The Gran Tour – Travels with my Elders by Ben Aitken

I truly admire Ben Aitken for embracing the world of coach travel, normally the realm of older folk on a tight budget. He embraces the experience by taking four different trips and recounting tales of bingo halls and drinks coupons, set meals and hotel entertainment. But this is more than just a comedic view of how the aged like to traverse the nation with flasks of coffee, finger rolls and lashings of camaraderie.

There were moments of laugh out loud delight but these were skilfully balanced between snatches of real life recollection, moments of poignant interaction that make his travel companion characters both real and relatable. The loneliness of old age, the sad realisation that the body is failing, the rifts and resentments that you feel after a lifetime of work, family and responsibility. Aitken has delivered a social commentary on how the young have so much to learn from their elders, how the dynamics have shifted and how sharing experiences with people half a century older than you can be uplifting and joyous.

This is a book full of witty, sharp observation with some fabulous one-liners. It’s probably the best advertisement for Shearings Coach Travel that they could ever wish for. In this age of post-pandemic ‘staycations’ I’m actually considering this as an option for future excursions. Why not?

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