MOON GIRL by MANDY MOON - Sample Chapter

This is a sample chapter that Keith Moon’s daughter, Amanda De Wolf, and I wrote in the hope of enticing literary agents to represent us and get a deal with a mainstream book publisher. Unfortunately it didn’t happen, and neither of us was prepared to go with a specialist music company or the self-publishing route. We picked a fairly obvious period to write about, the dramatic week in which Kim, Mandy’s mum, left her husband for good.


I would have just turned seven when mum decided to leave my father for the final time. It was August 1973, another hot day in an endlessly hot summer made all the more unbearable because, unusually, my father was home for weeks on end. By ‘home’ I mean he was based in the UK, not that he was at home [Tara, the Moon’s house in Chertsey, Surrey, UK – Ed.] every night as he sometimes stayed in London, never letting mum know where he was, but when he was at Tara there was trouble afoot more often than not.
         The Who were recording and rehearsing their Quadrophenia record that summer and wouldn’t go back on the road until October, and this was the reason he was always likely to be around, and the more often he was around the more turmoil there was. When he went off on tour for a few weeks a state of calm descended on the household, less noise, less chaos, less uncertainty, less danger. Mum was always happier when he was away, like a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders, at least temporarily. I think if it was up to her she’d have preferred to leave him for good when he was out of the country on the road somewhere. That way she could have arranged it properly, had time to deal with all the practicalities involved, but it didn’t happen that way. In fact, it couldn’t have happened at a worse time really.
         The summer term had ended but even before that Dermot [Kerrigan, Kim’s mother’s son, therefore Mandy’s uncle, but only a few months older than her, who was also living at TaraEd.] and I were not attending school consistently. The mood in the household was simply not conducive to getting children up early, giving them their breakfast and taking them to school by 8.30, just like every other family with young kids at the school we went to. How mum explained all this to the teachers I have no idea.          Nowadays you read about ‘broken families’ whose kids don’t attend school because their parents are poor and can’t feed them or spend all their money on drink and drugs. Well, we were just like that – a ‘broken family’ – except that we lived in a big house in its own grounds in a posh part of Chertsey in Surrey and our father was supposedly earning plenty of money, but it still disappeared on drink and drugs and heaven knows what else. We might just as well have been a poverty-stricken ‘broken family’ on a run-down council estate for all the difference it made.
         I’m pretty sure now that mum made the decision to leave Keith and never come back to him because one of their fights actually involved me, at least indirectly, and this incident happened one night just before she decided we would leave Tara for good. Dad had turned off all the lights in the house for some reason and he began to throw things around madly in the dark. He was obviously drunk. Something hard hit me on the side of my left leg and cut me, not badly but enough for me to cry and need medical attention, and I still have the scar. Mum was furious that he’d hurt me, scared that it might happen again and maybe worse, and it degenerated into yet another terrible screaming match. I guess it was the last straw for her.
         Mum didn’t tell me she’d finally made the decision to leave dad and never come back, not at first anyway. We had left a few times before, sometimes in the middle of the night when dad was sleeping. Mum knew that when he’d taken a handful of sleeping pills on top of the brandy then nothing was going to wake him up for hours on end, so the early morning was a good time to make a break.
         On one of these occasions Dermot and I had been taken to Verwood in Dorset where Billy, my grandfather on my mum’s side, lived with Trisha, his second wife, who died in a car accident. Dad was frightened of Billy because he stood up to him. To Billy Keith Moon wasn’t some big rock star, he was just some idiot that his daughter had stupidly married, and he wouldn’t stand for any of dad’s nonsense. So, there was no way that dad would ever come to Verwood and try to get us to come back. Billy would just have smacked him in the teeth.
         This last visit to Billy’s lasted for two months or so and I hated it because it was obvious they didn’t want me there. I’d have preferred to stay with Nanny Kit, my other grandmother [Keith’s mum – Ed.], in Wembley, in the same house where dad grew up. I would have been much happier living with her than Billy but the truth is what I really wanted to be was alone somewhere with mum, just the two of us.
         But back to the morning when we left Tara, I remember waking up and mum not being there. It was always the scariest feeling, not knowing where she was and being alone in the house with dad, though of course he didn’t get up when I did. He certainly wasn’t a morning person! It was unusual for mum not to be there, most unlike her to leave me with dad. Many bad incidents had happened over the years and when they did and mum scarpered she always took me with her. This time she didn’t, so I didn’t know what was happening. Joan, my grandmother, was there, of course, but she wasn’t much use in the mornings either. Most nights she threw back the booze as much as dad, matching him drink for drink which is saying something.
