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Get Festive with a Christmas Market

Do you love Christmas? If you do, then London is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the festive spirit. And winter markets are the perfect place to do just that.

Here’s a list of just a few of the markets open this winter in London:

  1. Old Spitalfields Market: Visit this market for events, art, a seasonal food market and late night shopping.
  2. Cologne Christmas Market on the Southbank: The perfect place to visit for German food and hand made gifts.
  3. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland: How about a little mulled wine and a skate around the ice rink?
  4. Clerkenwell Christmas Fair: On Friday 3 Dec, why not come down to EC1 for carol singers, great food and craft stalls all hosted in Smithfield Market?

This post was brought to you by Colleen Van Dyk at London Presence

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Why Use A Mail Forwarding Service?

You have a home, you have a letter box and you have a postman. So why would you consider using a mail forwarding service for your business? It’s a fair question and one we’re eager to address. For too long the Mail Forwarding service has been seen as a retreat for the not-so honest (or outright dodgy) businessman. Due to our stringent ID checks, not so anymore. So how could you benefit from a mail forwarding service?

If you own a business and give your home address out in any capacity, be it as your registered office (see here) or as your trading address, customers will turn up at your door. Fact. Whilst this may be fine with some – others may not be so keen. So why not provide your customers with an alternative address where they can reach you via a letter? There’s nothing deceptive in protecting your home address. And if your customer turns up at our offices we’ll politely inform them that we are a mail forwarding service and encourage them to leave a message for us to pass on. We will not give out your details.

Secondly, how often have couriers attempted to deliver an item to your house only for you not to be in, resulting in a Saturday morning spent down at the post office? With a mail forwarding service this would be a thing of the past as our offices are manned Monday to Friday, 9am to 17.30pm meaning we can sign for and then forward on these items. Live in London? You can even come and pick the items up.

Finally – it can add prestige to your business. When you’re launching a new business, it is vital to keep costs down while still appearing professional.  Working from home may be the smartest decision at this point in time, but let’s face it – appearances do matter. Our mail forwarding services, allow you to use a prestigious Central London mailing address without the high prices involved in renting a physical office.  Put your best foot forward and give your potential clients more confidence in your business.

Let’s Get Quizzical

Last Tuesday we at the Made Simple Group took part in the annual Catch22 quiz event. Fuelled by free booze and nibbles we propelled ourselves to the lofty heights of third… from last. The blow of such a placing was softened somewhat by winning the “best team name” prize (‘It’s just a big iPhone!’) but even this was sullied by our suspicions that the award was given more for helping the organisers with some technical issues beforehand rather than our witty moniker.

As ridiculous as it sounds, we even practiced. Pointless you may think considering the whole gambit of possible questions but it did present us this one moment of magic; Question: “What is the longest river in the world?” unnamed individual:  “The Serengeti”. Yes, our calibre was high.

Despite our poor performance, the event magnified the importance of teamwork. The sports fanatic, the geography specialist, the music obsessive, the film fiend, the barman – each role as important as the next.

What makes a good team is universal, be it in the workplace, on the football pitch or indeed at a pub quiz, the attributes are still the same. Whilst success is the primary goal, it’s important to recognise the individual needs of every team member.

Trust, shared goals, valuing opinions, good communication, recognising strengths, well defined roles and recognition are all attributes that deal with the individual. If these are adhered to then the workforce is happier and more likely to succeed.

And whilst for us quiz success remains elusive, at risk of sounding sentimental, at least we left as a team. 

Olymp-clinically Obese

With the Vancouver Winter Games now over it’s London’s turn to take on the Olympic challenge. In 877 days the capital will be immersed in an Olympic fervour. For most of us living in London the games will be incomparable to anything we’ve experienced before. World Cups, Tennis Championships and Golf Tournaments will fade into obscurity under the glare of the Olympic torch. Or this is the promise.

Despite the magnitude of the games, Londoners haven’t taken the event to their hearts yet. This can be blamed on one thing: too much hype.

