A wassail, it seems, has nothing to do with carol singing!
There I was, wittering on last week about the annual outburst of seasonal festivity to which Birmingham's Crescent Theatre is devoted at this time of the year - never for a moment suspecting that a wassail is in fact the name given to a fertility ritual in an orchard.
It seems that the Anglo-Saxons knew far more about this ancient rite than I do - and when they went a-wassailing they were in fact hailing or saluting.
And what were they hailing or saluting? Apple trees, actually. The ritual involved sprinkling the trees with a mixture of eggs and apples to which wine, ale or cider was added, with the object of encouraging an increase in the apple yield for the coming year.
It sounds to me as if it was just an excuse for a nutritional knees-up - and like sundry other celebrations of various seasons, wassailing was pinched from the pagans when Christianity swept through the civilized world. As far as the Crescent is concerned, the eggs, apples, ale and cider have been replaced by mince pies and mulled wine in the cause of giving succour to carollers.
I have now heard from two wassailers - one who understandably thought it was time to see to my education, as above, and another who put me straight on the Crescent's dates for wassailing.
I unsuspectingly reported that the second instalment would be at the Crescent on December 18 and 19, because that's what the theatre brochure told me - but it seems that the 21st Century version of applauding apple trees has caught on to such an extent that the fun is being extended to Thursday, December 20. This is excellent news for a theatre that has been having a hard time pulling in the patrons lately.
Moreover, I have to confess that I had no idea that the opening salvo on Sunday and Monday this week was not at the Crescent at all but at Highbury Hall. Not that I would have guessed this from the brochure, which lists the venue as "HH" without adding an explanatory footnote for the uninitiated.
But as I didn't even notice, I missed out on a happy half-hour of trying to work out what the coded reference might imply. I may also have sent one or two would-be wassailers scurrying in completely the wrong direction on a dark winter's night, for which I am now desperately seeking sackcloth and ashes. Sorry!
By the way, this is the irrepressible John Slim here. I was flattered but bemused to find such an unlikely adjective accorded to me by my friend and former colleague Ken Jackson (Post Letters, December 7) - but before my head went too far into the clouds I realised that an adjacent Worcester correspondent, in describing himself, was coming far closer to the real me.
Like him, I am apt to snooze without warning and miss the end of the television news. All that's irrepressible is the snoring.
Oddly however, my epithetical enhancement came on the very day when, without warning, I reached a personal landmark. For the first time ever, I was addressed as "Pops" - not once, but twice, by a young man in a lorry who spotted me working in the front garden in scarecrow mode and wild of hair and confessed that he was anxious to cut down some of my trees.
Pops! I was so tickled that I was subsequently to be found wandering around the house, saying "Pops!" in a happy, squeaky little voice and a state of heady amusement.
Moreover, my alleged irrepressibility came 24 hours before I completed a month of being repressed - ie, prevented from driving - because of the fleeting health problem I mentioned a few weeks back.
I'm now behind the wheel again. Look out, world, Pops is back!
Congratulations to Worcester's Swan Theatre Amateur Company on its happy murder mystery evening adventure last week.
Angela Lanyon wrote and directed Dig in for Murder, which found the studio audience spending the interval sifting through an embarrassment of clues while trying to work out who was murdered, who did it and why - while enjoying a plate of good food and a glass of wine.
These Lanyon brain-teasers have become a welcome Christmas tradition at the Swan and it's good to see the way they are supported.
There was panic at Hall Green Little Theatre on Saturday morning when one of the broker's men - Wormwood and Scrubs - in Cinderella said he had to drop out of the show this week.
To the rescue came James Kay, aged 12, a member of the group's Youth Theatre, who had been shadowing the broker's men as one of their two apprentices. He already knew most of the lines but he spent the afternoon with director Roy Palmer, some of the cast and costume organiser Julia Roden - and tonight he will be sharing the stage with big brother Ben, who is playing Dandini.
Julia Roden said: "He's a natural comedian and we think he'll be fine. The show runs until Saturday."
Dial M for Murder, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (to Saturday).
Cinderella, Hall Green Little Theatre (to Saturday).
Hans, the Witch and the Gobbin, Sutton Arts Theatre, Sutton Coldfield (to Saturday).
The Complete History of Britain - Almost, Worcester Operatic & Dramatic Society, St Mary's Hall, Northfield Street,
Worcester (to Saturday).
A Christmas Wassail, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (Dec 18-20).
The Scatterbrained Scarecrow of Oz, Highbury Little Theatre, Sutton Coldfield Dec 21-Jan 5).