         Mum had evidently had some lunch and gone to see some friends in Egham, then checked into the nearby Great Fosters Hotel at Thorpe Green. It was like she’d woken up that day and just said to herself, ‘I’ve had enough. I can’t take it any more’. She must have called from the hotel and rang up Tara to speak to her mother because Joan put Dermot and me in a cab and we were driven to the hotel where mum was waiting for us. I ran into her arms and hugged her. It was such a relief to see her. I never went back to Tara again, ever, but mum went back to fetch some things the next day. She told me later that she was really scared dad would find her there but he was in the pub down the lane, the Golden Grove, and didn’t see her, not at first anyway. Later she told me how she ran around the house collecting paperwork and things before fleeing in a taxi and being so afraid of what dad would do to her if he caught her. She managed to fill a suitcase with our clothes, running around the house and then getting away from Tara before he could stop her.
         We stayed at the Great Fosters Hotel for a couple of weeks. It seemed only natural that Dermot would be with us there too, as if he was my brother, but he went back to Verwood after a while. The hotel was amazing, an ancient Grade I listed building with a maze and history dating back to Henry VIII, and the gift shop had dolls of him and all his wives. It was big, beautiful and we felt safe at last. It was supposedly haunted but I didn’t experience anything like that. While we were there mum was on the phone all the time to the Who’s managers trying to get some money from them to pay our bills. We also spent a few nights at another hotel near Runnymede but that wasn’t so nice.
         When we moved out of the hotels we stayed with a couple named Molly and Bob who were friends of Kim’s mother Joan and who lived near Egham. I didn’t know who they were but they were very kind to us and had model horses for me to play with which was great and they had a dog. I really missed the dogs at Tara and pretended to be a dog most of the time, even eating and drinking from a bowl on the floor… not too emotionally sound already, I guess! I also used to sleepwalk at their home and would stand at the top of the stairs, so I am told, which was disconcerting for the adults so they locked me in my room.
         After about a month there we moved to a little house on Campbell Close, a cul-de-sac in Twickenham. I really liked living there, on a tiny street. It was one of five terraced cottages, quite sweet really, just the opposite of Tara, and I liked having my own room upstairs and looking out from the front window at people and dogs coming and going. We could walk down to a nearby shop which was a treat for me because Tara was really isolated, other than the pub at the end of the road. I suppose I craved normalcy and structure, which is why I liked being at Nanny Kit’s, just a normal house in a normal street with a normal family.
         Mum was renting the house in Campbell Close for £20 a week and she and I were alone there which was lovely, but after a week or two dad somehow found out where we were living and left things by the front door. I vaguely remember an incident where there were supposedly bad men with guns who had been ordered by dad to take us back to Tara. I remember I was kept away from the windows. I was never quite sure if that was real or just another story, like the story about dad setting some heavies on to Mac [Ian McLagan, the keyboard player of the Faces, whom Kim would marry in 1978 – Ed.] who was coming over to see mum a lot soon after we moved there. I heard later that dad did pay this heavy to break Mac’s fingers, but Pete Townshend heard about it and paid the heavy not to.
         It slowly dawned on me that Mac was courting mum, and mum was happy about this. They’d known one another for a long time, way back from when he was in the Small Faces I guess. So it was only a matter of time before we moved in with Mac, into another big house that wasn’t normal, in his case a five-bedroom Gothic style house in half an acre overlooking Richmond Park on Fife Road in East Sheen.
         I remember mum and Mac listening to lots of Marvin Gaye songs there, very romantic! Unlike dad, he treated her really well which must have been wonderful for her after all she’d had to put up with. It seemed like we would be there for a while so I started at another primary school in Twickenham. Mum and I took the bus, but I was usually late! I was made to stay in at lunch for being late and mum got so upset, telling the teachers it wasn’t my fault. She would come to the school and sit in at lunch but she had to be told it didn’t work that way!
         I do remember waking up at that house one night and no one was home. It was the middle of the night and I went outside and wandered down the road calling for mum. A kindly neighbour took me in and I slept in their front room until we heard mum yelling down the street for me at about four in the morning.
         After we moved in with Mac in East Sheen I remember dad coming to the house. It only happened once I think, but it was traumatic for everyone. Dougal [aka Peter Butler – Ed.], dad’s PA and driver, brought him over in his pink Rolls-Royce. I answered the door. It was frosted glass but I recognized his silhouette and was scared even before opening it. He asked Mac to babysit while he took mum out. Mac said no he wouldn’t do that and asked him to leave but dad insisted on seeing mum, so they spent some time together in the front room while Mac and Dougal and me waited outside in the back garden. Then dad left. I was always kind of afraid he would come back again but he never did, so this was the last time I ever saw him, and I didn’t even say goodbye.
         Dougal told me later that when they got back in the car dad cried his eyes out. He told Dougal he knew now that he’d lost mum for ever. I guess he must have finally realised that it was all over. Whenever mum had left him before there was never another man involved, but this time there was and that made all the difference. Deep inside I knew it too.
         Something had told me the break with dad was permanent after we moved in with Mac at Fife Road in East Sheen. This wasn’t like any of the other times we’d left dad. This wasn’t temporary, it was the future. The madness was finally over, and it was like a great big black cloud had been lifted, such a massive relief for me and mum. In front of me was a life that might just be normal – or so I thought.

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