About Grasslands

Tom Haynes is based in Swindon, Wiltshire (UK) and works in Newbury (Berkshire). Tom is a full-time professional ecologist (wildlife surveyor and researcher), drone pilot and Managing Director of a nature conservation consultancy. He has spent the past few years surveying the UK coastline while also being involved in various other wildlife projects across the UK and Europe. In his spare time Tom records music as 'Grasslands' and as part of the electronic band 'No Side Effects'. Tom is also a fiction writer and is a member of various writing groups. In addition, Tom is a keen model maker and builds models and commissions as GrasslandsModels Websites: Grasslands Music: www.Grasslands.bandcamp.com No Side Effects Music: www.NoSideEffectsMusic.com NatureBureau: http://www.naturebureau.co.uk Grasslands Models: www.GrasslandsModels.wordpress.com

Dark sexual fantasies and troubled minds

Tom steps through some of the difficult narratives behind acting out darker sexual fantasies and the contradictory nature of the mind.


Last night I was thinking about the #metoo campaign and a certain subject that came up in regard to it. One of my friends had written about porn websites and the amount of real rape and abuse on them and that we need to educate and better inform young impressionable men and boys. Someone replied about fantasised rape and BDSM and how that shouldn’t be included within this, as it is between consenting adults.

I knew this was close to my line, I could feel it. There was something I needed to say about this, but I didn’t know what. After a while I started to work it out.

Fantasising rape might be exciting for some, but it is still a form of desensitising of aggression and abuse. The human brain has an odd quirk of miss identifying the sensations of excitement and danger; therefore, it is quite commonplace to find something dangerous, exciting. There is also a fair amount of psychological research on early development and experience being a coda for what you class as ‘sexually exciting’. If your mother told you off for doing something when you were a kid, and you subsequently felt bad about it, then you might fetishisise this later in life. If all this is new to you AND you are one of the ones immersing yourself in risky sexual practices, I suggest you go and read a book.

Fetishising rape is concerning on many levels to me. In my experience, this type of behaviour is frequently associated with people who have a history of sexual abuse. Are there any stats on this? I’d imagine not. How well do you know your partner when participating in these acts? By making such fantasies a reality are you healing them or making matters worse? I wouldn’t know the answer, but I would hope that those practicing it have had this discussion.

I have spoken to people that have put themselves in rooms with men they barely knew with the specific intent to act out abuse. I have seen the emails these men send and how they talk, and what I saw was aggression, disrespect and threat aimed at women. Those men have mental problems and difficult relationship histories with women (and have a shockingly low opinion of them too). They are simply not safe to be in this situation with, but that is where they are, under the shroud of supposed ‘consensual sex’, ‘acting out’ rape with vulnerable people, who can struggle to communicate and express themselves honestly and truthfully.

Part of the problem is the switchable nature of the mind. The ability to endorse and support women who have been abused and then wander off back to your phone and share videos of naked ex-girlfriends with your friends. Are you aware of your own two-sided nature? Dark/light/dark/light/light/dark/light/dark/light…..

Someone on Twitter I know has a male friend that likes all of their posts and all their other ‘liked’ posts are porn videos and sexual content. Is that not an indication of what the male mind can be like? Yeah, it could be harmless stuff they do in their spare time, but it is still a window into their mind, and sex seems to be high on the mental agenda, the sexual being hidden beneath the friendly face, and yes I am more cynical about this than, maybe some others would be.

Not long ago I was chatting with a guy who was having a bad day at work and was feeling angry and started talking about his overriding urge to ‘fuck someone’. He was spending a lot of his days with women and vulnerable people. I guess there is no problem with that urge, in itself, but the harm you may be causing by acting on that urge needs to be mitigated. I wonder if this guy’s mind in ‘angry-sex-urge’ mode was able to consider that respect requirement? He casually talked to me about it in a ‘you know what I mean, right?’ kind of way. Honestly, my reaction, was ‘no… I don’t really get what you mean’. He could, of course, just go off and have a wank somewhere and calm down his sexual urges. I don’t talk to him anymore.

Someone’s drive for sexual gratification can lead them to do strange things, to manipulate, to control. This can also include denial of sexual contact. The stories I have been told are shocking, but all have a scent of the very primal urges that procreation manifests, after all, we still jump if we hear a loud noise, as our senses are still prepared to defend us from other tribes and animals, even after all these thousands of years. Just because Neolithic man was more likely to rape women, or use his physical strength to control a physical encounter doesn’t mean 21st century-man should act on it.

