intellectual and artistic interests are diverse and I also enjoy swimming, practicing karate, going to the gym and learning yoga and mindfulness exercises. This is my first blog that I have created or written. I look forward to your comments and how we all collectively might make our world a better place.