One of the very first songs I wrote was about the moon: Mr. Moon was inspired by a lullaby my Nanna would sing to me when I was a child:
We used to live in London when I was really little. That’s where I went to primary school. I actually didn’t mind moving away to the countryside. But it made Nanna sad and then, me too. That day, she dabbed her violet-blue eyes with a pressed, cotton hanky, she always kept under the left sleeve of her hand-knitted cardigans, and hugged me with a proper Nanna hug. Her hugs were so warm, they always made me want to stay forever and just drift off to sleep: She has firmly tucked me into my bed. I can barely see her silhouette in the soft glow of street lamp outside my window and just peacefully listen to her low and warm voice, singing the words, “Mr. Moon, so glad to see you soon…”
– Frances Livings, The Invisible Foreigner (unpublished memoir)
Many years later, I am 19 years old and renting two rooms in a large, run-down Victorian house with a huge, overgrown garden. It’s a commune with fairly strange and often very high people who sit around most of the day and smoke too much hash oil. Sometimes the whole kitchen is filled with dense smoke. It’s a cold and damp house. There’s no central heating, just old furnaces and a large Victorian stove in the kitchen. It is often the warmest room, which is why we all often congregate there, including the cat. Both the cat and I had occasionally contact high.
The number of habitants fluctuates between five and seven. I am by far the youngest but at least I have got one ally: Andreas, who is an assistant professor at the local university in the maths department. He feels like the big brother I never had. He sometimes slips me a few Camel cigarettes for the day or some Deutschmark to be able to buy myself a bread roll in the morning. He also collects the rent; I somehow always manage to scrape together last minute.
Getting Myself an Education
I am struggling to support myself financially. But I am fiercely determined to get myself through junior college and go on to art college or university. Years later, it touched me deeply when my cousin told me that Nanna was really proud of me; proud that I “got myself an education”. She was talented in all things crafts but had to leave school at only 15 to support her family. She became a seamstress, survived two wars, three children, and an abusive husband – and stayed one of the sweetest people I have encountered. Moreover, been loved by. One of her favourite sayings – one of real determination – was:
“When at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”
In my little bedroom with creaky floorboards, I have set up an old, DX7 keyboard. I haven’t had any music lessons in years but am very resolute about learning to play at least a couple of my favourite pop songs by ear. I’m also one of two background singers in a band but we rehearse more than we ever play out. But having to focus mainly on my survival, consumes a lot of energy. Throughout my life, it has also become almost essential to be in denial about some of my deepest feelings.
Suppressing Painful Memories an Important Coping Mechanism
For me, especially the loss of Nanna – first geographically and then physically – had to be buried deep down in a box with a very heavy lid. But inevitably, feelings will still find a way through the cracks and emerge. So even after all those years, I have still got that song, her song in my heart. I often think of it lying in bed, gazing out of the small French window, surrounded by ivy, growing vigorously on the brick façade and ever-stretching its tentacles out. One night the moonlight is so intense and my heart so full of her love that I sit down the very next day and try to reconstruct Mr. Moon.
Floating around in my memories are, besides the pain of losing her, primarily the warm feelings connected to her singing the lullaby with such sincerity, and fragments of the lyrics. The words of comfort paint the picture that there is always someone watching over me – read them here. The melody, however, was hard to remember. Nanna always sang slightly out of tune, so I have to improvise a little. But that’s how my first moon song came alive: I recorded Mr. Moon with my first band, 4UrbanArtists but didn’t release the track until many years later. But that’s a whole other story.
Listen to the track – or download a copy – below and tell me what you think in the comment section!