If it is a subconscious sexual urge, then you may be totally negligent to its overriding drive in your life, but seriously… learn to know your own mind! What does it do? How does it react? Think about yourself, educate your head!

If you are man reading this, ask yourself: Do you find rape sexually exciting? Don’t get all bitter and twisted at yourself, just note that answer. Finding it exciting isn’t an an issue in itself, but how far you are willing to go to gratify your sexual urges most certainly IS!

So how far are you willing to go to get this sensation and how strongly does it control your day to day life? For the people who’s emails I saw, well… it looked like most of their days were occupied by such urges. If that is you… I think you need to go and get some help, as putting vulnerable women at risk, no matter how you choose to justify it, will never be okay. Never!

‘I CAN control how I feel, in the mind is all it is. It’s all this is’

 

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Reinventing Failure – National Poetry Day

No Side Effects approve of #NationalPoetryDay. As a special treat, we thought we’d depress you with some of our prose of existential dread. 


We have retracted

All our names from the sun

This is enacted

This wave that never turns

 

All these voices sing and bicker

Reaching out for a slither of gold

But these machines and machinations

Will bring ruin to us all

 

Flick the switch that makes it fall apart so efficiently

Lay foundations that allow us to build something that can truly fall

And all we have are pedigrees and interventions to bury us all

 

We are reinventing failure

 

Our long protracted

Sentiments of how we feel

Our world is divided

Don’t apologies for the things you’ve done

 

All these engines roar and splutter

A space apart from our worlds apart

We’re certain we can die

So much faster

 

Smash the bricks so they can crumble much quicker

Recycle our memories and repackage them for another day

When all we have are trembling hands and prophecy

 

We have reinvented failure

 

Clear this, clear this faster

Find this, find this quicker

Kill this, kill this cleaner

Take this, take this leaner

Build this, build this bigger

Run this, run this water

Make this, make this torture

Hate this, hate this weather

Share this, share this failure

 

We revise and analyse

What’s in our skies

With time and lies we pacify

Our resemblance to humans

 

We rewind and wonder why

Our minds are inclined to satisfy

 

Our imminent failure.

 

Revisiting loneliness and isolation

Tom revisits some of his thoughts on loneliness, overpowering subconscious thoughts and relationships


Ade suggested recently that I ‘revisit’ some of my writing on loneliness and isolation from back in 2015. Most of it was written at a time when the divorce process was just beginning, and I was left to react to a world and life situation that was incredibly different to what I had been used to for most of my adult life.

One change that I am aware of is my own enthusiasm for sharing my thoughts on these subjects online. I would like to think that it is because I have become so comfortable with such subjects that I no longer feel the urge to write about them, but the reality is probably more to with confidence. There is so much written on the internet, by so many people; what gives me the right to contribute and what would I be saying that adds value to this whirly web of thoughts and opinions? These thoughts might reflect a lack of confidence in my writing muscle, or maybe I have had many of these discussions in the offline world and don’t feel such a need to do it anymore? Even so, here I am, trying again.

Thoughts of loneliness and feelings of anxiety certainly crop up more than they used to, but my perception of their arrival is much stronger. In recent months I found it difficult to achieve a meditative state while so many things were going on in my personal and work lives and I am aware now, while returning to the meditative practice, how much of a toll that has taken on my mind.

I have spent some time dissecting the thoughts of loneliness. I have sat and looked at them. I visualise them to my left and the more rationale part of myself to the right (for some reason). They encapsulate a constant bickering of conflicting points of view and self-deprecation. As I have looked at these thoughts I see more clearly that they have very little to do with loneliness itself. They are a mix of other thoughts: the fear of letting go; longing for meaningful and reciprocal connections; doubting the people you trust; replaying events with different, fantasised motivations; fear of rejection. It interests me that none of these things are specifically or exclusively connected to being alone or to loneliness, but they do empower the negative feelings of isolation. If you spend too much time listening to such voices then you just become trapped within yourself.

Many people are quick to defer much of this negative thought stream to the hunt for a ‘significant other’ who, they fantasise will chase all these unwanted sensations away. This seems to be entirely unfair on the other person. We are talking about the acquisition of happiness, which is something that can’t realistically be attributed to a single person.

