Downtime Stories

Short stories for when you have time for a short story.

The Bathroom Scale

Some people believe that you live your life day by day.

Others say it’s more like step by step.

In the famous 2001 action thriller The Fast & The Furious, shapely American actor Vin Diesel goes so far as to say that he lives life a quarter mile at a time, and that nothing else matters.

Whatever works for you.

But for me it is different.

For me, I believe life is lived in bathroom breaks, and underpinned by life’s biggest question…

Where is the nearest toilet?

The problem with having to go to the bathroom all the time, is not actually the going to the bathroom bit. That’s fine…Part of nature and all that.

The problem is one of logistics.

Because when you have to go the bathroom all the time life becomes a journey between one toilet to the next.

Yes there are moments in between, some of them are amazing, truly special. Times at work, times with friends, times with loved ones. Dinners, drinks, parties – but this is just the stuff in the middle for me.

Because they usually take place in the short amount of time after one bathroom break, and before the small and polite warning one’s body gives them when it’s time to start thinking about the next one.

For me that window is about 37 minutes. 37 minutes of pure clarity that I imagine frequenters of Heroin might enjoy after they score or do a hit or however the expression goes.

For example if I’m going to a party, whilst there may be some excitement building in my stomach, it quickly turns into another feeling building in my stomach.

A feeling that says hey guy, you’d better go to the bathroom before you get there.

And then as I ring the doorbell starts thinking, I wonder what the toilet situation is like, will there be a nice place to duck off? And what about after the party? Is the Uber ride home far? I hope we’re not going to a dive bar afterwards.

And oh yes, you’ll meet people and you can chat, but it’s often asking things like “do you know where the nearest bathroom is?” and “oh yes I am holding some loo role, but it’s part of my look, isn’t fashion changing so fast?”

I don’t go to many parties.

There’s also the problem of work.

Whilst I don’t sit terribly close to the bathroom there are many colleagues of mine that do. Colleagues that I happen to make eye contact with on the way there, and then roughly 8 minutes later on the way back.

Whilst it may just be an over excited imagination or perfectly normal human paranoia, I fear they may be tracking me in some way or another…

As I walk by they think “hey wasn’t he in there already today?” turning to their other colleagues to smile, or using me as some kind of weird time piece to tell them they’ve been working on their presentation for too long. Wait, “37 minute windows X 8 minutes in there. Time to change slides Janet.” Or making formulas that at some time in the near future scientists will use to calculate the time difference on Mars. Or tracking me on Microsoft Excel for a year and making charts about my bathroom visits, and then showing them to upper management.

I just don’t trust these people and it’s making it hard for me to make friends at work.

But whether it’s step by step, quarter mile by quarter mile, or bathroom to bathroom you have to find what works for you.

But that’s about all I have to say about that, I’d better just pop off to the bathroom.


Thank you to my friend @instachaaz for helping me bring this story to life in a MUCH more concise and interesting way.





I Can Make You Rich…I Think

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These are trying times friends. It looks like we could be on the verge of “ANOTHER FINANCIAL BUBBLE BURSTING!!!!!!”

Do you know what happens when a bubble bursts? In a literal sense, very little happens at all. Minimal mess, easy to clean up and actually quite enjoyable to watch. Well the metaphor is misplaced. A financial bubble bursting means curbs on welfare, increasing costs of living, families out on the streets and most likely a further hike on the price of avocados.

I’ll tell you what else. Your meager salary ain’t gonna cut it if you want to keep living this lifestyle. The Prosecco years are over sunshine and it’s time to start thinking about a plan b. A side earner. You need to set up your own business. Now! Quick, do it!

Only thing is you don’t have a darn clue about business, do you?! That absolute pantomime you show up for Monday to Friday has taught you zero about going it alone. You only go for the client lunches and bitchy office gossip.

Well you’re in luck. It’s actually more simple than you thought. First, let’s come up with that million dollar idea…

People love the word organic in anything. Juices, clothing, cosmetics….that stuff sells like hot cakes. You know what else sells like hot cakes? Hot cakes sell like hot cakes. So why not open an organic hot cake shop.

