Planning my passions and the year of firsts

… or why choosing a diary is the most important decision I make each year.

People don’t usually get gushy about their diary, however mine has always been very important to me, and selecting my partner in crime each year is a case for careful consideration. I hold my potential suitor in my hands, imagining my year panning out and vacillate about what colour to get.  Last year I found out for the first time what choosing the wrong one feels like, and it strengthened my resolve to not let that happen again!

The other diary

I went out on a limb in 2017, leaving aside my usual Moleskine to buy a small, but chunky peppermint-green leather-bound diary from Kikki-K, because I thought it looked cute. My new crush. Well, the branch broke. Not only did the weeks not ‘run’ the way my usual Moleskins had (resulting in me messing up ticket bookings for Saul at the Adelaide Festival), but I also couldn’t see to write in it without my glasses.  This partner was cute but it sent me confusing messages.

The weekly quotes would’ve been great, but I didn’t even realise they were there until half-way through the year because they were so tiny I couldn’t read them. This little book completely discombobulated me! I could even go so far as to say, it stuffed up 2017 good and proper (well, it’s a good excuse).  What amazed me was that I stuck with it, being the loyal diarist I am, and limped on with a substandard item for the whole year, not even considering separation, divorce or even an affair with a more inspiring squeeze.

My soulmate

So when a discussion on a Facebook group began in earnest amongst business-minded misfits centring around people’s choice of non-digital planning tools, I pricked up my eyes. One little gem that was mentioned and seconded by many on the thread was a Passion Planner. Users sounded delighted with their significant other. I googled, watched YouTubes, downloaded the templates, tested them out, and purchased one that day!

Organising time is one of those things that is crucial for someone like me with days of unstructured time stretching before me like a magic carpet.  It is easy to get carried off to some crevice of the internet and get stuck down there for hours, so any tool that assists one to keep on track is really important.  A central place to keep all of one’s intentions, personal and business, is key. Like a friend who constantly asks you about your latest pet project, I am finding that a Passion Planner is really keeping me honest.  I haven’t been able to stop raving about this little bible since I received it in the new year, and two friends have already gone ahead and bought one after they’d seen mine.

When I’ve told people about my new flame, they’ve told me it seems a little like a bullet journal – the first time I’d heard of one of those was at a Melbourne Writers Week Moleskin Coffee and Create session in 2017. Madeleine Dore of Extraordinary Routines hosted Sam van Zweden and Karen Andrews to discuss their creative routines. Even after that conversation I was none the wiser about a bullet journal, and besides, I think I’ve found my perfect match, so I’m not too sure I’d even want to contemplate another.  I’m sure though that their conversation left me ripe for a change of heart from my little peppermint brick to my light blue dreamweaver!

How do you use a Passion Planner?

Well, the premise is: writing down one’s goals is the first step to achieving them. You begin by setting out your Passion Roadmap – your wish-list for today, 3 months, one year, 3 years and lifetime goals. Then you create from this a passion plan and then insert these steps into your monthly and weekly openings.

Each month, there is an opening for the month-long planner. There are boxes allocated  to define the month’s focus, the people you want to see, the places to go and the most important thing for me so far – the ‘Not to do list’. Also there are personal and work project spaces in addition to the month-long planner. Finally there is a space for a mind-map of this month’s game-changer. I’m using this space to use some cute little ship stickers I bought in France. They symbolise 2018 – full steam ahead!

Monthly Planning

Passion Planner Monthly Opening

Heading into the weekly openings, once again you can choose a focus, fill in Personal and Work ‘to do’ lists,  let your creative drawing run wild in the Space of Infinite Possibility and progressively list the good things that happen. An extra bonus is the inspirational quote for the week plus a little activity to do based on the quote.  Mine last week was Maya Angelou’s, just when I needed to hear it!!

“When someone shows you who they are believe them the first time”.

If this isn’t amazing enough, each day’s column is headed by a box for the day’s focus, and then proceeds in half hour increments from 6am – 10.30pm. And this goes every day. For freelancers like myself, this is vital.  A diary that only considers you work on weekdays is like a boyfriend who gets grumpy when you catch up with your girlfriends – problematic and it cramps your style! And while on the topic of girlfriends, I have noticed a new and helpful capacity for tracking my monthly catch-ups and social outings. I have been grateful for the way this diary is showing me what wonderful women I know and what a rich social life I have – all through the process of listing good things and taking stock of each week. A Passion Planner is much nicer company than a grumpy boyfriend.

