Like the giant tropical sunfish spotted in Hartlepool last summer, or the Thames whale, the sighting of a celebrity far from his or her natural habitat is a source of wonder and amazement: something to tell the grandchildren. It feels as if the balance of the Earth is slightly off-kilter in a miraculous way, allowing us to see something we should not, in the normal scheme of things, be privy to.
Obviously, the more mundane and off-brand the better: Matt Damon, in Dalkey, on the Irish coast, with his swimming trunks in a SuperValu (local supermarket) bag for life, Sharon Stone buying a jumper in Margate or, arguably the peak of these sightings, Harrison Ford on a narrowboat in Llangollen (someone on Twitter told me their cousin Valerie directed him to the carvery in Telford, warning him it was “a bit on the pricey side”). It’s less “celebrities, they’re just like us”; more “celebrities, they’re nothing like us”. Seeing one is like seeing a dragon buying prawns in Asda.
Last week North Yorkshire was blessed with a sighting – the most impressive since Ellie Goulding got married in York in 2019, with Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom in attendance (but not, to local disappointment, in Thomas the Baker). Tom Cruise, global megastar, sofa-jumping enthusiast and holder of Views (I hope this is sufficiently generic to fly under the litigious Church of Scientology radar) was spotted near the market town of Pickering. Checking out Flintoft Ironmongers, perhaps? Dropping into the Steam and Moorland Garden Centre for some hardy annuals, or picking up pink fancies at Elizabeth Botham’s Tea Rooms?
Apparently, he was filming the latest Mission: Impossible on the nearby North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Cruise famously does all his own stunts, but I’m not sure a steam train one will push the envelope quite as much as scaling the Burj Khalifa. Perhaps movie stars don’t get old, they just perform stunts on slower and slower modes of transport? Next year I look forward to him vaulting over a donkey in Filey.
• Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist