The next morning after a hearty breakfast of porridge with milk and honey, washed down by copious cups of tea Skye and Angus waited to hear news of their flight home. Joe put on the TV and they awaited the latest news broadcast on the BBC. The volcano was still spewing ash and it looked like all flights would be cancelled at least for another two or three days. Skye and Angus were both delighted and excited about the possibility of being part of an Outlander episode.
“Can we tell the others in our group about the possibility of being extras in the Outlander series?” asked Skye.
“I don't see why no,” replied Joe, “but I canna guarantee onything, ye ken. I'll hae tae gang doon tae Cumernauld and speak tae the gaffer at the studio. I'll ken by this efternoon hoo mony bodies he wants.”
“We are to meet our group at the Community Centre at eleven. I'm sure they will all be really excited about the possibility of being extras in Outlander.” said Angus.
At eleven the group gathered at the Joe Corrie Memorial Community Centre to hear the latest news about their flight and their belongings. Mrs Macleod went around with a big Brown Betty teapot filling everyone's cups with strong tea. Chairlie Martin arrived with some good news.
“Billy Maclean managed tae haul yer bus oot o the bog the morn. Took some daein but his big traicktar managed to drag it clear. We couldna leave it there onyways cause its a SPA. (Special Protection Area) an a SAC (Special Area of Conservation) cause o the unique habitat and the Bean Goose that bide there on their migration. Looks like all yer luggage is OK although the cases are filthy.
“The bog his a load o history tae. Some years ago they pulled a Bronze Age trumpet out o the mire. They called it a Carnyx…there is some English laddy goes aroond playin it noo. Seems the Bronze Age folk believed that bogs and lochs were the portal tae the ither side…whativer that is? Jist like yer time traivel stane circle portal in Ootlander.”
“Can we get our passports and airline tickets from the bags?” asked Ethel.
“Aye, Billy will bring the bags up here in a wee bit an ye can a get yer stuff. Nae bother.”
“O Lord be praised,” said Gladys. “Is there any news about the airport opening or flights.”
“Naw, it looks like its gaun tae be anither day or twa afore the ash cloud blaws awa.”replied Chairlie.
Skye was itching to ask about the possibility of being an extra in Outlander.
“Joe and Morag told us that it might be possible to get parts as extras at the Outlander film studio in Cumbernauld. Could that be really possible?”
“Well, I think Joe is doon there as we speak seein if he can arrange it wi the producer.” said Chairlie.
There were whoops and shrieks of excitement from the Outlanders.
“This is a dream come true. Let the Lord be praised.” squealed Ethel.
“I knew it was a sign from the Lord, when young Jamie and Claire came and rescued us from that rascal MacMeanie,” added Mrs Finkelstein.
The group became animated and began speculating on which episode of which Outlander book was being filmed.
“It must be 'Dragonfly in Amber', suggested Angus.
“No, it must be Voyager,” said Ethel.
“I want to be a warrior,” declared Skye.
“I'll be quite happy to play a serving wench,”said Gladys.
“I'll play any part they want as long as I get to see Jamie,” Ethel said with excitement.
The group bubbled and babbled and the noise level rose to an American crescendo.
“When will Joe get back?” enquired Skye.
“Probably aroond yin,” replied Chairlie.
“Do you mean one o'clock?
At twelve Billy arrived with the rescued luggage and the Outlanders helped identify their bags. Miraculously the contents of the bags were dry and the passports and travel papers of everyone were all intact.
An hour later Joe arrived at the Community Centre with more good news.
“Ye're aw hired,” he yelled as he came into the hall.
The Outlanders yelled, shrieked, squealed and wowed.
Mrs Finkelstein was in tears, Gladys was dancing and hugging everyone. Skye keeps saying “Fantastic” over and over again. Claire and Jamie Knoblock were hugging and kissing each other in Joy.
“We'll get to see and maybe meet the real Claire and Jamie.!”
“And see the real stones!”
“Aye, maybe,” replied Joe.
“Outlander is like a religion tae these folks,” observed Chairlie.
“Praise the Lord and God bless Claire and Jamie,”declaimed Mrs Finkelstein.
“They're aw daft as effin brushes”, observed Joe, “but ye cannae faut their thusiasm.”
Once the hubub had died down Joe addressed the group.
