After a hearty breakfast of porridge with milk and honey, washed down by copious cups of tea, Skye and Angus wait for news about their flight home. Joe tunes into the latest news broadcast on the BBC. The volcano is still spewing ash and all flights are cancelled at least for another two or three days. Skye and Angus are both excited about the chance 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?” asks Skye.
“I don't see why no,” replies 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,” says Angus.
At eleven the group gathers at the Joe Corrie Memorial Community Centre to hear the latest news about their flight. Mrs Macleod makes the rounds with a big Brown Betty teapot, filling everyone's cups with strong tea. Chairlie Martin arrives 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?” asks 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,” says 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,” replies Chairlie. “Mind, a forgot tae tell ye, yer rascal bus driver got arrested by the polis. He wis drivin that bus withoot the richt kind o licence and nae insurance. So he will probably be banned frae drivin and fined. If ye ever come on anither tour be sure tae see the drivers licence and insurance.”
Skye is 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 are whoops and shrieks of excitement from the Outlanders.
“This is a dream come true. Let the Lord be praised.” squeals Ethel.
“I knew it was a sign from the Lord, when young Jamie and Claire came and rescued us from that rascal MacMeanie,” adds Mrs Finkelstein.
The group becomes animated and begins speculating on which episode of which Outlander book is being filmed.
“It must be Dragonfly in Amber, suggests Angus.
“No, it must be Voyager,” says Ethel.
“I want to be a warrior,” declares Skye.
“I'll be quite happy to play a serving wench,” says Gladys.
“I'll play any part they want as long as I get to see Jamie,” Ethel says excitedly.
The group bubbles and babbles until the noise level rises to an American crescendo.
“When will Joe get back?” enquires Skye.
“Probably aroond yin,” replies Chairlie.
“Do you mean one o'clock?
At twelve Billy arrives with the rescued luggage and the Outlanders help identify their mucky bags. Miraculously the contents of the bags are dry and the passports and travel papers of everyone are all intact.
An hour later Joe arrives at the Community Centre with more good news.
“Ye're aw hired,” he yells as he comes into the hall.
The Outlanders yell, shriek, squeal and holler.
Mrs Finkelstein is in tears.. Gladys is dancing and hugging everyone. Skye keeps saying “Fantastic” over and over again. Claire and Jamie Knoblock are 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,” replies Joe.
“Outlander is a religion tae these folks,” observes Chairlie.
“Praise the Lord and God bless Claire and Jamie,” declaims Mrs Finkelstein.
“They're aw daft as effin brushes”, observes Joe. “But ye cannae faut their ‘thusiasm.”
Once the hubub dies down Joe addresses 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,” says Skye.
“I'll translate for you,” interrupts 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,” says Skye.
“I don't follow?” questions Morag.
“Well the last time I had fish and chips I got mugged by seagulls.”
“No fear, we'll stay inside,” replies Morag.
Back at Joe and Morag’s Council house, Morag sets about preparing the food. After peeling the tatties she cuts them into chips with her crinkle cutter then prepares the batter. The deep fryer chip pan is on the stove and the fat is just bubbling. The haddock are dipped in the batter and quickly fried until the coating turna golden brown. In go the chips and soon a heaped plate of fish and chips is in front of Skye.
“Git yer chops around that lad,” says Joe, “ Here's ketchup, broon sauce, salt and tartar sauce.”
Soon, Angus, Joe and Morag are 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,” begins Angus.
Joe almost chokes on his chips and then begins 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.” exclaims 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,” ends Joe.
“Come on you men, nae mair o the politics. Ye aw hae tae get up early the morn, Aff tae yer beds.” orders 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!” retorts Joe.
Skye finds it hard to sleep with the excitement and anticipation of the coming day. He is up and ready for breakfast at 6.30 a.m. 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 will have to do. Angus soon joins Skye and then Joe helps make the coffee.
At 7.30 a.m. the Ootlanders are dressed in their Ancient Fraser tartan philamore (feileadh mor – Gaelic) or Great Kilts with all the authentic belts, buckles, sporrans and weaponry. Joe wears his usual jeans and leather jacket. The Ootlander group has gathered early at the Community Hall and the noise of American women in ove- excited states is truly “Awesome.” A mini-bus pulls up driven by Chairlie, and the Ootlanders eagerly board. Soon they’re all singing the Ootlander song in their usual dissonant and loud manner, as the bus negotiates 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 weather’s braw.” announced Joe.
Soon the bus arrives in the industrial estate where the Ootlander studio is located, and parks near a large grey warehouse building.
“We're here,” announces Joe. “Grab yer gear and gang ower tae the reception.”
