When I was very small, a brush salesman used to come round once a year. My mother would buy dusters or brushes and flat round metal tins of polish. There was the purple lavender floor polish and the red carmine for the doorstep. Our front door opened on to a small vestibule with a glass door into the hallway. The step up from outside the front door was red – some kind of stone, maybe concrete? Then there was a brass strip between the red step and the linoleum floor of the vestibule. The brush salesman always gave me a tiny sample tin of both polishes and I spent many happy hours shining up the various surfaces. Sadly, that love of housecleaning didn’t stay with me!

What triggered that memory this week? Translating a university’s ‘report to society’ which included a description of their ‘hazing framework’. So I was using words like ‘pledge’ which was the name of the furniture polish my mother used. For the uninitiated (!), hazing is the inhuman treatment of ‘pledges’ as part of their initiation into a student fraternity.

Interesting fact 1: in Flemish, it’s called baptism.

Interesting fact 2: the official UK English word for it is ‘beasting’.

Frightening fact 1: the people who do this are the future lawyers, politicians and judges!

I’m off to polish my doorstep