What are they on about?

26th May 2000 at 01:00
David Newnham finds that even snail mail can be infected by viruses.

Here is a warning to all letter-box owners. A deadly virus has been released into the postal system. From today, you must open your mail with extreme caution.

You think I jest? Then hear me out. A letter landed on my doormat this morning. It was from my solicitor, and I'd been expecting it.

But, on opening it, I found not only my solicitor's letter, but also a second document, clearly intended for another client.

Naturally, I began reading this document (well, wouldn't you?). But how I wish I hadn't.

It consisted of four, hastily photocopied A4 sheets, headed "HM Land Registry" and containing details relating to a property somewhere in the east Midlands.

It was only on reaching page 3, however, that I began to be aware of the true nature of this material. For there, beneath the heading "Schedule of Restrictive Covenants continued", was a sentence containing 183 words and quite without punctuation.

I began reading that sentence at a little before 7.30 this morning, and since then I have thought of nothing else. Clearly I have been infected.

Neither space nor ethics permit me to reproduce in full the text that has diverted all my brain's effort. But it is important that I give you a flavour of it, lest you too fall into its clutches.

It begins: "Provided always that all windows and lights or chimneys opened or to be opened in any buildings on the land intended to be hereby conveyed which may overlook or derive light or air from ..."

But enough! Do you not already feel the urge to return to the beginning in an attempt to gain some insight into its structure?

That's how it gets you. But take it from me: there can be no escape from the loop.

And yet there have been times when I have almost understood, have almost grasped the circumstances under which said windows lights or chimneys might be enjoyed by the Purchaser his heir and assigns. Perhaps if I go through it one more time - read it aloud, say, or have somebody recite it to me ...

But what am I saying? Would I so casually infect another? Better that I destroy it now, and use the time to warn of the havoc which I feel sure is about to be unleashed on the world by an unwitting Post Office.

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