Writing about school dinners in Scotland reminded me, for the first time in ages, of another story from that brief part of my childhood that was spent in Scotland.
My school had a curious geography. The playground and main school buildings were at street level, except for the area reserved for the children who were just starting school, which was on a significantly lower level at the rear of the school. The drop down was sufficiently severe that there was a low, railing-topped wall erected to stop children my age falling down into it.
Marking the rear boundary of the school was a brick wall, which rose up to roughly the same level as the one you stood behind to look down upon the tinies below, possibly even slightly higher. On top of this wall, for no apparent reason, was an old kettle. I have no idea what was behind the wall, or why the kettle was there, or even how it got there, but it remained on that wall for the two school years that I was there.
The legend of the purple hand came about during my second year there. Like all such things, it was a tale which grew as it passed from boy to boy (and possibly girl to girl – I was seven, I wasn’t going to talk to girls unless I had to). It was nothing more than a rumour that, if you were lucky, you would see a purple hand rise above the wall and move the kettle a tiny bit.
It was, in retrospect, a brilliant story. Intriguing without being too scary (there was never a suggestion that the hand was interested in anything other than kettle-manipulation), mysterious (as mysterious as the kettle being there, in fact) and, of course, the really good liars could claim that they had seen it without the kettle having to move at all.
The story gripped my class – or at least the male half of it – for ages. We would spend whole break times looking at the wall, hoping to see something. I never did. But that doesn’t mean that nothing ever happened.