Tom Jones's chest hair and 17 other improbable insurance policies

Tom Jones's chest hair and 17 other improbable insurance policies
Whether it’s your house, your car, the family pet or your own life, we all need insurance. But it seems that some people’s needs can be more specific than others.
From phantoms to fingers and crabs to crossed eyes, it seems you really can get insurance for anything. Photograph: Andersen Ross/Getty Images
We’re obliged by law to insure our cars. We’re urged by our mortgage lenders to insure our homes. If we’ve got any sense, we insure their contents as well. And if we care for our dependents we insure our lives too.

And there, for most of us, the not-altogether-exciting world of insurance ends. But for some wild-eyed pioneers, there are always new things to insure. Let’s count down some of the strangest insurance policies in history.Silent movie star Ben Turpin was the trendsetter in this area. He was convinced that his strikingly crossed eyes were the key to his success, and was forever checking whether the various vigorous stunts in his films had uncrossed them. In 1928, he reputedly insured the condition with Lloyds of London for $25,000 (about $340,000 in today’s money), payable if his eyes should ever return to normal. It was almost certainly a publicity stunt, but the stage was set for ever more exotic showbiz insurance policies.

Not to be outdone, Charlie Chaplin, famous for his trademark waddle, got his legs insured for £100,000.In the following decade, Jimmy ‘the Schnozzle’ Durante’s trademark nose was insured by Lloyd’s for $140,000. A few years later Betty Grable, the iconic wartime pin-up, insured her legendary legs for $1m.

Still in the golden age of Hollywood, Marlene Dietrich insured her singular singing voice for $1m and Bette Davis insured her waistline. If she gained too much weight, she would also gain $28,000. Win-win, Miss Davis.Women’s bodies have been a hardy perennial in the history of odd insurance. America Ferrera’s smile ($10m), Dolly Parton’s bust ($600,000) and Mariah Carey’s legs ($1bn, I kid you not) have all been examined by the underwriters.

A story about Jennifer Lopez’s fundament having been insured for $300m may or may not be without foundation.Interestingly, supermodel Heidi Klum’s legs are insured for different sums. Her perfect right leg is valued at $1.2m but her left lower limb, flawed as it is by a small scar on the knee, only commands a lowly $1m.

Not unreasonably, some sports stars take out substantial policies to cover their finely honed limbs against damage. In 2006, England’s golden boy David Beckham took out a £100m policy to cover his legs against accidental loss or damage.

You don’t have to be at the top of football’s money tree to protect your assets. Superfan Paul Hucker paid £100 plus £5 insurance tax for a World Cup All Risks Insurance policy that would that would insure him against “psychological trauma” and pay out £1m if the England team were adjudged by a panel of experts to have been knocked out earlier than they deserved.

Talented performers in other fields have protected their key assets too. Comedian Ken Dodd put a £4m price tag on his teeth and leather-lunged Voice judge and all-round silver fox Sir Tom Jones once insured his manly pelt of chest hair for $7m.

Rolling Stones indestructible riff machine Keith Richards has insured just one finger for $1.6m. Considering the impact of his idiosyncratic guitar style on the multimillion-selling Stones, that seems a little under-insured. Contemporary croaker Rod Stewarthas valued his voice at $6m.

And it’s not just individuals who have ventured into the wilder fringes of insurance. In 2001 The National Sealife Centre in Birmingham, which had recently taken delivery of a Japanese giant crab, insured itself for £1m against claims by any visitors who were fatally nipped by the beast.

A year later the Royal Falcon Hotel in Lowestoft insured its staff and customers for a similar sum if death or disability resulted from any ghostly phenomena on the premises.
From phantoms to fingers and crabs to crossed eyes, it seems you really can get insurance for anything. Makes you feel a bit unimaginative just getting pet insurance for the family moggie, doesn’t it?Always consult a financial adviser before taking advice. Opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Sainsbury’s Bank.
Source: theguardian

Britons urged to take out travel insurance if visiting family abroad

Britons urged to take out travel insurance if visiting family abroad
Foreign Office Know Before You Go campaign highlights risks to uninsured travellers.
Foreign Office research shows that a third of people do not take out travel insurance when staying with family and friends overseas. Photograph: Digitalknight/Alamy
Britons planning to visit friends and family abroad this year are being urged to take out full travel insurance to help them should things go wrong.