Weekly Planner

Passion Planner Weekly Opening

There is lots of space to give your Passion Planner your own special creative touch. A friend looked on Etsy for stickers she could use, but instead of buying the stickers, she copied the little icons, and it looks just the same, giving her pages an arty/graphic designer kind of feel. You can get lots of wonderful ideas on YouTube from expert and passionate planners who go to town with Japanese washi tape, fluoro markers, stamps, stickers etc. There are so many ideas for tracking new habits, lists, holiday planning etc. And one of the things that tells me I’ve got my mojo back, is that I’ve re-discovered my penchant for decorating my planner with cute or pertinent cut-outs from magazines – something I began doing in the 1990s!  So here are some of my pages to give you an idea.

Once you’ve had your month, there is an opening devoted to your Monthly Reflection. You look back and note the most memorable aspects, biggest lessons, how you are different this month to last and what you’re grateful for. You take stock of your priorities, and note the things you want to improve and the concrete steps you’ll take to get there during the coming month.

Monthly Reflection

Passion Planner Monthly Reflection

Then once you get past the diary itself, you’re into 20 blank pages followed by 23 pages of graph paper.  There are no maps, no holiday calendars, no world holidays, no international dialling lists, no international paper sizes, no conversion tables, no weights and measures table, no Staff Leave charts (who has staff???), within cooee of this little gem of a book.  Nothing exists in this diary/journal that you don’t either need, or design yourself.

I have been using blank pages to write lists – 2018 Books I’ve read, 2018 Books I want to read, Things to Remember about 2017 etc.  The whole reason for writing this post though, was to celebrate one of my pages – Year of Firsts. There have only been six weeks so far, but I have delivered a Webinar, began aqua-aerobics and presented at an outside broadcast on radio for 3MBS Bach Marathon at the Melbourne Recital Centre.  What a great way to celebrate my passionate firsts.

Other benefits

Another useful tip the planner suggests is to share your passions. Find that in-real-life friend who will keep you honest about your goals and tasks for the week.  This has been a great source of inspiration, motivation and solidarity. We talk by phone once a week for much longer than our allocated 20 minutes, but that’s the nature of good, supportive friendships, isn’t it!

Drawbacks

Just to keep it real, there is one drawback for me. Just as your steady, sweetie pie or darling might have a few things you’d like to improve, the Passion Planner is no exception. Although, unlike the real version, this little dreamboat has only one. I’d love it to have the beautiful cream-coloured pages of my ex, the Moleskin. But I’m willing to compromise, as is important in any ongoing relationship.

What version of diary is your beloved for 2018?

PS: I haven’t been given anything by Passion Planner for spruiking how great they are … YET! If anyone wants to purchase one, if you mention you heard about it from me, I might get a free one next year. Just saying.

Woman with Altitude or, I am woman hear me draw

For years and years, I have kept a box of cards and letters that I have received from my friend Helen.  The cards began before the letters: birthdays, Christmas and just ‘cos exchanges, that morphed into longer letters when Helen got her first job in the country, 400kms from Adelaide.

They tell of a time where we were both testing our ideas, becoming adults with opinions, sharing jokes and quotes, extending and showing off our vocabularies, and of course revealing the inevitable love stories.  Here I’d found a friend that ‘got me’ and while I missed her not being in Adelaide, our friendship via correspondence was always a source of great joy and continues, albeit less frequently, until today.

One of the cards we exchanged (I can’t remember whether I gave it to her, or she to me or whether I’m making it up completely) was by Judy Horacek, Woman with Altitude.  Judy’s work was always appealing – it charted our conversations, the personal and the political.  It acknowledged the inequalities women faced, with sometimes a not-so-gentle, cheeky, raised middle finger to patriarchy.

In the intervening years Judy has also been skilfully creating art for children’s books and worked with Mem Fox (coincidentally Helen’s university lecturer, and mother of Chloë, whom I sat next to in Year 9) on her books Where is the Green Sheep, This and That and Ducks Away.

