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The Big Zeroes

watch us go from zeroes to heroes

Category Archives: Jacqui

I had my ‘big birthday’ this week. I had a lovely time, mainly eating and dancing (not at the same time!) and received some wonderful presents including a Babyliss Big Hair styling wand that has changed my life, and a trip to London to see Wicked with my daughter. I’m also getting a tattoo when I find time to sit down and have it done. This, and more thoughts about 50 being the new 30 at my Keeping It Real Blog.

In other news, I’ve been able to cross another item from my Big Zeroes list. I’m going to be guest blogging for October for The F-Word blog. I’m delighted about this, as it’s an opportunity to focus what I often rehearse mentally as feminist thinking into hopefully coherent ideas.

Writing about feminism is difficult, because it can often come across as preachy and militant, and this is the opposite of what I am aiming for. I’m hoping that as well as writing about feminist ideas, and respecting each other, I can hone my writing skills. There are so may facets to living in the world fairly and equally that I’m looking forward to exploring it in more depth than I have before.

So another item from the Big Zeroes list bites the dust – reading it over again I’m going to be hard pressed to complete these by the end of 2011, so I might extend it into next year!

For now, I’m relaxing as I recover from my birthday weekend, eating left over birthday cake and thinking about the next decade!


This week I’ve crossed off another item from the list. I’ve learned website content management and how it works.

My day job involves working as CEO for a learned Society and we needed a new website. I’ve written the last two and one of my major faults is inability to delegate. Unfortunately, websites are soon outdated and my interest span so far has been in the HTML range of coding.

But… this week the new website was unveiled. I learned to operate the new website via content management. You can see it here if you want to – it’s super-duper and so easy to manage. More importantly, I won’t be the only one with an admin password – all my colleagues will be able to edit and own their part as there is no coding involved.

Aside from this, it taught me that one is never too old to learn. The old adage  ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ is redundant in my case, as it seems the older I get, the keener I am to learn new stuff. At one time I thought I was pretty clued up, but the more I learn, the more I realise how little I know.

So now that’s out of the way, I’m making enquiries about registering for a course on quantum physics – I am fascinated by the question of decoherence and one day want to write a book about the philosophy of measurement. It’s not exactly a new area for me, but a qualification in it would be good to have, just for the interest factor.

So here’s to the new website, and to keeping the neurons firing 🙂

I’ve suffered from PMS all my life and it has, in a lot of ways, shaped it. I’ve been upset and frustrated in turn (depending, obviously, on the time of month) at the lack of medical help available. I’ve tried every ‘cure’ and whilst some have helped, none have ‘cured’. I finally came to the conclusion that PMS could never be ‘cured’ with medication.

One of my rationales for becoming a psychologist was my feminist slant, and a big part of this was to help women who have suffered domestic violence and also PMS.

To this end, I have worked for various DV organisation, but the PMS positive action, until now, has eluded me. I’ve researched it, but a lot of it is medicalised, quantitative studies that in no way look at what it means for women; rather, it further objectifies the body to the exclusion of experience.

However, the editor who commissioned ‘Identity, Health and Women’ approached me to scope my future publications. She asked me what I would like to write about, and I told her about my PMS research and we are now looking at a book, based on my the model I introduced, aimed at looking at PMS and how it affects women’s lives. There is also the possibility of a follow-up about the menopause and another about reflexivity.

So, I can cross the following items off my list:

‘Try to understand PMS better and write more articles about it’

‘Conduct an experiment with various menopause cures and blog it’

I’m looking for participants for a small interview study about PMS, so if you would like to contribute, please email me at

I’m still reeling from what could possibly to be a five-year project, and grateful for the opportunity. Onwards and upwards…

I’ve been looking at my ‘to do’ list and I’m going to cover two items here. When I wrote my list I must have been feeling particularly pressured because I said I wanted to ‘grow my nails’ and ‘grow my hair’. On a normal day, my appearance is the least of my worries, but when I am under pressure, particularly when speaking in front of lots of people or going to an important meeting, I start to think ‘do I look OK?’

And my idea of OK, since I was very young, is feminine and soft. To me, this equates to long hair and long nails – in fact, to most high maintenance beauty aspirations.

SO… for most of my life I have been trying to grow my hair and nails, only to prioritize other things over this most of the time. Raising children, almost non-stop typing, washing by hand when I couldn’t afford a machine – none of these are renowned for their nail strengthening properties! The other day I was staring at my nails and thinking that I had failed; I was so busy rushing around that I just don’t have hours to spare styling long hair or looking after long nails.

Then I realised that it’s because I’m busy that I’m successful – I’d been measuring my success and failures against outdated ideas. It’s not how I look but what I do, and, with the high impact  speaking opportunities I have, say.

So the shorter, low maintenance hairstyle stays, and the short nails that allow me to type faster and change nappies (now for my grandchildren – it doesn’t stop, ladies) remain. Some people may be organised enough to have the hair, nails AND high impact on the world, but I don’t!

My next speaking engagement is in two weeks on International Womens Day and instead of worrying about how my hair looks or hiding my nails, I’m going to concentrate on what I say about getting rid of outdated ideals and how I can influence women who are not as fortunate as myself – and I’ve got my Big Zero list to thank for this confidence boost!

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This one is a bit of a cheat because I already make my own bread – I guess I mean that I want to keep on doing it. It’s so easy to buy bread, but making it yourself is really satisfying and it tastes better.