An estimated 12 million British nationals are expected to visit friends and family abroad this year but new research published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) as part of its Know Before You Go campaign shows that young people are more likely to buy a present for their host than take out a travel insurance policy.

The survey shows that a third of people did not take out travel insurance the last time they stayed with family and friends overseas. More than three-quarters (77%) of those who stated that they were visiting friends and family this year and were not intending to buy cover said that saving money was a key factor in this decision.
However, the FCO warns that not taking out comprehensive travel insurance can be a false economy as people can face serious financial difficulty if they need medical treatment or lose valuable possessions.

Jeremy Browne, minister for consular affairs, said: "With over five million Britons living abroad, people are increasingly making the most of opportunities to visit their loved ones across the world. However, it's important to understand that staying in someone's home does not make you exempt from encountering serious problems. Take the same steps before you go as you would for any other holiday, such as taking out travel insurance and doing some pre-trip research, to ensure you are prepared if something does go wrong."

Despite the belief that they don't have to prepare for a holiday when visiting friends and family, 39% of British nationals have ended up relying on their host when things have gone wrong during their trip. British expats hosting visitors have to deal with a range of problems, from taking their guests to hospital when they fall ill to providing financial help.

The FCO said that it recently dealt with a case in which a man visiting his mother in Canada suffered a heart attack and had to pay more than C$40,000 (£25,000) in medical bills as his insurance had lapsed during the prolonged trip.
It also cited the case of a woman who did not take anti-malarial medication before visiting her mother in Tanzania because she had been to the area many times. She became sick and was diagnosed with cerebral malaria, from which she later died.

California's Sonoma valley wine route: top 10 guide

California's Sonoma valley wine route: top 10 guide
Napa may grab the headlines but the roots of Californian wine are in nearby Sonoma valley, where family-owned vineyards, farm-to-table restaurants and charming hotels make it an area ripe for exploring.
About an hour north of San Francisco, Sonoma valley is Sonoma County’s most concentrated wine-growing area with more than 100 wineries and a stunning range of varietals. With five American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) stretching across 20 miles of diverse soils and microclimates, it means it is possible to sip a dry rosé at a picnic table near the winemaker’s home, taste a zinfandel while seated next to the vats in a production warehouse, sample chardonnay from barrels in an ageing cave, or compare library pinots during a private tasting. While Sonoma and the villages of Glen Ellen and Kenwood are sophisticated when it comes to wine and food, they still exude small-town warmth and hospitality. And that’s not just the wine talking: in 2013 Sonoma wasvoted among the friendliest cities in the US.

TASTING ROOMS AND WINERIES
Roche Family Winery
Start your explorations at Sonoma’s tree-shaded plaza. Franciscan friars established a mission here in 1823, planting grapes for communion wine. Today, more than 20 tasting rooms are among the plaza’s historic brick and adobe buildings, pouring varietals and styles produced in Sonoma valley, Sonoma County and beyond. At the Roche Family Winery you can people-watch from the patio while enjoying a tasting flight or a glass. The specialities are award-winning chardonnays aged in French and American oak, plus a 90-point chardonnay fermented in stainless steel that just might convert ABC (anything but chardonnay) drinkers.
• Tasting $5, 122 West Spain Street, Sonoma, +1 707 935 7115, rochewinery.com. Open Mon-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun 11am-6pm

