Smaller companies have been a lucrative, albeit higher-risk, area to invest over the long term. The Numis Smaller Companies Index has, since 1955, achieved an annual return of 15.8 per cent compared with 12 per cent for the broader UK stock market.

Letter: Busy Santa

Sir: Peter Baker ("Keeping Father Christmas fit for duty", 16 December) understates the burden S Claus willingly carries as a patron saint. He mentions children and sailors, but overlooks unmarried women, merchants, pawnbrokers, perfumiers and the whole of Russia. Incidentally, might S Claus's longevity be the consequence of having refused his mother's breast on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Theatre: Real life facts and fairy tales

Change of Heart

Preview: Scream hammer horror

Brace yourself for a hair-raising experience at the Museum of the Moving Image from next Wednesday. "Hammer Horror" promises a grisly, yet light-hearted look at the film classics created by Hammer, and says fangs for 40 years of vampires and werewolves to the well-loved British film studio.

Letter: `Mythical' raccoon spotted in Boston

Sir: Mary Dejevsky says of raccoons: "these endearing but villainous animals are just another component of the American myth . . . the truth is that they do not exist." ("The great suburban sinner who has gone to ground", 4 August).

At last! Shakespeare's long-lost St George

Yesterday was St George's Day. It was also Shakespeare's birthday. But have you ever thought how odd it was that these two great English occasions should be celebrated on the same day? And that there must be some connection between them, however unlikely?

The Mysteries RSC, Stratford; Unicorn, London

Katie Mitchell's beautiful production of The Mysteries ends with the last occasion on which the apostles meet and share a meal with the risen Christ. Before leaving, Paul Hilton's superlative Jesus kisses each of them full on the mouth and, as he walks away, says: "Follow me". Both poignantly and stirringly, Mitchell's staging shows how the meaning of that injunction has now shifted and deepened. Instead of trooping off after Christ, as they have done before, the silent apostles gradually get up and, each shouldering responsibility for spreading the word, strike out in different directions.

Claus ... and effect

Never work with children or reindeer, the saying almost goes. The demeanour of five of the capital's Santas suggests why.

Letter: Put your trust in Santa Claus

Put your trust in Santa Claus

Letter: Teeth of the evidence

Sir: I read with interest the article (19 August) on "The cost of growing", not least because of the curious notions of infant dentition it contained. In the first paragraph we were told of "gap-toothed offspring on that first momentous day at school". Surely more a feature of the Year 1 or Year 2 photo than the reception class.

Letter: Jonah and the Tooth Fairy

From Canon Owen Vigeon

ANOTHER VIEW: Separating the nativity from the naivety

Earlier this month, I had the disturbing thought that we Christians would never be able to put across the true meaning of Christmas until we had suppressed children's nativity plays. I put the idea to a meeting of clergy in inner-city Leeds. How, I asked, are we to get it over that Christmas is not a fairy-tale?

Letter: Nick's not for kids

Sir: John Rawlins makes three mistakes in his defence of Father Christmas (Letters, 6 December). He says that "pretending" is one of the joys of childhood; but in this case it is parents who have the joy of pretending and children who have the pain of finding out the truth. He says that no child ever suffered from the experience; but for many it is a considerable shock to learn that parents tell deliberate lies. And he says that if there is no God or heaven, it isn't wrong to tell lies; but it is wrong for human, not superhuman, reasons.

TV channel warned

TV channel warned

Perchance to dream

Things to do, places to go thei wekend

BOOK REVIEW / The spectre calls: 'Women & Ghosts' - Alison Lurie: Heinemann, 12.99

YOU ARE unlikely to be spooked by Alison Lurie's ghosts - who could be afraid of poor old deceased Dwayne Mudd, haunting his ex-lover by whispering in her ear that her new men have bad breath or athlete's foot? Or of the mahogany tallboy which retaliates nastily if treated badly? - this is not seriously scary, nor is it meant to be. But Lurie's portraits of women and men may well send a chill down your spine.
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