BBC 2024-02-06 12:01:36

King Charles’ cancer ‘caught early’ says Sunak, after treatment begins

We’ve been getting more reaction from Commonwealth realms – countries where King Charles remains the head of state.

Already we’ve heard from Canada and Australia, with the respective prime ministers letting the King know he was in their thoughts.

Now the prime minister of the Bahamas, Philip Davis, commends the King for his “openness” in sharing his cancer diagnosis, adding that he’s shining a light on “a challenge faced by many around the world”.

“Stay strong” is the message from New Zealand’s prime minister, Christopher Luxon – using the Māori phrase “kia kaha” on behalf “of all Kiwis”.

What do we know about the King’s cancer diagnosis?

King Charles has been diagnosed with a form of cancer, Buckingham Palace says.

It was discovered during his recent treatment for an enlarged prostate. The King has started treatment and has been advised to postpone public-facing duties.

What kind of cancer does the King have?

The Palace has not revealed what kind of cancer the King has, or where he is receiving treatment.

It said he began a “schedule of regular treatments” on Monday.

In a statement, it said: “No further details are being shared at this stage, except to confirm that His Majesty does not have prostate cancer.”

Is it linked to his treatment for prostate enlargement?

The King, who is 75, was recently treated for benign prostate enlargement.

He spent three nights at the London Clinic private hospital, after undergoing a “corrective procedure”.

Following the treatment, the Palace said the King would postpone his public engagements “to allow for a period of private recuperation”.

A “separate issue of concern” was identified during his treatment and was subsequently diagnosed as a form of cancer.

He will now receive treatment for that second condition, as an outpatient.

King Charles’s cancer diagnosis

  • Live: King spends night at home after starting cancer treatment
  • King postpones public duties as cancer treatment begins
  • What does it mean for William, Harry and the other royals?
  • Prince Harry to visit King Charles in coming days

What is cancer?

Cancer occurs when cells in a specific part of the body divide in an uncontrolled way.

These cells can spread to other tissues in the body, including organs, which is known as secondary or metastatic cancer.

How do you diagnose cancer?

Usually doctors will start by asking questions about your symptoms. They can do some tests and examinations too.

That could include blood tests and X-rays or other scans. Sometimes they take a small tissue sample, called a biopsy, to run checks on in the lab.

Occasionally, as is the case for the King, cancer is found when people are going for medical checks for other things.

Cancer may also be diagnosed by tests prompted by screening.

The UK offers screening for breast, bowel and cervical cancer. Cancer screening looks for early signs of cancer in people without symptoms. Other tests then confirm the diagnosis.

How many people get cancer?

In the UK, one in two people develop some kind of cancer during their lifetime.

There are more than 200 different types of cancer – the most common ones in the UK are breast, lung, prostate and bowel, according to the NHS UK website.

Each cancer is diagnosed and treated in a particular way.

Anyone can develop cancer, but the risk goes up the older we become because there’s more time for cell damage to build up.

Most cases of cancer are in people aged 50 and over. In the UK, a third of all cases are in people aged 75 and over.

What are the main treatments for cancer?

There are lots of different ways to treat or manage cancer. Much depends on the type of cancer and where it is.

Some cancers can be removed by surgery, while chemotherapy drugs can be given into a vein or taken as tablets to kill cancerous cells.

Radiotherapy is another option that is sometimes offered. It uses high energy rays to do attack the cancer.

Not all treatments can cure, however.

What are the different stages of cancer?

Staging is a way doctors describe how big the cancer is and how far it has spread, which can help with deciding the best treatment.

There are different systems or ways used by doctors.

For example, staging can use numbers, where one refers to a small cancer that has not spread, compared to four, which means it is advanced and spreading around the body.

How many people recover from cancer?

The chances of someone surviving cancer have significantly improved over the last 50 years, but the rate of improvement has slowed.

According to Cancer Research UK, half of people diagnosed with cancer survive their disease for 10 years or more.

Cancer survival is usually higher in people diagnosed when they are under 40.

However, survival with breast, bowel and prostate cancers are highest in middle age.

What should you do if you think you have cancer?

If you notice something that isn’t normal for you, see a doctor.

That might include:

  • unexplained bleeding or pain
  • an unusual lump or swelling
  • unexplained tiredness and weight loss
  • a persistent cough

The symptoms you are experiencing may not be cancer, but it is important to get checked.

