Meditation: On Tunneling

Meditation: On Tunneling

Shannon Holman
Aug 13, 2006

There'll always be an England, unless it caves in. If, like me, you get all tight-lipped when the neighbor's volume dial creeps above five, there's a useful lesson in this week's Guardian on tolerance and its limits--and on the dangers of going too far with "home improvement" projects.

Across the pond in Hackney, East London, William Lyttle has been digging under his house, and after 40 years, 100 cubic meters of earth, and 40 tonnes of excavated gravel and junk, he has been politely asked to stop. The council has lined up a hotel room for the 75-year-old Lyttle and asked that he temporarily decamp his 20-room Victorian property so that their structural engineers can judge the full impact of his burrowing, estimated to extend 26 feet deep and radiating up to 20 meters in all directions.

Though Mr. Lyttle's neighbors have lodged complaints over the years, they wish him well. According to the Guardian report by Paul Lewis, the view of his neighbors is: "'We don't wish the man any harm....He's a hard-working man - he just doesn't use his energy in the right way. Everyone around here just wants to see the place made safe.'"

Mr. Lyttle is coy on his reasons for digging: "'I don't mind the title of inventor,' he said. 'Inventing things that don't work is a brilliant thing, you know. People are asking you what the big secret is. And you know what? There isn't one.'"

We've all been there: it's just a home improvement project that got a little out of hand. Says Lyttle: "'I first tried to dig a wine cellar, and then the cellar doubled, and so on. But the idea that I dug tunnels under other people's houses is rubbish. I just have a big basement.'"

And big plans, reports Alan Hamilton in The Times: "'This is going to be the leisure centre,' he said, sweeping his hand round a large cavern. 'And this in here will be the sauna.""

Related articles: Times, BBC

photo credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth (AP)

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