Fund-raising at Comrie Croft, Scotland

David and other Ocean Stars supporters enjoy themselves in the back of beyond - and raise money for projects in Sri Lanka.

OceanStars :: Wednesday 28th September 2011 :: This Story

‘You’ve come all that way for this?’ the guest at the lodge kindly remarked on hearing we had travelled all the way from Brighton via a combination of cars, planes and bendy bus, to arrive 12 hours later at the beautiful setting of Comrie Croft. It really brought home that unique Scottish welcome I had heard so much about! ‘Well Yes’, feeling exhausted but trying to sound enthusiastic. ‘We wouldn’t have missed it for the world’.  I lamely replied. And, just when I thought the beautiful setting Calum had kindly driven me through and too couldn’t get any better it soon did; enhanced by the first of several welcome drinks offered me by Carole, Helen’s sister. However, having left my notes in Scotland, specific details of the Saturday at Comrie are impressionistic rather than precise. (Particularly the latter part of the evening which ended for me at 3.30 am in a haze of songs by Bob Dylan and, strangely, Paper Lace, I think). But let's face it; most weekends spent in Scotland turn out, in one way or another, to be hazy...

But this one was going to be different. We were there to raise funds for Ocean Stars Trust and so the weekend took on an extra meaning and significance in different ways for all of us there. I am, back home in Brighton, a week after having returned from our Scottish weekend, preparing to write a summary of the wonderful weekend we all shared. And the photos of the weekend serve as a valuable reminder of how fortunate we were to have met and made so many new friends over the weekend. Of course though, the connection which brought us to Comrie in the first place, namely the shared wish to improve the lives of children and families living in tsunami struck Sri Lanka so many miles away, was strong and yet it is still the strength of Janaki and Helen’s friendship which simply meant the weekend was bound to happen.

Anyway, you will be pleased to learn that despite Saturday’s poor weather, our joint companionship overrode the rain, mist, cold and damp to take to us all to a shared interest in helping those so far away and less fortunate than ourselves.  Many things stand out from the weekend but a few key ones are.....

Drive to Comrie and arriving in haven of peace

Halfway through chatting with Calum en route to Comrie by car I looked up  to see that the landscape of grey motorway and traffic had been replaced by a wonderfully green and peaceful view leading towards the foothills of Perth. On arrival at Comrie we continued to be welcomed by tranquillity and separation from the busy life that had led up to arriving at our destination. It felt, I guess, like a retreat. Not away from the world, but deeper into the real world; a place where people were connected by a shared humanity and the music, energy, love and food they could bring to it.  We all knew that the next 48 hours of music, food, friendship and dancing would be very special indeed.

Sitting outside in the evening dusk, I watched the sun go down over the hills surrounding me. The landscape was framed by the varying shades of blue and purple skies above. The only sound around (apart from Sheila and Carole laughing loudly in the background!) was that of lost sheep bleating and I finally felt we had arrived. Interestingly this inner peace brought on by arrival was reminiscent of travelling all day by river, bus and 4 x 4 to the borders of Thailand and Burma during the mid 90’s. The chaos of the modern world became reassuringly detached from me as we all became increasingly attached to the ‘lost world’ of people, nature and reality.

Curries, food and drink... (What, no haggis?)

From entering the kitchen area of Comrie, the generosity, warmth and creativity of everyone there was all around and early chat with the Geordie cousins, Helen’s sister Carol eand Calm’s great friend Mike soon put me at ease. It also enabled me to mentally match the puzzle pieces of friends and family described by Helen together. Meeting so many of H and C’s and Sheila’s friends in one place was a real treat and helped me understand so much more about their lives.

Charity curry dinner in Scotland for Ocean Stars Trust

Top marks to us all but A star plus perhaps to Grant for his lamb curry!

OST presentation

The sincerity of all the Ocean Stars team to the cause shone through here. All of their efforts towards the weekend ensured that everyone knew that, whether they had opted to cycle, walk, jog or a combination of all three, were genuinely benefiting children and families in Sri Lanka. It also saw a new skill of Calum’s come to the fore; that of health and safety executive for the weekend thus ensuring that no-one could talk to their lawyers if they had an accident during the challenge!  As Helen and Sheila and lastly Janaki spoke I wondered what our children, Samina and Jehan, sitting there, looking at and seemingly absorbed by the words and images they were seeing and hearing, made of it all. Why, I wondered if they asked themselves, were other children’s lives so poor compared to their own? As John Lennon wrote, ‘nobody told me there would be days like these’

Raising money for Ocean Stars Sri Lanka Charity

Sheila in one of her more serious moments

WALK!  What is it good for?  Absolutely everything!