The Ootlanders eagerly disembark and hurry over to the entrance of the studio. Inside the reception area the group is loud and excited. Joe tries 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 comes tae speak tae ye aw an tell ye whit he wants ye tae dae the day.”
A few minutes later the director enters the reception area and introduces 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 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 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 arrive and one by one the Ootlanders are transformed into 18th Century American settlers.
“How far is it to the Glen,” aska Ethel. “Is it in the Highlands?”
“Naw hen, its just roond the back o the studio,” replies Maisie the wardrobe assistant.
Half an hour later Joe manages to round up the group and leads 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 sees the lights and cameras of the film location.
“We'll just wait here, back frae the set until the Director tells us whit tae dae.”
“I can see actors moving about through the trees.” observes Gladys.
“Could that be Claire?' exclaims Ethel.
“I think that I just saw Jamie too.” squeals Claire Knoblock.
“Aye ye could be richt,” Joe says with a broad smile across his face.
A short time later the Director comes over and tells them what he wants. They are to pretend to be doing ordinary tasks—like sawing wood, chopping logs, making food, washing and hanging out clothes, to provide background while the actors play out their scene. There are several takes and the Director makes detailed changes each time, until he is finally happy with the shoot. The Ootlanders don’t care how long the shoot takes. They are agog, enraptured in the magical wonderland of their dreams. To be this close to Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan was beyond their wildest imaginings – truly a spiritual experience far exceeding any reckoning.
“Time for lunch!” calls the Director. The actors, extras and crew make their way back to the studio building. To the Ootlanders surprise, there is a large canteen inside the building that can easily seat a hundred people. The food is excellent and generous, with a menu to suit everyone. The actors sit at their own table and the extras are seated 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.” says Mrs Finkelstein.
“It would be great if we could get a group photo with all of us with Claire and Jamie,” suggests Skye.
“I'll gang an hae a word wi them if ye like,” says Joe.
“Ooooh Yes Please,” said the Ootlanders as one voice. “That would be truly Awesome!”
Joe goes over to the actors’ table and had a few words with Claire and Jamie. A few minutes later Claire and Jamie are 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,” adds Caitriona, “It's so nice to have our fans involved in the production. Would you like our autographs?
“Oh yes, yes please,” squeals Ethel.
“Could we possibly have a photograph with you as well? asks Skye.
“Absolutely, nae bother,” says 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?” inquires Ethel
“Aye, the real stones used in the series are here in the back set.” replies Sam
“Ooooooh “ squeals Mrs Finkelstein.
“If ye'll follow me we'll let ye see the set and the real stones.” Sam says with a broad grin.
The Ootlanders rise as one and follow Sam and Caitriona through a door labelled “Production Staff Only” and they emerge into a cavernous space that had been a clothing warehouse but now is full of scenery, lights, cameras and huge green screens. There in the centre of the space are 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.” explains Sam.
“So the stones aren't real?” asks Gladys somewhat puzzled.
“They’re based on real standing stones in Scotland, but these stones are magical in their own way” says 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 American settlers all met Claire and Jamie at the “Stones of Craigh Na Dun”
The Outlanders crowd in among the stones and one of the cameramen takes their photos.
“I'll get the pictures edited and they’ll be ready at 5.00 before you leave.” says the cameraman.
“We're so grateful for this, it's been a dream come true.” says Skye with tears streaming down his face.
“It's nae bother,” says 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 wander in a trance, back to the canteen. It will take them some time to process what they have seen and experienced.
“Did ye enjoy that?” asks Joe.
“It was wonderful, truly a dream come true,' Ethel says with a dreamy look on her face.
“I hae some mair guid news,” says 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,” wails Gladys, “I want to be an extra in Outlander forever.”
“Me too,” says Ethel
“And me.” adds Priscilla.
Just then the Director calls for the extras to go back down to the set in the Glen, and the Ootlanders eagerly troop back to the set.
The filming is running smoothly until a group of ladies carrying cake boxes appears. The Director calls a halt to the work and the actors and crew congregate around the cake bearing ladies.
“What's going on?” asks Skye.
“It's the 'Outlandish Bakers' “ replies 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 goes 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 comes to an end due to the fading light. The crew puts away the cameras and lights, and the actors and extras make their way back to the studio. The community minibus is waiting for the Ootlanders. Tired but elated, they climb into the bus and soon Chairlie is getting ready to drive them back to Slamannan. He announces 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 comes running across the car-park from the studio clutching a large package. As he enters the bus he calls 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 pulls into the car-park at the Community Centre, Morag comes running out.
“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 laughs “Naw, naw, they all want tae bide here and be extras in Outlander forever!”
“Yes we all want to stay here forever,” echo Skye, Ethel and Gladys and the rest.