This history all came together one chilly day in 2017 when I decided to visit Judy Horacek’s exhibit in the Melbourne Rare Book Week.

One of the welcome additions to the week-long rare-book fest is the celebration of art in books. Mini exhibitions have been hosted by the Melbourne Athenaeum Library (worth a visit if you’ve never been there).

So it was a serendipitous moment when I pushed through the wooden framed, glass doors of the old reading room, and walked up to a spritely woman who greeted me enthusiastically,

“Hello, I’m Judy”

“THE Judy”

“Yes!”

So we had a writerly exchange and she did as all authorpreneurial authors should – encouraged me to buy her book, Random Life.  How could I resist with all that history, an autograph and a very poignant foreword by John Clarke? Actually I couldn’t and I bought a couple.

The exhibit was small, consisting of a few limited edition prints and two displays in glass cabinets, of books and ephemera, but I was on top of the world, so size didn’t matter.

Look out for the 2018 instalment of the free Melbourne Rare Book Week – one never knows who one will meet!

 

New releases on plane journeys

Don’t new releases on airplane journeys make you feel like you’re getting something for free?  I think so.

It was a while ago now, but on my last long-haul flights, I made the most of the in-flight entertainment, even though I’d promised myself I wouldn’t. It does help to pass a good 6-8 hours easily.  Maybe I feel encouraged to write these, as I’m on the threshold of booking some more.

Woman in Gold (2015) Simon Curtis

A steeled Jewish refugee takes on the Austrian government to seek the return of Gustav Klimt’s painting, Woman in Gold, a portrait of her aunt.  I noted the words, “Reservoirs of affection”.  I was struck by the way all evidence of the ‘gifting’ of the painting was manufactured to cover up that it was stolen. In a way this made the people disappear, with the art.  Do the good things of life fall into people’s laps?  Or do they make them happen, “If the good things don’t come on their own I must make them, and that’s what I intend to do”.

Randol Schoenberg: It’s hard to believe Hitler once applied to be an art student here. Maria Altmann: I wish they’d have accepted him.

While we’re young (2015) Noah Baumbach

What a clever man Noah Baumbach is. Bookended by David Bowie’s, Golden Years, which subliminally beckons ‘angel’, this film is about a couple in the midst of an angsty ‘do we want children’ phase, premised on some dialogue from Ibsen’s play, The Master Builder.

What happens when someone is knocking on the door to our life, and we’re not letting them in alla the Wings song, Let ’em in?  What does living without children mean?  Where do the lines get drawn in with the advent of  ‘reality’ everything. Noah weaves music, theatre, pop-culture and generation gaps together into a rich brocade.

Ben Stiller is not my favourite actor, but in this movie he’s great as the slightly washed-up film-maker, and although the story centres around two sets of couples, the female characters, Cornelia (Naomi Watts) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) seem to take a back-seat.  The script made fun of the generation gap, containing some great one liners “he saw me on EBay”, “my dad like to say, the more, the more”, and “he’s not evil, he’s just young”.

“I tell you the younger generation will one day come and thunder at my door! They will break in upon me!” says the Master Builder. To which he receives the reply, “Then… open the door.”

Cinderella (2015) Kenneth Branagh

With a fairy-tale trip to Europe, why not watch Cinderella.  Maybe it was just the state of mind I was in, but I saw more in this story than I had before, a child who loses from the result of a new blended family, only wishing to be truly seen, and ending up being ‘found’ by a handsome and wealthy prince. I suppose this is the continuing purpose of story, to reinforce some kind of fairy-tale ending.

But it felt different to that for me.  It had some more depth, “I hope they treat you well – as well as they are able,” being an acknowledgement that some people just don’t have it in them to treat others well. “Don’t lose heart”, and “not look outside our borders – look within to find courage and kindness”.  Aided by shape-shifting animals, Cinderella doesn’t lose heart and gains wisdom. To me it was saying the greatest risk any of us will ever take is to be seen as we truly are. Cinderella’s mother seemed to be on the money,
“I have to tell you a secret that will see you through all the trials that life can offer. Have courage and be kind.”

