The landlords of Colchester’s premier live music venue, The Bull, have announced that they won’t be renewing their lease on 31st July 2016.
Dave and Fiona Richards took over the Bull in 2007 and quickly turned the pub into a well established and highly respected music venue and many in the live music scene have been left disappointed. Having performed at the Bull myself, and seen numerous bands there, I can’t help but feel that the future of live music in Colchester hangs very much in the balance, with fewer pubs providing these types of opportunities for live bands and their followers.
In a post on Facebook, Dave Richards blamed a lack of money from customers, constant negativity about Colchester and a lack of support from Colchester Borough Council:
“People do not have the money they once did, and are choosing more wisely what to do with it. Constant negativity about Colchester is no good for the town, lack of support and direction from the Council are all factors that are changing the town we live in. When will somebody actual talk about all the good things that happen here, then people may come back to the town.”
Good luck Dave and Fiona in whatever adventure you have next. Let’s hope the new Landlord is as enthusiastic about live music as you have been.
If you want to get a Vodafone Suresignal for free and you’re a Vodafone customer, read on.
Where I live, the mobile phone signal for all networks is always weak but usually usable, especially outside. But come the spring when the trees are in full leaf, the signal disappears completely including on my own network, Vodafone. This despite the information on the Ofcom website saying that I should be able to get signal in my home. It’s simply due to the surrounding trees blocking the Vodafone signal (and a lack of 4G investment in my local area).
Vodafone offer a product called Suresignal. Vodafone Suresignal uses your home broadband connection to act as a mini phone cell in your home, giving you perfect signal. It uses a technology known as a femtocell (it basically adds a mini phone mast to your house and send the signal along your broadband connection).
Get a Vodafone Suresignal for free
Suresignal costs around £80. However, I didn’t see why I should have to pay Vodafone for the privileged of receiving mobile phone signal in my home when I already pay them £60 per month for 3 handsets and lines! (that’s for me, my wife and my son).
Write a letter and request a Vodafone Suresignal for free
Fed up with such a poor level of service, I decided to write to Vodafone and explain that I wasn’t happy with the service I was receiving. I explained that when I took out the contracts I was assured the signal in my area was reasonable and that this clearly wasn’t the case. In my letter, I stated the following:
“Although there is indoor signal for voice calls in my area according to OFCOM, the reality is that this is incorrect. Calls made indoors often drop, if they are received at all, and SMS messages can take hours to send or receive. 3G and 4G is nonexistent.
This is the case with both of my mobile phone contracts with Vodafone.
I therefore request that you do one of the following (in order of preference), failing your agreement for which I would request a Deadlock Letter:
You improve the signal in my area
You provide me with a Vodafone Suresignal for free(I do not see why I should have to pay for a device to improve your network coverage when I already pay £60 per month for your service)
You provide me with three new handsets with Wifi Calling
You release me from the contracts”
It worked. 13 days later I received a call from Vodafone advising that they had checked the signal in my area and it was very poor. They sent me a free Suresignal which arrived 5 days later. I can now enjoy full Vodafone signal in my house.
Don’t try it on!
Vodafone can tell if you are receiving a poor level of service. They can check technical records, see how often your handset drops off of the Vodafone network and how often calls don’t make it through to you. They’re not going to send you a Suresignal if there are no issues with the service in your area. They’re also very unlikely to send you a Suresignal if you’re a Pay as You Go or Sim Only customer, or if your contract is due to end soon. But if you are a genuine customer, struggling with signal, they’ll help you. Be persistent, but fair.
In June 2016 my company received a letter based on a Commercial Register scam, purporting to be acting on behalf of Companies House. The letter advised us that we needed to complete our company details and return the form to the company in the pre-paid envelope. The form was accidentally completed by the admin team and returned.
Two weeks later, we received a bill for €993 for placing an advert in the ‘Commercial Register’. The invoice came from a Spanish company based in Madrid called Direct Publisher S.L.U. and included a copy of the signed ‘order form’. The order was, apparently, for listing our company in the ‘England Commercial Register’, but it transpired we had actually signed up for an advert on the very poor quality website com-reg.com. We had been hit by the €993 Commercial Register scam. In more recent months, the amount that they have asked other companies for has been £863+vat.