“Listen folks, we all hae tae meet here at eicht the morra. Hae a guid breakfast an bring or wear yer Ootlander gear. It could be a lang day, but the production guys will gie us lunch and plenty cups o tea. Get tae bed early and see ye aw the morra.”
“I didn't quite understand all that,” said Skye.
“I'll translate for you,” interrupted Morag. “What Joe said was to meet here at eight tomorrow morning and wear or bring your 18th century Outlander clothes. Have a good breakfast as it can be a long day of filming but you will get a lunch and many cups of tea. So you and Angus better come back home with me. I have fish and chips for your supper.”
“I hope there are no seagulls around your house,” said Skye.
“I don't follow?” questioned Morag.
“Well the last time I had fish and chips I got mugged by seagulls.”
“No fear, we'll stay inside,” replied Morag.
Back at Joe and Morags Council house, Morag set about preparing the food. After peeling the tatties she cut them into chips with her crinkle cutter then prepared the batter. The deep fryer chip pan was on the stove and the fat was just bubbling. The haddock were dipped in the batter and quickly fried until the coating turned golden brown. In went the chips and soon a heaped plate of fish and chips was in front of Skye.
“Git yer chops around that lad,” said Joe, “ Here's ketchup, broon sauce, salt and tartar sauce.”
Soon, Angus, Joe and Morag were also sitting down to their fish and chips washed down with copious cups of tea from the big Brown-Betty teapot.
“We are just so excited to be involved in re-enacting an important part of Scottish history,” began Angus.
Joe almost choked on his chips and then began to laugh.
“It's play acting man! It's no Scottish history. It's a daft romantic nonsense dreamed up by a lassie fae Arizona.”
“I don't think it's nonsense. There are thousands of fans that, like me, believe in Outlander.” exclaimed Skye.
“Aye, a ken, but fir mony visitors tae Scotland and Ootlander fans, Scotland is a place where everything worthwhile his awready happened. This wee country his its beautiful Glens, Lochs and mountains filled wi romance o time gone by but fir the folk that bide here its a haird maister an a fause lover. Beauty is grand but ye canna eat beauty. Ye ken, even the plants we choose as emblems are uncompromising – tough and resilient.
“Next tae the thistle the wee white rose (Rosa spinosissima) is probably oor maist emblematic flooer. In yer Ootlander yer Jamie Fraser wid hae worn a white rose as the emblem o the Jacobites. They cawed it “The White Cockade”. But since then the Burnet Rose has become a symbol of Scotland celebrated in song and poetry by Burns and then - under the pen name Hugh MacDiarmid, - Christopher Murray Grieve (1892-1978) wrote these poignant words:-
“I rest my case,” ended Joe.
“Come on you men, nae mair o the politics. Ye aw hae tae get up early the morn, Aff tae yer beds.” ordered Morag. “And Joe, stop bitin the haund that feeds ye. Just the day The Scotsman newspaper reported that visitors tae Scotland are up 17%, wi spending by tourists up 23%. They said that Scotland is definitely out-performing the rest o the UK. Mair an mair folk are coming tae visit oor magnificent country and yin o the main causes his been the popularity o Outlander.”
“Och, dinna fash yersell lassie, as Jamie Fraser wid say!” retorted Joe.
Skye found it hard to sleep with the excitement and anticipation of the coming day. He was up and ready for breakfast at 6.30. Morag had left a “help yourself” buffet of muesli, wholemeal bread, marmalade, orange juice and instructions about how to make tea or switch on the coffee machine. Skye had been hoping for a full Scottish fry-up breakfast but this healthy option would have to do. Angus soon joined Skye and then Joe helped make the coffee.
At 7.30 the Ootlanders were dressed in their Ancient Fraser tartan philamore (feileadh mor – Gaelic) or Great Kilts with all the authentic belts, buckles, sporrans and weaponry. Joe just wore his usual jeans and leather jacket. The Ootlander group had gathered early at the Community Hall and the noise of American women in over excited states was truly “Awesome”. A mini-bus pulled up driven by Chairlie and the Ootlanders eagerly boarded. Soon they were all singing the Ootlander song in their usual dissonant and loud manner as the bus negotiated the twists and turns of the moorland road to Cumbernauld.
“We'll gang tae the Wardpark Studio first, tae meet the producer and find oot whit he wants ye aw tae dae. I think they are filmin ootside in Cumbernaud Glen today, seein that the weathers braw.” announced Joe.