Wonderful actors, Cate Blanchett, Derek Jacobi, Rob Brydon and Helena Bonham Carter.

2nd Best Marigold Hotel (2015) John Madden

I’m really far too young to be enjoying films about septuagenarians retiring to India, especially sequels, but maybe it is my enduring connection to the east established as a child.  Or maybe it is just that the attitude of the characters Judi Dench and Maggie Smith play is so useful.  Women of this age are over all the rubbish, comfortable in their own skin and are happy just telling it like it is. When does one really get comfortable with that? “I don’t do advice, I do opinions.”

Maybe it is also the wisdom contained in films like these,  “You have no idea now what you will become, don’t try and control it. Let go. That’s when the fun starts. Because as I once heard someone say “There’s no present like the time”” and “Sometimes it seems to me that the difference between what we want and what we fear is the width of an eyelash.” and “Coincidence is just a word for when we cannot see the bigger picture.”

Add in Billy Nighy and Celia Imrie and really it is such a fun film, “That’s a great accent, are you from Australia?”

“There is no such thing as an ending, just a place where you leave the story.”

Chronology of story-telling: Fencer, Arrival, Rosalie and La La Land

Christmas 2016

It must be the holiday season. I’ve seen four films in the last couple of weeks. It seems the themes are the extensive use of flashbacks/chronology as a technique and the contrast of masculine and feminine energy and intent.

Rosalie Blum, Julien Rappeneau (2015)

I think I see French films because I keep needing things to remind me of or pull me towards France.  I love finding the familiar in French films. In Midnight in Paris, I smiled realising I’d eaten in the Polidor restaurant and in the Scarlet Pimpernel the vision of Mont Saint Michel sent a tentacle in the 1980s that only pulled me to visit 30 years later.

In Rosalie Blum, the setting seemed familiar and was confirmed by the tiny red and white balisage on the tree outside Rosalie’s house. I was dragged back to the landscape of my first Camino outing on the Vezelay Route. The bridges of Charite-sur-Loire and Nevers brought back those familiar French tourist feelings. Familiar also was the Nakshi Katha tapestry in the young woman’s bedroom – but this took me back to Bangladesh.

This film deals with family issues – mothers and absent fathers. They’re complicated, and they are a problem that doesn’t get solved.  I’m not going to say a thing about the plot, because it unfolds perfectly and if you know anything about it, the effect will be spoilt. What I can say is that like many films I’ve seen from this part of the world, there is a delightful interplay between generations and a cheeky, tricky little mystery that slowly gets explained. The wonderful charm of a French film, unravelling and revealling itself slowly, leaves ends that are not neatly tied.  This is life isn’t it! And the French get it.

Arrival, Denis Villeneuve (2016)

This clever film in the ilk of the Alien series, deals with the shock and terror of visitors from outer space and the global response to them.  Playing extensively with chronology in plot and setting, this film brought to focus the differing energies that can be brought to bear on common problems.  The ‘macho shoot-em up’ leading to crisis, while the patient and curious feminine communicating/reasoning towards understanding.  Ultimately it lays bare the only way forward for the human race: together.  Too much more explanation would give the film away. Great performances from Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. This one’s well worth seeing.

The Fencer, Klaus Härö (2015)

Fencing has always held some mystique for me.  This was expertly developed in Arturo Perez Reverte’s, The Fencing Master, and it has been beautifully showcased in The Fencer. In line with the chronology theme of these movies, the history of the main character unfolds in this film and along with it touches on the uneasiness of hiding and the need to find purpose in the limbo of hiding out. The realities are brutal in this small community where a teacher, finding everything being stacked against him, one item of sporting equipment at a time, uses his one enduring skill to engage with the young girls and boys of the school.  The dull but total threat of a totalitarian regime on a small communities that want the best for their children becomes clearer as the fencer gallantly provides the ultimate opportunity for his young but devoted pupils.  It is a beautiful, yet sparse film which despite the frosty setting, is imbued with great warmth and depth of character of the fencer, his students and their parents. Not lost on me was the juxtaposition of the nimble-footed chivalry of fencing with the lead-weighted power play of post WWII Europe.

