Sir Patrick Moore, who died earlier this month aged 89, is best remembered as the motor-mouthed frontman of television’s longest running show with the same presenter, The Sky At Night on BBC1.
But the astronomer and entertainer had another side, as a self-appointed scourge of bureaucracy.
In 1981, under the pen-name R. T. Fishall, he published an irreverent guide to causing havoc and taking vengeance on the people who were burying Britain under paperwork and tying the country up in red tape.
The book, now sadly out of print, was called Bureaucrats: How To Annoy Them, and it was inspired by a correspondence with a man named Whitmarsh from the Southern Gas Company, who had sent Moore a final demand for £10 of repairs, despite the fact that the central heating at his cottage in Selsey, West Sussex, was oil‑fired.
The great astronomer snapped. He realised that Britons everywhere were being harangued, overcharged, harassed, bullied and driven to distraction by the Whitmarshes of this world — or Twitmarshes, as he renamed them.
‘We are not ruled directly by Parliament,’ he wrote, ‘but by minor officials — bureaucrats of all descriptions, safely embraced in the arms of the civil service, with immunity from dismissal and nice, inflation-proof pensions.’
The dedication of the book made his intentions clear: ‘To all bureaucrats and civil servants, everywhere. If this book makes your lives even the tiniest bit more difficult, it will have been well worth writing.’