Alison Goulding: Egg sandwiches and feebleness

The comfort zone...

The comfort zone...

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THE best time to ponder your comfort zone is when you are miles away from it.

And so it was with me on Sunday, as I clung to a tiny bit of rock that did not seem to care a fig about my welfare.

If rock could have a personality, then this stingy outcrop was definitely aloof, huffy even.

I started climbing about a year and a half ago and it is a sport best described as “not very soothing or predictable”

(It is also brilliant and addictive, so I’m not a total masochist.)

Anyway, my boyfriend and I and a group of friends got together at the weekend to have a crack at a crag called Bowden Doors, near Belford.

We spent a lot of time setting everything up, chatting and eating egg sandwiches and then it was my turn to use my brain (ha!) and limbs to boost my backside up 50 feet of rock face.

I could feel my heartbeat smashing about behind my left eye and started to think about all the things I’d never get to do if I died. I made a mental note to take up knitting instead.

The malevolent bit of rock did a mischief to my shin as a tax for me using it, by which point my desire to get away from it overtook and speeded up the rest of the climb.

At the top I crawled to safety and sat down in the shelter of a boulder. As the adrenalin trickled away an ant scuttled over my shoe. I looked at the sky, I looked back at my shoe. I felt grateful to be alive.

By nature I am extremely cautious, so my comfort zone is about the size of a snug sleeping bag.

I like being warm, I like being dry and I like things like early bedtimes, reliable, unfussy cars and saving for a rainy day.

Which is why I find things like climbing, walking and horseriding strangely appealing.

Every time my horse tries to kill me, or I have a go at a climb that’s beyond my feeble abilities, I am reminded that it’s good to take a trip out of my comfort zone – if only so I can appreciate just how lovely it is when I return.

The way I see it, if I never end up being truly brave (I saw little kids do the same climb that day like it was nothing) then I’m not going to get stuck in a backwater either.

SATURDAY was the other side of the coin.

Lunch with my mum, a blissfully comfortable event.

We met in Durham, where I grew up, and had coffee and scones in a nice cafe.

Then we had a poke around the best shops and another cup of tea.

It was raining cats and dogs and I even bumped into an old school friend.

When you go to Durham to have lunch with your mother that’s exactly what you sign up for: a latte, rain, a look round the shops and a face from the past.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything different there – it’s incredibly soothing and tricks you into thinking that some things never change.

It left me feeling happy to have people in my life who like joining me in my comfort zone and those who encourage me to step out of it every now and again.