La La Land, Damien Chazelle (2016)

A romantic, modern day equivalent of a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie – casting Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone to tell the age-old story of falling in love and following your passion.  Surprisingly, it was a musical, something I hadn’t realised before the first song, and as it often does with surprise musicals, I was a little taken aback. I should’ve known with the opening credits taking place with a massed highway (carpark) scene with hundreds of dancers.

With allusions to a Hollywood film of yester-year, with modest dress and good manners, it kept with the storyline of an actress struggling with resilience in the face of rejection and a traditionalist-jazz musician not wanting to let jazz die. Not surprisingly, it didn’t reach the Astaire/Rogers heights.

With a tinge of Sliding Doors, and once again messing with chronology, this musical film proved a spectacle which defies categorising. After John Legend appeared, I wondered if he’d written the score, but no.

It is a feel-good film (ie. take it or leave it) about the importance of never giving up on your dream, but also the reassuring support that your champions give you while you’re still aspiring.  It reminded me of the quote “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and will sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.” C.S. Lewis

 

84 Charing Cross Road – Melbourne Rare Book Week approaches

84 Charing Cross Road, David Jones (1987)

Going back in time, this classic, multi-BAFTA award-winning film, based on a true story, reminds us that sending parcels half way around the globe was not invented by the age of online-shopping. It is about loving old books and the people who sell and collect them.

Being unable to find rare and collectible books in New York, a sassy Helene Hanff (Anne Bancroft), writes letters all the way to Marks & Co bookshop in London where Frank Doel (Anthony Hopkins) and his fellow staff work.  Their correspondence ranges widely about books but also progresses to gifts for the manager and his colleagues.  Not only are the great and rare gems of literature noted and discussed, but the story takes one through the realities of post-WW2 London where food such as eggs were rarer than old books. Judy Dench makes brief appearances as Frank’s wife, Nora. In a poignant twist, despite communicating from 1949 – 1976, the book lovers never met, Helene only visiting the closed shop in 1971. And what is a classic film without classical music?  Rach 2 and Handel’s Messiah provide a fitting background. This is the total package.

This is a fitting review to introduce Melbourne’s Rare Book Week. I went along to several sessions in 2016, and can highly recommend it. The week culminates in the ANZAAB Melbourne Rare Book Fair, now in its sixth year.  If you enjoy walking amongst limited edition prints, leather bound books and antiquities of the paper variety, you’ll be in book-nerd heaven here. And its ALL FREE!

Melbourne Rare Book Week 30th June – 9th July PROGRAM

45th ANZAAB Australian Antiquarian Book Fair (Melbourne Rare Book Fair) – 7th – 9th July at University of Melbourne’s Wilson Hall.

The. A. Margot. School. A.

February 4th, 2015 – I keep finding more of the reviews I’ve posted to Facebook – yes this is TWO YEARS OLD now.

OK, so next in the epic list of (good) films … the rag rug grows by the digital minute!

Thanks to everyone who mentioned Mads Mikkelsen. I don’t have a TV, so of course I’m completely oblivious to the presence of this man on screen as psychopath, however I took up people’s recommendations and this is what I’ve been watching. Mads is my new favourite actor – bad luck Johnny Depp!

The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg (2012).
I’m not so sure I could watch Mads in gruesome things, but his portrayal of this character was so moving and believable. As the rating sticker says this film certainly has ‘strong themes’. A school teacher fighting for custody of his son, is accused of the sexual abuse of a young girl. The film is about his struggle to prove his innocence. Top film, if ever so tragic.

A Royal Affair, Nikolaj Arcel (2012).
Shakespeare: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” Hamlet (1601). When too much Mads is barely enough! He is so good in this, and this one really tickled my fancy for history of the period and challenges to the grip on power of the church. What an amazing history Denmark has had – Shakespeare was well ahead of his time – 150 odd years or history really does repeat! Beautiful period piece that reminded me of Dangerous Liaisons.

Margot at the Wedding, Noah Baumbach (2007).
I can’t remember why this was recommended, but it paired really well with Jack Black in School of Rock, which apparently I needed to watch because I play the, ‘well, cellooooo’! This film is icky in a proper Noah Baumbach way and was a Nicole Kidman film I didn’t mind (I normally can’t stand her acting – but this role she played extremely well). Margot (Nicole) is annoyingly smug and crazy when she turns up at her sister’s place. Betrothed Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Malcolm (Jack Black) get completely thrown by Margot’s presence and everything that was going to be slowly falls apart. A bit of a strange ending, but there you have it. Thanks again Noah!

