Weekendish: The best of the week's reads

Dementia patient sitting on bench Image copyright Alamy

A collection of some of the best reads from the BBC News website this week.

The word "anecdotage" - a joke used by Disraeli and others to describe a time in life when one tells stories so much "it's a sign to retire from the world" - dates back nearly two centuries. Telling the same stories over and over again is nothing new, but with increased awareness of the development of dementia, it's seen by many as a key warning sign of things going wrong in the brain. This week broadcaster Joan Bakewell had an intensely honest and moving conversation with her friends, the actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales, who are married, about Pru's advancing dementia. West describes his wife at a party asking someone three times how their mother was, only to be told each time that their mother has died. Scales, horrified, says: "Oh, I don't do that do I? Surely not. Oh how dreadful." Reader Alastair Somerville tweeted that anecdotes should be valued as a way of maintaining social involvement. "Anecdote is a defence mechanism," he said. Conversely, Neil Primrose said: "It was when my old mum STOPPED telling the same story over & over that we realised she had dementia."

My friend Pru and her memories

Body modification

Image copyright Ji Yeo

In Seoul, adverts extol the virtues of cosmetic surgery to an extent which surprised our correspondent Stephen Evans. "On the train and in the street, you're told you can 'bring your face to life'," he writes. "'Facial contouring' is on offer - 'breast surgery', 'anti-ageing', 'eyeplasty', 'body contouring'. There is 'square jaw reduction' (mainly, the adverts imply, for men). Or transforming your face 'from saggy and loose to elastic and dimensional', targeted mostly at women. One acquaintance of mine complains that her chin becomes painful when it rains. And then it emerges that she went into the surgery for a nose job but got persuaded - or persuaded herself - that it was her chin that really needed its contours changing. The result: a more shapely chin that is also a more painful chin. Despite that, she is now intent on breast enlargement." But it was the eyelid surgery - aimed at making people look less "Asian" which exercised many readers. "Beauty is due to differences," tweeted Christine Taylor. "Please do not get double-eyelid surgery."

Victims of a craze for cosmetic surgery

Strangely normal

Image copyright AP

The rise of the internet and online shopping has made times hard for shopkeepers, and shops in many cities around the world are boarded up. Not so in Damascus, wrote Diana Darke, when she returned to the city to reclaim a house from squatters. Turns out life wasn't so bad there. The food markets were overflowing, with bananas from Somalia, saffron from Iran and walnuts from Afghanistan. "To judge from the carpets of cigarette butts on the pavements, smoking rates, always high, are higher than ever. In the main thoroughfare of Souq al-Hamidiya all the usual clothes and flamboyant underwear outlets are still thronging with customers - not a single boarded shop front - quite a contrast to the average British High Street." She adds, though: "Sporadically, in the days as well as the nights, shelling is disturbingly loud."

The strange normality of life in the middle of Syria's war

Rouble trouble

Image copyright Getty Images

The difficulties hitting the Russian economy, including the tumbling value of the rouble, have led to an unusually large interest in the subject from readers of the BBC News website. Economist Jeffrey Sachs takes a longer view on the situation by comparing it to 1919 and 1989. As an adviser to Poland after the fall of Communism, he had to make some big requests. He writes: "My wish, it seemed on some days, was the White House's command. One morning, in September 1989, I appealed to the US Government for $1bn for Poland's currency stabilisation. By evening, the White House confirmed the money. No kidding, an eight-hour turnaround time from request to result." But, he writes, the behaviour of victors has deeper implications than might be appreciated. However analyst Ben Judah argues that President Putin has nobody to blame but himself for Russia's woes. "Russia's 2015 spending plans had assumed that oil would remain over $100. The country can only balance its budget with the oil price around that mark. The Kremlin may soon no longer have the cash to buy Russians' enthusiastic patriotism with television extravaganzas like the Sochi Olympics (price tag $50bn), or the sudden invasion and annexation of Crimea ($75bn, according to one estimate)," he writes.

How much was 1989 like 1919?

Is Putin to blame for the plunging rouble?

Nativity story

Children in many schools will this week have been staging nativity plays or carol concerts. Yet for parents and teachers of children who have severe and complex needs, the challenge is a particular one - how to stage events which will engage and entrance children of differing needs. Kate Monaghan's film shows how one school has done it.

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Media captionUnexpected nativity

Here are some things we've enjoyed this week from elsewhere around the web:

D'oh, Meh, and the role of the Simpsons in language (Oxford Dictionaries blog)

The year of outrage (Slate)

The story of AOL's running man icon (The Atlantic)

What would happen if children weren't taught handwriting? (Guardian)

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