Buena Vista Winery

To experience the diversity of the valley’s AVAs, leave behind the comforts of the plaza and head for the hills to meet winemaking families. California’s wine industry began in 1857, when “Count” Agoston Haraszthy, a Hungarian, launched Buena Vista Winery. Today it is part of the Boisset wine empire, but its vibe is warm and welcoming, and every detail reflects Jean-Charles Boisset’s enthusiasm for the winery’s colourful history. The tasting room pours several varietals and a red blend (The Count) inspired by Haraszthy but the best way to soak up the old-California atmosphere is to order one of the winery’s picnic hampers ($75, including wine tasting) and relax around the cobblestone courtyard. History buffs can drive or hike to neighbouring Bartholomew Park Winery, once part of Haraszthy’s estate, to learn more about the flamboyant count – including the devastating phylloxera virus that ended his winemaking career … and the alligator that ended him.
• Tasting $15-$40, tours from $25, 18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma, +1 707 963 6900, buenavistawinery.com. Open daily 10am-5pm

Gundlach Bundschu Winery

Rooted in the past yet fun and free-spirited, Gundlach Bundschu Winery is on a 300-acre farm a couple of miles from Sonoma Plaza. “Gunbun” is California’s oldest continuously owned family winery, producing in small lots, including an annual reserve selection – usually a Bordeaux-style red – that makes reviewers swoon. Jacob Gundlach planted his first vines here – rootstock from the old country – in 1858. Five generations later, Jeff Bundschu has introduced new vines and new traditions, including the Huichica music festival held on the farm’s grassy hillside each June. Sitting here on a summer evening, sipping a chilled gewurztraminer and listening to some of the best indie bands outside of Coachella is a quintessential California experience. Gunbun’s main tasting room is open year-round; on summer weekends, you can reserve a courtyard tasting overlooking the pond and vineyards.
• Tasting $10-$50, tours from $30, 2000 Denmark Street, Sonoma, +1 707 938 5277, gunbun.com. Open daily 11am-4.30pm (June-October till 5.30pm)

Benziger Family Winery

Six miles north of Sonoma, the village of Glen Ellen was once home to author Jack London, who coined the area’s nickname: the Valley of the Moon. In the early 1900s London experimented with sustainable agriculture on his ranch, now preserved as a 50-acre state park. Next door, the Benziger Family Winery has furthered London’s ideals – following biodynamic principles to grow grapes on their farm below Sonoma Mountain. The tasting room pours a refreshing sauvignon blanc and an excellent pinot, but the stars are the rich red blends crafted from estate-grown grapes. The farm, which recently won a green medal for environmental stewardship, is lush and inviting, with sheep, Highlander cattle and an “insect nursery” where natural pestkillers are raised. Tours are popular, so make reservations well in advance or have a plan B, such as visiting the Benzigers’ chic sister winery, Imagery Estate, known for crafting award-winning wines from rarely grown grapes such as barbera, lagrein and teroldego.
• Tasting $15-$40, tours from $25, 1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, +1 707 935 3000, benziger.com. Open daily 10am-5pm

Kunde Family Winery

As Highway 12 heads north toward Kenwood, it enters some of Sonoma valley’s most heart-tugging scenery. Vineyards sprawl across foothills and ridges, with the highest peaks dedicated to parklands. Stretching two miles along the highway is the Kunde family’s 1,850-acre estate, where fourth- and fifth generations continue tending vines. From the varying terrain, soils and microclimates, 19 varietals are grown for a broad portfolio of estate wines. This landscape begs exploration, and six times yearly, you can hike the vineyards with a Kunde neighbour or family member. Billed as “moderately strenuous” due to an uphill stretch, the four-mile hike is more of a meander, with frequent stops for generous tastes in situ. There will be a chance to sip luscious Century Vines zinfandel while standing next to the thick, twisted trunks of hundred-year-old grapevines and see filming locations for Bottle Shock (which starred Alan Rickman as sommelier Steven Spurrier). Daily van tours take guests to a hilltop tasting area under a bower of oaks, with views down the valley – all the way to the bay. Picnickers are welcome in the gardens outside the main tasting room, and free cave tours are usually available, too.
• Tasting $10-$25, tours from $30, 9825 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, +1 707 833 5501, kunde.com. Open daily 10.30am-5pm