Finding cancer early can often make it easier to treat.

Related Internet Links

  • Macmillan Cancer Support
  • Cancer Research UK
  • NHS: Cancer signs and symptoms
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.

Spanish farmers join wave of protests

Farmers in Spain have joined their European counterparts in staging protests across the country.

Like their European counterparts, they demand more flexibility from the European Union, tighter controls on the produce of non-EU countries and more help from their government.

In several regions, they blocked roads and caused severe disruption to motorists.

A large demonstration in central Madrid is planned for later this month.

On Tuesday, farmers took to the streets of agricultural areas in Spain’s northern interior, driving tractors in convoys, beeping horns, waving Spanish flags and brandishing placards.

They also protested in the north-eastern region of Catalonia, the southern region of Andalusia and Extremadura in the west.

Spain’s farmers have similar grievances to their counterparts in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and other countries that have been protesting recently.

They say that regulations which form part of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), along with high fuel and energy costs, make it difficult for them to make a profit.

“The costs, when it comes to producing wheat and barley, are very high,” said Esteban, a cereal farmer who preferred not to give his surname who was protesting in Aranda de Duero. “You’ve got to pay for fertiliser, pesticides, fuel – it’s killing us. We have to pay very high prices and yet we sell at low prices.”

Protesting French farmers accused Spanish producers of undercutting them by not fully observing EU rules. Last week, French former minister Ségolène Royal triggered controversy by claiming that Spanish organic tomatoes were “false organic”. Amid an angry backlash from the Spanish food and farming industry, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez invited Ms Royal to try a Spanish tomato.

However, Spain’s agricultural sector in turn levels similar criticism at non-EU countries, such as its southern neighbour, Morocco, which it claims is not subject to the same environmental and sanitary regulations as European producers, allowing it to sell cheaper produce.

“We have to undergo a lot of controls, a lot of sanitary regulations which products from [non-EU countries] are not subject to,” said Estrella Pérez, who farms livestock and cereal.

“We just want a future for farming and right now, we don’t see it.”

The plight of Spanish farmers has been compounded by drought. Many areas of the country have not seen normal levels of rain in recent months which is affecting harvests. Spain is the world’s biggest olive oil producer, but prices have been pushed up by low production. Last week, Catalonia declared a state of emergency due to a three-year drought, the longest on record.

Elsewhere, Italian farmers have been gathering from north to south for a week, also protesting against EU regulations and red tape. They are planning to converge on Rome at the end of this week.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has backed them, saying that the EU’s Green Deal will hit farmers’ lives disproportionately. But farmers are also concerned about government plans to end tax subsidies for the agricultural sector.

On Tuesday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced she wants to withdraw a plan to slash the use of pesticides, describing it as “a symbol of polarisation”.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo welcomed the announcement, saying it was “crucial we keep our farmers on board to a more sustainable future of farming, as part of our determination to get the Green Deal done”.

The mushroom revolution that’s bringing change

Fungi, cacti, pineapple and other ingenious solutions are helping to transform fashion. Here are seven of the most innovative, eco-friendly materials aiming to make a difference.

The fashion industry is famously bad news for the environment. Most of fashion’s impact on the planet happens while manufacturing, in the phase where fabric and materials are grown or made, then spun, dyed and finished into something we recognise as clothing. Leather production is a big part of that.

More like this:

–          Can luxury fashion ever be sustainable?

–          How Harris Reed became fashion’s superstar

–          How to avoid buying new clothes

As the World Economic Forum puts it: “traditional leather production is a land-intensive process that produces large amounts of greenhouse gases”. The cattle industry releases roughly 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, including emissions from dairy cows and meat, with leather often coming from the latter. It also takes “dangerous chemicals to tan animal skin”, the WEF notes. Alternatives made from cacti, pineapple leaves and fungi could have a lower environmental impact.

Sustainable materials can have an incredibly positive impact on the environment – but they’re only part of the picture – Monica Buchan-Ng

London College of Fashion (LCF) launched its UAL Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) ahead of the curve in 2008. Monica Buchan-Ng, its head of knowledge exchange, believes the biggest shift in the sustainable fabrics world is our awareness of them: “Brands and the public now have a better understanding of the impact materials have on people and the planet”.