*In reference to what I mentioned earlier, that voice has just appeared; the voice that says ‘why are you writing this? Everyone knows all of this already. You don’t have the answers’. Thank you for the reminder, brain!

So where am I with loneliness right now? I am aware of it. I see it. I know that I am actually quite happy on my own and always have been; it is the battle against the stream of negative thoughts that is the main thing I struggle with. This negative stream of subconscious can be combatted or, at least, postponed by being sociable. I have been quite sociable in various forms in the past couple of years, but I am also aware of a need for my own space and time away to process things and empty my mind, so I am trying to find a middle ground with this.

I think relationships hold great value, but probably more for their ability to help two people cope with the ever-increasing demands of life, rather than a means for combatting loneliness. If both people (or more, if that is your bag) are invested in it then it can be a wonderful thing. It is great to have people you can turn to for support, but I am aware of the ever changing nature of things. The fight to keep things as they are is fruitless if life is inevitably about change. Change is not always something welcomed, but it pays to be prepared for it.

The world around us in 2017 is one of perpetual changes in political landscapes and crises which contribute to anxiety and division, but it is important to tune out from time to time to allow essential perspective to flourish. Knowing there is ground beneath your feet is an important realisation.

 

NSE Tom Icon

New track Fa(i)l[l]ing released

Fa(i)l[l]ing Cover (LR)

What were Ade and Tom up to this weekend?


As part of a long delayed meet up, Tom and Ade discussed life, relationships, Brexit and even managed to have a go and turning their recorded tunes into live performances. They even managed to set dates for their next proper single and album releases (ooooh).

As would be expected, the session descended into a mirage of noise at around 2am and gave birth to our new drone song – Fa(i)l[l]ing.

Enjoy!

Will these memory flashes fade? Coping with the coping mechanism

Coping Mechanisms

Following Ade’s recent blog on loss, Tom considers how we walk through the maze of healing and tries to understand how the brain reacts to loss.


Ade’s recent blog about death and how we cope with such things has made me think about the ghosts and shadows that haunt my life. It has been almost 12 months since I separated from my wife and the pain of that event is still present. Ade wrote that ‘much in life becomes trivial and is rendered superfluous in the wake of a loved one’s permanent absence’. I have said many times that it would have been easier to cope with my wife’s death, rather than the circumstances under which we parted ways. In that scenario there would have been an end to our story, but there wasn’t one, there was just a sudden transition to a different form of life.

I am still haunted by her. Not long ago I left an important work meeting and drove away in my car, really pleased with the day’s achievements. I turned my gaze to the passenger seat, where she often sat, and I was ready to tell her what I had done today, but the seat was empty. I had to go and sit on my own for a while after that and process this lingering memory of familiarity. That was a very direct version of such hauntings, there are others that are subtle, but more frequent. Certain colours that held some association with her were difficult for me to cope with, but this issue is starting to leave me. TV programmes, films, sayings… anything that allows access to some of these abandoned memories of our relationship often bring a sudden rush of images and sounds and emotions that I can no longer abide. As time has passed, I have started to accept these experiences as part of a healing process and have felt more comfortable in the knowledge that these things will dissipate with time. I have tried hard not to run away from such experiences and tried to face them and accept that I will, of course, meet people that like similar things or wear similar clothes. I think I have put some barriers in place that I consider to be ‘too similar’, but I assume I will know them when they occur. I think people who haven’t experienced such loss find it difficult to understand the mental effort required to push past such issues and avoid shifting into a very negative and defensive mental space.

It’s funny how you can make yourself believe that you have overcome something like loss or trauma and then you find yourself moving into a new stage of the healing process and struggling to overcome an aspect that was previously beyond your understanding. This recently happened when I started to re-engage in relationships with others. My friends had told me that I would have difficulty trusting people again, which I knew would be the case, and I thought I had coped well with this, but it was only when I entered into a new relationship that I could actually see the amount of damage I needed to fix in my own internal wiring. It takes all I have to convince myself that other people will not treat me the same way as I have been treated before. What helps with this process is knowing I don’t actually need anyone else in my life, that I can survive quite comfortably on my own and I can maintain my own self-sufficiency, and that the people in my life are there because I want them to be.

