From the Kingdom of Kerry to the Kingdom of Lesotho

With over 57% of the population living on less than $1 a day, Lesotho, the landlocked Kingdom in the middle of South Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the World.

Over a quarter of the population are infected with the AIDS virus which has wiped out an entire generation. Life expectancy is a miserable 42 years, the lowest in the World.

These people urgently need YOUR help.

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Action Lesotho was founded in 2005 in Kerry. Originally known as Twinning the Kingdoms, it grew into a national organisation and was renamed in 2010. In the early days, the organisation was run soley by volunteers, in both Lesotho and Kerry, who focused mainly on building classrooms and community centres and providing humanitarian aid to orphans.

Thanks to generous funding from Irish Aid and IMPACT Trade Union, Action Lesotho expanded and now employs 10 full time and 6 part time Basotho employees all led by the dynamic Pippa Kearon, the in-country representative of Action Lesotho.

The core objective of Action Lesotho is to break this cycle of poverty by providing the Basotho people with the skills needed to access employment, grow their own food and help meet the humanitarian needs of the most disadvantaged in their community.

Action Lesotho works on 4 key projects; Agriculture, Healthcare and Nutrition, Skills Development and Enterprise Development.

Action Lesotho HQ in Mapotsoe is a hive of activity. Each day Action Lesotho runs a Breakfast Club feeding 70 + children who would otherwise go hungry with crops that are farmed as part of the Agriculture project. Any additional food is distributed to those who cannot take care of themselves and are part of various Healthcare projects. Women are taught sewing, weaving and craftwork in the hopes of developing cottage industries that will make them self sufficient.

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On Thursday, February 9th, Action Lesotho will be running a benefit night ‘For and About the People of Lesotho’ in the Rose Hotel in Tralee at 8PM. Featuring music, crafts, a slide show and a talk by special guest Pippa Kearon, the night will be a celebration of the work that Action Lesotho do.

Come along and support this wonderful organisation and make a difference to the World’s poorest people.

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The Remorseful Day

There was very little to be remorseful about on our whistlestop tour of Oxford and it’s actually a cleverly disguised Inspector Morse pun. Clever, aren’t I.

Colin Dexter’s fictional character Chief Inspector Morse is, in fact, one of the city’s most famous exports. John Thaw starred as Inspector Morse alongside Kevin Whateley (Inspector Lewis) in the TV adaptation of the same name. 33 episodes were flmed in and around Oxford city and it’s myriad universities so we took to the streets to visit some of the most famous scenes.

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Here’s Dad at The Trout Inn which appears in “The Wolvercote Tongue” episode.

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The Morse Bar at the Randolph Hotel also appears in the ‘Wolvercote Tongue’ and the cast stayed at the Randolph Hotel during filming in 1987. The Morse Bar also boasts a mouth watering and indeed eye watering (average price per cocktail is £25) cocktail menu.

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Here we are at the University of Oxford Botanical Gardens which appears in ‘The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn’ and is the oldest botanical garden in Britain.

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Magdalen College where we caught evening vespers, features in ‘The Dead of Jerico’.

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We saw an Andy Warhol exhibition in the AShmolean Museum which also features in ‘The Wolvercote Tongue’. On a side note, the Andy Warhol exhibition was fabulous.

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The Bodelain Library  the main research library of the University of Oxford, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. With over 12 million items, it is the second biggest library in Britain after the British Library. It features in ‘The Wench is Dead’ and is also home to the Divinity School which is featured in ‘The Setting of the Sun’.

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Now, if you’re not completely nerded out, some further trivia. Both the Bodelain Library and Divinity School feature in the Harry Potter movies. The Bodelain Library is used as the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts Library and the Diviniy School doubles as the Hospital Wing where a petrified Hermione was taken in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and the hall where Minerva McGonagall prepares the students for the Yule Ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

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Bet you didn’t see that coming.

36 hours in London

While my students were off ‘doing Europe’ for Spring Break, I thought it was high time to take a Spring Break of my own. 36 hours in London with the parents in tow. Let’s do this thing!