This scam is nothing more than a modern version of a business directory scam which Action Fraud have detailed in the past.
Direct Publish S.L.U. had got us…for now
We had been hoodwinked into signing a contract for an advert, and the actions the company used to obtain the signature weren’t honest, weren’t upfront and hid the real reason for the payment. That’s fraud. Ironically, they’ve also never actually advertised us on the search function within their website so have breached their own contract. I have always made it very clear to Direct Publisher that I won’t be paying a penny and to date I never have. Strangely, they’ve stopped contacting me completely but continued to pursue hundreds of victims (see the comments below) with all types of legal threats.
What to do if they demand payment
Quite simple – don’t pay it. It’s a blatant scam.
In June 2017, some victims of the scam began to receive letter and emails from people claiming to be legal representatives of Direct Publisher. The emails come from email@example.com and threaten court action. There is no name of the law firm on the email, which immediately looks suspicious.
You would have thought that if Direct Publisher had such a firm legal case that they would have taken the matter to court months ago, especially as they have given so many victims a final demand on numerous occasions.
Another thing I find suspicious about these emails is that the legal-recovery.com has no website and the domain is hidden for privacy on the WhoIs database. Why would a genuine legal firm want to hide their details from the public domain?
Direct Publisher use Bullying tactics
In my opinion, these scammers are nothing more than bullies who attempt to apply pressure using various guises. They prey on small business owners and bully. They use poorly written letters and attempt to make themselves look official.
Report the Commercial Register scam & Direct Publisher S.L.U.
I reported Direct Publisher SLU to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, who advised that they were aware of this company and not to pay the bill. A warning has also been issued to farmers. There are reports on Spanish websites of the same where Spanish companies have been duped into this Commercial Register Scam (you can see comments in a translated page here).
The company was clever with the original letter looking to be very official and from a UK Government department. So be careful what you sign, and definitely don’t pay them. If you receive a similar request, report it to Action Fraud and help them build a case against this dubious Spanish company.
I had previously advised people to report the scam to action fraud, but the reality is that they don’t do anything at all.
I have been contacted by various people by phone, email and via this blog about this company. Here’s what I’ve been told to date:
the initial letter looks official and as if it was from Companies House
most people can’t recall seeing any terms and conditions or mention of a payment
some people have alleged that their signatures have been scanned and then printed on a different contact
What to do next if Direct Publisher threaten you:
What you do next is completely up to you. I recommend:
don’t return the form
don’t reply to their emails
don’t get into a conversation with them – you’ll get wound up going backwards and forwards with their ‘brick wall’ style communication
don’t pay them any money, regardless of their threats
do report them to action fraud
Where they are based
Many people are receiving an email from the scammers saying that the website has been moved from com-reg.com to comm-reg.com. The registered person of the com-reg.com and comm-reg.com domains has now been revealed and listed on Whois as:
Fernando Mancho Palacios
Fuencarral n.160, Entreplanta, 7.puerta
State / Province
Companies House recognises this Commercial Register scam
Companies House have warned people about the scam (see item 4).
Don’t send a letter back without a stamp
Royal Mail have confirmed that any letters meant for Europe without a stamp will be thrown away, so don’t bother returned the envelope without a stamp. You’re just wasting a good envelope!
Previous threat letters
I decided to write to this unscrupulous company and so sent them an email, saying that we would not be paying it and that we had reported them to Action Fraud. I received the following reply from Ella King <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
“Dear Mr Hicks
We thank you for your e-mail of 31st May 2016.
We confirm that an advertisement order was placed by [our company name] when returning the original order form to us duly completed, signed and dated.
All the conditions of our commercial offer including a prominent price in bold were given to you at the outset and it can only be expected that you were fully aware of the contractual commitment being entered into.
Since your cancellation request was not sent to us within the contractual cooling off period of fifteen days from the date of signature this order has come into force. Your company’s advertising can be viewed on our website at: www.com-reg.com.
We kindly ask you to honour existing contractual commitments and settle the invoice at your earliest convenience.
