'My daughter, Jane…'


'My daughter, Jane…'

By Jane Clarke

March 29, 2019


Playing her own tune…

‘Jane is the middle of my three children. At first, we thought she would be the quiet one, but she surprised us. She is very musical – she plays the piano, guitar and violin – and that’s something we’ve always shared. I have memories of sitting on the piano stool with Jane and her siblings, singing nursery rhymes. When she was only three or four, her nursery school teacher heard the sound of the piano being played. She knew it couldn’t be any of her staff and when she looked around, she found my tiny daughter picking out tunes by ear. She’s always had that ability and, what’s amazing is that, although she is Jane’s adopted daughter, my granddaughter Maya has it, too. One Christmas they called me up and played a duet on the piano over the phone to me and her dad, Brian. He has dementia and loves Jane to play music for him. She’ll say, “What song do you want to hear, Dad?” He loves Bring Me Sunshine. It’s a special tune for all of us, and I know it’s become a kind of theme song for Nourish by Jane Clarke, as part of Jane’s drive to help those with eating challenges caused by dementia, cancer and other illnesses, has been her love for her dad.’

Jane Clarke as a child

 Jane faced challenges as a young woman…

‘Even as a little girl, she was very determined. We had thought she might follow music as a career but when she was in her teens, Jane developed severe endometriosis. It’s a condition that causes incredible pain in the pelvis and abdomen and Jane spent much of her time in hospital on strong opiod medication. It isolated her and Jane realised she couldn’t shut herself away further, practising an instrument on her own for hours every day, so she decided to study sciences instead – taking after her Dad, who was a science teacher. Then she took her degree in dietetics.

When she was away at university, I used to dread the phone ringing, as often it meant she had been admitted to hospital again. Her drive is incredible, though. She qualified and began working as a dietitian, setting up research projects, including services for people living with HIV, but the endometriosis made life so hard. I remember her saying, “Mum, I just can’t do this anymore; it isn’t a life.” It was then she decided to have a hysterectomy to put an end to the pain and live life to the fullest.’

A passion for food…

‘I’ve always loved cooking and entertaining – sharing the food I make with others – and Jane has inherited that. I’ve always felt it’s important to sit at the table and eat together; it provides time to talk when the rest of life is so busy. When Jane was in hospital, I would bring her food to eat, or try to nourish her when she came home, because the meals she was given on the ward were generally so awful. When she set up her own practice as a dietitian, she also studied cordon bleu cookery because her own experience of the healthcare system had shown her important food is to recovery after illness, and how often it is ignored. All that experience goes into Nourish by Jane Clarke.’

Jane Clarke honorary doctorate with parents 

Determined to be different…

‘Brian and I have been astounded by Jane’s drive and determination. When she accepted her Honorary Doctorate from the University of West London last year for her work supporting the vulnerable, she described how she would sleep on the floor of her clinic when she opened the first private dietetic practice in the UK, because she couldn’t afford to rent a flat as well as a workspace. She’s not afraid of hard work and she gives so much of herself when she cares for her patients. It makes me very proud.’ 

Mums & daughters…

‘I went with Jane when she went to collect Maya from India 15 years ago, and I remember crying when I saw this tiny little girl. Maya had been very malnourished in the orphanage and Jane carried her in a papoose for months as she nursed her back to health. Today Maya is a wonderful 16-year-old with a passion for riding. It’s wonderful to see the young woman she has become.'

Jane Clarke and daughter

Daddy’s girl…

‘Jane is anxious that her dad eats well, especially as his dementia has strengthened his love of sweet foods. She gently tries to guide him towards healthier versions of his favourite foods. I like to experiment with new dishes, so when I’m cooking for Brian and myself, I’ll follow Jane’s advice and use ingredients Brian loves but in a new way. There are a lot of ways you can use a tin of tomatoes in a meal! And I often recreate a dish that Jane has cooked for us, as her dad will eat everything she puts in front of him, including his favourite coffee and walnut cake. I love to eat her amazing salads as no two are ever alike and she loves experimenting with flavours and lots of herbs from her garden. Sunday promises to be sunny, so I think one might make an appearance on the table this Mother’s Day.’

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