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The Wedding – Venues, Ayrshire

Castles include:

 

Dundonald

 

Kelburn

and my own personal favourite

Culzean

Hotels:

Western House

Gailes

Lochgreen

Lochside

Unusual:

Dalduff

Hillhouse

 

GRO Coffee

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I have been to GRO Coffee three times now and hesitated about writing a review because they always seem to be busy and the business appears to be doing well but there’s something just a bit off about the way things run there that makes me feel it’s not as good as it could be. One of my companions today said that the staff were all different so possibly the regular staff were on holiday which would explain the following  experience.

I arrived first and waited for my  friends. During the time it took for us all to assemble the menus arrived but the table wasn’t cleared. The plates, cups, glasses etc sat there accusingly and after 15 minutes they were finally taken away but crucially the table was not wiped and remained sticky to the touch.

 

The order was taken and after some time we asked for the table to be cleaned. A further 25 minutes passed before the order came out and it was the wrong sandwich that was delivered. Finally we got what we asked for –  Eggs Benedict, a breakfast sandwich and an omelette. The tea and coffee had arrived earlier and was a tad cold by then. We noticed that several people had given up waiting to order and had left but the staff didn’t even notice as others arrived soon after. We ordered more tea and coffee and all in all were in there for two hours. A brunch shouldn’t take that long.

 

It appeared to me that there were too few experienced staff on duty to deal with a warm summer’s day crowd, which is a shame. There is a garden at the back which is popular with young families because of a play area and there are comfortable couches to sit at inside and they are very dog friendly if the number inside today were anything to go by. Brunch for one person comes in around £12 but if you are in a hurry to go somewhere else and get out to enjoy the Scottish sunshine you may feel a sense of frustration if today was typical of the service one can expect. The staff could not be faulted for friendliness but the efficiency is lacking at the moment, judging by today’s efforts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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https://www.facebook.com/grocoffee/

Burnt

Burnt is a sublime film set in the world of the culinary adventure that is Michelin star restaurant life. The protagonist Adam Jones – Bradley Cooper – is a recovering drug addict who had glory in his youth when he excelled in Paris. He tells the audience he was nearly as good as he thought he was. Having gone to London to try and recreate this success after two years of sobriety the film follows the hero’s journey narrative construct of Campbell. Other characters include rising chefs, old loves, new possibilities and enemies who might be friends and friends who might be enemies.

Cast includes Sienna Miller, Uma Thurman, Emma Thomson, Daniel Bruhl, Omar Sy and Henry Goodman. Because of the world of international cheffing the languages veer between English, French and Italian with subtitles but modern audiences will find this a joy rather than a chore.

As one would expect the dishes themselves are also the stars of the show but there is a nice little bit of product placement in Burger King used to explain the concept of consistency and quality for the worker versus the 500% mark up charged for quality cuisine elsewhere in the city.

If you like your heroes flawed and enjoy the road to redemption, give this film a view. The decision about the success or failure of the journey to the third Michelin star is so subtly done that I needed to rewind to be sure.

burnt

Solace

Solace is a cross-genre film which meshes the notions of serial murder investigations with psychic ability. There are three main protagonists played by Anthony Hopkins, the reluctant psychic, Abbie Cornish an FBI agent with a background in psychiatry  who bears a passing resemblance to the psychic’s dead daughter  and Jeffrey Dean Morgan who is the FBI agent Hopkins has previously worked with. The psychic ability is presented as both a blessing and a curse as Hopkins can see everything from the past in a series of montage images and projected futures just by touching the person or an object. Imagine having the ability to read a letter which has been written just because you are holding a pen and that will give you an idea of how special the character is meant to be. The projected futures play out according to whether Hopkins intervenes or not. The imagery of the future is sometimes unhelpful and the montage of Atticus/Cross/Bottle breaking/Antagonist that he receives early on doesn’t really help until right before it happens. It’s a case of knowledge not necessarily being helpful.

About an hour into the film it becomes clear that the antagonist is also psychic and actually better at prediction than Hopkins has been up to this point. Played by Colin Farrell, he can pinpoint the precise time that the police will discover a body and uses this to make it difficult to catch him. His motivation, although questionable is also understandable but not one Hopkins can agree with.

There is, of course,  a showdown in a public space. There is death and a final reveal. Solace was apparently conceived to be a follow up to Se7en and watching it, it seemed to me that it was supposed to be a pilot for a TV show using different actors but perhaps not.

The reviews of this film when it came out were not very favourable but I liked it. It’s a Monday evening kind of film rather than a weekend blockbuster but still worth a viewing.

 

Trailer

While My Eyes Were Closed – Linda Green

I picked this up as a buy one get one half price deal and hadn’t heard anything about it beforehand. It is a “number 1 best seller” according to the blurb by an author who has written The Mummyfesto, 10 Reasons Not To Fall In Love and The Marriage Mender amongst others.

The story revolves around a busy mother, Lisa, who takes her child Ella to the park to play hide and seek before going home after picking her up from her parents’ house. When she is walking towards the tree to do her counting to 100 she takes a quick call on her mobile then continues to let Ella hide by finishing the count as promised. When she opens her eyes she can’t see her little girl and after looking in all the usual hiding spots asks for other people in the park to help her. Eventually she calls the Police and at this point the sinister nature of the disappearance plays out.