Soon the bus arrived in the industrial estate where the Ootlander studio is located and pulled up in the parking area of a large grey warehouse building.
“We're here,” announced Joe. “Grab yer gear and gang ower tae the reception.”
The Ootlanders eagerly disembarked and hurried over to the entrance of the studio. Inside the reception area the group were loud and excited. Joe tried to calm them down.
“Listen folk, can I hae a wee bit quiet, we need tae wait here for a wee while until the Director, Julian Holmes comes tae speak tae ye aw an tell ye whit he wants ye tae dae the day.”
A few minutes later Julian entered the reception area and introduced himself to the group.
“Good morning everyone,and welcome to Wardpark Studios. It's very fitting that you North Americans are here today because we are filming the first episode of Series 4 of Outlander and it is titled “America the beautiful.” Curiously even though season 4 is set mostly in America many of the locations in the series are here in Scotland. We will be filming today at Cumbernauld Glen which is a convenient site for cast and crew. Tomorrow we start work on episode 2. I see that most of you have period costumes, but I will want you to look like American settlers so the costume assistants and make up will sort you out. Here are no speaking parts and you will just be used as background extras. I understand that you are all keen Outlander fans and are happy to volunteer your time. We will feed you and give you endless cups of tea.”
The costume ladies arrived and one by one the Ootlanders were transformed into 18th Century American settlers.
“How far is it to the Glen,” asked Ethel. “Is it in the Highlands?”
“Naw hen, its just roond the back o the studio,”replied Maisie the wardrobe assistant.
Half an hour later Joe managed to round up the group and led them out of the studio round the back of the building and into the Glen.
“It belongs tae the Scottish Wildlife Trust and its a bonny place wi woodlands, wildflooers and a wee burn. There is an auld Doocot an it's a weel kept secret amang an industrial estate and bleak new toon. We'll follow the path and we should see where the filming is going on.”
A few hundred yards along the footpath, the group could see the lights and cameras of the film location.
“We'll just wait here, back frae the set until Julian tells us whit tae dae.”
“I can see actors moving about in the trees.” observed Gladys.
“Could that be Claire?' exclaimed Ethel
“I think that I just saw Jamie too.” squealed Claire Knoblock
“Aye ye could be richt,” Joe said with a broad smile across his face.
A short time later the Director came over to the group of Americans and told them what he wanted. They were to pretend to be doing ordinary tasks, like sawing wood, chopping logs, making food, washing and hanging out clothes. While they provided background the actors played out their scene. There were several takes and the Director made detailed changes each time until he was finally happy with the shoot. The Ootlanders didn't care how long the shoot took, they were agog, enraptured in the magical wonderland of their dreams. To be so close to Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan was beyond their wildest imaginings – truly a spiritual experience far exceeding any reckoning.
“Time for lunch!” called the Director. The actors, extras and crew made their way back to the studio building. To the Ootlanders surprise there was a large canteen inside the building that could easily seat a hundred people. The food was excellent and generous with a menu to suit everyone. The actors sat at their own table and the extras were placed at the other end of the room with the crew in between.
“I wonder if I could get Jamie's autograph or a selfie with me.” said Mrs Finkelstein.
“It would be great if we could get a group photo with all of us with Claire and Jamie,” suggested Skye.
“I'll gang an hae a word wi them if ye like,” said Joe.
“Ooooh Yes Please,” said the Ootlanders as one voice. “That would be truly Awesome!”
Joe went over to the actors table and had a few words with Claire and Jamie. A few minutes later Claire and Jamie were standing at the Ootlanders table.
“Hello folks, Joe tells us that ye are frae Florida and are the greatest fans of Outlander. You probably already ken my name is Sam and this fine lady here is Catriona. It's really great that you could come and be extras today. Joe has told us about your adventure with the bus and how you came tae be stranded in Slamannan. The volcano is a problem for us too because we have tae fly to various locations for the show. But it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good – it brought you here and you have experienced real Scottish hospitality from the folks in Slamannan.”
“Well said,” added Caitriona, “It's so nice to have our fans involved in the production. Would you like our autographs?
“Oh yes, yes please,” squealed Ethel.
“Could we possibly have a photograph with you as well? Asked Skye.
