Grandfather's plea for 'fishing mate' charms Australia
A 75-year-old grandfather has been offered free holidays around Australia after his online advert to find a new "fishing mate" went viral.
Ray Johnstone found casting lines off South Australia's Yorke Peninsula without company had turned his lifelong passion into a solitary affair.
His online ad on a popular Australian classifieds site, in which he jokingly described his condition as "used", was posted on 19 January.
"I'm a widowed pensioner who is looking for a fishing mate," Mr Johnstone wrote. "My previous mate is now deceased."
"I am willing to share all costs, e.g. petrol, bait and should you happen to own a boat [I am] willing to pay all ramp fees, but happy if you are also a land-based fisherman."
Days of attention
Propelled by a social media campaign using the hashtag #IllFishWithRay, Mr Johnstone's plea rapidly spread beyond his small town of Lewiston.
His advert had gathered 14,000 views by Monday, and late on Wednesday, the number neared 100,000.
"I've had TV coverage," he tells the BBC. "I've had just about every radio station in Australia ring me up. My phone has just not stopped. I can't believe this even happened."
Mr Johnstone's daughter Pamela has thanked people for the response, writing on Facebook that her father had "been so lonely since mum passed away".
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"I just like getting out in the fresh air and keeping myself active," Mr Johnstone says.
"I don't want to end up as a vegetable like some old people do."
Flooded with invitations
Since posting the advert, more than 100 people from around the country have offered to fish with Mr Johnstone.
A carpenter even offered to fly the pensioner and his grandson more than 1600km (995 miles) to Queensland for a two-day fishing trip off Stradbroke Island.
"I've had about half a dozen charter boats offer to take me and my grandson out on a charter boat," Mr Johnstone says.
"I've got about another seven or eight people lined up to go fishing afterwards."
However, he has struggled to understand the enormous attention.
"I can't see how one simple little ad caused that many people to respond," he says.
"Maybe it's because I'm 75 years old."