That’s called a eureka moment. Welcome to business friend.

Now to production. You’ve got to make the hot cakes. You’ve got to make them hot and they’ve got to be cakes. That much is clear. But how many do you make? And how hot? This is business planning people and you need to do your research. Get down on the street and start asking people if they want your hot cakes!

There might be other people selling hot cakes out there. “Hey cowboy, how’d you like some of these hot cakes?..” you might hear a moustached gentleman in a biker bar say to you. He’s called a competitor. You need to learn from your competitors, so take him up on his offer. You’ll learn a lot…

Okay okay, you probably felt like you paid too higher price don’t you? You maybe thought it was very hot but with a real lack of cake…and too much leather. No matter. Differentiate yourself. Less sex in truck stops and more cake. That’s called your niche.

You’ve got your product, you’ve got the market figured out, the all clear from the doctor… it’s going well!

Wait, did you remember to register yourself as an independent business with the tax people? No? Shit what’s this bill for? 19,000 on eggs!?!? How did you manage to spend so much on eggs?! You can’t afford that! What’s that noise? Oh my god the ovens on fire, quick someone deal with that. I’ve got a guy on the phone saying he ordered 50 organic hot cakes last week and he still hasn’t got them yet? Someone’s at the door. It’s the tax guy! He says you owe inland revenue 50,000. I think the guy from the biker bar is back too. He’s standing outside just rubbing his thighs.

Okay maybe the bubble thing isn’t so bad. Stick it out and just drink less? Put back buying a house for a few more years? Yeah sweet.


Expensive Stretching


For years people have been debating the history of yoga.

Was it developed centuries ago in ancient India’s ascetic and śramaṇa movements?

Is it a technique founded in Buddhist principles first discovered by Nepalese monks?

Was someone watching a dog one day and thought, hey, that seems kind of relaxing?

How did it come into the western world? Why is it so popular? Just what, the people ask, is it all about?

Well my mind, body and soul loving friends, we’re here to tell you.

Yoga is in fact a relatively new phenomenon not to be confused with any of the above. Of course people have been practicing these stretching and breathing techniques for centuries, but it wasn’t until an American man in the 1960s made it mainstream that it became yoga as we know it today.

His name was Kenny Smitts. And Kenny had problems. Kenny didn’t have a job, because Kenny was a pervert. He just couldn’t keep his hands off himself, or his colleagues. His female colleagues, his male colleagues, even some of their pets on bring a pet to work day. He didn’t want to be that way, but he couldn’t help it.

The thing was, Kenny was a very charming man. He could talk his way through most interviews without trying to grope the person across the desk but after a few months in his new job he would always crack and accidentally give Myles the cleaner an unwanted back massage.

And it wasn’t always physical. He was known to be quite a verbal with his sexual abuse. “You’re a dirty dog you are, oh I’d like to see you face down.”

It wasn’t until he was nearly being arrested on Venice beach for yelling things at some young backpackers while rubbing yoghurt on his chest that the idea of Yoga first came to him.

“Sexually harassing them? No, I never!” I’m their, I’m their fitness instructor, ask them, I’m teaching them the ancient art of…” he looked at his Yoghurt. “Yoga! Ask them, just ask them”

The officer did.

Although they didn’t understand, they did start aggressively nodding at the word “Yoga” which in their language means sex pest.

Kenny continued offending, Yoga was born.



5 ways to start dressing with confidence, with Sam Knowles

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In this age of Photoshop altering, internet trolling and “like for a like” bartering, it’s never been harder for us tweenagers to find a sense of self in what we wear. You spend hours in the mirror, trying on outfits over and over again for a simple trip to the shops, only to be returned home by police escort because your “bin liner / strap on dildo” combo was deemed inappropriate.

Well I recently sat down with industry expert, John Palmer to get some straight forward advice on how to find your own style and stop caring what the “haters” think… Over to you John.

1. Environment

JP: Err, I mean maybe stay away from situations where people might judge your fashion choices critically? Like catwalk runways and “best dressed” competitions or whatever?

SK: Could you elaborate John?

JP: Well… those environments are fundamentally based around the concept of judging people’s worth based on how they look above all other merits, right? I don’t know… children and dogs tend to be quite positive about things. Maybe go walk around the park?