School of Rock, Richard Linklater (2003).
What can one say? Hilarious in a pathetic kind of way. Classic Jack Black. From the crowd-surfing into nothing to the Principal chatting up the rock musicians at the end.  I’d seen my “well celloooooo” quote quite early on. The comment rivals “couldn’t you choose a smaller instrument to play” in my experience when introducing myself as a cellist. I wasn’t going to watch the rest, but hey, there was rag rug to finish, and I didn’t feel like watching a subtitled film (takes my eyes off the weaving).

Un homme et une femme: A Man and a Woman, Claude Lelouch (1966)
And a French film with subtitles to finish off. It is quite hard to believe that this film is one year off 50 years old.   What a classic French film. What amazingly well-adjusted boarding school children. What is it about train scenes in France? That’s all. There is not much to say – it’s a French film, I’m in heaven automatically. Apparently Anouk Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant re-united for A Man and a Woman: 20 Years Later in 1986. Another one for the film list.

The beginning of a ‘Big Year’ at Bool Lagoon

After 25 years driving the picturesque Mount Gambier to Adelaide road, and seeing the familiar brown Bool Lagoon sign just shy of Naracoorte, today I decided to turn off the road and see what it was all about. It was reportedly flush with birds after the past overly-wet six months, so I was hopeful of some good bird watching. Maybe it will be the beginning of my very first Big Year (2011, David Frankel).

As soon as you turn off the main highway, you start to see them.  Smaller break-away flocks flying in formation to and from the lagoon.  I’d borrowed the car from my aunt and uncle – they have a pass for all National Parks in Australia – handy! The CD skipped over to Vaughan Williams, The Lark Ascending. Not so sure I’ll see so many of them though.

The reserve is set firmly within a farming and wine-growing community, however I was still surprised to see a herd of cattle all over the road, being shepherded by their owner on quad-bike, just as I was going to turn in.

The stone wall announced Bool Lagoon Game Reserve, because yes, birds are still hunted here (although the duck and quail hunts had been restricted by the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources during the 2016 season). The announcement was made by Minister Hunter. Ironic.

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All manner of winged creatures greet you as you drive around at tortoise pace. It didn’t really feel right to even get close to the 40km speed limit, so I suspect I’m more a watcher than a twitcher or a chaser. Up close it’s dragonflies. Along the side of the small bitumen road, it is baby magpies, still finding their feet and wings.  Out in the lagoon, it is the black swans with their little broods trailing behind them and up in the air it is the large ibis and geese, writing their hieroglyph messages in formation to all who will watch.

I would like to have walked out across the lagoon on the board walk, but unfortunately it sits in disrepair. This is a bit of a tragedy, when it would be great to get out there amongst it – apparently it has been out of action for some time now.

Don’t forget to keep your eyes down too, as signs warn that the frogs and turtles also cross the roads.

Many of the birds that come to this lagoon are migratory, and boy do they flock together. Robert Lynd said, “In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.” Well,  I stopped at one point where the reeds made a grassed garden in the water and the large magpie geese honking to each other were less seen than heard.  They certainly make a racket. It was gorgeous in its isolation, if not silence. There were thousands of birds to see but I lost count after 10.

It was hardly like the film, I had virtually no competition for my front row seats in the bird hide at Hacks Lagoon, although another couple had arrived just after me, and proceeded to look around at their own pace. They didn’t resemble Owen Wilson or Jack Black one bit.

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I enjoyed my little visit, staying for about an hour, and then it was time for me to fly home to roost.  The day reminded me far more of that other beautiful bird film, Travelling Birds: An Adventure in Flight (2003, Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud, Michel Debats). Oh to be able to fly with them like that. Being earth-bound though, I am content to just watch them, rather than count them, and appreciate their aerodynamics, strange habits and weird sounds.

“No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.” William Blake

Bool Lagoon, Naracoorte, South Australia.
Park fees apply – book online at National Parks South Australia.