Fiona Duff: ET hunt is an alien concept

Spending spree: Yuri Milner is investing millions in the search for alien life. Picture: Contributed
Spending spree: Yuri Milner is investing millions in the search for alien life. Picture: Contributed
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AS I look through my bank account trying to budget for household bills, it’s hard to imagine having £100 million lying around burning a hole in my handbag.

Yet that is exactly the problem that beset Russian businessman Yuri Milner. He has made so much money investing in various companies in Silicon Valley that this is just spare change; like you or I forking out £2 for a lottery ticket that you know, deep down, is just the same as chucking it down the lavatory.

So he decided to enlist the help of Stephen Hawking and invest in a ten-year plan to try and find alien life somewhere in the universe. Personally I think that there probably is some other form of life on a planet somewhere (although I am not going to sign up to join Tom Cruise as a Scientologist), but the very thought makes my mind swirl. Almost as much as the idea that someone thinks it is worth spending that amount of money looking for ET and his buddies.

It isn’t as though there aren’t enough pressing matters on this planet that could do with a few million for research. Think of all the children who have no access to clean drinking water or indeed half-decent education. Then there are the displaced in war-torn countries whose lives are put at risk by people traffickers, who really must be the absolutescum of the earth.

Bill Gates has pledged to try and eradicate malaria, which is a brilliant cause. On a smaller scale, there are the Social Bite sandwich shops which employ former homeless people and all the profits are invested in charity. They have managed to persuade George Clooney to come and visit us later this year. In fact, for a fiver you can enter a draw with the chance to meet him for dinner somewhere in Edinburgh. (There is a friend of mine who is a tad obsessed by this Hollywood star and has spent more on buying these ­tickets than she would have spent on a Michelin-starred meal).

I am not sure what I would do with that amount of money. I suppose one would have to hire some private security in case someone thought about mugging me for the diamonds that would be dripping from my ears. Of course I would pay off my mortgage, although I am not sure that I would cease to shop at Lidl – I mean, at those prices you just can’t go wrong. However, what I wouldn’t do is pay for a bunch of geeks to try and track down life on Mars.

In the meantime, I shall continue to squander £2 a week and rest in peace knowing that the problems of Mr Milner will never be something that I have to experience.

Emporium of liquid delights

One Fringe show I definitely won’t be taking any children to is the Hendrick’s Emporium of Sensorial Submersion on George Street. The information I have been sent says: “The sensorially adventurous may delve deeper into the recesses of peculiarity and partake in the packed programme of synaesthetic diversions, offering stimulation and satiation for ears, mind and palate.”

I have no idea what that means at all, but a word elsewhere I did comprehend was “cocktails”. I doubt very much that I shall have to strong-arm anyone to join me in this gin-based experience.

Event was more Open than usual

I usually find events like the Open rather depressing.

First, Him Outdoors hogs the TV remote control and all thoughts of Coronation Street are brushed aside.

Secondly, it is hardly “open” in the great scheme of things. Tickets are expensive, corporate jollies being the order of the day and bottles of Champagne are glugged back at £150 a pop. So when the organisers announced that on Monday tickets would be £10, I felt that those stands were full of people who actually wanted to watch the game.

I wonder how many employers were scanning their screens to see if any workers who had phoned in sick were actually up in St Andrews to see Zach Johnson, pictured, triumph?

Children get all the best shows

This might make me sound like a terrible mother, but I do spend some of my time counting the days until my youngest finishes school. I look forward to not having to haul her out of bed in the morning, as well as the opportunity to go on holiday when prices are cheap and airports are quieter. However, there are other times when I wish that they were all very small. Mainly when I read the Fringe programme and see the children’s shows that are coming to Edinburgh.

Years ago I remember taking my daughter and her friend to see James Campbell’s Comedy 4 Kids. I had expected to have a snooze in the back row, but instead was enthralled by this charismatic man who paved the way for many other comedians to jump on this bandwagon of mirth.

This year I notice that Julia Donaldson, pictured, the former children’s laureate and sometimes resident of this parish, is doing a show with stories and songs from some of her many books. Needless to say Gruffalo is in the title – I have lost count of how often I read that out to one child or another as they lay in bed; back in the days when they were asleep before yours truly.

But now they are too old for this show. Obviously I can’t go myself, so if anyone wants an afternoon of free childcare do let me know; it would be far better than resorting to kidnapping.