Wednesday, 18 March 2020

                               Welsh Peace Flame walker

I have one achievement I feel a humble pride for. Just one. It was founding the New Zealand Peace Bell Association in 2004, a prerequisite to having a World Peace Bell gifted to my country. I believe I have penned the details elsewhere in blogging. Suffice to say, the New Zealand World Peace Bell was unveiled in Christchurch Botanic Gardens on October 3, 2006.

As a new venture, our organisation staged an Open Day last December during the run-up to Christmas. It was an opportunity for people to ring the bell. (When most visit the World Peace Bell they cannot erring it owing to the striker being installed only for events.) The Open Day welcomed people to ring the bell.

One visitor impressed me especially. Julie Marsden, from Wales, was in New Zealand with her husband Jez, visiting their son living in Rangiora. Knowing his mother loved the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Julie went there during her first hours in Christchurch. ``what great synchronicity,’’ she later wrote.  While enjoying the sunshine and the rose garden, she heard the pleasant sounds of a bell tolling. She went to investigate and so we pleasantly met.
Julie Marsden an NZ World Peace Bell

She rang our bell and we got chatting. I told her how the World Peace Bell came about and how part of the deal for its gifting by the World Peace Bell Association in Tokyo was my cycling the length of Japan. The bike ride was a journey to look forward to, co-inciding with my sixtieth birthday. I had dreaded reaching age 60. Having some project to look forward to, I reasoned, might lessen the trauma. It certainly did.

Turned out Julie Marsden had a similar experience. Two years previously, Julie was 60.

``I decided to walk home from the World Peace flame monument in North Wales. This was 320 km through Wales, over mountains. I am not a mountain walker but I do love walking,’’ she told me.

It was an amazing experience. Some days were tricky just as some days in our day to day lives can be tricky, she said.

``Some were outright scary I have to say. I thought I was going to die on one particular day. I was given bed and food on my way by total strangers who have become friends.  I took a Peace Flame back to my community in Brynberian North Pembrokeshire on the west coast of Wales and we are creating our own community peace flame monument.

``Then I was, as a result of this, invited to take a Peace Flame to Lake Como in Italy. Which I did and since then there is a Peace Flame monument at the Rockefeller institute in Bellagio.

``Then I was invited to Ireland to the rock of Cashel to take part in an Arts Festival that was about removing walls (metaphorically). I set off walking from my home, across on the ferry to Ireland and across to Cashel in the south of Ireland.

``I didn't know but many schoolchildren joined in my last day’s procession into town with the Peace Flame. It was incredible.

``Part of my idea of walking was to raise funds to get some education packs aimed at schoolchildren translated into Welsh.  This had finally happened and I have a box of them at home ready to take into local schools. The world peace flame project is called

``I have copies of a teacher's handbook and the children's workbook with me in English. All this material can be downloaded for free from the internet for teachers to use in classrooms. It is a worldwide project and some schools set up connections like pen pals through this.’’

 We met again in the Botanic Gardens and Julie gave me a workbook to pass onto a local teacher. We also shared a Peace Flame candle. Hubby Jez took our picture.

                                                              Julie and the blog writer

Looking back on two years of walking for peace and connecting with communities she concludes;

``There is so much kindness and love in the World. We are fed fear and anxiety by the media, but Love can overcome all sorts of obstacles as true kindness and love is very powerful. I am trying to inspire people not to be afraid and by stepping out we can bring more peace into the world through connection with each other. There will always be difficulties but by focusing on the positive and good and, encouraging others, we can bring light into darkness.’’

Graciously, Julie told me visiting the World Peace Bell was the highlight of her trip to New Zealand. She will be talking a lot about the World Peace Bell organisation.

Check out Julie’s Peace Walk FB page; Julie's Community Peace Flame walk a walk guided by the light of the heart.
Also the FB page; New Zealand World Peace Bell.

Our chance encounter has me thinking; How can varying peace organisations cooperate for a common good?

                                                        New Zealand World Peace Bell. A spring view 

Monday, 16 March 2020

Iceland best country for women
For the 11th year in a row, Iceland has been declared at the best country for women. No surprise then a woman, Katrin Jacobsdottir, is Prime Minister. Looking remarkably like New Zealand PM, Jacinda Ardern, she was elected in 2017 and since re-elected. Jacobsdottir has adopted New Zealand’s `Wellbeing' budget announced in 2019.


Almost 40 per cent of parliamentarians in 2020 are women. In 1973 it was just three per cent.
In 2018 Iceland was the first country to pass laws requiring equal pay to close the gender gap. During my visit (in September 2018) it was explained to me the law also applies to people with disabilities and other misfortunes.
Childcare is subsidised. Men, along with women, get paid maternity leave. Almost 90 percent of Iceland women are in the workforce.
It was not always like this. Well not until women banded together to force change. Withdrawing their labour, schools closed. Businesses closed. The Alliance political party was formed. And Iceland got the best results for women. Those who turn up their noses at social democracy need to look hard at Iceland. Being fair to all people results in a happy country were people perform better than in most countries where only the richest citizens reap rewards, typically at the expense of everyone else.
 Iceland’s land area is similar to New Zealand’s North Island. Its population is less than that of Christchurch, New Zealand.  I found Icelanders courteous, competent and excellent English speakers.

Day out in Iceland

 I only wish I could make a return visit. It is on the opposite side of the world to New Zealand. When I was there the time difference was 12 hours. All purchases were made by credit card. Just as well. The cash needed to buy a pint, even during happy hour, would have been hefty on my pocket.

Good but expensive

I was attracted to Iceland owing to its remote mid-Atlantic location. I knew I would enjoy Iceland’s natural landscape features even though they are similar to home. Luckily the weather was kind enabling an enviable selection to be experienced at their best.

                                                                       Strokkur Guysir

Knowing Iceland was taking on gender equality in a big way was a bonus.