We won the Olympic bid in July 2005 (the 7/7 attacks infamously followed), come summer 2012 we will have known about the London Olympics for 7 years.

Every week since our successful bid various news items related to the games have bombarded us. Even the Beijing Olympics were viewed (in British broadcaster’s eyes) as a prequel to London rather than its own Olympic Games. Since then we’ve had Boris Johnson wiff-waffing and numerous handovers including one this week (how many times can one thing be handed over?). No matter what the event, a seven-year lead up will inevitably cause overkill.

To make matters worse a vast majority of the press has been negative. Not only have we been over fed the Olympics; we have been over fed all the bad stuff. We’re olymp-clinically obese.

The only way to recapture our hunger and get match fit is to go on a diet, to shove everything Olympic related in the freezer until summer 2012 when our appetites will be suitably whetted. Londoners more than anyone want a successful Games, we just don’t want them rammed down our throats.

Forum Fracas

With our London Presence hat on we recently posted on a rather well known business forum a thread asking, “What do you love about London?” The answers were going to make up a (rather lazy) blog in regards to what is great about our capital.

Ten minutes after starting the thread I hesitantly checked up on the forum expecting a few cynical replies centring around “do your own blog”. Instead I’d received a deluge of posts from forum members letting me know in no uncertain terms exactly what they thought of London. Let’s just say the response was far from positive. Fortunately the thread became rather entertaining as Londoners came on to defend their fair city.

Perhaps it is an obvious question, but why do Internet users, or more specifically forum users feel they can act in a manner totally not suited to everyday “real” life? I took no offence at London being judged so scathingly; it’s a city, not a person. But why did people see fit to tell me why they hated London so much?

This unpleasant attitude is consistent with every active forum out there. If you visit a rock bands website and ask for an album recommendation you’ll first be lambasted for your ignorance and then shoved towards the search function. If you go to a technology forum and ask for some advice on what TV to buy you’ll be told to buy a toaster instead.

You wouldn’t tell someone to use a map if they ask for directions or ridicule someone for requesting a piece of advice, why then is common courtesy abandoned once online? Forum members use their total number of posts (proudly displayed next to their witty avatar) as a badge of honour belittling “newbies” and anyone else who has not exceeded the 4000 post mark.

Surely if you can’t write something nice, then don’t write anything at all.

Moving On

If technology had a mantra surely it would be “advance”. Odd then that so many of us get stuck in a technological rut when it comes to updating software on our computers. Let’s take internet browsers for example. A recent article states “IE6 started off 2010 with about one-fifth of the browser market share”.  Amazing considering it was launched in 2001.

Concerns have mounted in recent weeks over Internet Explorer 6 after it was revealed security flaws within the browser were to blame for the “cyber attacks” on Google that apparently originated from China. These security issues have led to calls for the UK government to make a move away from IE6 to a modern browser. The NHS for example has been urged by The Department of Health to update as soon as possible.

A petition set up by web-firm Inigo tasked with speeding up this move states “Most creative and software development companies are forced by government department clients to build websites for IE6 when most of the industry has moved on. Upgrading would be a massive task for government but if the public is encouraged to lead the way and the government follows, that would create the momentum needed”.

The continued use of the browser is adding extra pressure upon web-designers as they are being forced to work with a system that is approaching its tenth birthday (IE6 is in fact older than the first Ipod and how many times have you updated that?). If the security threat is not enough to prompt a change then perhaps the stunted growth of the web may be.

As a web based company we have our own in house development team – and of course, they always have to make sure that our sites work effectively in all browsers.  In fact, in October 2009 we updated our company formation site – and because our company formation system has to talk directly with Companies House, it was a particularly complex process.  However, whilst our savvy developers rose to the challenge elsewhere – they were considerably hampered by ensuring all processes worked in IE6.  Any developer will tell you that IE6 is a real headache (to put it politely).  So come on all you IE6 users – move with the times. 


Our local Tesco had it easy for too long. Located on St John Street in Farringdon, it has lapped up all the custom in recent years being the only supermarket within a lunchbreak walkable distance. Now though they’ve got to up their game, a flash new Waitrose has opened right next door.

