A Sixties Odyssey
William Gruar found his unsustainable lifestyle pulled up short, the day he fell through a roof while erecting a sign above a Ponsonby restaurant. Now with a wheelchair in the back of his converted van, he travels back through his colourful past, while promoting a recently self published book "Snakes of New Zealand."
Spectrum catches up with him on a hot day, in his van, parked outside Christ College, then under the shade of a tree in Hagley Park, as he pauses to remember the wild days of his Canterbury University years, fresh from the closeted world of Boarding School.
It was a heady '60s diet of sex, drugs and wild music intermingle with studies in Chaucer, morality and New Zealand History. As on the flyer of his book,William Gruar recalls how, after graduating, he moved North in a Buick Straight 8 and found his first job in the Moerewa freezing works. Weekend nights he played bass in a Whangarei restaurant until Geoff Murphy and Bruno Lawrence invited him to Wellington to help produce and act in the short film Tank Busters. He joined their road band Blerta with his pregnant wife Shirley and daughter Aimee, then moved to Pakiri where he farmed, drove trucks, milked cows, made a house, jandals, wooden furniture and hay, often in the rain.
Seven years on he returned to city life and continued making furniture, while playing in bands and buying and selling old houses. William Gruar, whose destiny has taken him well beyond the conservative rural background into which he was born, is in reflective mode in this Odyssey to his past.