2. Exposure – 

JP: You should really think about covering up your genitals as well.

SK: Ah yeah, I did read somewhere that it’s proven that on average people will judge you far less negatively if you cover up your reproductive organs more often. That’s really interesting.

JP: ….yeah..

3. Experiment – 

JP: What have you got on your head?

SK: Oh, thanks for asking John. I’ve recently started using organic materials rather than synthetics. I believe it’s better for our environment and the children of the future.

JP: Is… it looks like a dead cat?

SK: So what’s your next tip John?

4. Consider –

JP: Why do you care so much what people think? It seems kind of desperate to me that you seek approval from total strangers about how you look. I think you’re quite a superficial person and probably have very low self confidence. You should try switching on the news some time. People are dying.

SK: I appreciate your candour John…

5. Security –

JP: How did you even get up here? Did my PA let you through? I’m a financial advisor, I don’t know why you’re asking for my opinion on this? What’s in that bag? Oh christ is that a gun? Oh God it’s a gun, oh no please! Please, I’ve got childr…

SK: Thanks John

Moving To Washington D.C

Sometimes I feel that life would be easier if I moved to a suburban community just outside of Washington DC.

I’ve been watching a lot of American television recently. It’s probably the fault of things like Netflix and me not having enough money to go out as much as I’d like.

Or more that I did have enough money to go out, but I sort of thought to hell with it and spent all of it in the first two weeks of my pay cycle on a surf  board and not being sober.

Yeah that’s probably it.

It’s because everyone that lives in small American suburban communities seem to have really nice houses. Like, with island kitchens and golden retrievers running through beautiful back yards, beautiful wives and 2.5 kids.

Well… maybe not everyone, but definitely most of them. Then again I can’t be sure because I’m basing this hypothesis on the first 4 episodes of Homeland. But if that red head guy can be a prisoner of the Taliban in Afghanistan for 8 years and still afford such a lovely home it must be the case.

Which suggests if I move there I could have one of those fancy houses too. I think I make more than a prisoner of war in Afghanistan but I’ll have to double check.

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Yep, got it. My job pays better.

I feel like when I have my house there every conversation will go like this.

David: Sam, how are you? Are we golfing this Saturday?

Sam: Only if you bring that new driver of yours, oh boy does that thing hit straight!

D: I wish my son was that straight; he’s a weird one. He wears eyeliner and dark clothes. The other day I found him in my bedroom holding my handgun, muttering something about bullies. Children can we weird right. And how’s Sally, is she studying for exams yet? And little Chris, he had a mean swing at little league the other day. And the other .5 of your children, the one you literally cut in half so you could have the perfect amount of children? How’s he doing? Still just sort of lying there whaling? I think I can hear him sometimes

S: Oh they’re doing just fine, yes Sally’s 16, she’s homecoming queen, and as for little Billy, well yesterday we found him trying to drown himself. We put him back in bed but he just kept wheezing and saying “kill meeee”. It sure is different being a parent.

D: Right you are Sam, I’ll see you Saturday. You be sure to say hello to that wife of yours.

Yeah, it seems nice there in Washington DC.



Kill Two Birds With One Stone

Things change. They say that right?

Well the world is one of those things.

For example, did you know that millions of years ago the world was actually controlled by birds? You probably didn’t know this, and if you did, you probably had the sense not to talk about it publically. Things happen when you talk about it publicly.

Well it’s true. Birds used to be the dominant life form on Earth.

You can actually see traces of this in today’s society. Like have you ever heard the expression “To kill two birds with one stone”? Sure you have. We all have.

What you don’t know is that the majority of people are actually misusing this phrase now because it actually, originally, meant something different.

Here’s the story of what it meant.

As I said, at one time in our planets history birds were the dominant life form. Big, 6 foot tall birds. It was well before Jesus, it was well before the Romans. It was somewhere in between the dinosaurs and the Greek empire. Probably about half way. This is where the story is set.

At this time there was a hierarchy of birds, they had jobs, they contributed to society, they paid their taxes. They watched bird films, they ate humans at restaurants the way we eat chicken, without a second thought, and with quite a bit of enthusiasm. Especially when we are fried.

