We imagine that once we reach retirement age, we might well consider some extensive home-improvement projects to keep us busy. Seems mostly harmless, as long as we’re careful about it.
However, one pensioner in Hackney has quite ably shown that home improvement can be taken too far. Far, far too far, in this case.
William Lyttle is 75, and is lucky enough to own a big Victorian house in Hackney. Until recently, he was also lucky enough to actually live in this lovely house. However, he is now forced to live in a £25-a-night hotel, having been temporarily evicted by the council whilst they implement some minor fixes to a few of his home-improvement projects.
Aaaah. Poor bloke. Has he put up some wonky shelves? Or maybe he’s made a mess of tiling the bathroom? These are both irritating home-improvement mishaps with which Londonist is all-too-familiar, but do they really justify forcible eviction?
Maybe not, but it has been suggested that this fellow’s DIY misjudgements may be of a wholly different magnitude:
According to the council, which used ultrasound scanners to ascertain the extent of the problem, almost half a century of nibbling dirt with a shovel and homemade pulley has hollowed out a web of tunnels and caverns, some 8m (26ft) deep, spreading up to 20m in every direction from his house.
Mr Lyttle has denied that he has tunnelled under neighbouring properties, admitting that he has excavated a large basement, but claiming that eyewitness reports of tunnels were in fact merely shadows. Still, it seems that he is very excited about the subject of tunnels in general, stating that “tunnelling is something that should be talked about without panicking.”
We can’t help thinking that he may be better off selling his £1m property, and using the proceeds to purchase a very big house in the middle of nowhere, far away from any other properties. He would surely then be able to excavate to his heart’s delight, without annoying anyone else.
However after 40 years of ‘alterations’, Mr Lyttle himself admits, “It's not saleable, there has never been any attempt to tart it up.” A council surveyor concurs, suggesting that the house may now be in a dangerous and unstable position:
There has been movement in the ground. He's fortunate a London bus is not in his front garden. The property is dangerous and liable to flooding.
A London bus in his front garden??? Even though we are largely untrained in these matters, we would nonetheless be quite surprised if this was a normal consequence of possible subsidence. But hey, what do we know? We’re still trying to get those damn shelves straight…
Image taken from Greeny’s Flickr photostream under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons license.