So what has their retaliation been? Not cheaper prices (as far as I can tell), not more staff, not even new produce to rival their neighbour. No, instead they’ve installed self-checkouts where perfectly good manned checkouts used to be.

Now whilst studying I spent a hellish few years working in my local supermarket (job title: barcode analyst) so I’m quite the expert when it comes to “checking out”. My fellow shoppers obviously did not carry out this rite of passage though as my queuing time has tripled.

It is understandable Tesco wanting to demonstrate progression but this particular addition seems rather odd. Very rarely is the average man-on-the-street going to be faster than the trained checkout staff.

The obvious answer for supermarkets doing this are to save on staff, but could there be a more web related answer? Are supermarkets taking advantage of the web-savviness of their average shopper? By replicating the experience of shopping (or just paying) online are we settling for a lesser service in place of a sense of control?

Snow Joke

January has not been kind to the London commuter. Journeys to and from work have mutated from the tiresome to the ridiculous. Wet socks and red noses now come as standard as we undertake epic campaigns that Ranulph Fiennes would recoil from. Yes, yes all this snow was awfully Christmassy in December when the sound of boot meeting snow was savoured, but now we’d rather walk on the road and brave the onslaught of cars than tackle the ice.

We used to sigh at the sight of 4 minutes on the District Line, now we’re lucky if it says 14 minutes (not that you’ll get on it anyway). Trains decide to linger at stations so to “even out the service” while everyone on the train knows this is to “give the illusion of a decent service”. Planes stop, trains we’ve covered and automobiles slip and slide all over the place because we’ve run out of salt (the nation’s obsession with fish & chips was bound to catch up with us).

It’s hardly surprising so many of us fail to get from home to work and another massive portion simply don’t even bother to try. It’s no contest; sit at home in the warm as newsreaders scream about the oncoming snow apocalypse or venture out and endure a journey six times longer than normal?

Stating that everything comes to a standstill when snow strikes is a cliché but there’s little else we can do. Estimates suggest disruptions caused by the weather over the last week may cost the economy billions. Not exactly ideal timing considering you know what. Isn’t it time that we learnt from our European and American friends and learnt to carry on despite the weather? Perhaps this is the perfect time to invest in a virtual office service. Mail Forwarding and Telephone Answering services are available where you can give the pretence of having trudged into work when in fact you are working from home. Business as usual!

Rise in Youth Unemployment Figures Embarrass Labour

On this blog we have previously looked at the thousands of young people turning their backs on the traditional career path of work hard, university, good job, as a result of the recession. However, the true cost of the recession for the youth of today was revealed this morning as youth unemployment figures has risen to nearly one million.

The ‘lost generation’ ,as Labour have previously called them, looks set for years of unemployment and the dole, as one in five of the UK’s under 25 are left out of work and unsure of what the future will hold.

This will be an embarrassing day for Labour who in the past, have publically vilified the Tories for years of complacency in ignoring the plight of teenagers in today’s society.

In 2005 New Labour claimed to have ultimately obliterated youth unemployment as a direct consequence of their commitment to the New Deal scheme. However experts are now suggesting that the drop in youth unemployment at that time was largely due to economic boom rather than Labour’s socio-economic policy.

London Rail Chaos!

London was warned to prepare itself for two days of travel chaos yesterday as a RMT and Aslef unions announce further strike action.

The city was brought to a virtual standstill last month as strike action was carried out and yesterday some commuters were warned to expect more of the same tomorrow and on six more consecutive days throughout the next month.

The strike will affect all trains run out of Liverpool Street Station by National Express and East Anglia and is a consequence of union’s unwillingness to accept salary increases offered.

It is thought that almost 300,000 commuters will be affected and more will have to deal with the overspill overcrowding their services.

Efforts by both sides to reach an agreement failed and talks broke down at the start of this week. Both companies warn that all services run by the National Express and East Anglia will be disrupted.