I'm back again, dropping some more bookish wedding ideas like Muse dropping mediocre albums*. Let's go. Bookish Confetti ...

I'm back again, dropping some more bookish wedding ideas like Muse dropping mediocre albums*. Let's go.

Bookish Confetti

If you're of the opinion that books shouldn't be destroyed or damaged willy nilly, then you can rest assured that my new wife and I agree. But there are some people who would argue that some books, like say, Fifty Shades, were just never meant to be read. 

So, if you agree with those people, buy a really shit book from a charity shop - to ease your guilt, you could pick one that looks like it's been sitting there on the shelf for years, never being read - then get yourself a hole punch of any size and shape you want, and get punching. Before long, you'll have a load of lovely confetti.

You really don't need that much. We had a whole bag full, and we didn't even get through a third of it.

Now, if you're planning a wedding, you'll already know that most venues wouldn't actually let you use this as confetti, because it's real paper and not biodegradable niceness. But we didn't want it for that anyway - we sprinkled it all over the tables, as an extra little decoration. It was a lovely little detail in a very beautiful day.

A Bookish Cake

Okay, so this one isn't very original at all. Look on Pinterest, you'll find a thousand of them. But isn't it great? Our one was made by Kelly Rhodes Cakes, and it was absolutely delicious. We still have some of it.

These ideas were ours (or other people's), and now they are yours. Take them, implement them, enjoy them. But don't sell them - that would upset me because you'd get rich and I wouldn't.

Click here to see the rest of our bookish wedding ideas, and click here to buy my books. I have a new one out, you know. You might like it.

*note that I wrote this before the release of Muse's latest album, Simulation Theory, which is actually quite good. If you allow yourself to forget how good Muse used to be.

This story was intended for my new short story collection, Removed Without Warning . You will even notice, if you read it, that it would...

This story was intended for my new short story collection, Removed Without Warning. You will even notice, if you read it, that it would have given the book its title. However, a few months after I wrote it, my beautiful wife and I watched Black Mirror from beginning to end on Netflix, and I found that one of the episodes was pretty much exactly this story. I mean, really - it's uncanny. What a bloody nightmare! So, although I wrote it before I'd ever seen or heard about that episode, I don't want anyone to think that I'm a shameless plagiarist, so I took the story out, and present it to you here, in its (almost) unedited, first draft form. Enjoy, guys.

If you like it, why not go and buy a copy of Removed Without Warning? It's full of similar stories, none of which were stolen from famous TV shows.

Standing at the door, looking into her eyes, Ken found himself thinking back on what Carl and Catriona had told him. She won’t be the same, they had said, and you don’t want to bring her back and regret it later. But as Lilly stood on the doorstep, looking at him with those big eyes and familiar half-smile, all doubt was banished, and he knew that they were wrong.
  She was the same.
  ‘Can I come in?’ She asked, eventually.
  ‘Oh,’ he said, his voice as thin and shaky as a teenager’s, ‘yes. Of course.’
  She walked past him into the hallway, and it took no small amount of effort to stop himself from grabbing her and holding her as tightly as he could, breathing her in like a drug to which he had long yearned to become addicted once again. Instead, he stood as still as he could, and their staring continued, awkward and insecure. His heart thumping with excitement, his palms wet and warm against his hips. 
  She had been gone for so long and her departure had been so quick and unexpected that to have her back now seemed too good to be true, like he had come around to find himself in a dream from which he never wanted to wake. He wanted to laugh, cry, run in circles; but he settled, after gathering some courage, on simply closing the gap between them, and holding her. After a few seconds, she embraced him too, and her touch was cleansing, like a shower after a long day.
  When they were done, he stepped back and looked into her eyes once more. ‘I’m glad you’re back,’ he said, ‘I’ve missed you. So much.’
  ‘I’m glad to be back,’ she replied, his hand clasped in hers. ‘I missed you more.’
  They had told him that when she came back, he should give her space and time to reacquaint herself with the house; so, after their short reunion, he left, to run some errands and to drive around in circles, trying to calm himself down. Meanwhile, she spent the day familiarising herself with the house she used to keep – running her finger along surfaces and looking behind and underneath pieces of furniture; sticking her head into storage spaces and sorting through cupboards to catalogue their contents. She spent the best part of an hour turning taps on and off, gauging the water pressure in different parts of the house. 
  By early evening, with her mapping of the territory complete, she set about making a meal. She was back in the house she had always known, with the man she had always loved; and now that she was here, she would never leave him feeling lonely or sad again.

