19 July 2015

Guest Post: Searching South Australia by Léonie C. Kelsall

I am excited for Where's Joe Wellington's first guest post! Allow me to introduce you to my friend, my critique partner 'across the ditch', Léonie C. Kelsall. I'm honoured she agreed to not only do a search for Joe, but to write about the experience and share it with us. I had a good laugh while reading this, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you, Lee, for contributing and for all the other stuff. Friends, here's Lee's search for Joe Wellington...

Hailing me from the other side of the ditch - known to non Kiwis/Aussies as the Tasman Sea - my lovely American-transplant friend sends a message, “Would you like to do a guest blog for me?”

“Sure,” I reply blithely, not knowing what I'm committing to.

We exchange a few more positive words via Twitter - we’re several thousand kilometres apart, and met via a mutual desire to air our trials and tribulations on the road to becoming published authors. Hey, how negative is that phrase? Shouldn’t it be ‘Triumphs, trials and tribulations’?  I move for change.

Anyway, I digress. Lissa asks if I can assist in the search for Joe Wellington. Of course I can. Mind you, I’ve already tried to make more of the tale . . . young love lost; angry husband pretending to assist in search, so he can ‘off’ the rival; lover proves to be father of illegitimate child. None of which, Lissa assures me, is anything like the truth; but, like I said, aspiring authors – any story has potential.

Mindful of my promise, and having procrastinated for close to 24 hours, I knuckle down, standing in front of the laptop at the kitchen bench. I hear you; “Health conscious, Lee? New form of workout?” No, not at all. It’s camouflage. If I’m standing at the bench, I could be doing house-wifely type duties. The laptop can be closed down in a millisecond. “Writing? Who, me? No, I’m doing the dishes.” Mind you, stuffing the Christmas turkey whilst employing this form of multi-tasking was interesting. By New Years, plagued by images of botulism, I did disinfect my keyboard.

So, laptop booted up, I must check social media (it’s a warm up for my keyboard, I swear!) And I get to thinking – do I just put Joe Wellington’s picture up on social media, let it go viral? Surely he could be found this way? Or perhaps the thrill of the chase lends intrigue to the story? Maybe Lissa prefers the journey to the destination?

I’ve obviously eaten gluten in the last few days, because I’m finding it increasingly difficult to keep on track. Instead, my mind is wandering, the idea of searching the Net for past lovers calling to me (oh come on, don’t pretend you haven’t!). The reasonably well-known artist I had a fling with at 18 should be easy enough to find, even with my limited skills. FaceBook, here I come . . .

Oh, wow, my ex-flame's name is actually quite common.
Realisation dawns slowly – Jim was more than twice my age, which would now make him... Gulp. Maybe I need to look in the obituaries, not social media. My partner wanders in and, despite my bragging about swift cover-ups, catches me browsing Google.

Him: “What are you looking at?”
Me: “Um. Just old lovers.”
Him: “Oh. I see. Had many?”
Me: (Opting for smart-arse in an attempt to sound offhand) “Well, obviously, that would depend on definitions. Of ‘lovers’ and ‘many.’”
Quick change of screen, and I try to look absorbed in work-type stuff, projecting a “please don’t interrupt my concentration” aura.

Okay, so back to Joe Wellington. If Lissa wanted to find him via the interwebby stuff, I’m sure she could – I mean, the girl knows how to set up a blog!  I haven’t even managed to work out those funny facey things everyone else inserts into messages. Obviously, I’m going to have to put in the hard yards: I’m going to hit the streets. Well, I live in a country town in the Adelaide Hills, so it’s more like hit the edges of the paddocks. 

I woggle (that’s my cross between a jog and a waddle, with rather more of the latter) 6km and encounter one person. Female, petite and twentyish. Definitely not Joe Wellington. Probably best if I don’t stop her to ask his whereabouts, given I’m huffing and moaning in a most inappropriate manner (you got the Adelaide HILLS bit, right?). I may have to go where there are more people. Inspiration: the top of Mt Barker. I’ll have a stunning view from there.

Mt Barker, South Australia 

And it’s a beautiful day for a hike. Yes, it is bang smack in the middle of winter, but this is South Australia, driest state on the driest continent. Actually, I don’t even know if that’s true. We had it drummed into us at school, years before the internet could be used to dispute and verify such ‘facts’. However, as it is one of very few things I recall from my schooling, I’m not about to challenge that knowledge. Please leave me in my little bubble - I’ve taught it to my kids so, by the power of numbers, we shall make it ‘fact’.

The mountain is beautiful.

Any kiwi jumping the ditch is sure to come here.  And the weather is breathtaking – one of those clear, crisp days that sear your lungs, making your heart ache with unfulfilled promise. Or maybe that pain is just the lack of exercise? 

It rained overnight, breaking a long, dry spell, and the sides of the rough dirt track have turned to clay. Rivulets of cold water cascade alongside, miniature waterfalls washing dusty pebbles until they assume the shine of gemstones. I stop frequently, stooping to collect the treasures. Well, actually, I have to stop, because this mountain is ALL uphill, dammit.

The only other person on top of my mountain is a man with three young children. Immediately he has a story; single father, weekly access visit, determined to do better than the traditional visit to Maccas. Possibly regretting his decision now, in light of the snot-faced recalcitrance of his daughter.

I decide to do the circumnavigation of the peak. Largely because, having huffed my way into a male presence, I now feel the need to prove my vigour. Mind you, he drove up here in a 4-wheel drive, so I’m winning anyway...

The track is narrow, winding between the naked trunks of boxbark eucalypts, and bordered by bright pink native orchids. In the purity of silence broken only by bell-birds and magpies (okay, and my stentorian breathing, but I’m sure that doesn’t add anything to the visual!), I hear the other visitor’s car departing. Excellent. Time to find Joe. 

