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The Flying Pigs: I’ll never forget when Cillian asked me why I was dressed as a grilled tomato

Filming Peaky Blinders at Portsoy.
Filming Peaky Blinders at Portsoy.

Professor Hector Schlenk of the Bogton Institute

As a scientist, people are always asking me questions, like “Have you heard about the enterprising nurse who’s selling immunisations for a fiver round the back of the Beach Leisure Centre?” to which I reply “Yes, apparently she sells T-cells by the sea shore.”

And then we laugh, albeit briefly, until the spirit-crushing horror of the last 12 months returns to the forefront of our minds.

But this week, people have mostly been asking me about Mars. Not the chocolate bar (others are available!), nor the popular beat combo who topped the hit parade with Pump Up the Volume in 1988 (Bruthas and Sistas!). They’re referring, of course, to the Red Planet.

There’s been something of a rush on Martian endeavours of late. Both China and the United Arab Emirates have recently sent craft to orbit our solar neighbour, returning their first images earlier in the week.

But, whether it comes to per capita military spending, obesity or space exploration, our American friends always have to go one better!

Nasa successfully landed their Perseverance rover on the surface of Mars on Thursday during a tense and dramatic piece of remote driving.

This sort of precision parking is truly impressive, even for a scientist like me, and I take my hat off to them. I borrowed my nephew’s drone a couple of summers ago in Hazlehead Park, and I’d no sooner grabbed the controls than I’d sent the blasted thing plummeting into the meerkat enclosure at Pets Corner.

Most of the public have been hoodwinked by the glorified mongoose’s cutesy image, but trust me, if you’d recovered a small device with operable cameras from the amorous little devils, you’d think of them quite differently.

So, what are the boffins hoping to find in the Jezero Crater near Mars’ equator? Well, the crater in question is believed to be the former site of a long dried up lake, and the hope is that there’ll be evidence of life found on the shoreline.

This exactly parallels an experiment I myself carried out at Walker Dam in the baking hot summer of 1976.

And if those findings are repeated, the Perseverance will prove that Mars once served as host to a colony of tadpoles, a discarded Soda Stream canister and a Fine Fare carrier bag.

Shelley Shingles, Showbiz Correspondent and Miss Fetteresso 1983

O M actual G! Cinemas may still be all boarded up, but big productions are still filming, and one of them is right here in Aberdeen!

If you’re in the vicinity of George Street, Tillydrone and King Street this week, and you’re moaning about the roads being closed, don’t start effing and jeffing too loudly or you might ruin a take!

Have a look out your car window as you sail past the “no entry” signs and you might just spot dreamboat film star Tarragon Egerton. He’s the one that played the improbably good-looking versions of Elton John in Rocket Man, and Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, and he’s in town right now shooting a film called Tetris about a Russian scientist who invents the famous video game. It’s bound to be a blockbuster! My showbiz spies tell me that the script took ages to finish cos every time they completed a line, it disappeared!

Isn’t it amazing that when they wanted a location to sum up the bleak oppressive look of Soviet-era Russia, top of the list was Tillydrone Avenue? It’s just a pity they weren’t here filming a week ago when the snow would have made it look even more authentic.

But it’s thanks to the weather that we also had another production in the news, with folk from top TV drama Peaky Blinders snowed in at Huntly thanks to snow drifts on the A96 after they’d finished filming in Portsoy. Apparently, two people and a canary ended up in a local house overnight. No names have been released but it must have been main star Cillian Murphy. It wouldn’t have been the first time he had a canary on location!

Peaky Blinders in Portsoy

Of course, me and Cillian go way back. I first met him when he was shooting 28 Days Later for Danny Boyle in 2002, and I was on my way home after a big night in the West End, acting as a spokesmodel for Angus Steakhouses. I’ll never forget what he said to me when I bumped into him on Westminster Bridge.

“Sorry love, this street’s meant to be deserted. And why are you dressed as a grilled tomato?”

Wise words from a true gent.