Customer Support Dept.
Of course, I still had to intention to pay, so replied and said: “as previously advised we will not be making any payment and leave you to take any action you feel necessary”. A couple of days later, I received another email:
“Dear Mr Hicks
In reply to your e-mail of 6th June 2016 we must reaffirm that full consent was given to the business terms for the publication of your professional data on our website upon returning the signed order document.
Absolute Asbetsos Solutions Ltd.’s order has become valid and legally binding since no withdrawal was effected within the contractual cooling off period defined in Point one of order terms and conditions.
We look forward to receiving your payment.
Customer Support Dept.
So I wrote back, and said the following:
“I’ve already made it clear that we will not be paying it. I also left you to take whatever action you feel necessary.
No further correspondence will be entered into.”
Update – 21/06/2016
Today we received a “PAYMENT NOTICE” from Commercial Register scam HQ. I’ve ignored it.
Update – 27/07/2016
Ella King from Direct Publisher S.L.U. has accused this blog of containing “subjective material with no legal foundation or filtering or verification of the veracity of claims made” and that Direct Publisher SLU is a “fully registered business and the order document in question meets all legal criteria” (see comments below).
In response to this I would say that Direct Publisher SLU know exactly what they’re doing and they don’t like being called out on it. Action Fraud have themselves told me (and others) that Direct Publisher SLU is acting fraudulently. That’s fact, not subjection. As for “legal foundation” – if you scan someone’s signature and add it to another form that’s illegal. It is a fact that some of the people who have contacted me (see below) have alleged this has occurred.
Direct Publisher SLU may be a “fully registered company”, but not in the UK. They hide this fact on the original letter in small print and give the overarching impression that they are acting on behalf of Companies House in their initial letter. That’s not illegal, but it’s immoral and if nothing else its hoodwinking.
Update – 16/08/2016
Received a “THIRD REMINDER” regarding the Commercial Register Scam today dated 12.08.2016. I’ve ignored it. This was received after my email to them on 28/07/2016 which read:
Time for you to take this to court. We’re not paying.
I look forward to hearing from your solicitors in due course.
I received a letter from Direct Publisher SLU and their ‘Legal Department/Departement Juridique’. The letter is another demand for the invoice to be settled as says that “to date you situation has not been regularized” and that they “demand that the outstanding amount is paid upon reception of this notice.cf1”. I’ve ignore it.
Update – 25/09/2016
A person who has been a regular contributor to this article, Nina Woolcock, has spoken to a solicitor. Whilst I am not a solicitor and unable to offer any legal advice, she has this to say:
“I spoke this week with a solicitor specialising in commercial law/disputes. He said he had only that very morning had a client in with exactly the same issue with Direct Publisher as all of us. He also said, having looked at the evidence, that it is a scam, do not pay anything, do not enter into any communication with them. He interestingly also said there was another scam, virtually identical, about 6 years ago.”
Traffic to this blog has become exponential compared to a few months ago. I am probably being contacted by 5 people a day on average either reporting that they have been duped by the Commercial Register scam or that they have received a letter. It seems that this is a reincarnation of various other scams, including a European City Guide scam which even has the same greyed out terms and conditions on the reverse of the letter as the current fraud
Update 11/10/2016 – yet another threatening letter from Commercial Register
Please share this website on social media and spread the word about this dreadful company, and if possible link to the article from your own website. The more people that spread the word, the less people that will be conned!
As of 27/06/2017 I have never received any court letter. I’ve never been taken to court, seen a bailiff or anything else that this company threatened to do 8 months ago. This all goes to confirm that this is a scam set up by people who have absolutely no intention of actually commencing legal proceedings because they know they’ll never win a case.
I have been contacted by hundreds (if not thousands) of people who have been touched by this scam and my blog is currently receiving almost 75,000 page views a month. I’m always please to hear from people in the comments section but am unable to reply to individual emails or queries (I’m not a solicitor and can offer no legal advice, so please don’t ask).
If you’ve been helped by this blog or saved money, please consider making a small donation to help towards it’s upkeep.