“Absolutely, nae bother,”said Sam. “I have an idea. Why don't we go to the “Stones” and use them as a backdrop.”
“Are the “Stones” here?” said Skye with a puzzled look on his face.
“The Real Stones?” inquired Ethel
“Aye, the real stones used in the series are here in the back set.” replied Sam
“Ooooooh “ squealed Mrs Finkelstein.
“If ye'll follow me we'll let ye see the set and the real stones.” Sam said with a broad grin.
The Ootlanders rose as one and followed Sam and Caitriona through a door labelled “Production Staff Only” and they emerged into a cavernous space that had been a clothing warehouse but now was full of scenery, lights, cameras and huge green screens. There in the centre of the space were the “Stones” set in a circle against a green screen.
“The green screen allows the production people to put in the landscape background that you see in the series while the actors can be lit and filmed without going to a location. The “Stones” are based on real standing stones like those at Callanish in the Hebrides, but they are made of fibreglass and painted to look like real old stones.” explained Sam.
“So the stones aren't real?” asked Gladys somewhat puzzled.
“They are based on real standing stones in Scotland, but these stones are really magical as they can transport you to another time?” explained Caitriona. “If you all stand among the stones we'll get one of the cameramen to take our picture with your group. The effects people will put in a Scottish landscape background and it will look as if you all met Claire and Jamie at the “Stones of Craigh Na Dun”
The Outlanders formed up among the stones and one of the cameramen took photos with his professional camera.
“I'll get the pictures edited and they will be ready at 5.00 before you leave.” said the cameraman.
“We're so grateful for this, it's been a dream come true.” said Skye with tears running down his cheeks.
“It's nae bother,” said Sam. “We have tae go now and get back to wardrobe and make-up. We'll see you all again this afternoon in the Glen.”
The Ootlanders wandered in a trance, back to the canteen. It would take them some time to process what they had seen and experienced.
“Did ye enjoy that?” asked Joe.
“It was wonderful, truly a dream come true,' Ethel said with a dreamy look on her face.
“I hae some mair guid news,” began Joe, “ The Government are liftin the ban on flights. The Airlines are loosin too much money an it seems that the ash isnae as dangerous as they first thought. Ye aw should be hame in a day or twa.”
“I don't want to leave,” wailed Gladys, “I want to be an extra in Outlander forever.”
“Me too,” said Ethel
“And me.” added Priscilla.
Just then the Director called for the extras to go back down to the set in the Glen and the Ootlanders eagerly trooped back to the set.
The filming ran smoothly then a group of ladies appeared carrying cake boxes. The Director called a halt to the work and the actors and crew congregated around the cake bearing ladies.
“What's going on?” asked Skye.
“It's the 'Outlandish Bakers' “ replied Joe. “They are Super Fans that track doon the film crew wherever they are in Scotland and bring them their favourite cakes fir afternoon tea. Caitriona's favourite is banoffee pie and Jamie loves onything wi peanut butter. The rest o the crew are addicts fir shortbreed and taiblet. Come on Ootlanders lets get some!”
Skye went straight for the taiblet but the others tried the delicious shortbread. Soon there was only a few crumbs left in the cake boxes.
All too soon the filming came to an end due to the fading light. The crew put away the cameras and lights and the actors and extras made their way back to the studio. The community minibus was waiting for the Ootlanders. Tired but elated they climbed into the bus and soon Chairlie would be driving them back to Slamannan. He announced to the group -
“It looks like the airport will open the morra and flights will stairt efter noon. The airlines are puttin on mair flights tae try an clear the backlog. When we get back tae the Community Centre we'll find oot mair.”
Just then Joe came running across the car-park from the studio clutching a large package. As he entered the bus he called out, “ I've got aw yer photies an Caitriona an Sam hae signed each yin. Yin big colour photie fir each o ye. I'll hand them oot when we git tae Slamannan.”
When the bus pulled into the car-park at the Community Centre, Morag came running out to tell the Ootlanders the good news.
“Yer flight tae Tampa, Florida is yin o the first tae gang oot, tomorra efternoon. I'm sure ye will a be glad tae get back tae America efter all yer adventures here.”
Joe laughed and said,” Naw, naw, They all want tae bide here and be extras in Outlander for ever !”
“Yes we all want to stay here forever,” echoed Skye, Ethel and Gladys and the rest.