There are some things I wish I had started doing earlier, but didn’t because they seem so difficult. Baking bread in one of them. I realise now that it isn’t the process that’s difficult, but the waiting for the mixture to ‘prove’. Instead of telling you about that, I’ll give you the recipe and the method so that you can do it too.

Ingredients (cups being American measuring cups).

One cup of warm water

Half a cup of skimmed milk

Three tablespoons of sugar

Two tablespoons of olive oil

Two teaspoons of salt

Four cups of strong bread flour

I packet of dried yeast

Put all the ingredients into a big mixing bowl.

Mix together until they form a firm dough. Knead for about five minutes.Cover the dough in the bowl with clingfilm or a tea towel and leave in a warm place for two hours, I leave my bowl on top of a radiator or on top of the cooker when the oven is on.

By this time the dough will have risen. Take it out and knead it again for about two minutes. I tend to stretch it and fold it over and into itself. Other people have told me that they knead with their knuckles. Leave in a warm place for another half an hour.

Take the dough and place on a baking tray in the shape you want it to be, bearing in mind it will rise slightly in the oven. Put in the oven, gas mark six, for thirty to forty minutes.

You’ll know it’s done when it’s brown and when you tap it, it sounds hollow.  I like to check it, tap it, then turn the oven off and leave it inside for a while just to make sure the inside is perfectly dry.

Baking bread touches something primal inside me. I used to have a breadmaker, but it’s very satisfying to work on your own bread. I make this bread tonight and it makes me feel happy and content.

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Just as I was considering my first Big Zeroes post about knitting socks for my mum, this article was published in the Guardian, labelling people who turn 50 as ‘quintastics’. The article asks if turning fifty makes people slink into old age, or gives them a new lease of life.

In my case it’s both. My earliest photographic memory is being ten at Bultins, standing in my swimsuit in a model pose. That was possibly the last summer that I would wear a swimsuit, as I was entered into a ‘picture of health’ competition where I felt very uncomfortable parading in front of a large crowd in my swimming costume. I came third.

I was a very insecure teenager, with lots of serious problems (although they didn’t seem serious at the time through the beer goggles). I wouldn’t leave the house without first applying Carmen heated rollers to my poker straight hair and dollops of makeup, along with the latest fashions. As I reached thirty, my security crisis had deepened and I was living in a foreign country with my three children. I hated going to the beach despite the heat and covered up with layers.

At forty I was beginning to find my feet. My fortieth birthday was spent with my brothers and my children, in the evening I went to a bar and someone asked me why I was so boring as all I could talk about was my work-in-progress and my academic life. This prompted a much-needed overhaul of my life and the realisation that I had found my passion in research and writing.

The years between forty and now have been the best years of my life. Although some personal tragedies have happened and at times I have been terribly unhappy with life, my joy and surprise at finding out who I really am, and having the opportunity to work for the greater good, has helped to balance this.

In August, my partner and I went on holiday to Cornwall and chanced upon a beautiful surfing beach. Like other holidays, I had brought a swimming costume that I never wore (it still had the tags on it). This year was different. I realised that the years had stripped away the mascara and the curls, and even the clothes that I was cowering behind, and I no longer had anything to hide. The picture above is me surfing at Widemouth Bay earlier this year.

So, while I realise the years have taken their toll on my body and I’m perhaps more than halfway through this fantastic journey, I have the knowledge to no longer be afraid of what other people think – a balance which I know will serve me well in the next quintastic decade! That’s my plan for the next ten years, to live it like I’m thirty-four!

Learn to speak Spanish

Knit a pair of socks

Finish writing the ‘Project: Me!’ book

Start swimming at least once a week

Buy a bicycle and ride it

Grow my hair

Grow my nails

Go back to Castlerigg, Keswick to renew my promises to Eric

Meditate daily

Learn basic French

See my brothers more often

Go back to Tintagel and surf at Widemouth Bay

Buy the Vivienne Westwood coat I have loved for ages

Have my eyes lasered (before I get too old)

Go to see the Aberdeen stone circles and photograph them

Paint more, using acrylics, watercolours and draw with charcoal

Write at least two short stories a month

Forgive some people who I may have subconsciously held a grudge against – life’s too short, it turns out

Do the best job I can do every day at work

Make a real effort to write for the feminist blog

Register for an Open University Course on Quantum Physics

Find at least one thing every day to be grateful for, even when I’m really hacked off

See my friends more

Read all the books on my wish list

Write more fiction – at least one more novel that’s rumbling already

Catalogue all my belongings and realise how much I really have

Try to understand PMS better and write more articles about it

Conduct an experiment with various menopause cures and blog it

Remember that not everyone is a postmodernist

Buy a telescope and take amazing pictures of the universe

Don’t stop believing

Listen to music more and, consequently, dance more

Go to Stornaway and see the ancient sites there

Study Lojong

Go to the Tate Modern and see all the pictures in context in the light of new understandings of abstraction

Go to Northampton to the House Rennie Macintosh built

Make a plan for the next ten years, like I did when I was 40

Have a Brazilian wax (ouch!)

Keep in touch with my oldest friends – even though our paths have separated we still have something in common

Ask my Mum more about our family tree and make a proper start on it

Don’t buy bread, make my own

Make a soufflé

Make more of an effort to love myself

Not to be afraid of getting older, time is just a concept!

Lean much more about the universe and waveforms and think more deeply about the question of decoherence

Be less serious and more playful sometimes

Learn website content management

Plant out the tiny oak tree saplings I have grown from acorns as a tribute to my grandparents

Write a Radio 4 play

Finally and most difficult, try to remember that 50 is middle aged and that I am now ‘older’!