The new BBC Top Gear has been branded ‘Flop Gear’ by critics who have heavily criticised the brand on social media.
Complaints included criticism of Chris Evans’ “shouty” style of presenting, Matt Le Blanc’s “awkward banter” with the show’s host and Evans’ attempts “to be Jeremy Clarkson”.
Like many, I was highly anticipating the new Top Gear, hoping that new presenters and a new producer would bring a new format. Sadly, what viewers received was a very poor copy of a once great show.
I wanted the new show to do well. I found the original line-up of Clarkson, May and Hammond funny, but I didn’t care that they had left. I was sure that the BBC would bring back the show bigger and better than before…they utterly failed.
Chris Evans was the wrong choice as main host
The problem with Chris Evans splits into three main area – he tried to copy Clarkson, he shouted too much and he isn’t a journalist. Whilst Evans has a fleet of expensive classic cars (including a $6million 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder), and whilst he had previously spoken of his passion for fast cars, it was clear from the program that he was struggling to be himself.
At times, he was clearly attempting to mimic Jeremy Clarkson style of presenting, and it felt cheesy. He felt like a poor quality photocopy to listen to, and he shouted far too often. Add this to the new set which two-tiered standing, and you’d be forgiven for thinking this new show was TFI Friday meets Top Gear; two programs that should never be mixed.
Matt Le Blanc was slightly better
Matt Le Blanc is a self-confessed car nut and was decent enough at presenting the VT’s, but his banter with Chris Evans was awkward to watch. The two men couldn’t be any further apart when it comes to presenting. Le Blanc was quieter and more self-controlled but at times it felt as if he was struggling to remember the script. Lots of dead air.
Where were the women?
Other than a quick VT featuring Top Gear regular Sabine Schmitz, the BBC clearly missed a great opportunity to get a woman into the show as a main producer. There were plenty of choices available to the BBC, including Former F1 driver Suzie Wolff, car nut and 5th Gear host Vicki Butler-Henderson, or even former BBC F1 host Suzi Perry.
There simply aren’t enough women presenting car-related programs on television and the BBC missed out on an opportunity to change that. If we’re going to get young women into engineering and motorracing then we need more women role models for them to look up to.
Why was Chris Harris relegated to the spin-off show ‘Extra Gear’?
Anyone who has watched Chris Harris on Youtube knows he’s an excellent presenter. He really understands cars. He’s a racing driver. His style of presenting is much better suited to the Top Gear format. He should have been a main host.
The BBC missed an opportunity to completely re-boot Top Gear
The BBC could have made the new Top Gear different, but instead have tried to hold on to the money-spinner which was Top Gear of old. They, like me, have to accept that it just isn’t the same without Clarkson, Hammond and May. I doubt the program will make another series.
Time to switch over to Amazon Prime and get ready for the new Clarkson show ‘The Grand Tour’, released Autumn 2016.
A member of the Colchester Berechurch Labour Team has helped clean-up one of the residential areas within Berechurch. Councillor Martyn Warnes got out his mop and cleaned-up the street name signs and Neighbourhood Watch signs on Bourne Court. He also carried a litter pick to help keep the area tidy.
Martyn said: “Green Algae was obscuring the signs and litter was accumulating. We’ve had to cope with a 47% reduction in our Council budgets since 2010. The Tories are making it really difficult for us to maintain public services.”
“What would have once a job proudly done by Council workers is now down to our volunteers. That’s why I’ve taken a lead and are helping to keep our ward clean and tidy”.
Where littering takes a hold it is and becomes a blight upon a community it can depress property prices and increase the fear of crime. The Keep Britain Tidy Campaign reports that four types of litter have increased. These being fast-food wrappers, snack packs (e.g. crisp packets, biscuit wrappers), discarded food and drink and carrier bags.
If we are to reduce the amount of litter dropped in our country we have to also change the behaviour of the one in five people who regularly drop litter. The individual items may be small, but persistent littering leads to billions of tons of litter ending up in the ocean every year.
Every now-and-then, Aldi supermarket have a range of different Ales available and yesterday I discovered a new one called Spill the Beans Coffee Porter produced by Welsh brewery Brains. I love dark beers and I love coffee porters so snapped a few up, and at a quid a bottle, who wouldn’t?