It took barely a week to settle back into their old routines, and after a month, he had almost forgotten the devastating void of life without her. They sat together in the evenings and watched their favourite shows; they laughed at each other’s pitiful jokes while they washed up the dishes; and he even discovered an added bonus: it no longer sent her into a fit of ranting rage when he left his slippers on the floor by the sofa. 
  Life was bearable again; those black clouds which had hung so heavy and low, for so many months, had finally cleared.
  So, it was without a second thought that he accepted a dinner invitation to Carl and Catriona’s, and told them that Lilly would be coming with him. ‘Oh,’ said Catriona, uncertainty drenching her voice, ‘yes. I suppose that’s fine. Yes, of course it is. Of course.’
  Yes, of course it was fine. They had always done everything together before, so why wouldn’t they do so now? If she hadn’t been invited, he simply would not have gone. 
  They left early, and on the way, she suggested that they pick up a bottle of wine. She had forgotten to do so earlier, she said, and she simply couldn’t turn up without one. Ken grinned at her from the driving seat. ‘I’ll stop by the supermarket,’ he said, and squeezed her leg gently. Old routines returning, just as they had been before. He hummed as he drove, a tuneless song of utter contentment.
  When they arrived, Catriona opened the door, and her smile was anxious and unconvincing. At first, she avoided Lilly’s eyes, choosing instead to look into Ken’s and rock on her feet nervously; but she blushed and giggled as she took the gift out of Lilly’s hands and received an enthusiastic kiss on the cheek. A giggle of relief, as if she too was experiencing what Ken had over a month before: that Lilly was back, and that far from being regrettable or pitiable, this was a positive thing for all who knew her.
  She was right, of course; Ken could have told her that weeks ago. 
  Over dinner, they drank and laughed and shared stories, and Lilly listened – really listened – and nodded and grinned and begged for more details, just as she had before on a thousand different occasions. Like she had never been gone.
  Ken found himself so relaxed, in fact, that he was shocked into sobriety when, during dessert, his wife’s memory was tested for the first time since her return. How he had gone a whole month without reminiscing about some event or other, he did not know; but he wished he had when Carl pointed at Lilly, without even thinking about it, and asked, ‘Oh God, that time in Mykonos, when the waiter poured your entire dinner down the front of your dress, do you remember that?’
  Lilly looked confused for a moment, and the room seemed to fall deathly silent. It might not have even been a second, but to Ken it dragged out like minutes, his heart pounding in his ears and fear pushing acid up his throat. She would not remember, and Carl and Catriona would tell him again that he had made a mistake, that he was wrong to bring her back. It had been going so well…
  But then she said, ‘Ooooh, Christ. I loved that dress so much. It was ruined!’
  Catriona laughed. ‘And we were supposed to be going dancing later. Your face! I thought you were going to kill him!’
  ‘Hey! What do you mean supposed to? We still went. I think I made sauce stains look rather fashionable.’
  ‘People were staring at you like you were a mentalist. That was such a fun holiday.’
  ‘They were staring because of my dance moves; the dress just completed the spectacle.’
  The women laughed, Carl shook his head, and Ken discovered that he hadn’t breathed since the conversation began. He allowed himself to laugh, and it spilled out of him like it had been bottled up and shaken, ready to pop at any moment.
  When they left, Catriona became emotional. She told Lilly that it was so good to have her back, and that they must go out some time, just the two of them. ‘I’d love that,’ Lilly replied, holding her old friend’s hand and leaning in conspiratorially, ‘I’m getting sick of the sight of Ken already.’
  Catriona laughed harder than the joke deserved, and in doing so, allowed a tear to escape. ‘I’m so glad you brought her back,’ she said to Ken, who beamed like a schoolboy winning a prize.

It wasn’t only Carl, Catriona and Ken who were pleased she had returned. The neighbours would wave from across the street, and Lilly would beam at them in return, calling kind words and telling their children to be good at school. The local cats began to visit again, waiting at the back door to be fed by the one lady on the street who had never had cats of her own but always had cat food. The first time Eddie, the postman, had to knock to deliver a package, he stood gawping blankly for a while before stuttering, ‘I-I didn’t know you were back, Mrs H. I’m so happy to see you.’ It seemed like he was choking up.
  And as if it had not already been perfect before she was taken from him, removed without warning by a condition they never knew she had, Carl’s relationship with Lilly only improved. He was no better a man than he had been when she left, but still she seemed to dote on him more than she ever had. She would pick up the mess he left around the house as if she were happy to be kept busy by the task, and if he failed to do his fair share of chores – as he often did – then she picked up the slack without complaint or delay. Issues which might have developed into arguments before – big or small – were now things that washed over Lilly unnoticed, as if she had only ever pretended that they irritated her in the first place, and she was now prepared to simply let them go.
  He could not remember a time – in fact, he was sure that there had never been a time, even when they first met – when their relationship had been so blissful. So, after a couple more weeks of psyching himself up, he was finally ready to invite his daughter for Sunday lunch.