And they also indulged in a bit of human hunting. They called it sport.

But there were humans who fought back.

They wanted desperately to better the standing of their race and just survive in a world ruled by birds. Kind of like how magpies swoop you these days, little gestures to say “we don’t approve, we’re not food”.

One of these such humans was named Rob. Just Rob, people didn’t have last name’s back then. But if they did, his would have been Dickens, and he would have looked like this.


Rob was a free range human, and Rob was being hunted. And to be honest, it wasn’t going well.

They had him trapped in a dead end. The birds had been chasing him for days, and his energy, like the chase was coming to an end.

He was desperate. Backed into a corner. Tears running down his face, mixing with snot as he faced his pathetic destiny.

The birds by then figured they had this won. They’d taken their foot off the accelerator and had smugly queued in order of eating hierarchy. They were going to move in for the kill, gut him, and roast him.

It was a hopeless situation.

As Rob started to come to terms with his fate he backed into the stone wall of the cliff behind him, his hands behind his back, where he felt something solid, jagged, and heavy.

“Shit, a stone!” he thought.

“Fuck it” he said “Fuck these feathery evil bastards who keep most of my people locked up in cages and feed on us. Who hunt us for sport. Who feed us crackers and make ridiculous noises. “Fuck it.”

He spun around, and with incredible pace and accuracy threw the stone at the lead bird moving in for the kill, striking him right in the temple. The bird died instantly, dropping to the floor in a pathetic heap, but not before the stone ricocheted off its head straight into the eye of the second bird, the 2IC, the general. His death was not slow. The general started to scream in agony as blood gushed out of the wound all over the other birds, all over Rob. As he slowly blead out Rob started screaming. “FRIENDS, ATTACK NOW.”

From everywhere free humans started running with spears and rocks, the other birds had nothing to do but to run for it. To head back to town and talk about Rob, who killed two of them with one stone.

Now this story was not the end of the bird oppression, but it was the beginning of the change for humans. It was the catalyst for their will to overthrow the birds, to centuries later eventually even master them, forgetting about their oppressed history and becoming the oppressors themselves.

This should be a cautionary tale, but it wasn’t. We’ve learnt nothing from the mistakes of the birds, and are at risk of too at some point being overthrown again. That’s the message, that’s what we should remember. But we don’t.

We now just use the phrase to mean achieving two things with one action while we really achieve nothing.

Rob’s story will be forgotten, but the memory of his bravery and lifesaving accuracy will forever live on in our vernacular. Or until we are overthrown.



It’s a completely true and widely known fact (amongst those in the know) that it’s possible to purchase wine at any establishment in France and its overseas colonies.

And I don’t just mean the obvious establishments like supermarkets, cellars, off licenses, corner stores, bodegas or bottle shops.


Primary Schools, Hospitals, Dry Cleaners, Vending Machines. They all stock wine, if you know what to ask for, and who to ask

And that’s because legally all French citizens are required to have at least 3 bottles of wine (a white, pink and red) on their person at all times should they get thirsty, or be required to share a drink with a fellow citizen or tourist who may be short of wine at that time.

The law was originally passed at the end of the 19th century to encourage the citizens of the relatively new republic to embody the nations motto Liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity) believing that carrying, and sharing wine represented most effectively these three pillars of the new France.

Over the next 200 years France was joyous and happy, but towards the end of the 20th century for different reasons people starting concealing their wine cleverly, not liking foreigners to know the secret formula required for a French citizen to share their wine.

You may have already noticed this if you’ve been to France, or indeed met a French person. Haven’t you walked past a French man, woman or child and failed to notice even one bottle of wine on them?

I certainly have.

The thing is, they’ve developed clever ways of concealing them. Extra clothing like the beret, optical allusions like stripy shirts. The stripy shirt method is detailed here

Josh is french

Can you see the wine cleverly hidden?

Whilst it may be hidden, they are still required by law if asked in a certain way to share or sell wine to you.