Each chapter is written by different characters – the mother Lisa, the abductor “The Piano Lady” and the abductor’s son. Because the reader finds out early on who took the little girl this is another whydoneit but there is a conceit towards the end that didn’t work for me because it was all so obvious. Personally I think that if you are going to use a “reveal” scenario then the reveal should be more of a shock and not one guessable towards the first third of the book.

Another pool read for all that.

Helpless

The low drizzly cloud

resembled smoke –

Smothering the water –

As the car came round the bend.

Heroic d(r)ivers searched

In the gloomy depths for the children

Hidden

By darkness, depth, despair

Sinking lower, lower into the loch of despond

Lost, forever in the inky-black icy murk

Not giggling, but drowning.

The Girl on the Train

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The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
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The Girl on the Train uses the plot device of an unreliable main character whose memory is difficult to access to reveal the denouement right at the end of the book. She knows the answers but they are locked away, impossible to access.

The main character is an alcoholic who spies on her former husband and his new wife – Tom and Anna – from the safety of the train to London. As time goes on she begins to watch another couple – Scott and Megan – in a nearby house whom she imagines to have a perfect life. She is outraged when she sees the wife being cuddled in the garden by another man and when, shortly afterwards, Megan disappears Rachel the alcoholic inserts herself into the investigation determined to get to the bottom of it.

I knew an alcoholic who had very similar blackouts and this bit of the story rings true but it makes the reader get very irritated by the protagonist as we want Rachel to “sober up” literally and metaphorically as we read all the things she is getting involved in just because she lacks the focus to get on with what she really needs to do.

There is meant to be a slow reveal about who the person is who has caused the disappearance of Megan but I have to say that I worked it out quite early on so if it’s not so much a who done it it might be better to think about it as a why done it.

The police don’t come out of it very well but again this is a plot device to give the protagonist a reason to behave as she does.

I can see why it is a best seller. I can recommend it as a quick read, perhaps by a pool.

The Niche, Irvine

106 Montgomery Street, Irvine, North Ayrshire KA12 8PW 01794 683107    

 

The Niche is the sort of place that suits people who like their food cooked fresh in a fairly relaxed manner. If you like chatting to your friends whilst waiting for something delicious to be prepared, then this might be the place for you. The tables are fairly close together so don’t go there to give away your greatest secrets but the wooden bench along the wall facing comfortable chairs across the table gives a feeling of space, if not privacy. We booked which was just as well as the lunchtime trade was roaring what with both indoor and outdoor seating and the waiting staff are chatty but not intrusive. The place tries to provide healthy eating options. 

I asked for the steak, chorizo and pomegranate salad and was surprised to be asked how I wanted it cooked as I had expected strips of steak already prepared but it isn’t that sort of place. The chef seems  to be a perfectionist and the steak was cooked to order – medium rare – and spot on as a result. I followed this up with affogato, later followed by a proper Americano. This came to a reasonable £13 or so. My companion had a fresh burger with vegetable fries and a couple of pots of tea. Amazingly this was a tad more expensive.

 

The only criticism is more of a niggle as it didn’t affect me personally but the tea comes in a clear pot, apparently due to some directive or other, and they can only put a certain amount of hot water for a single serving in it. It has the effect of making you feel cheated. Lovely looking pots, just mostly empty.

 

Do give it a go. Try out those healthy options.

salad

LGG5 Review

Two weeks ago I was through in Edinburgh for the day and decided to pop into the EE store on Princes Street as I was due an upgrade. After looking at various models of phone I chose to go for the LGG5 because the camera functionality is important to me. The chap who sold it to me couldn’t have been nicer and when I got home after a long day moving over from my old phone to my new phone wasn’t really an issue even although the micro SIM is a bit dodgy if your fine motor skills are poor.

Pluses

Nice appearance

Pleasant tone

Lock code can be set for varying amounts of time so that it doesn’t power down too quickly and there is a fingerprint version for further security if that is important to you.

The camera does take clear photos and although I haven’t had time to play around much with it yet the phone seems to sinc well between apps, especially the social media ones.(see below)

The version of fit-bit on the phone which measures footsteps is certainly motivating to try and take more exercise.

Negatives

Upgrading installed apps – needed to do that within a couple of days

The Power button has stopped working after only 2 weeks – seriously!

EE through 150 – again a lovely chap called Michael – were in agreement the phone is faulty and will replace it. Unfortunately I was told to go back to Edinburgh to return it. Sadly, for me, this will be a 5 hour round trip by train.

It was suggested by Michael’s manager that I try Ayr to see if they have stock but they are not answering their phone 0845 097 1868 and although I have left a message no-one has returned my call.

So my choices are – get an early train tomorrow – my only day off till next weekend – and go to Edinburgh (round trip 5 hours and around £36) or wait till Ayr opens tomorrow on the off-chance they will have the right phone in stock and be willing to muck up their stock control.

What have I learned?

Newer isn’t always better.

Never upgrade your phone in a shop that isn’t near your home.

Customer Service is an old fashioned notion.

 

 

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