Mike in Finland

Monday, 9 November 2020

Philip Marlowe Takes a Break

Here's a humorous little dramatic monologue to brighten your day, and also to provide some insight into the life of a private dick. It should ideally be read aloud with a strong American accent. A version of this text was first published in Muse (Manchester Metropolitan University, 2008).

Philip Marlowe takes a break


It was a stakeout on Riverside Drive and I was beginning to smell a rat. There wasn’t a river in sight, so what was in this name? I needed to know, bad. I was working along the lines of when is a river not a river? when a Buick drifted to the gate, launched into the street and sailed off towards town. I sailed after it with a confident smile. Right, river, got it. But it had been a tough nut to crack and I knew then that this case was gonna be no walk in the park.


The Buick pulled up outside a diner. It was a classy joint and I was wearing a shirt I’d picked up from the cleaner’s four days before. It was still clean, though; just a couple of coffee stains, so I followed the driver inside.


She was a blonde. One of those blondes that drops into your life like a lottery ticket. Whatever that means. She was as pretty as a picture on a July day in Memphis, Tennessee and I was about to become one of the world’s greatest art collectors.


The smell of burgers and fries rose up my nostrils like a rocket off the launch pad at NASA. I was famished. I hadn’t eaten in four days. Ha! So that’s why my shirtfront was so clean.


The blonde took a seat by the window. I scanned the place. There was a Joe in the corner I didn’t much like the look of.


“Hey, Joe,” I said, “where you goin’ with that gun in your pants?”


But he was a bag of nerves. He made a lunge for the door, slipped and fell, spilling the beans as he hit the dirt. They went all over him. God, he looked a mess. I couldn’t help a silly smirk. Now he’d have to pay a trip to the laundry.


I sat down where I could watch the blonde. She was there to meet someone, I figured.


“What’ll it be, Buster?”


I gave the waitress a cool look and lit a cigarette.


“Your boss has a hunting lodge on 69th Street and thirty-six shotguns registered for hunting,” I told her, “so I reckon moose is on the menu. Mooses is big animals, and kinda cute, but I’ll eat one anyway.”


The waitress stared at me in admiration, or disbelief, and I didn’t much care which because somewhere, at the back of my mind, an alarm bell was ringin’, tryin’ to tell me somethin’. Somethin’ about a patsy called Toby. But was it Toby, or not Toby: that was the question.


Right at that moment I noticed the waitress’s name badge: Toby Ornott!


“Transvestisisism is’m offence in the State of California!” I spluttered. Hell, they oughta write these long words out of the law. “I’m calling the Feds. Feds!” I yelled, several times.


So it looked like the blonde was in the clear. I sure was happy about that. She was still sitting by the window but making ready to leave. I sloped over, picked her keys off the table and said, “Let’s you and me take a trip down river. I’ll drive”


“Piss off!” she replied, getting to her feet. She was a good six foot one, something I must have overlooked.


She exited and left me standing there. I was still feeling kinda tender and almost offered to take Joe for a ride to the cleaner’s, but thought better of it. The case was closed and I was free. Free as a napkin after a meal: screwed up, soiled and no use to anyone.

Friday, 5 April 2019

One of my poems

It's been a while since I posted one of my poems so here's a humorous one from several years ago. It was published on the Crowsfeet online poetry website a few years back.

Defying The Devil

Get thee behind me, Satan!

Ah, on second thoughts
perhaps we could come to some
sort of accommodation.
Let's not be rash or over-nice.
What exactly are you offering?
And what's the price?

Before we begin the negotiation
I should point out
that I'm not so naive
as to actually believe
you would answer my every wish.
Nor do I expect you to be satisfied with
something so vague as my eternal soul.

So, if you could see your way
to gratifying some of my more
outlandish little peccadilloes -
those quirks of taste -
and supplying the necessary dosh
for a life of profligacy and waste,
I would be willing to submit
to becoming a social pariah;
to be held up as a bad example,
pointed at, pilloried, reviled
and abused by citizens driven to wild
outrage by my excesses.

I can't manage all that on my own,
I need a backer.
So, how do you feel?
What do you say?
Is it a deal?


Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Sampola discussion topic for 9 April

This is the topic for our next meeting on Tuesday, 9 April.

Café Life

1.         What do you understand by ‘café culture’?
What nations do you associate with ‘café culture’?
How important are cafés in the Finnish lifestyle?
Are there different types of café?
What range of cafés can you find in Tampere?
Can they all survive?
Do the cafés in Tampere do a good business?
Have any cafes closed down recently?
Have any new ones opened recently?
What do you think makes an attractive atmosphere in a café?
Have you been to any very good or interesting cafés abroad?
            What about in Stockholm, Tallinn, London, Paris, Vienna, other cities?
            What features or characteristics make a café special?

2.         What do you think of the prices in cafés?
Are they good value for money?
How often do you go to a café?
How do you select a café?
What do you look for in a café that you would use regularly?
Do you have any favourites?
Do you have anything to eat or just have a drink?
Are cafés good places for food/lunch?

3.         How long does each visit typically last?
Do you usually / sometimes take reading material to the café?
Do you meet friends in cafés?
Do you use cafés for some kinds of meetings e.g. clubs, associations, social?
Is there any limit on how long you can sit at the table?

4.         What is an internet café?
How does it differ from an ordinary café?
What do you pay for in an internet café?
What does it mean if a café offers free wi-fi access?
Do you ever use your lap-top, tablet or smart phone in a café?
How long would you sit on at your table after you have finished your coffee?

5.         Looking from the owner’s point of view, what is the problem with customers buying one cup of coffee and then sitting in the café for four hours surfing the internet?
What is the solution?

6.         Would you like to run your own café business?
            Why (not)?
            What style of café would it be, if you did?