Mycelia are fine fibres of fungus, increasingly used in the creation of materials for accessories (Credit: Getty Images)

However, she adds, “there is a tendency in fashion to conflate sustainable materials and sustainability. Sustainable materials can have an incredibly positive impact on the environment, drastically reducing use of energy, water, land or chemicals and pollution, and using waste – but they’re only part of the picture. Fashion must move away from an attitude of ‘doing less harm’ to one that is truly restorative.” She believes materials must sit within a sustainability picture that includes “prosperous livelihoods for fashion workers, contribution to vibrant cultures, positive benefits to nature and production within planetary boundaries”.

And what of “greenwashing” – described by Greenpeace UK as “a PR tactic used to make a company or product appear environmentally friendly, without meaningfully reducing its environmental impact”? This is covered by the “Green Claims Code” in the UK – legislation made in 2022 by the Competitions and Markets Authority –  designed to make sure a business’s environmental claims comply with the law and will take action against offending firms.

Wherever you can replace cows with plants or fungi, in food or textiles, it’s a big win for climate and biodiversity – Kimberly Nicholas

Kimberly Nicholas, Lund University sustainability scientist, sums it up this way: “Planet Earth currently has a cow problem. Cows are the largest source of climate pollution and habitat destruction in agriculture. Wherever you can replace cows with plants or fungi, in food or textiles, it’s a big win for climate and biodiversity.” And it’s also down to consumers of fashion, she points out. “It’s beneficial for the fashion industry to shift to more efficient materials, but it’s also important for consumers to know that their most effective action is to consume less clothing. That means use the clothes you already have longer.”

There are several companies producing leather alternatives. Mirum, the first-known scalable, 100% plastic-free alternative to animal leather was created by the brand NFW or Natural Fiber Welding. It can be endlessly recycled, has been used by labels Allbirds and Pangaia, and invested in by Stella McCartney and Ralph Lauren. Pinatex – made from pineapple waste, has been adopted by brands from H&M to Hugo Boss. Vegea – made with grape waste from the wine industry, claims its production involves no toxic chemicals, heavy metals or other dangerous solvents, but is still 45% water-based – used by Calvin Klein, Ganni and Pangaia.

At the Cop 26 summit there were talks and exhibits emphasising the importance of mushrooms and fungi in sustainable fashion (Credit: Getty Images)

Other notable materials are: Clarus, made by Natural Fiber Welding, and used by Ralph Lauren for its famous Polo shirt; Infinna, a premium cellulose fibre made from waste material and used by brands including Patagonia and Inditex (which owns Zara); and FLWRDWN, a patented, breathable and cruelty-free replacement for both animal and synthetic down, used by fashion brand Pangaia. These are just some of the new generation of creative biotech solutions being devised.

Here are seven of the most significant and innovative materials and creators – and hopes are high in the industry that they may help provide an eco-friendlier way forward for fashion.

1. Mylo

Mylo is a “solution in fungi”, a material that can justifiably claim to have started a “mushroom leather” revolution, claims its makers. It was created by scientists and engineers at Bolt Threads, a materials solutions company founded in 2009 and based in California. This sustainable leather is made from mycelium, a fungus’ root-like system that grows beneath the ground as filaments. Large sheets of fluffy foam are grown from fungal cells that are fed on waste sawdust, in a state-of-the art vertical farming facility powered by 100% renewable electricity.

They are then tanned in the same process as that applied to animal hides. Mylo is said to be nearly indistinguishable in look and feel when compared to traditional leather. The company’s brand partners include Stella McCartney – whose FraymeMylo bag was “the world’s first luxury handbag made from mycelium”; Adidas, which created its Stan Smith Mylo trainers; Lululemon, which used Mylo in its Concept yoga mat; Kering (owner of Gucci, YSL, Balenciaga); and Ganni – the Danish brand that committed to “phasing out virgin animal leather completely”. The company is also producing Microsilk, a vegan alternative to silkworm silk.


Mylo is a “solution in fungi” and a groundbreaking material in the mushroom-leather revolution (Credit: Bolt Threads)

2. Reishi

Reishi is a premium biomaterial made using Fine Mycelium, a patented technology developed by MycoWorks in California. Founded by artists – sculptor Phil Ross and dancer-poet Sophia Wang – it has, since 2013, “grown from the tiniest spore of an idea into a company that is now at the forefront of a potentially billion-dollar industry”, says Forbes. Ross spent decades in his laboratory-studio, working on blocks of mushroom material – the species Ganoderma lucid – as a “mycelium sculptor”. The world’s first Reishi product was a luxury hat collection by French-American designer Nick Fouquet. Three years later, MycoWorks launched a new mycelium leather – Sylvania – that has gone into producing Hermes travel bag range, the Victoria Voyage.