I don’t want the events of the past year to define my life, so I am annoyed when unwanted thoughts careen back into my consciousness, but those friends that are close to me, tell me that it is still early days for me and that I should talk about these things when I want to and allow myself to feel the emotions that come forth.

Ade also wrote ‘in a world of opposites the more you experience one side, the greater the secrets of its opposite are revealed’, this is so true to my recent experiences. The feelings of freedom and peace that I have felt around the darkness and trauma have been so uplifting that I wouldn’t change a thing. I have met so many new friends and experienced so much, that I can’t conclude that all of this has only brought me pain and suffering. Anyone that has been through a similar set of events knows how far reaching the fallout is. It effects everything in your life, but it also cleanses at the same time. I have enjoyed losing the set predictable patterns of my old life and following this bumpy completely unpredictable one. I can see things differently, hear things differently. The world just isn’t the same.

You do have to be cautious of the type of people you communicate regularly with, as some types of discussion can be hard to cope with if there is a lot of difficult things going on in your life. Some people’s attempts to empathise can be damaging, as some people can’t help but reinterpret your issues via their own insecurities. I have been the recipient of some astronomically damaging advice and support over recent months. I include some of my favourites below with a few of my internal reactions:

It must be so difficult for you, you must see no future’ – all air in my lungs suddenly departs, and all I can say to myself is ‘wow, just wow, I totally don’t agree’

I feel so sorry for you, you have had such a terrible year’ – I don’t think it has been a terrible year actually, but I get what you mean.

The loneliness hasn’t kicked in yet, you’ll feel it in another couple of years’ – How patronising, thanks for the support, this assumes that I require some kind of permanent ‘other’ in my life, maybe you should read my blog about solitude.

I would have killed myself if I was in your situation’ – ummm… that is a bit weird to say and isn’t that helpful, because I immediately have to consider that specific train of thought. I’ll internally reform this into a sentence that says ‘wow, you are doing really well’.

You have plenty more years to start a family’ – another patronising comment and making further assumptions of what I want my life to be in the future. Thank you.

The best support has come from people that accept that I will have difficulty coping at times and that I should take every day as it comes, and have emphasised that I am doing well. Positive support, patience and positive distraction is just fine to help me along the way. Someone recently showed me a David Attenborough documentary about bioluminescence when I was feeling particularly low, which allowed me to refocus my mind onto other things. These experiences are so important.

‘Time will save you, you don’t need to save yourself’

NSE Tom Icon

Who fancies a Grasslands music curated Bank Holiday?

Grasslands takes control of Bank Holiday Monday

Are you bored this Bank Holiday Monday? Want to listen to some music? It’s been a very productive period in the cold and wet meadows where Grasslands hangs around and he’s happy to present his current musical offerings, so look no further, Grasslands can keep you occupied for hours.

No Side Effects
Over the past few months Tom has been releasing electronic music with his wildlife partner-in-crime Adrian as ‘No Side Effects’.

They have released three singles which reflect on how we all cope with this rapidly changing modern world. First up is their debut, ‘Isolation Explosion’, which is a dark synth laden mid-tempo tune with some fuzzy guitars and beat boxing.

Their second single ‘In Your Brain Right Now’ is a crazy jamming session built around a lecture by philosopher Sam Harris about controlling the mind.

Their third single ‘Dark Light’ is a synth heavy number with Tom on…

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New tune ‘Dark Light’ released plus our first Music Video!!!

Tom 1 - DL Video

We are really pleased to release our brand new single Dark Light which will feature on our upcoming album. We also found time in our busy wildlife schedules to record our very first music video.

Ade 1 - DL VideoLantern Still DL - Video

Both Tom and Ade feature in the video trying to pretend to look serious while they are blinded by strobe lights and attempt to throw themselves down some staircases.

Watch the video here:

Dark Light is one of Tom and Ade’s favourite songs and Tom has gone as far as saying that it his is favourite song he has ever recorded. So it just had to be a single, didn’t it?

The B-Side includes a demo version of an album track called ‘Turn Right and You Have Reached Your Death’. This demo was recorded by Tom while in a cottage in Norfolk and was referenced in his recent blog about solitude.

Download both tracks for free from our music store (and the other two singles):

 

Please do join in the black and white fun on our Facebook page where we are posting images of black and white objects.

https://www.facebook.com/No-Side-Effects-1377458802530315/?ref=hl

Black Dice