Masterpiece Mountain

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Let me tell you about one of my favourite days in Scotland.

We were in the middle of nowhere. Me, Emma, Hannah and Laura. Between two lochs. Up where the air was heavy with midges and no one took a speck of sunshine for granted.

The little castle we stayed in was decorated with bagpipes on the wall and floor-to-ceiling tartan wallpaper. The mugs featured special Scottish colloquialisms. There was a cupboard pretending to be a shop that was stocked near-exclusively with Tunnocks and Irn Bru. That’s how Scottish this Scotland was.

The sun had come out and it was our first full day of nice weather since leaving Edinburgh to travel northwest.

Behind the castle, a big Ben overlooked the grounds. It was our own mini mountain, ready to be climbed, and we were fresh off our Arthur’s Seat triumph, the world suddenly our oyster. We made up a backpack of cheese and ham sandwiches, apples and Tunnocks caramel wafers – then we set off.

It was a long old way up and I remember the girls getting caught up in the Lord of the Rings of it all, the greenery stretched out in front of us and lots of “Share the load, Mr Frodo”. We walked along singing Hamilton numbers like coach songs on a school trip. It got steeper and steeper as we climbed higher and higher; we had to use our hands at certain moments to scramble our way up, the path disappearing almost entirely at certain points on our little pilgrimage.

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1 When we reached the summit, it rewarded us with the most spectacular panorama, Loch Katrine on one side and Loch Achray on the other. You could see the steamboat moving across the water down below us. The crows staked their claim on the pointed stone peak of the mountain. The midges disappeared and so did any looming dark clouds.

Being on top of a mountain makes you feel invincible. I am not invincible; pretending is fun and freeing.

I wandered the perimeter of the mountaintop – Ben-top? – with my dearest DSLR in-hand, shooting that magic from every angle there was. It is always my attempt to hold onto a moment, lock it inside my camera roll where it must stay preserved and perfect as it is. Simulacra, sure, but my photographs will have to do until a time machine is invented. Or until I can get my own Bernard’s watch. I will come back here a thousand times at the scroll of a finger, at the click of a button. I will remember the air and the sound and those views, those views, those views.

We found ourselves a perch near the crows to sit and eat, mostly discussing how good Tesco Finest seedy bread is and crow-watching intensely. At this point, we were entirely on our own up there. Our own little world, up in the clouds. Ironically, it was the best 4G signal we’d had since arriving.

I don’t remember how we went from food to filming, but after a few lighthearted comments about recreating the ending of The Force Awakens, we decided a good thing for us to do on that mini mountaintop was to recreate the end of The Force Awakens. Roles weren’t so much decided as preordained. Laura would be Luke by virtue of being the only one with a hood; Emma would be Rey. Hannah was in charge of cuing up the score, ensuring that everyone would know their timings. I, finally realising the role I was born for, was director and camerawoman.

“Action.”

On the first take, we realised that it was going to be trickier than expected to get right, but it was clear we were all pretty deep in it, so this thing was happening. We were committed. We were going to do as many takes as we needed to. I imagine it was exactly how JJ Abrams felt on his first day.

Emma steadily walked the short way from the bottom of a particular mound as John Williams’ score played from Hannah’s phone. Step by stone step, she moved up towards where Laura awaited her dramatic music cue and I, filming with my iPhone camera, moved with her as both of us precariously tried to avoid a stumble (not always successfully). Take after take, of course, the sight of Laura melodramatically lowering her hood had Emma in stitches of laughter. You’d think the amusement would wear off but no, not even a little bit.

“Cut!”

Behind us, other people, strangers, had started to appear. We’d been so alone when we’d started this! But there were too many takes on my camera roll for us to quit. Devoted to our craft, we persevered.

Eventually, after a minor fall, we got a good take. One whole smooth take of Emma walking up, getting her bottle-cum-lightsaber out and holding it up to Laura-as-Luke.

I can’t remember who decided that we needed to up the production value with close-ups, but I’m almost certain that I suggested the wide-shot (my proudest achievement). What started out as a one-take plan ended up a full production. We recreated – from memory – the whole scene, a tribute. There were people around and it was clearly the most ridiculous thing ever and utterly pointless but I loved every second of it. After all, what does one do on top of a mountain? If not this, then what?

Anyway.

Now I have this fully edited version of our farcical Force Awakens ending on my computer with the file name “MASTERPIECE.mp4”. The only souvenir I could ever need from this holiday.

Here you are, world. I proudly present my directorial debut, featuring star turns from my best friends.

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  1. Scotland: What We Did On Our Holiday | Jessica Eve Kennedy

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