Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tiki Cootes' cricket ballad

Another New Zealand poet I came across recently is the rollicking bush balladeer, Tiki Cootes. He wrote one New Zealand cricket poem which I am delighted to share with you:


That’s Not Cricket Nor the Rata Flower in Bloom

I was working over Golden Bay
In the late fifties in my teens
I knocked around some hard cases
Not crooks by any means

Now we were full of life
And sometimes full of beer
And mostly full of beans
And of trouble try to steer

Anyhow this Friday night
We’d all gone to Collingwood
The pub wouldn’t serve us
We got beer just where we could

We managed to acquire some Harley’s
That tasted like home brew
And to get all kind of groggy
Well it only took a few

It got to Sunday quickly
We decided to go back
25 miles to Mangarakau
Along a twisting bushy track

We had the odd ale aboard
To guide us on our way
We even had some Snapper
Freshly caught that day

At an urgent call of nature
Just past Pakawau Flat
We decided to play cricket
With a snapper for a bat

We even found a tennis ball
Belonging to someone’s mutt
With a pine hedge for a wicket
I hollered ‘batter up’

I swung back my snapper
To get a good fine edge
The snapper shot out my hands
And landed in the hedge

One guy joking asked me
As at his ‘bat’ did grip
Would fielding in the hedge
Be just like playing slip

Some were quite proficient
Some showed style and dash
Some had no fin going
Others had a bash

One said I’ll stick to rugby
As at another hit he falls
Can’t play bloody cricket
Anyhow rugby don’t have scales

The cricket test was ended
We appealed against terrain
And our scaly cricket bats
Were snapper once again

If we had been clairvoyant
With futuristic flashes
We would have seen ourselves
Paying for the ashes

At another call of nature
Much further up the scrub
We stopped and all got out
When someone mentioned ‘grub’

I was feeling peckish
And being not the only one
I set fire to a gorse bush
To cook the snapper on

The fire soon got out of hand
And quickly it did rage
Burning up the scrub and bush
Lasting five whole days

They traced the fire to us guys
For later in the week
Along comes a Policeman
And to us he’d like to speak

The cop asked us questions
About the smoke and gloom
“What’s that glow on the ridge up there?"
“Just the rata flower in bloom"

Well the answer didn’t please him
And to make it understood
I found out what a ‘flat foot’ is
He kicked my arse real good

And so in well pressed suits
Up the courthouse we made tracks
We got all fined forty quid
For being pyromaniacs

Well whatever that there meant
For I was just a pup
It had something to do with burning
Well I was sure burned up

Two things I learned when I was young
Two things I learned off pat
Don’t use a gorsebush for a skillet
Or a snapper for a bat
Oh yes
Or not to cheek a policeman
If at all his feet are flat

Poem © Tiki Cootes

(from Tiki Cootes’ There’s Some Hard Cases About!, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1979)

Tiki Cootes was born in Nelson. He worked at a wide variety of jobs and at one time made a living as a wood carver as well as working for the Ministry of Works at Cromwell. He played the banjo and guitar and wrote mainly bush ballads which were collected in There’s Some Hard Cases About!: A Poetic Round Up of Some I’ve Met, 1979. His family had a strong oral tradition and entertained themselves by rhyme-making.


  1. Good to know about the Tiki Cootes was born in Nelson, also the information is also great to read.

    Original Dissertation Writing

  2. l knew Tiki well, he worked in a craft shop that we ran in Pine Creek, Northern Territory, Australia, l witnessed him meet a lovely lass, whom he shared tender years with before he passed away.
    During his time in Pine Creek, he carved many outstanding wooden peices, a Baptismal Font for the Church, support beams at the Lazy Lizard Bar, and the Entrance gates to the local school, we loved his songs, many he wrote himself, he is sadly missed, by swampyro.

  3. Here is a link to some of his carvings.