the experience of men with change and challenge

Sunday 13th December 2020—Sunshine, Home, Time

It's Sunday and I am at home enjoying the sun. It leads me to think about what does it mean to be at home and what do I spend my time doing there. Can I concentrate and focus my mind?
Spain is a beautiful sunny place to live. I thoroughly enjoy myself here as I develop my life and go deeper inside myself. The doesn't always shine, often it is bitingly cold. Then I retreat inside and read or meditate. Those activities result in my writing, some of which you are reading. Can I get over my occasional inability to focus and avoid the distractions that surround me everywhere?


Today is a beautiful day. There is a clear blue sky and the sun is hot. Days like today make living in Southern Spain amazing. All this week it’s been cold with strong winds blowing off the Meseta. It’s really unpleasant when it’s like that. But then it all goes away and the sun is left behind glowing and giving me life.

The Meseta is the familiar name given to the high plateau that covers the centre of Spain. In places it’s blasted land that is either far too hot—summer—or far too cold—winter. Madrid is in the centre and can be an impossible city, weatherwise.

When the winds come from the north-west we get the full brunt, here, of either hear or cold. At this time of year the wind flows down from the Meseta and is biting cold. This surprises many people who visit the area. The reputation is one of a tropical paradise. In fact it’s more of a desert (It actually contains the only desert in Europe).

When the sun is out, even at this time of year, it can be impossibly hot and dry. I love that. I don’t mind if I have to go indoors for the middle hours of the day, I can still look out on a beautiful, shining landscape.

This is not an area for sunbathing, but for living and enjoying life.

I got to Spain a lot in winter for a blast of sunlight to banish the blues brought on by the Irish greys and drizzle. I love the cities of the Spanish interior. Kevin Barry


Our house is called Los Cuatro Vientos. It’s in the hamlet of Los Higuerales in the town of Arboleas. We are in the province of Almeria which is in the Autonomous Region of Andalucia. Administration can be complicated in Spain, as you can guess.

It is, though, our home. We don’t regard either The Netherlands—Urmila’s country of origin—or The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—my country of origin—as home, even though they were once. That is more difficult for Urmila as Huizen—her town of birth— has been home to the Schippers for hundreds of years. It’s simpler for me as my family have migrated from Northern Ireland to Scotland to England and have since spread all over the globe.

Home is where the heart is…

This is an oft used quote of uncertain origin. I prefer,

A house is made with walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Home is where I feel safe, home is where I can expand into my true self. It’s not where my family come from or, indeed, where they happen to be. It’s where I am, the real me.

At my time of life—in my seventies—it’s much easier to be settled into a home without confusion or conflict. Many people don’t achieve this and feel the effect of that. I have gone, in my life, through a great deal of confusion about where home is. I have often felt that it’s not where I happen to live. That has created a lot of confusion for, in the past. But not now. I clear, I am home.

I would sooner be a foreigner in Spain than in most countries. How easy it is to make friends in Spain! George Orwell


So I am home, in the sunshine, what do I do with my time? Well I don’t spend it sitting around sunbathing, I don’t have the time. Beyond living, that is cooking, eating, shopping, talking, sleeping, relaxing and other day by day habits, I have so much to do that I have problems fitting them all in.

I am still dealing where to put my focus day by day. Even though I have all the time in the world I find that unless I am careful I end up dissipating my energies. I am ADHD and have difficulties focusing my mind and I am easily distracted. This is something I deal with somehow an unable to fully resolve. When I worked I constantly suffered from thinking about what I wasn’t doing when I was doing something. I never seemed to be present to what I was trying to focus on.

There are a few main activities that take up my time. They are,

Reading and Writing

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Joseph Addison

This core to what I spend my time doing. You are reading one of the results of that passion now.

Reading is about feeding my mind and my soul. It is my window on the world. This is one activity I could never do without. What I love reading shifts and flows with my mods and current passions. It could be fiction, yoga, food, writing or anything of interest, which leaves it wide open.

My mind expands as I explore now areas and ideas. Writing is a crucial parallel to that. I need to get my thoughts out both to clarify what I think and to engage in what other people think. Writing puts my thoughts out for others to read. Whether it helps or educates them is a totally different issue. It helps and educates me.


You have to exercise, or at some point you’ll just break down. Barack Obama

It is crucial that I do exercise my body, to stay alive and get my blood flowing. I love walking and cycling. Right now I am concentrating on walking.

After moving to Spain I wanted to spend my time walking across the country, I have not achieved that, but not lost my desire to do it. I go out walking in the countryside around the house two days a week. It stretches my muscles and keeps me in touch with the land I live in.

Yoga and Meditation

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself. Rumi

Yoga and Meditation are at the centre of my daily life. I meditate every day, and have done for a number of years. I love the peace it brings to me and I especially love the way it takes me deep inside myself.

My yoga practice is critical to my meditation. On a practical level it enables me to sit still for extended periods so I am not distracted by my body. But more importantly it helps me to understand myself and relate what I am doing to the world at large.

Learning Spanish

El conocimiento de idiomas es la puerta a la sabiduría. (Knowledge of languages is the doorway to wisdom.)

I live in Spain I want to speak the language. It takes time and effort. It is coming but not easily.

Core of Masculinity Book