Reishi, though, is its flagship product and has the strength, durability and hand-feel of high-quality leathers but with lower environmental impact. It is tanned and finished by heritage tanneries in Europe, using chrome-free tanning and dying technologies. Wang says that the pair value “the ascetic rigour of making something beautiful, that performs well and is an object of desire”. She adds that fashion brands “appreciated that we are founded by artists as opposed to coming out of a lab”.

3. Vitrolabs

According to the San Franciso-based company Vitrolabs: “a single biopsy from this cow can make millions of handbags”. To create “the world’s first cultivated leather” VitroLabs take cells from a happy, healthy cow, and then they “reproduce the natural conditions that allow those skin cells to regenerate indefinitely”. Cells are grown in a nutrient-rich environment until they form a tissue with the same durable and luxurious properties as animal hides.

The company notes traditional leather manufacturing has a number of significant environmental impacts, which include greenhouse gases to pollutants from tanning. VitroLabs raised $46 million of funding in May 2022, with backing from Leonardo DiCaprio and Kering, and is “a game changer” according to Vogue.

The luxury fashion industry is making some progress with sustainability, and consumers’ priorities are changing (Credit: Getty Images)

4. Orange Fiber

The brand Orange Fiber has created a silky fabric made from cellulose that has been extracted from citrus peel which would otherwise be disposed of. Established in Catania in 2014, the company worked with Italy’s largest technical university (Polytechnic University of Milan) on the patented process. On Earth Day 2017, the first collection made exclusively of Orange Fiber was launched by Italian luxury fashion brand Salvatore Ferragamo; an outfit from this was shown in the V&A’s 2018 Fashion from Nature exhibition.

It has been used by H&M and Neapolitan tailoring brand E Marinella for its high-end sustainable ties and silk scarves. According to Orange Fiber co-founder Enrica Arena, the biggest challenges have been the industrial scale-up and optimisation of production costs, but they’re still aiming for all its products to be made of recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030 (a guideline that already applies to 80% of materials they use). With Lenzing, Orange Fiber made the first Tencel-branded lyocell fibre made of orange and wood pulp.

5. Kintra

Created with sugar from corn and wheat, Kintra is a fully biodegradable alternative to polyester. Synthetic textiles account for more than 60% of textile fibres globally, and the microfibres they shed are toxic to wildlife (and endure for tens of thousands of years). Biodegradeable fabrics avoid contributing to the vast problem of long-lived microfibres in the oceans. Kintra is working in partnership with Pangaia, a direct-to-consumer materials science brand.

6. Circulose

Using 100% discarded clothes and renewable energy, Circulose made its debut on the catwalk in Paris in 2014 as a simple yellow dress made from old blue jeans. It’s from Stockholm company Re:newcell, one of the first industrial-scale companies to turn old clothes into new textiles using an eco-friendly chemical recycling process. The company’s textile recycling plant in Sundsvall, Sweden, can produce 60,000 tonnes of recycled fibres per year, and is the first clothes recycling facility of its kind. Re:newcell perfected and patented technology to shred and break down clothes into Circulose pulp, which is used to make biodegradable virgin quality viscose or lyocell textile fibres. “This is the link that has been missing to close the loop,” says a spokesperson. The company says it aims to reduce water, waste, microplastics and deforestation in its production process.

British designer Stella McCartney has long been at the forefront of eco-friendly solutions in fashion (Credit: Getty Images)

According to Nina Marenzi of The Sustainable Angle, which runs the Future Fabrics Expo in London: “They could be recycling one billion T-shirts a year by 2030.” In July 2020, Levi’s launched the Levi’s 502 Taper jeans, made from organic cotton and Circulose, and it’s the most sustainable model in the label’s history. H&M, Tommy Hilfiger, Cos and Ganni are using Circulose in their 2024 collections. Swedish designer Jade Cropper, whose work has been championed by Gigi Hadid and Kim Kardashian among others, partnered with Circulose for her spring/summer 2023 collection. Another company making waves in the recycled textiles area is NuCycl, linked to Stella McCartney and Adidas.