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Sampola discussion topic for Tuesday 4 December

These are the topics for our next class on Tuesday 4 December.

What kind of world will our children inherit?

1.         There has been a lot of discussion about nuclear energy. Do you believe that nuclear power represents the best solution for our future energy needs?
What are the benefits and drawbacks of nuclear energy?
What are your views on alternative energy sources?
Will we still be driving cars 50 years from now?
If so, will they use petrol as fuel?
What alternative fuels can cars use?
Do you think they are better than petrol or diesel?  Why?
Is there a real alternative to the private car?

2.         There has also been a lot of discussion about climate change. How seriously do you take the threat to our planet from climate change?
Or is it just a threat to humans and our social organisations?
If we don´t control the level of greenhouse gas emissions, what results do you envisage in 20years?               
What about in 50 years?
Have you noticed changes in summer or winter weather since you were a child?               
What about in the last 10 / 20 years?
Will there be ice at the North Pole and glaciers in the Himalayas at the end of this century?
What do you know about the recent wildfires in California?
Are they sign of climate change or is there another explanation?
What does Donald Trump say about the fires?

3.         What do you think about environmental organisations such as Greenpeace and WWF?
Have you joined, or considered joining, such organisations?
Why (not)?
Do you think these organisations have an important role to play?
Are any species of animals living in Finland in danger of extinction?

4.         How do you see the role of governments and government policy in environmental issues?
Is it possible for national governments to be effective in environmental issues?
What actions has the Finnish Government taken to protect the environment?
Have they had a real and noticeable effect?
Do we have the will to implement an effective environmental policy?
What role do multi-national corporations play in protecting the environment?

5.         What do you think will happen to the world supply of food in the next 20 or 50 years?
What about the supply of fresh and clean water?
What are your views on population growth?
Do you think it is significant that the majority of the world´s largest cities are on the coast?

6.         What are your views on multiculturalism and cultural diversity?
What are your views on the relationship between Islam and Christianity?

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Read the poems with the poet at Sampola

Read the poems with the poet is a new, short course that will take place in Sampola 4 times on Tuesdays at 19.30-21.00. The course will start on 30.01 and finish on 20.02. In the 4 classes we will read and discuss poems from my collection, Midas Touch, in English. I can supply copies of the book at 8€. It's also available on Kindle, which is a bit cheaper.

Here is the blurb from Sampola's spring term brochure:

In 4 classes we will read poems from 'Midas Touch', a short collection published by the class teacher, Mike Horwood. About 4 or 5 poems will be selected a week in advance to give students time to read and think about the poems. In the class students can compare their readings of each poem, describe what the poem says to them and how they responded to it. There will be the chance to ask the poet any questions about the poems and to hear what he was trying to do in writing the poem.

To join the course you can register via internet at Sampola's website starting from 12 o'clock, midday on 4 December, or by phone and in person at the office counter, starting from 2 January.

There are a couple of poems from the collection at the top of the right bar on this blogpage.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Discussion topic for Sampola class on Tuesday 12 December

General Information:

There is no class on 05.12.   The final class will be on 12.12.   

The topic for the next class on Tuesday 12 December is:

The list of ways to save money at Christmas which I forgot to copy on the paper copies I handed out in the last class can be found at the end of this post.

Christmas and New Year

1.         What plans do you have for the Christmas and New Year period?
Will you be travelling anywhere for a day out or a longer period?
Will you be going to see any shows?
Will you be entertaining at home?

2.         What preparations will you do before Christmas?
What menu will you have on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?
Have you planned any other special meals during the festive season?
Who does the cooking in your home?
Have you bought any/all of your Christmas presents yet?
Who among your family and friends is the most difficult person to think of a present for?

3.         Have you already had a Little Christmas party?
Was it a workplace party, or some other group?
Where was the party?
Was there a programme?

4.         Is it possible to reduce the cost of Christmas by shopping around?
Try to think of ways of saving some money on Christmas items, and then compare your ideas with the list from The Guardian (see below).
Which ones were on your list?
Which do you think are a good way to save money?
Have you found any good deals this year or earlier?

5.         Is there any trend in Finland towards alcohol-free drinks?
Has the idea of non-alcoholic drinks been promoted recently?
Have you heard of mindful drinking, Club Soda, or Jussi Tolvi?
Is there a good and interesting range of alcohol-free drinks
Is there such a thing as a non-alcoholic drinks festival?

6.         Do you have any special plans for New Year’s Eve?
Do you usually have fireworks at midnight?

7.         What is your weather forecast for Christmas and New Year?
Will it be a white Christmas in Tampere?
What about other parts of Finland?

The Guardian’s list of ways to spend less at Christmas.

Full details at:

1.         Avoid unsuccessful presents, e.g. vouchers for hot air balloon trips or exercising equipment.

2.         Shop around for good offers on alcohol.

3.         Shop around for a good price for a Christmas tree.

4.         Buy presents online for good savings.

5.         Use the internet to find cheap tickets for Christmas shows.

6.         Compare prices for car hire.

7.         Book train and bus tickets in advance.

8.         Don’t use a London airport if you’re flying somewhere.

9.         Only buy items that include the right to return and get a refund or exchange.

10.       Agree with extended family members on a system of selective present giving for adults in the extended family – there are apps that can organize who is the buyer for each adult family member.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

All my books

All my publications so far with Ward Wood Publishing. There are two novels: The Finn's Tale and Arthur's Eventful Weekend, and two poetry collections: Midas Touch and Falstaff's Gut. The publisher's website (www.wardwoodpublishing.co.uk) has a brief description of each book and there are some excerpts on the pages in the right-hand bar of this blog.

They're all available in book form and on Kindle, from the publisher's website, Amazon, The Book Depository and other online booksellers.