‘I can’t believe you’ve done this,’ she hissed, her face a furious shade of pink.
  Her husband was helping Lilly with the washing up, the grandchildren playing in the lounge. They sat alone in the dining room, a pathetic old father cowering from an enraged, humiliated daughter. Anger as hot as her mother’s used to be.
  Dinner had been nice. He had not expected this ambush.
  ‘Why not, Alison?’ He asked, trying desperately to hold his ground. ‘Why shouldn’t I be happy? Why should I live out my last years alone in this house, wishing I hadn’t lost the love of my life?’
  ‘It’s… sick,’ she replied. ‘It’s an insult to her memory. And it’s not healthy for you either, y’know. Replacing mum with some bloody robot to get over your grief, it’s not right.’
  ‘She’s not a robot, she’s your mother. And you talk about it like I just decided to bring her back on a whim when I got home from the funeral. It wasn’t like that at all.’
  ‘Oh no? What was it like then? When did you come up with this disgusting plan?’
  Ken straightened his shirt, sat up. ‘If you must know,’ he said, ‘we’ve been planning it for years. Since we first heard you could do this. Your mother and I went for a TruLife consultation after we saw it on the telly, and we went regularly for months for them to profile us, capture our personalities and our memories and things like that. We agreed that neither of us could live without the other, so we were ready to bring each other back whenever we needed to.’
  Down the hall, in the kitchen, he could hear Lilly and Thom laughing, as plates and cutlery clattered between them. They had never got on before her death.
  Alison stared at her father, her face twisted in a pained expression of disbelief and pity. She sighed. ‘But she’s not the same, dad.’
  ‘Yes, she is. If anything, she’s better than she’s ever been. She never gets angry with me anymore, she’s always in a good mood. Remember how angry she used to get? She’s happy, healthy, and she’s making me happy too. And she loves you and the kids, just like she used to. Don’t you want your children to grow up knowing their grandmother?’
  Alison put her head in her hand, rubbed her forehead like she was trying to pull off her skin. ‘Not after they already attended her funeral, dad. I shudder to think what this will do to their mental health, what issues they’ll have when they grow up now. And anyway, that’s not their grandmother, it’s a robot done up to look like her. Don't you think it's wrong that she doesn't get angry? It’s weird, dad.’
  ‘She’s not a robot,’ he snapped, slamming his fist on the table. He found himself to be shaking, his cheeks hot and fists clenched. He took a breath, to calm himself down. ‘She’s a human being. Almost every part of her is biological, it’s only the brain they can’t recreate. That’s your mother in there, Alison, and I want you to accept that she’s back, whether you like it or not.’
  They could hear her approaching, Thom following, bowls and desserts in hand. ‘Kids,’ Lilly called, as she walked up the hallway toward the dining room, ‘come and get some pudding, if you want some.’
  Alison sat back in her chair, her brow furrowed and her stare intense. The silence in the room was thick with resentment and rage, awkward and simmering. But Thom and Lilly hardly noticed as they entered – they were still grinning from a joke they had shared on the way.
  ‘Right,’ said Lilly, once they had placed all the food and crockery on the table, ‘Alison, you first. We have cheesecake, pecan pie, or lemon meringue. What would you like?’
  Wowee. A bit of each, please,’ Alison replied, smiling widely, a pantomime performance for Ken’s benefit. He clicked his knuckles beneath the table, his leg shaking.
  Lilly cut a slice of each dessert, humming a tune to herself as she did. Long gone were the days when she would have admonished her daughter for being piggish, and told her that no, she could not have one piece of everything.
  ‘Wow, thanks mum,’ Alison said, as she rose and took the heavy dessert from her mother’s hand. The slices were generous, fighting for space in the bowl. ‘This looks delicious.’
  But she did not sit back down or put the bowl on the table. She just stood there, holding her pudding, looking at her father as if she might present the bowl to him as a reward for some unknown feat. An awkward moment passed, in which everyone in the room waited for her to take take her seat or to make some stirring speech, and for a few seconds she just looked between her father and her food, as if she had forgotten what she intended to do next.
  In the end, she must have decided, because she smiled, and nodded, and winked at her father. She turned up the bowl and let her thick slices of dessert fall wetly onto the surface of the table, slapping cream and sugar and cheesecake all across the tablecloth. Thom stood gawping at her, and Ken slammed his fists on the table again, fizzing with speechless rage.
  ‘Whoops,’ said Lilly, a sweet smile on her face. She rolled her eyes like she had just seen someone make a silly mistake that everyone makes, at one point or another. ‘Let’s get that cleaned up.’
  ‘No,’ said Ken, standing with trembling knees. He pointed at the door, in which Alison’s two children stood staring in shocked amusement at the scene they had walked in on. Perhaps they thought it was a game – a real life food fight, like they only ever saw in films and on TV. But if it was, the adults weren’t having fun playing it. ‘I want you to leave. I won’t have you treating your mother like this. Get out.’
  Lilly began to protest. ‘Oh, Ken, don’t be–’
  ‘Out,’ Ken repeated to his daughter. Thom began to gather the children up, shuffle them toward the front door. He clearly knew what had gone on while he had been out of the room, what his wife had been waiting all day to discuss, and had no interest in involving himself in the family drama.
  Alison walked around the table and out of the room slowly, smirking like the universe had proven her point for her. And to her, it had – before her death, Lilly would have been as furious as Ken was that their daughter had done something so incredibly rude and destructive; but now, she had been gutted, that fire in her heart snuffed out. She had accepted such a blatant insult with a smile on her face, and offered to clean it up without a second thought. If Alison’s father still thought that woman was his wife, back from the dead, then he was more deluded than she had thought.
  But Ken was too furious to consider what this meant or why it had happened. He just stood in silence, as Thom put coats on the children and led them out the door, and Alison ignored her mother’s goodbyes, still so polite and kind, despite all that had gone on.