7. Aircarbon

“What if our materials could heal us?” is a teaser posed on AirCarbon’s website. This fabric is made using the greenhouse gas methane as an ingredient. The company says the plastic created is biodegradeable in nature. The company also says it is working on a way to break down AirCarbon back into methane, which could then theoretically be used to make more of the material again in a circular process. After many years working on how to scale up, Newlight Technologies has now released AirCarbon to the market via its two new brands – Covalent, a range of luxe eyewear and accessories, and Restore, its alternative to plastic utensils bought in by restaurant chain Shake Shack. AirCarbon contains no synthetic plastics or glues, and claims to be home-compostable and ocean-friendly. Nike is a partner, and the patented product has been verified plastic-free by Oceanic Global Blue Standard. Another carbon-negative material is LanzaTech, adopted by Zara and Lululemon.

If you liked this story, sign up for The Essential List newsletter – a handpicked selection of features, videos and can’t-miss news delivered to your inbox every Friday.

England’s ancient and chaotic ball game

Shrovetide football consumes the town of Ashbourne on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, when the normal rules of society are suspended and the town cheerfully turns to anarchy.

Across the British Isles, Shrove Tuesday is celebrated by the cooking of pancakes – a legacy of the time when Christian families would use up their stores of butter and eggs before the lean period of Lent. In the Derbyshire Dales town of Ashbourne in central England, however, Pancake Day is celebrated with a little more gusto.

The whole town is consumed each Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday (this year on 13 and 14 February) by an ancient and extremely chaotic ball game known as Shrovetide football, which sees the population split into two teams who attempt to manoeuvre a large ball through a hundreds-strong scrum of people to reach one of two goals, three miles apart. The “goals” are two stone monuments on the site of former mills, Clifton Mill and Sturston Mill; players score by tapping the ball against them three times.

This is achieved by any means necessary – flying fists, kung fu-kicking feet and even chomping teeth are all fair game inside the huge scrum, known as “the hug”, which moves at will through town streets, rivers and muddy fields as each team vies for control of the ball. For two days only, the usual rules of society are suspended. This usually genteel market town is swallowed by a deluge of violence, and colleagues, friends and family members become sworn enemies.

And they absolutely love it.

“In the days leading up to Shrovetide, you can see everyone fizzing with excitement,” local Amy Fisher told me in the town’s Greenman Pub on the first morning of the 2023 celebration. She would be playing herself later that day, she said, showing me a hip flask stowed away in her pocket. “Last time I kept popping in and out of the hug to come back here to the pub,” she said. “But this year, I’m in it for the long haul.

Fisher is an Up’ard – that is, somebody from north of Henmore Brook, which runs through the town and is the geographical line along which Shrovetide football’s teams are divided. Her friend Pinder Dayal, who works at the pub, is a Down’ard – someone from south of the brook. Despite the apparent animosity between the two teams, this is a sacred Ashbourne tradition and is fiercely protected as such by the locals. “Outsiders are welcome to watch, as long as they don’t get in the way,” Dayal said. “But as the head of the Shrovetide committee says, this is a local game for local people.” Therein may lie a clue as to the purpose of Shrovetide football; while it seems to tear the town apart, it actually strengthens their collective identity.

Ashbourne is one of the few remaining places in England where the ancient game of football is still played (Credit: Daniel Stables)

There aren’t many rules to the game, but one that is oft-repeated states that “unnecessary violence is frowned upon” (note: not “forbidden”). The use of motorised vehicles to carry the ball is a no-no, as is entry to cemeteries, churchyards and private gardens. The most striking directive, however, is a gravely simple one (and hopefully one that is no longer relevant today): “Murder and manslaughter are prohibited.”

Tuesday’s pretty good-natured, but Wednesday’s when it really kicks off – when people have been stamped on a few times

“Tuesday’s pretty good-natured, but Wednesday’s when it really kicks off – when people have been stamped on a few times,” Fisher said. “That’s when it gets nasty.” She assured me that any hostilities are short-lived, however. “Everyone’s great mates again in the pub afterwards,” she said. “It’s a very wholesome British tradition.”