I poured it in a glass and Spill the Beans Coffee Porter looked like a porter. Can’t say much more about that.
Sadly, Spill the Beans Coffee Porter just didn’t hit the spot for me. Although the flavours were balanced (and could definitely taste coffee and the promised caramel flavour) the beer just lacked body. It felt far too thin on the pallet, I’d even go as far as saying it was watery.
Also, as is often the case with bottled ale, it was far too fizzy. In fact, it was so fizzy I felt like it had been carbonated at bottling stage rather than been conditioned in the bottle (which could explain the lack of body).
Would I recommend it?
No. OK, so it’s £1 a bottle which makes Brains Spill the Beans Coffee Porter a very cheap beer, but as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. It wasn’t bad, but compared to a real ale like Colchester Brewery’s Brazillian Coffee porter or the classic Nethergate Old Growler it was miles off. It’s a cheap drink and tastes like a cheap drink.
Shame, as if Spill the Beans had taste as good as the label looked it could have been a better all-round beer. But for me it lacked body.
Ever since I moved to Cherrytree in Colchester, I’ve suffered terrible mobile phone coverage. The problem becomes worse in the Spring when the trees from the nearby woods begin to blossom and come into leaf where I go from weak mobile phone reception to virtually zero.
Poor signal is a problem throughout the Cherrytree estate and continues on to the nearby village of Abberton. Despite poor mobile phone signal being a problem for many years there are currently no plans to increase coverage in the area. This is in contrast to the town centre and Hythe areas where 4G LTE reception is superb. Put simply, Cherrytree and Abberton are in a black hole when it comes to even half-decent coverage.
In the Holt Drive area of Cherrytree and Fingringhoe Road area of Abberton, Ofcom says the following about indoor reception:
Voicecalls – “Coverage in some buildings may be poor” 3G – “Signal in most buildings is unlikely to be sufficient to use 3G data services reliably” 4G – “Signal in most buildings is unlikely to be sufficient to use 4G data services reliably ”
And for outdoor reception, the Ofcom website says the following:
Voicecalls – “Likely to have good coverage” (I don’t) 3G – “In green areas you are likely to have sufficient signal to use 3G data services reliably” (I can’t) 4G – “In green areas you are likely to have sufficient signal to use 3G data services reliably” (Absolute rubbish!)
The reality is that the mobile phone coverage in these areas is pretty much useless. If I’m lucky enough to be able to make a call, I often don’t receive them. Even SMS messages can take hours to send or arrive. As for mobile internet such as 3G or 4G, well you can forget it.
It’s fair to say that as well as a lack of mobile phone masts in the area, poor signal is affected by other environmental factors. One of these is the amount of woodland surrounding Cherrytree and Abberton.
It’s a fact that trees block mobile phone reception. That means during the winter months I can get some sort of voice signal and it rarely drops. But as soon as the trees are in full bloom I’ve had it.
In addition, the networks are reluctant to pay for such masts in areas with relatively few customers.
There are products available which can help
If you’re a Vodafone or EE customer, there are devices which you can buy to boost signal in your home, but you’ll need a decent internet connection for them to work.
Vodafone customers can purchase a device call ‘Suresignal‘. Suresignal works by adding a small femtocell to your home and utilizes your broadband connection for you to make and receive called. You’ll need to buy the Suresignal but there’s not monthly charges after that. You’ll also need an internet connection with a minimum of 2mb.
Other mobile network offer apps which do a similar job, such as O2’s ‘TU GO’ app and if you purchase an update handset from them (such as an iPhone 5c and later models of the iPhone, as well as the latest Android and Windows devices) you can take advantage of Wifi calling with the EE network.
However, none of the above solve the real problem – poor mobile phone signal coverage from the major networks – and none will work once you’re away from your broadband connection. Most also cost money and upgrading a handset just isn’t an option for someone who is only months into a new contract.
What can I do to put pressure on my mobile phone provider?