Friday

We arrived at the hotel at 9PM on Friday evening, dumped the bags and about turned out the door with food firmly on our minds. It was late and as we cast around desperately for anywhere that wasn’t a kebabaria, we stumbled onto Cabana, a very cool Brasilian Barbeque spot on the Islington High Street. Food was fab, staff were lovely and the decor was very funky; a stroke of luck. 13016604_1580760792236293_683599116_o.jpg

Back to the ‘otel where a slight mix up with the rooms meant we had one double bed between the three of us. Not unaccustomed to roughing it, I gallantly offered to sleep on the floor and all credit to Hilton’s choice of carpet fabric, I slept like a log.

Saturday

Saturday morning was a slow starter, mainly due to the fact I had to go in search of actifed for my ever bothersome sinuses. That and the fact I wanted to make full use of the H&M around the corner. (We don’t have a H&M in Galway so when the opportunity presents itself, I usually pounce)

Saturday was also match day; Arsenal v Watford. You can read all about that here:

https://downtherabbitehole.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/arsenal-v-watford/

After Arsenal’s 4-0 win, we mosey’d to the nearby 12 Pins. As one Yelp review eloquently surmised: ‘This is a grubby dark dingy pub. Not many would venture here on a weekday. But on Arsenal or Premiership games this pub comes alive.Probably the best atmosphere to watch a football match. Even better than going to the stadium in truth. It’s a hardcore Gooner pub with a lot of memories to go with it for most. So for a football pub, especially if you’re an Arsenal fan this is a must gameday.’

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In 2011, I spent a semester on Erasmus in Toulouse in the south of France. By virtue of our native tongues, quite a few of my friends there turned out to be Welsh/English/Irish and, having finished college, several of them had settled in London. Cue messy drunk night out/ catch up/reunion. XOYO in Shoreditch was our chosen venue to see Ben Pearce supporting the inimitable Greg Wilson.

I digress momentarily at this point to tell you the most stereotypical Paddy abroad story ever. The aul lads were not keen on their pride and joy heading off out into the (wet and miserable) night in London town nursing what transpired to be the beginning of sinusitis and did everything in their power to persuade me not to head out. Undeterred, I zipped up my bright blue Regatta jacket (the height of style) and Dad escorted me to the bus stop. By my calculations, Shoreditch was a 10 minute hop from Islington. 25 minutes later I was still on the bus. 40 minutes later we still hadn’t arrived and I was becoming suspicious, wondering had I somehow missed my stop. By the time it dawned on me to check Google maps, I’d reached the terminus of the bus. Terrified of running out of data (roaming charges are a disaster) and being left at the side of the road in the middle of London, I ran to the front of the bus to ask the driver how to get to Shoreditch. To his credit, he tried to stifle the laughted as he explained I’d got the bus going the wrong direction and would have to stay on the bus for another 50 minutes to get back to more-or-less where I started. I was  literally too embarassed to answer the phone when my friends rang to see why I was so late.

XOYO was absolutely immense on the night. On previous outings when we’ve seen Ben Pearce he’s played mainly Deep House but he rpoved his versatility with the funkiest electro set I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing him play and the entire sweaty, smoky dancefloor were out on their feet groovin’ for two hours straight. Greg Wilson was actually quite disappointing. His set included a lot of more expiremental noise and distorted sounds repeated on a loop. Just as he was about to lose the dancefloor, he pulled it back with the 80s classic Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘Relax’. Sometimes all the punters want is a song with a few words. The night wound up shortly after and, unwilling to risk another 5 hour round trip on the Nightbus, I got my first Uber.

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Sunday

As is by now an O’Malley family tradition, we spent our last morning in The Breakfast Club, Angel. Although the queue is usually bananas (you could be waiting anywhere up to an hour) it’s worth the wait. Inspired by the iconic 1985 film of the same name, the cafe is littered with memorabilia and stills from the movie and has a huge all-day breakfast menu. Hard to argue with the sugar rush from a giant stack of pancakes after a night on the hooch.

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Flights Aer Lingus : Shannon – Heathrow return

Accom : Double Tree by Hilton, Islington