By Ben Aitken – Icon Books, 2022
In a story so utterly charming you’ll double- or triple-check to see if it’s truly nonfiction, Ben Aitken enters a Share and Care arrangement with 86-year-old Winnie Carter, 50 years his senior. In the United Kingdom, this home-sharing model offers room and board for a fraction of the cost in exchange for companionship and a few chores. Clearly, it takes a certain kind of pair to make it work.
Ben is a bit of a nomad, a travel writer who has written, among other things, of his experiences on bus tours with people who had retired. He is more than ready for this adventure. Winnie is a recently widowed aristocrat, living in a large home outside London; she can live independently but for a few tasks requiring some muscle.
Initially, Winnie is nonplussed; she doesn’t welcome Ben as much as she tolerates him—he’s a millennial, after all. She’s quick-witted, acerbic and set in her ways. Though well-traveled, Ben seems to have missed key life lessons, thinks Winnie, who finds she must educate him on everything from boiling an egg to properly warming plates. The pandemic lockdown begins almost immediately after they commit, forcing the unlikely duo into a closer bond than either anticipated. Ben’s daily entries into his lockdown diary become the basis for this laugh-out-loud, British-to-the-core story. It’s packed full of Winnie’s witty repartees and non sequiturs, and it is a joy to read.