Frankly, not much. I asked Ofcom the same question and was told:
Contact your mobile phone network and make an official complaint. Explain that there is no network coverage in the area and demand a better service. Complain in writing
If your mobile phone provider refuses to do anything about it, or refuses to release you from your network, take your complaint to the Ombudsman – this may result in the provider upgrading masts in your area if enough complaints are lodge
You provider may provide you with a free signal booster if you complain to the Ombudsman rather than having to release you from your contract
Failing this, you can ask to be released from your contract
Change provider, although when I asked Ofcom how this would work in an area with no signal from any provider, they couldn’t give me an answer.
In a letter yesterday, it was confirmed that a Colchester Planner approves plans to demolish Balkerne Hill Bridge and have it replacement with a new bridge, 30m wider, to allow a shared cycle path with pedestrians.
The (frankly) bonkers plan, which has been objected to by many local people including Sir Bob Russell and cost a huge amount at a time of ‘austerity’, will be open to public consultation at 6pm on 26th May 2016.
We regularly place orders from the bakery in our office for sandwiches, which are all hand made on the day using fresh bread and rolls made on site, and which are available in a range of types from coronation chicken to BLT. The fillings are always extremely generous and the prices very reasonable.
As well as sandwiches and rolls, the bakery provide sausage rolls, pies, jam tarts, cream doughnuts and all manner of other delights.
So today, rather than buying a mass produces sandwich from a supermarket, give Brightlingsea Bakery a go. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
Brightlingsea Bakery can be found at 4 High Street, Brightlingsea. Telephone 01206 302488.
A common question I’m asked from customers and friends is Do I need to pay for antivirus software? If you’re a home user the straight forward answer this is no.
There are many different free antivirus programs available on the market now and whilst some may not provide a full range of utilities for free, almost all will provide protection again computer viruses. Examples of such programs include Avast, Bitdefender, Panda and AVG. In terms of basic performance in catching infections, testing has shown that the free and paid-for products were about the same. Some were faster than others, but
In terms of basic performance in catching infections, testing has shown that the free and paid-for products were about the same. Some were faster than others, but more expensive software wasn’t necessarily faster than the free versions or any better at identifying viruses.
I’m a business user – Do I need to pay for antivirus software?
Technically, yes. This is because free licenses seldom extend to commercial computer systems. Of course, there is nothing stopping you from installing a home-user version of an antivirus program to you work PC but you’ll likely be breaking the terms of the license agreement. Free antivirus software generally doesn’t extend to file servers, either.
Buying a full business suite can have some other built-in advantages, like allowing you to block employees from visiting certain websites and I would urge any business to look at a full solution such as Kaspersky.
Keeping your computer up-to-date is a great way to prevent malware and viruses infecting your PC.
Sadly, the people who write malware and viruses one step ahead. This is why you should install any Windows updates as soon as they are offered to you. Every time Microsoft becomes aware of a security vulnerability they will provide an update to fix the problem. Keeping your computer up-to-date means you’ll get the latest security updates as soon as they become available, thus lowering your chances of an infection.
I like Windows 7 and don’t want to install Windows 10
There are lots of people who are resistant to installing Windows 10 due to the bad press Windows 8 got, but you really should consider it.
Windows 10 offers a more secure and safer operating system. Upgrading to Windows 10 from Windows 7 will make your safer online and less vulnerable to viruses or malware. Don’t ask Do I need to pay for antivirus software if you’re still using Windows 7. Go ahead and get one of the free software suites.
I’m still using Windows XP. Am I safe online?
No, you’re not. Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft. There are no new updates and the operating system is vulnerable to security attacks. You should definitely consider upgrading your computer, especially if you use it to access the internet. At a minimum you should stop using Internet Explorer and upgrade to a more secure browser such as Mozilla Firefox.
Definately don’t carry out any online backing using Windows XP. If a security vulnerability is discovered by hackers Microsoft aren’t going to fix it and you risk having your personal information hacked.
Which free antivirus solution do YOU recommend?
Personally, I prefer Bitdefender Free as it’s lightweight and works silently (also recommended by PC Advisor Magazine). However, if you’re looking for software which will tell you a bit more about what it’s doing and “hug” you a bit more, go for Avast.