He spent a long time after that disastrous lunch stewing on what she had said and done. He was hurt that she could not see why they had agreed to bring each other back, angry that she had gone to such lengths to humiliate him into realising his mistake. He did not see why she should resent her mother wanting to shed the personality traits she never liked in herself, when she had the chance. Or why she would resent him the opportunity to be happy once again. Had he thought of it at the time, he would have told her the traits he had told TruLife not to replicate for him, if he had been the first to go: his laziness around the house; his inability to ever finish a DIY job; his fear of big dogs. Lilly had wanted to be less angry, and now she was. Alison should be pleased for her.
  But she probably wouldn’t care. She was too self-absorbed to notice the good that it had done, bringing Lilly back when Ken needed her most. She was too concerned with what was right, what was “healthy”, as if there was an objective measure of health which Ken had failed to meet.
  These thoughts became an obsession, a sad song on repeat in his brain, and over the following weeks, he became despondent. He would slip into grumpy sulks, staring out of the kitchen window or into the fire in the lounge, and sit there for hours wondering how to fix his family, how to show his daughter that her mother’s return was a positive thing. Meanwhile, Lilly would vacuum around him, pick up his discarded clothes and wash them, try to cheer him up with delicious meals. Never complaining, forever glad to be home.
  Until one day, while she was washing up and he was standing a few feet away, not helping, just staring through the kitchen window out at the garden, and he asked, ‘Why did you just let her do that?’
  ‘Let who do what?’ She replied, pausing with a plate in her hand, suds sliding down its face and dripping into the sink.
  ‘Alison. Why did you let her throw food all over our home, and just stand there saying nothing? Did you not feel embarrassed?’
  She shrugged, smiled like she thought he had wildly misinterpreted the whole silly thing. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘she didn’t mean it.’
  ‘She looked us in the eyes and tipped it over the table! How could that be an accident?’
  ‘I don’t know. Maybe she was having a turn. It’s really no big deal; I haven’t given it any more thought.’
  ‘Why not? How could you not have given it more thought? Why doesn’t anything matter to you anymore?’
  For a moment, it looked like a ray of negativity might finally have broken through the easy-going fog of her eternal contented smile, and she seemed to look hurt. She said, ‘Things still matter to me. It matters that you’re happy and healthy.’
  ‘And what about you? Why don’t you want to be happy and healthy anymore? Why would you let people walk all over you for the sake of my happiness?!’
  He was becoming frustrated, his heart rate rising. He felt like he was shouting into a void, receiving answers so mystifying that they might as well have never come.
  ‘I don’t mind. I’m just glad she’s well. As long as you’re happy, and Alison is happy, and those beautiful children are happy, then I’m happy too.’
  Very suddenly, he lost control of his frustration, and grabbed her by the shoulders. He shook her, not violently, but enough to shock the smile off of her face. ‘Why have you lost your spark?’ He yelled, his voice cracking and choking, ‘Where is my wife?! Is she in there or not?!’
  When he was done, he recoiled from her, as if he had burned his hands on her skin. He looked down at them like they had grabbed her on their own, and he was wondering how he could get them under control. He stood and he shook and he felt so ashamed, so sickened by himself and his actions. He wished he had never invited his daughter to the house, wished he could go back and decide not to start this conversation.
  He wanted to hold his wife, to apologise for what he had just done and said; but when he looked up at her, she was smiling once again. She had already forgiven him, already forgotten what he had done. This woman was not his wife – his wife would never have let him go that far, would never let him live it down if he had.
  He stomped out of the room, and out of the front door.