“Wholesome” is a relative term, however. Every year, there are bruised ribs, sprained ankles and broken bones. But Ashbournians, such as local historian Tim Baker, who curates the town’s museum and is also the official Shrovetide ball painter, say that’s just part of the deal. “This type of game can’t be played without injury – everyone plays at their own risk,” he told me. “Things can get quite harsh on the day if tempers fray, especially if they’ve been in the pub a little while before, but it’s a friendly rivalry. If you’re in the hug and someone’s biting your hand, and you don’t know who’s doing it and you turn round and thump him on the head and it turns out to be your best mate… well, that’s just unfortunate.”

For two days only, the normal rules of society are suspended (Credit: fantail/Getty Images)

There have been two recorded fatalities in the game’s centuries-long history. The first was a young man in the 1860s who fell in a water pit outside Clifton Mill, one of the two “goals”, and drowned. The latter casualty was a 20-year veteran of the ball game named David Johnson, who collapsed after the Tuesday’s play in 2018.

There is collateral damage, too. As I left the pub and walked through town, I saw signs everywhere exhorting people not to park in the town centre lest their vehicles be crushed by a marauding mob of townsfolk. All the shops and cafes had their windows boarded up, even as they remained open for business, exhorting punters to enter through side doors or selling tea and coffee from makeshift wooden stalls. Festive bunting hung on lines above the streets, and Union Jacks were everywhere as if in celebration of a royal jubilee.

The Ashbourne game is one of the last remaining relics of a sport that was once popular all over England. Also known as medieval football, folk football and mob football, it is considered the precursor to modern football and rugby and only survives in its ancient form in a handful of places, including Alnwick in Northumberland and Atherstone in Warwickshire.

The Ashbourne game is by far the largest, with hundreds of players on each side, and is the only one officially known as Royal Shrovetide Football – the town was given permission to use the title after residents gifted a game ball to Princess Mary on her wedding day in 1922. To this day, Baker paints the royal insignia of the Union flag and Tudor Crown on the balls each year. Royals have opened proceedings on a couple of occasions, too, by throwing the ball into the waiting scrum from a plinth in a town-centre carpark – this role was fulfilled by Prince (now King) Charles in 2003, while other celebrities to have been afforded the honour include legendary football manager Brian Clough.

Shops and cafes are boarded up in advance of the game and warning signs are put up across the town centre (Credit: Daniel Stables)

The Ashbourne game’s exact origins have been lost to the mists of time, but it is known to have been practiced for centuries. A grisly local legend has it that the original ball was the severed head of an executed prisoner, recalling the Mesoamerican ball game depicted in gory detail in Mayan temple carvings across Mexico. According to Baker, though, that’s a little far-fetched. “That may have been the case in places like Alnwick or Warwick, but there was no castle in Ashbourne, so people wouldn’t have been executed here,” he said.

Nonetheless, he told me, the game used to be an even-more hardcore affair than it is today. “My granddad remembers seeing players running down the road, sparks flying off their hobnail boots,” he said. “It was a tougher game; people were tougher – they would come to play straight from work in their gators and flat caps. It was seen as a time for settling old scores. But it’s not really like that anymore.”

I walked through town towards the carpark where the game was due to begin. The streets were starting to fill with excited spectators who wore their allegiances proudly – upward or downward  arrows were plastered on their faces like warpaint. A huge crowd had gathered around the plinth, where a local dignitary belted out an impassioned rendering of “God Save the King” before hurling the ball into the gathered mob. Half the crowd – the spectators – took a step backwards in unison, while the other half – the players – rushed forward, forming the amorphous hug that would be their home for most of the next two days.

As the first fists began to fly, I watched on and got talking to a safety marshal, Dan Thomas (the marshals are there for the safety of the crowd, not to police the game). Did he feel any yearning to get involved, I wondered?

This is the event of the year here, though. Christmas comes and goes, and no one cares about it. They’re all looking forward to Shrovetide

“I played for years but I got injured a few times, so I retired,” he said, laughing. “This is the event of the year here, though. Christmas comes and goes, and no one cares about it. They’re all looking forward to Shrovetide.”

Hidden Britain is a BBC Travel series that uncovers the most wonderful and curious of what Britain has to offer, by exploring quirky customs, feasting on unusual foods and unearthing mysteries from the past and present.


Join more than three million BBC Travel fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

If you liked this story, sign up for The Essential List newsletter – a handpicked selection of features, videos and can’t-miss news delivered to your inbox every Friday.