WHERE TO STAY
Landmark Vineyards, Kenwood

In Kenwood, 11 miles north of Sonoma Plaza, Landmark Vineyards hosts guests in a cottage or suite overlooking the vines, with the Mayacamas range as a backdrop. The guest suite is unabashedly romantic, with a king-size bed, fireplace, patio, in-room breakfast and a complimentary bottle of Landmark’s Overlook chardonnay. Though this idyllic location is far from the bustle, you’ll find three mountainside parks and more than a dozen wineries, restaurants, and tasting rooms practically on your doorstep.
• Guest suite from $275, cottage from $300, 101 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood, +1 707 833 0053, landmarkwine.com


The Swiss Hotel
Expect to spend $200 and up a night for a room near Sonoma Plaza, where you can stroll between tasting rooms or along the town’s bike path. If you’re looking for a bargain, visit midweek when rooms are discounted, or November to January, when rates fall by as much as 50%. The Swiss Hotel has five rooms, all with access to the balcony overlooking the plaza. The hotel was built around 1850 and used as a private residence by General Vallejo’s brother – it’s only steps away from the adobe barracks that housed Mexican, then US troops (now a state park). Rooms are simple but spacious and tidy, with Victorian-inspired decor. If you’re a light sleeper, keep in mind that the open-air bar/restaurant downstairs is lively on summer weekends.
• Doubles from $110, 18 West Spain Street, Sonoma, +1 707 938 2884,swisshotelsonoma.com


Sonoma Chalet
Room prices tend to decrease as distance from the plaza increases. Only five minutes away, Sonoma Chalet offers four guestrooms and three cottages, some with fireplaces or private porches. Two of the guest rooms share a bath and parlour, and can be rented together as a suite. The emphasis here is on comfort: fluffy quilts, Oriental carpets, clawfoot baths and a shady garden deck with a hot tub. Pastoral and quiet, this former farmhouse is near the 152-acre Montini Preserve, where hiking trails climb to give bird’s-eye views. Stray further, and there are motel chains 20-40 minutes away in Petaluma or Santa Rosa. And, 15 miles north, there is camping at Sugarloaf Ridge state park ($35 a night,reserveamerica.com).
• Rooms and cottages $140-$225 B&B, 18935 Fifth Street West, Sonoma, +1 707 938 3129, sonomachalet.com

WHERE TO EAT
The Girl and the Fig
Restaurants around Sonoma’s downtown plaza are famous for their relaxed ambience and excellent wine selections. At the forefront of Sonoma’s local food movement is Sondra Bernstein, owner of The Girl & the Fig, who has won accolades for her extensive wine list and creative seasonal menus: Provençal cuisine with California flair. The patio is a convivial spot for sitting with friends and trading bites of locally produced cheeses and delectable appetisers (from $10). Mains start at $20 and plats du jour are $38 for three courses. If you can’t land a reservation or walk in, there is a second location in Glen Ellen, as well as Suite D, Bernstein’s crowd-sourced pop-up (open most summer weekends) in a warehouse, east of downtown.
• Open Mon-Thur 11.30am-10pm, Fri-Sat till 11pm, Sunday brunch 10am-3pm, 110 West Spain Street, Sonoma, +1 707 938 3634, thegirldandthefig.com

Park 121


Chowhounds on the road in search of local flavour should be prepared to brake for delis, farm stands and roadside cafes. Park 121, a few miles south of Sonoma in Cornerstone Gardens, makes a fine choice for lunch or a cup of Blue Bottle coffee while exploring Carneros wineries. The modern farmhouse decor features a blackboard map showing where ingredients are sourced from. During summer, when organic produce stand The Patch’s beefsteak tomatoes are in season, Park 121 serves a classic BLT ($10) and the empanada ($12) is great for a winery picnic. Take a stroll around Cornerstone’s shops and architect-designed gardens, as well as the three tasting rooms that are on site – proving that you’re never far from liquid sunshine in Sonoma valley.
Source: theguardian.com