‘You’re through to Deborah. How can I help?’
  He cleared his throat. ‘Hello, I’d like to make a return please.’
  Deborah paused. ‘Erm, can I have your account number?’
  Ken propped his phone between his ear and his shoulder, shuffled through the wad of papers in front of him. ‘Yes, I have it somewhere here… here it is, it’s 0188291022-F.’
  ‘Thank you, let me just bring up your details here. Okay, Mr Webber, looks like you accepted delivery on 17th July, so nearly four months ago. I hope it’s all going well for you?’
  Ken looked over his shoulder, checking that Lilly was not poking her head around the door of the shed. He knew she was out having lunch with Catriona, but still he lowered his voice to a whisper. ‘No, actually, it’s going very badly. I’d like to return her.’
  ‘Return her? Can I ask what the problem is, sir?’
  ‘She isn’t my wife.’
  ‘Sorry, Mr Webber, I’m not sure what you mean.’
  ‘This woman is not my wife. She’s nothing like her.’
  ‘I’m very sorry to hear that. Could you elaborate a little bit for me? Only, it says here you received a check-in call after a month and you were very happy with her. I have “strongly agree” marked against all the questions.’
  ‘Yes, well, that was before I knew that half her personality was missing. She used to have passion, get angry, give me attitude. Now she walks around with this… this… insipid smile on her face all the time. Nothing bothers her!’
  Deborah was tapping on her keyboard, clicking her mouse loudly. She took a long time to respond. ‘It says in your case notes that you both agreed in consultation that these personality traits could be removed. I see her signature on a statement saying that she doesn’t like these aspects of herself, and is happy for them to be omitted in the event of having to be brought back.’
  ‘Yes, I know what she said, I was there. But she’s not her without them. She’s not the woman I loved. She’s this pathetic… shell. I want her anger back, I want her to shout at me for leaving my slippers on the living room floor, I want her to spend half the day not talking to me because I didn’t put the rubbish out in time!’
  Deborah paused again. ‘I see. I’m sorry, Mr Webber, but there’s nothing we can do. She’s been operational far too long for reprogramming to be effective, and besides, we wouldn’t reintroduce traits that people have asked us to omit anyway. Not when they’ve signed them away.’
  Ken felt himself beginning to shout, all discretion forgotten. ‘Well then take her back! I want to return her!’
  ‘We don’t accept returns, sir.’
  ‘What do you mean you don’t accept returns?! Take her back! I don’t want her like this!’
  ‘Well, with respect, let me put it this way: what would we do with her?’
  ‘I don’t know. Destroy her. Recycle her parts. Whatever you want!’
  ‘Mr Webber, she’s almost entirely biological. She is a life form, nearly human. To destroy her would be murder, and murder is strictly against company policy.’
  Perhaps it was the absurdity of her answer, or perhaps it was the impasse at which he found himself; but whatever it was, Ken found his eyes beginning to fill with tears, a thick stopper lodging itself behind his Adam’s apple.
  He began to cry.
  ‘Please,’ he said, ‘please take her back.’
  He had lost her once, all those months ago, and it had torn his life in two. He had never thought he could survive without her, and he had found that theory to be true in the short time between the funeral and when he brought her back. He had been in pieces for weeks, so lost and alone that he had not even wanted to get out of bed in the morning. But he would rather lose her again, and live through that devastating, soul-macerating pain, than live with this pale imitation of his soulmate for the rest of his life. He would rather sit in that old house on his own forever remembering the worst of her, all the fights and the stubbornness and the times she threatened to leave, than live with this constant reminder that he had tried to bring her back and failed, because the real Lilly was gone and was never coming back. 
  He felt helpless and hollowed, sitting in his shed with his head in his hands and his phone to his ear, crying and begging for mercy from an indifferent customer service agent. He sobbed freely and loudly, like he had when he lost her the first time. Like he was losing her all over again.
  ‘Please,’ he said again, ‘take her back.’

That's all I have to say, really. It's all in the title. Go to the  books page to buy your copy today!

That's all I have to say, really. It's all in the title. Go to the books page to buy your copy today!