This certain way is quite tricky, and if done incorrectly could see you receiving a swift kick in the shin. But if you pull it off you’ll find yourself with a new friend and a refreshing verre de vin just when you thought all the shops were closed.

And I’ll tell you what it is.

You simply have to approach a French person (preferably a Parisian) and do exactly as follows.

  1. Interrupt them from whatever they are doing, particularly if it looks important
  2. Speak very loudly
  3. Put on your best American accent (preferably Texan, it’s the most effective). Try holding your nose if you find it difficult
  4. Say as loudly as possible while pointing and making gestures “EXCUSE ME, WHERE IS THE NEAREST DISNEYLAND

At which point the French citizen will have no choice but to ask you politely “The red, or the white sir?”

Now don’t worry if you’ve heard that the French prefer people to start conversations with an attempt at French, or that they particularly don’t like the American tourists.

This was just a cleverly started rumour by the French government to ensure the French get to enjoy wine too.

Bon Chance!

AOF Mathematics 2015 Exam Paper – Summer Term – Level 1

By the super fancy, super funny Sam Knowles @knowles56

**Show all of your workings**

Section 1

  1. Daniel is tying Matthews’s fingers to the blades of the lawnmower around the back of the cricket pavilion. Taking into account Daniels blasé attitude towards heavy machinery and the good quality of the string, how likely is Matthew to attend his piano lesson in two weeks time? (Display your answer as a percentage)

(3 marks)

  1. Jill has just gone into anaphylactic shock in a Turkish restaurant in Bethnal Green. Predictably, her stepson Callum has sold her epipen to a group of school children, so an ambulance needs to be called. A&E is 16 miles away and the ambulance driver is about to finish a 13 hour shift. Driving at a steady speed of 45mph and not using bus lanes, how long will it take for a medical professional to arrive?

(5 marks)

  1. Using a set of compasses, draw seven circles that intersect each other in such a way it would make a sex trade worker blush.

(5 marks)

  1. Knobby, Ginger-pubes, Date rape, Wanky-Doodle and Gay Kevin have all booked a “large one” in Bosnia & Herzegovina this summer. As per usual Wanky-Doodle is having a last minute panic attack about flying anywhere near the former Eastern-Bloc and has locked himself in a cubicle at Terminal 3. Given Gay Kevin’s pelvic injury, how long will it take the lads to break down the door and draw a penis on Wanky’s forehead whilst he hyperventilates?

(7 marks)

  1. I text my wife at lunch time to ask if I should pick up her prescription from the chemist on my way home after work. By 3pm she still hasn’t responded. We live in an area with one of the strongest 4g receptions in the country, so I know she received the message. Assuming I cycled in today so that she could have the Clio… is she fucking Steven again?

(15 marks)

**End of Section 1**

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Image credit:

Saturday Night, De de dooo de dooo de de

“I can say unequivocally and without a shadow of a doubt that I am indeed sitting in my own living room. This is my television and these are my Doritos. Yes I’m naked, but why not? It’s my house! And the fact that you two are just stood there, staring at me, you sir looking angry, and you madam crying is making the whole situation feel quite odd.”

The middle-aged couple didn’t say anything. They just kept staring.

What could they say? At first they’d screamed in fear upon getting home and finding the naked man on their couch, watching Buffy and eating Doritos.

The man had yelled, the woman had yelled.

They’d threatened to call the police, and they’d asked nicely but nothing would make the intruder budge.

They’d even started bringing over different pictures of their friends and family they had framed around the room, but to no avail.

“A trick” the man had screamed, whilst looking at a picture of the middle aged couple’s trip to Disneyland.

“A particularly cunning trick in which you have clearly broken into my house previously and removed any pictures of myself and replaced them with you two individuals. A cunning trick indeed. I will be reporting this to the police and demanding all my pictures be returned.”

“We’re not burglars” the middle aged woman replied, her voice shaking.

“Well that’s what you would say isn’t it. And if I’m being honest with you it might seem like the truth, had it not been for the fact that I can’t remember what I was doing before I was here, and where any of my clothes are. What have you cunning con artists done with them?”

“We haven’t done anything… And I don’t want to sound rude but you do seem quite drunk, so maybe that has something to do with you not remembering?”

