Desert Of Zin

The occasional blog of Alistair Bain – Writer, Husband, Father and Chief Techno-Arcanologist at the Institute of Giant Robots, Spaceships and Wizards. None of these positions pay well.

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Pencil, Ham

Does the pencil trump paper, is broken by rock and sharpened by scissors?

And does the ham… mutters under breath… the paper, is… mumbles incoherently… and… ham. Ham.


The spawn and I were playing vanilla Rock, Paper, Scissors yesterday and she introduced a few new factors. 



Pencil I can rationalise. But ham?

When the alarm woke me up at 6, the first thing in the early morning maelstrom of consciousness was where ham fits the the puzzle, knocking the usual bladder capacity warnings into second place.

I’m at lunch at work right now and no matter what I’ve done today, my concentration tends to swing back to ham and how it works in the new game. 

Paper wraps ham? Ham makes rock taste of ham? Scissors get clogged with ham? Pencil draws ham, revealing ham’s true intentions and vulnerabilities?

Does ham ham ham?

September 27, 2016 at 12:23 pm | General | Tags: , , | No comment

So. Nits.

Today has been a nit hunting day. Aurora is rife with them. This is the problem with school. If it’s possible to catch something, they all catch some thing. One day it’s a cold, the next it’s a sickness bug, now it’s nits.

And the thing with wee hair based critters is that it is maddening to get rid of them.

And it’s not like I have anything to fear…


… nowhere for the little blighters to hide.

In an attempt to cheer her up, she’s allowed to stay up and watch Eurovision tonight with us. I know, I know, it’s hardly a treat. But I’m all about teaching her the reality of life. This is tough parenting at its best.

Some days are all about My Little Pony and running round the garden with her friends. Others are nits and Eurovision.

May 14, 2016 at 6:54 pm | General, Watching | Tags: , , , | No comment

All the writing, all the time

Or, a bit of writing, last night.


This was my impromptu “home office” set up last night. After Doctor Who was watched, and very much enjoyed, I decided to dodge the usual late night time wasting of GTA5 and do some ACTUAL WRITING. Yeah, I know. What an incredible idea.

(The oversized keyboard in the picture belongs to Aurora. It’s meant to save her from battering the laptop keyboard. And the laptop is Ruth’s old one. Turns out the “u” key is a bit temperamental. So, I thought, I don’t mind using the bright green oversized keyboard. That lasted about five minutes before I settled on not minding about a single temperamental key.)

A few years back I successfully completed NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, with my sci-fi masterpiece The Planet Of Snakes. Don’t go there. There is honestly nothing Freudian about the title. Nothing at all.

I’ve tried editing it a couple of time over the years with no real success. Last night was another dig at it. What I ended doing was starting a rewrite. There are some good ideas in the original version but it’s too disjointed to make a decent story out of. That is, an edit isn’t enough. So, not with a heavy heart at all, I’m embarking on a longer novel than the first attempt taking part of the structure and dropping anything the clangs. And there’s a fair amount of that.

On the first attempt last night I battered through 500 words in about a half hour. And after reading it, it was binned. Awful. Terrible. I didn’t want to fall into the old trap of writing loads that was later unworkable. Neither did I want to edit as I went as that’s the death of productivity. (Once I wrote a chapter. Six months it took me. I was really pleased after countless revisions. Unfortunately, I ended up being sickened of the story and it still lies abandoned.)

So with 500 words written and abandoned I started again. But with the same approach I’ve taken with the few works I’ve actually finished. I one and half hours I wrote 382 words. But good words. I took my time, checking that what I was writing was actually worth being committed to the screen.

382 words. Not much. But 382 words more than I’ve written in a while.

September 21, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Gaming, Writing | Tags: , , , , | No comment

Wreck it!

One of the countless benefits of having a child is being able to watch kids films without having to justify it any way, shape or form.

Although I’m not sure what my justification was before Aurora came along. Oh, yeah, I didn’t need to justify anything. That’s right. 😉

Wreck-it Ralph. Much better on a second viewing.

September 19, 2014 at 11:19 am | Watching | Tags: , | No comment

So, happy new year! (a quick tour of 2009)

So, happy new year!

It’s been a ‘interesting’ year, full of ups and downs.

It started well, with me riding high off the relative success of last year’s NaNoWriMo.  It was an important milestone with my writing, the first time I ever got around to actually finishing something in a short time that I even remotely liked.  So, that was Planet Of Snakes (a sequel to the unfinished Desert Of Zin) and very happy I was with it too.

(Not that it matters what’s finished and what’s not, things have changed in that quarter.  More on that in a mo.)

