Dr Jane Hawking

Dr Jane Hawking

I was born in Norwich which I still regard as the most beautiful city in the world, despite the attempts by the Luftwaffe to destroy it in the Second World War. My father was away in the War at the time of my birth and my mother was living with her parents. We stayed in Norwich for a couple of years until my father joined the Civil Service and we moved to London. From the age of six, I was brought up in St. Albans and educated at St. Albans High School and Westfield College London where I read Modern languages, French and Spanish.

At the age of twenty-one, I was married to Stephen Hawking whom I had met eighteen months earlier at a New Year's party in St. Albans. Only weeks after that party I learned that he had been diagnosed with an incurable neurological illness, Motor Neurone Disease, for which the prognosis was bleak - only two more years of life.

I spent the final year of my degree course commuting from Cambridge where Stephen and I lived, to London to finish my studies. Then, on discovering that mere wives and mothers were considered nonentities in the rarefied atmosphere of Cambridge academic society, I began a Ph.D in the language of the early love lyrics of the Iberian Peninsula to give myself an identity. Combining the thesis with the care of an increasingly disabled husband who was an ambitious rising star in physics, the upbringing of two young children and shouldering the responsibility for the entire household alone, was arduous. The project was not completed until twelve years later, just two days before I gave birth to my third child. After completing the thesis, once my youngest son was old enough to go to school, I took up part-time sixth form teaching of Modern Languages which I found immensely satisfying. Some pupils needed to be helped back into education and encouraged to believe in their own capabilities. They did not necessarily achieve high grades at A - level, but the mere fact of passing set them on course to future success.

I am the mother of three most adorable children, a daughter Lucy, who and two sons, Robert and Tim, who have grown into wonderful, caring, capable adults despite the difficulties that life has thrown at them. Lucy is a successful children's author, Robert is an IT expert on the West Coast of America and Tim is a marketing manager for Lego. I am very proud of all three of them and of my three grandchildren.

With a certain reluctance I wrote a memoir of my life with Stephen Hawking, entitled Music to Move the Stars which was published in 1999 by Macmillan. It was howled down by the press as a kiss and tell memoir which had not been my intention. I viewed the book rather as a tribute to my parents and the many friends who had helped us through very demanding times and I hoped, above all, that it would help people caring for a disabled relative to see that they were not alone. The film, The Theory of Everything, was based on the second version of my memoir, Travelling to Infinity, which became a best seller in May 2015. The Theory of Everything was a sensitive portrayal of my first marriage, concentrating particularly on Stephen's successes in science although it did rather minimize the hardships and it did bend the facts -referring to me as a Cambridge graduate for instance. It also omitted any reference to our frequent far-flung travels, which had presented me with many challenges. In the wake of the film and the re-publication of Travelling to Infinity, I have been invited to speak at many literary festivals and address charity functions, all of which have been most enjoyable. Many of the lovely people I met on these occasions have told me of their personal experiences of caring for a family member, so I know that my writing of my own sense of isolation and hopelessness has not been in vain.

Music has always been very important to me and in singing I discovered a spiritual dimension and a counter-balance to the stress of life on the home-front, especially after Stephen's critical illness in Geneva in 1985 and the subsequent arrival of nurses and carers into our home, turning it into a mini-hospital. Through singing I met my second husband, Jonathan, who is a professional musician. He transformed our lives and relieved me of much of the strain that I had been carrying for so long. It is true to say that he saved me from utter despair and helped renew my Christian faith which had long sustained me but which was beginning to falter..

My refuge for the past twenty-five years and more has been my house in France. I love both France and Spain but as France is closer it is easier to escape there simply for a weekend, although we spend longer there in holiday periods. The house, a former mill house, is large and ancient, which means of course that it takes a lot of maintenance with it old beams and thick walls but I regard that as my very personal contact with a little bit of history. We have created an herbaceous garden and bulb lawn out of what used to be a chicken-run, and the unkempt meadow where geese used to roam, became my Millennium project: it is now an open green space with fruit trees, shrubs, hydrangeas and a small vegetable patch. Gardening is one of my enduring, favourite and most rewarding pastimes. Surrounded by fields and farms in Northern France, we are in close touch with the natural cycle. In the evening we watch the sun set across the fields in a fiery glow beneath a clear turquoise sky, and sometimes at night we walk under the stars gazing up at the sparkling depths of the universe. In summer we spend most of our time out of doors and in winter we sit by the fire, reading and listening to music. We have many friends in the area and feel very much a part of local society.

After the divorce I found to my surprise that I had time on my hands, so I wrote a book about setting up home in France; it was called At Home in France - a guide to buying and renovating property in France.

It included sections on each stage of the purchase of a property, providing information about the legalities, practicalities, utilities and so on. I combined it with a phonetic dictionary of useful terms. Unfortunately it missed the peak period of second home purchasing in France, but I was glad to find that after the trials and tribulations of my first marriage, I still had at least half a brain left!

I like to keep fit and when not gardening, or singing solo or in a choir, I cycle, play tennis, swim, dance and practise yoga. In winter we usually get away to the ski slopes.

My first novel, Silent Music, the first of a trilogy entitled Immortal Souls, is to be published on 22nd September. It tells the story of Ruth, a young girl growing up in London in the aftermath of the Second World War. She is a thoughtful, observant and sensitive child who finds herself in a confusing and mysterious adult world. She seeks refuge in her memories of her idyllic stays with her grandparents away from London in East Anglia where she finds comforting visions of a simpler life and there she finds the motivation to pursue the dream which has accompanied her throughout her childhood.