“You could be right. I do feel quite drunk. But that doesn’t explain why I’m naked and you’re here staring at me.”

“Well the thing is, it might actually.”

When the man didn’t say anything the woman continued drawing confidence from the fact that the he appeared to  be seeing some reason.

“We actually recognise you, you’re the young man from 15. It’s the apartment next door. Sometimes we hear you screaming things at 3am.”

“Screaming things, what sort of things?”

“Well, there was the time it seemed you thought you were in Harry Potter and were screaming ACCIO followed by different objects around your house. That was a Sunday night, I remember because I kept falling asleep at work on Monday… it was a bit hard to sleep you see.”

And then there was the night you had some of your friends back and listened to that ABBA song on repeat for 3 hours. We were actually quite impressed that you managed to keep listening to it for so long.”

“And then there was another time when you were on your roof screaming “I’m the cherry on top, the sweet, sweet little cherry on top of the cake.” But you got down that time because the police came and sprayed you with that hose.”

“Ahh.… well that does sound like me…”

The man paused for a moment, thinking.

“Your house did you say? Well I’m terribly sorry, would you mind pointing me in the direction of my clothes? I’ll get out of your hair.”

The next day the young man walked out of number 15 and the middle aged couple from next door smiled and waved at him.

“They’re nice.” he thought. “People in London don’t say hi to strangers enough.”


The Microwave Conundrum

Time goes slower when you’re waiting for a microwave.

That’s why I always take a microwave with me when I do something really important or really fun.

I first noticed this theory when I was at work in the kitchens. There was a man in there waiting. He had 1: 16 on the microwave to go so I thought I’d wait. Surely we could make small talk for that long.

I smiled reassuringly as if to say, we can do this. We’re two guys that must have something in common, we do the same job for fucks sake.

He on the other hand seemed a bit nervous. Looking back now it must be because he knew about the microwave conundrum.

How’s your day going I ventured.

He paused for what a person that was not near a microwave would say was about 30 seconds.

Oh fine he said, with a look of desperation which I now know is because I was moving too fast, way too fast, not respecting the laws and times of the microwave conversation.

I looked back at the clock. 1:15. I couldn’t believe it, surely 30 seconds had just passed.

We continued talking while I did some calculations.

Much on for the weekend?

Another 30 second pause

Y E S   M Y   W I F E   I S   H A V I N G   A   B B Q 

Why was he speaking so slowly?

I looked back at the time. 1:14, and I understood. It seemed that for every 1 microwave second it was 30 seconds in real time.

That meant me and this man were going to have to get through another 2,220 seconds. That’s 37 minutes of conversation, or risk losing my place in the microwave line.

And then another horror thought struck. Once my food is in someone else will come along and wait for their turn. Another potential half an hour.

We pushed through, and 37 minutes later we finished, dishevelled, stressed, my hair falling out and my phone out of battery from opening as many apps as possible to pass the time. I closed with

H O P E F U L L Y   T H E   W E A T H E R   H O L D S  F O R    T H E   B B Q

Bing, we were done, it was horrible, but it opened my eyes up to the possibility, the new power at my finger tips.

That’s why now I always do anything really important while I’m next to a microwave.

Toasters work too, but they can be a bit unpredictable. Microwaves are definitely the best bet, because you get an accurate formula on how much time you have.1:30

I used to microwave all the time. In the morning when I woke up to get a few extra minutes sleep, on the weekends, in the bath.

You know I spent the first night with my wife next to a microwave? The most special day of my life, which I didn’t want to end. I set the timer for 24 hours and we just lived, and God it felt like the perfect bit of forever.

I noticed that I was aging faster than everyone around me. I went to a doctor and he calculated that I was now 36 when I should have been 30. And that I’d greatly increased my risk of cancer from all the radiation. It’s tough, you know? It’s like I’ve found this amazing gift but it’s slowly killing me.

Now I use it sparingly. I have a young daughter so sometimes I get the microwave out over family holidays just to relish the time I have.

To everyone else I’ve lost a lot of years from my life, but I’m not sad, you know? Because you know what they say, a life lived next to a microwave is a life well lived.