Then, shortly after the new year, my mother had a cancer scare.  Not good, not good at all.  But she had it removed, went for her radiotherapy and everything is currently peachy keen.  (It’s amazing how you can get all of the angst, worry and relief of a time like that and boil it down to a couple of sentences…)

Then a few months into the year amazing news arrives.  Ruth is pregnant!  I still remember how excited I was when I found out.  We had been trying for a while and finding out really was a gift.

Then we hit the summer.  And intimidation and bullying at work.  Not good seeing as I worked for the my church.  With the benefit of hindsight, and plenty of counselling, there is definitely an element of a culture of dishonour about the way some Christians act despite the ‘Culture of Honour’ that is advertised.

Anyway, it wasn’t a sudden thing.  Using the same old hindsight as before it’s clear that my self-esteem and confidence were being ground down over a long period of time.  More on that later as well.

There was a welcome break in there called Summer’s End, a progressive rock festival in the small town of Lidney, by the Forest of Dean.  Myself, The Psycho Chicken, Bruce and (when she felt like she could endure all that glorious prog) Sharla enjoyed Steve Hackett, Pallas, Pendragon and all the wonderful bands in between.

But then back to work where the situation continued to get from bad to worse…

The months of September, October and November were back to the growing depression, anxiety, stress and suicidal tendencies.  This really was the worst part of the year for me.  I was being intimidated and harrased by my line manager (who, unfortunately, was also my minister) and despite already letting people in authority know the situation he was still my line manager and still intimidating and harassing me.

Now, I understand that in the cold light of day it might not seem like much, but when your church is your work and the only feedback you get from your minister/line manager is negative and your interests and thoughts are open to ridicule, it tends to affect you poorly.

NaNoWriMo arrived in November, right at the height of how bad things were getting.  With panic attacks and ‘The Fear’ growing almost daily it was a miracle in itself that I was able to get over 24k words.

This was the ‘All-New’ Desert Of Zin story.  I felt like the existing one was going nowhere.  I had no plan or interest in keeping it going and any ideas I did have just seemed tired.  But then I thought that it might be an idea to take the core concepts I still had in mind for the story and just start afresh.  Different setting, different characters (although with the same names) and with a narrow scope, at least initially, than the original attempt.  And for the most part I’m a lot happier with it so far.  Lots of stories to tell though, which is good.  Stops me from getting too bogged down with any one story.

But it wasn’t finished in the month, so there we go.  I’ll try again with something new next year.

It was the second-last weekend in November when everything hit the fan.  Angry threats were made at work and that was the straw that broke back of it and I handed in my notice.  Better that I was unemployed and healthy than employed and suicidal.

And I haven’t really regretted it once.  It’s a no-brainer that I have not been back to Whiteinch Church of Scotland for the Sunday Celebration and I don’t think I ever will.  I do wish them well for the future but if they ever want to see this ‘Culture of Honour’ fully realised they’ll have to really look at sorting themselves out.  One thing that going though my own counselling process has shown me is that there are a good few of Whiteinch Church leadership who need counselling of their own.

But with a month of the year left, two wonderful things happened.

A story, Whiteinch In Flight, was accepted for a local anthology…

…And my daughter was born, late for Christmas, but in plenty of time for the new year.

I have big plans for 2010.  It really feels like I’ve been through a lot this year and I’m confident and a feeling a lot more prepared for what I’m planning for the year ahead.

There are books to write, a wife to keep happy and a daughter to raise.  No problem.

January 2, 2010 at 8:18 am | General, Listening, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No comment

A daughter!

Aurora Bain was born on Sunday 27th December at 4.07 in the afternoon.

Both mother and baby are doing well and should be back home from the hospital tomorrow.

(I would have posted this yesterday but I was shattered when I finally got home…)

December 28, 2009 at 10:16 am | General | Tags: | No comment

So, what’s going on?

Wow.  It’s been over a month since my last post, and life has been hectic.

Let’s see.  What has been going on in the life of Al?

Well, NaNoWriMo started and, two and a half weeks later, stumbled and fell of the ride.  Loads of bad stuff happened, mostly from my work, and I was a basket case for the majority of the month of November.  Truth be told I was a basket case for a good few months before that and I still have a long way to go before I’m back to normal (whatever that is) and am back working on all cylinders.

25,000 words though.  That’s not bad at all.

I’m currently unemployed as I had no other choice than to leave, the sanity of both Ruth and I was more important than a part-time admin job, and it’s going to be a long haul before I have my confidence and self-esteem back to where it should be.

Anyway, all of this madness got in the way of my finishing NaNoWriMo, which is a damn shame as I was really enjoying the story I had set myself this year.  But with time on my hands before the impending birth of my first child (due date = 13th December!) I am spending some of it on Desert of Zin so I don’t totally lose the thread like I did before.

December 7, 2009 at 7:23 am | General, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | No comment