Walking in Scotland for Ocean Stars Trust CharityDespite the rain, play was not stopped at all, and to varying extents, we all greatly enjoyed and appreciated the challenge events planned by Helen and Calum.

The morning began though with much milling about in the kitchen as people busied themselves making breakfasts and packing lunches. Soon it was time to set off and following after a windy, windy (as in bendy) yet scenic drive, we arrived at a point in the hills from where the challenges began. The rain continued to fall – not unpleasantly, as though our faces were being gently sprayed by an expensive shower at a health spa. A choice of routes, lengths and ways were provided but given the weather and the children we planned to do the 8 KM walk. We all set off on a brisk pace and felt pleased with our start, yet we did, we noticed Graham’s figure disappearing in the distance as ran the 18 km walk. 

The walk itself was many things at different times; part exhilarating - beautiful views greeted us from all around - but also fun as we tramped along the path keeping our heads down from the rain whilst avoiding puddles and potholes along the way. Joined by Grant’s wife, Fran, Samina and I chatted about her back ground in South Africa and Ghana to my experiences with UNICEF visiting Ghana and working in Thailand. To cut a long and rainy story short, everyone completed the 8 km walk/stroll and returned to base sodden though safe. The route was isolated and green with ferns yet higher up, where the 18km had gone, thick clouds and a drop in temperature made the trek seem less enjoyable in part than it may have been on a clearer day.

We all arrived back at Comrie in a heightened state of awareness of the beauty of the nature but also relief at being back at the croft. The subsequent afternoon was spent in a haze of rest and refreshments as we prepared ourselves for an evening’s entertainment of music and dancing...


Family and friends of Helen, Calum and Sheila!

Family and friends fund-raising for Ocean StarsJust spending a weekend together with Helen, Calum and Sheila’s friends and family made me realise what good and kind people they all were. I wished the world could have been as lucky as us to be together in this safe and warm environment in which everyone got on and the children played together. What a lively group of characters they were and, without being stereotypical (or wishing to curry favour from H and C!), there is something naturally warm and giving about the Scots!





Hanging out at Comrie Croft

Sri Lanka charity eventThis image suggests the layout of the downstairs kitchen and sitting room.  What a great idea these large hostels are for enabling a ‘gathering’ of friends and family to mix and meet together on neutral territory, sharing and connecting in a way that usually, given the size and location of people’s houses, would hot have otherwise happen.



Ceilidh! The evening proceeded with a great session of Scottish dancing in which lots of mistakes were made and people ended going the wrong way. However, not having fun in Scottish dancing is impossible. It takes place at a breakneck speed which seems to increase as the evening goes on. The music in all encompassing as one literally is swept away by the atmosphere. Following the dancing the evening wore on with the auction of a beautiful painting by  one of Calum and Helen’s best buddies,Pauline, in aid of OST and also the very thoughtful presentation to the children there of special Comrie I was there 2011 t – shirts. How thoughtful!


Dancing for charity - Ocean Stars Trust, Sri LankaSamina and Helen demonstrating how lots of linking, swirling and Scottish jigging takes place in Scottish dancing 



Events thereafter become a little sketchy. Although no photographic evidence survives it is generally agreed that around midnight the final event of the night/morning was what is formally known as a ‘right old sing-song’. This was where various named (me, Mike and Ian) and unnamed guests sang, played and drummed the evening away to a wide collection of classic songs and melodies primarily from the renaissance period of the early 1970’s. Rumour has it that Graham even performed his legendary number on the buckaroo (child’s too) At any event, Knocking on Heavens Door, Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree, Sailing and California Dreaming were some of the numbers enjoyed by all until the wee hours...

Scotland Comrie CroftOutside Comrie Croft

Nearly over – the weekend not lost but found.

Well, that is a general but certainly not comprehensive summary of the weekend – particularly the Saturday, at Comrie Croft 2011. Top marks to the Scottish Stars gang for organising a very special weekend in aid of wells and toilets for children in Sri Lanka.