Sarah Todd: Recollections of an old policy of personal service and hospitality

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THERE was a “young man” who used to insure my mother’s horses back in the 1970s. He got in touch the other week after my column comment on the difficulty in finding public liability-only cover for horses and dogs. The point made was that the vast majority of insurance companies nowadays only offer fancy policies, often with unwanted vets’ cover, which sometimes cost more than an old horse is worth. He wisely advised me to look at the small print of our house contents insurance, as it may include public liability for pets.

His note brought back happy memories of his former employer, the old General Accident insurance company, specifically the hospitality they used to offer in a permanent building – no makeshift marquees in those days – at the Great Yorkshire Show. There was barely a farmer in the county who didn’t arrange to meet his family for a bite to eat, courtesy of GA.

This kind of thank-you to loyal customers is sadly rather thin on the ground these days. Just like not getting a slice of pork pie and a cup of tea any more, a bit of healthy bartering seems to have gone out of the window too. The children chose some tops at Countryside Live last back end and if they hadn’t just lost the pony I’d have made them hand them back after the assistants were so stony-faced in their refusal to give us a “bit of a deal” for two. It still makes me angry to think all that high blood pressure could have been prevented for a token 50p or a £1 back. We’d probably have bought the little cousins one apiece too.

Anyway, another reader wrote to suggest joining the British Horse Society as a Gold member. For less than £60 a year, it offers exactly the sort of insurance cover needed, plus a regular magazine as well as supporting animal welfare work. More information from

Another correspondent came up with the option of joining the Dog’s Trust (formerly National Canine Defence League). Insurance cover is included on joining, with the annual membership of £25 (£12.50 for over-60s) helping to rehome many stray and unwanted dogs. Like there is on those awful recorded telephone systems (what you get these days rather than my mate and his refreshing platter of food from the ’70s) it’s probably sensible to say check all these out yourself. This columnist isn’t qualified to give insurance advice.

Perhaps readers have memories of the bygone days of free food (and drink!) at shows and other events?

Interesting to note how many have started to take the catering in-house. A little bird tells me there’s been a lot of baking going on in preparation for the bank holiday Duncombe Park Country Fair, near Helmsley, in North Yorkshire, on Monday. This is one of our lurcher, Tetley’s, favourite events. Best get him insured…