Raglan artist Tim Turner reckons lightheartedly he’d been preparing for his recent role in TV2’s hospital drama ‘Shortland Street’ for 30-something years.
That’s how long he’s lived without his left leg, after having crashed his motorbike one night into an unlit 10 cubic metre rubbish skip on the side of a street in suburban Wellington. “It literally took it off,” he says matter-of-factly of the limb, which has long since been replaced with a prosthesis.
Being an amputee is what actually got him the job on the long-running soap, Tim explains, however “ridiculous” that seems when he wasn’t shown out of bed at all during those few episodes which screened earlier this month.
“You would hardly have noticed I was an amputee,” he laughs, at the same time conceding that the producers at least kept the storyline of his one-legged alter ego Steve Davis authentic.
Steve was a patient undergoing the Southern Hemisphere’s first osseointegration procedure, says Tim, which is when a steel pin is inserted permanently into a bone to help attach the prosthetic limb.
He had lines to learn for the bit part – shot over three weeks back in June – a voice coach to help deliver those lines correctly, and both rehearsal and filming days to work around. “Easy” was how he describes the experience, and it was good money too. “I’ll do more of it for sure.”
It wasn’t his first appearance on ‘Shortland Street’: seven years ago Tim played a Kiwi tourist who’d had a serious motorcycle accident in Laos. That role – and his latest small-screen appearance – came to him through his involvement with Touch Compass Dance Trust, New Zealand’s only professional dance-cum-theatre company which includes both disabled and non-disabled performers.
He used to tour nationally with the Auckland company while living in Devonport, and at one stage even performed with his three-legged dog Boiski. “A sense of humour takes you a lot further than most things,” he explains wryly of the odd pairing.
Tim, it seems, has never been one to take his disability too seriously. His email address for instance is ‘oneoffproductions’; and the wee blurb at the end of his sent emails says philosophically: ‘Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance.’
And he’s obviously quite comfortable getting around town in shorts which expose his artificial limb.
At 51, he’s proud of what he’s done in life despite having been only 18 at the time of his accident.
Tim came to live in Raglan five or so years ago, and with his Maritime Safety Authority licence was one of the first skippers of the Wahine Moe’s harbour cruises. “I’ve got a whole bunch of licences,” he told the Chronicle, including for motorcycles – yes he still rides motorcycles – and heavy trucks.
The Chronicle actually had to squeeze his interview between Auckland airport runs last week as he was busy driving for Raglan Shuttle, filling in for owner-operator Phil Meek.
Tim even had a stint while living in Taupo a while back working in adventure tourism, driving jetboats on the Waikato River and abseiling. “Never a dull moment,” he muses.
But Tim’s an artist first and foremost whether it be contemporary dancing, jewellery-making and mixed media creations from his rustic Bay View Road home or set dressing in the art departments of film and TV studios.
Then there’s sculpting. He and partner Tracy Brechelt, a local tattoo artist, created a couple of impressive elephant and rhino headpieces two years ago for Team Tusk & Horn – aka Gareth Jones and Francois Mazet – who ran the Auckland Marathon to raise awareness of the fight to keep the species from extinction.
From that has come a commission for similar masks which have now been completed and sent to the UK.
The creative couple also dabble in the hiring out of Moroccan wedding tents for festivals and the like, Tim reveals before launching into another project – a humanitarian one – that’s definitely close to his heart. Not a money-spinner, this one, he adds: “We’re looking for funding.”
Tim’s uplifted a large number of prosthetic limbs “surplus to requirements here in New Zealand” and wants to take them to Yakkum Bali Rehabilitation Centre, which he says is in desperate need of assistance.
He calls it “round two” of a project called Turning Mobility, which was started more than a decade ago when he raised funds through curating an art exhibition in Devonport and directed the proceeds – along with mobility aids – into helping cover training and management costs for Yakkum people whose lives could be bettered with the use of prostheses and equipment.
On numerous trips to Bali over the years Tim’s seen the plight of Indonesian people with disabilities like his own. “It’s a karma thing,” he explains of their attitude to being broken, feeling useless. People there are amazed to see this one-legged man from Raglan walking around on an artificial limb, he says.
So Tim is on a mission and believes he can definitely make a difference in Yakkum. “Anyone can make a change if they put themselves to it,” he adds.
Tim Turner’s on the lookout now for sponsors, fundraising ideas, donations from businesses and local surfers who enjoy Bali – anyone, he says, who can help make it happen. Phone Tim 825 8516 or email email@example.com.