Moving to a fairly dangerous rocky outcrop (pay attention, Lissa, the risks I take for you) I bellow for Joe. Okay, I’m actually shy, so it was more of a timid murmur. Oh, what the Hell, there’s no one else around. Cupping my hands around my mouth, I let it rip, “JOE WELLINGTON, WHERE ARE YOU?!” 

The words echo around the valley. I’m pretty impressed at my output. However the only thing that answers is a kookaburra, and even he seems uncertain whether it’s safe to laugh at this maniacal, red-faced woman. Anyway, I’ve discharged my duty. I can go back down the mountain now. Heavy emphasis on ‘down’. 

I complete my circumnavigation of the peak, back to the car park entrance, where the down track is located. And stop in horror.

I may have found Joe Wellington.

There’s a pretty good chance I have. The vehicle I heard was not the single-father’s 4 wheel drive departing, but a minibus arriving.

A minibus full of people.

A minibus full of people looking at me. Apparently, the kookaburra is not the only one who thinks I may be crazy.

Time to employ my best Mr Bean impersonation. Jerking a thumb over my shoulder, I lift my eyebrows and shrug, “Did you hear that? Wonder if someone is lost?”

I’m sure the tourists totally bought it. However, I’m unable to bring myself to look closely enough to assess if one is Joe Wellington. It’s possible, had he been there, he may not have chosen that moment to disclose himself.

Trudging down the mountain, I realise three things.

1.     Down is far easier
2.     My buscles (that’s butt muscles) are gonna hurt tomorrow.
3.     I’m suddenly, ridiculously, invested in finding Joe Wellington. I’ve spent hours walking and thinking about him, and now I care. I want to locate him, to discover that he’s healthy and happy, to know that his dreams are realised and that he harbors fond memories of his time with Lissa.

Next week, I’m off to a travel expo. I’m pretty sure he’ll be there...

Léonie C. Kelsall is a qualified mental health practitioner with a passion for writing upmarket romantic suspense. She is currently seeking publication for two completed novels. You can follow Lee on twitter @leehotline, or read more about her on Writer Pitch.

6 July 2015

Searching the South Island: Wharariki Beach

Who knows where the path will lead?


I searched for Joe Wellington at one of New Zealand's best beaches!

Back in December, I packed up my family and forced them to keep their eyes peeled while we went on holiday to the South Island. One stop was at Wharariki Beach near the Farewell Spit, the northernmost part of the South Island. It was a trek that reminded me of The Goonies and The Princess Bride movies, which offered a healthy dose of nostalgia.

After a slew of rainy days, we had to get out. So the five of us piled into the car and drove around the area, desperate to see some sights even if it would be through the fog. We missed the tour for the bus that goes out to the Farewell Spit (no cars allowed), but we found an awesome little farm that had a sign for a walking track to a beach. At the time, none of us were aware it was one of the best in New Zealand.

A beautiful male peacock greeted us in the parking lot, begging visitors for food. A gate led to a green hill section with a narrow gravel path to follow, one foot in front of the other. When we reached the top of the hill we were among roaming sheep and cows. I could've sworn I heard Wesley from The Princess Bride call out, "As you wiiiisssh!" but it was only my son repeating, "I'm a fisssh!".

My boys following the path.
Photo by Steve Waller
My dad meets a native
photo by Steve Waller

At this point, judging by the grassy landscape covered in steaming cow pies, I was in disbelief that a beach would greet us in the end. The sheep baa'ed and the cows moo'ed but otherwise, they left us alone. I asked one cow if he happened to know anyone named Joe but he didn't seem amused so I stayed out of his way.

Before we knew it the track turned to soft, fine sand and we were surrounded by woods. The landscape went from pastureland, to a paddock in steep hills, and now bush! Only in New Zealand. I could smell the salt of the sea and hear the crash of the waves so I figured we must be close. The others in my party went on ahead but I hung back to snap photos.

Um, wow. 

The sight was a scene from Goonies: the movie with Chunk and the scary old lady and the weird Baby Ruth-guy named Sloth. Complete with Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" song in my head, I chuckled at the thought that perhaps I am now living a life movies are made from.

The past few years have been the most enriching. And that's only because I ran full speed ahead into a life that I knew I always wanted, plus some surprises. That's not to say it hasn't been difficult, because it has. But there has been a lot of difficult things in my life that I've had to endure, and I'm grateful for those experiences that have taught me how to keep going. I guess I could say I needed the cow pies to get to the white sand beach that offers more than I ever could have dreamed.

Catching up with my whanau (family), I ran to the beach toward the sand dunes. My son, who leapt for joy and offered the sea his dance of youth, was so happy. I was so happy. This world was ours to discover, cow pies and all.

Like the movies from my childhood, I try to embrace the challenges of adventure and risk-taking. It's  about fighting the giant, which might seem impossible because of its size. But if I try with all my might I may just be able to conquer. In order to outsmart the narcissistic scientist whose poison can get the better of me, with enough training and experience, maybe I can become immune. If I take my time to calculate my way around the booby traps, I might recognise the patterns in order to find the treasure at the end. And no amount of shock treatment can keep me from the one (or what) I love if that love is true.

Returning to our car, I was again in awe that one narrow path led us through such different landscape to this magnificent beach. As someone who has taken a few different paths in her life, it's nice to know I've finally found the right one.

The seal is not Joe Wellington. Sorry.
Photo by Steve Waller
Alas, I'm still searching for Joe Wellington. But I found Wharariki Beach, which HuffPost calls, "Heaven on Earth"!

To be continued...