FOR the last few weeks I've been watching an ill-assorted bunch of people try to cope with each other and an alien environment.

No, I've never been tempted to switch on for even a split second of I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. Viewing figures for that, and its fascination, are totally beyond me and its "stars" do illustrate that being a celeb may not be quite the same thing as being famous.

My choice of viewing may be equally puzzling to devotees of the reality show. Reality? Who is kidding whom? It's no more "real" than my choice. I've been with the unlikely lads to Cuba, via Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and got them safely out of their scrapes on Sunday evening.

My choice puzzles me at times, too, because I'm not a great follower of serials. Years of irregular working hours before the invention of the video meant I never got into the habit of following anything with a connected storyline, never mind one as improbable as the Cuban mission dreamed up for the latest adventures of the building site buddies.

It could be Oz's deadpan one-liners in that accent which takes me back to eavesdropping on early morning buses between Wallsend and Newcastle, where I learned that people did say "diven't" and "for werselves". Do they have sub-titles for the Home Counties, where exiled Geordies weep into their remote controls for sheer homesickness?

Maybe it's the utter idiocy of choosing nervy Nev as the third (or fourth or even tenth) man in any sort of espionage, or Barry's lugubrious Brummy, or Moxey's resignation to the slings and arrows of life - in fact the only one who stays calm, whatever, is the slow-spoken Bomber, with a voice like brown velvet.

Then it struck me what I like about this lot. There's never been so much "all for one and one for all" since Dumas' musketeers set forth on their adventures.

They get on each others' nerves, grumble, take the hump and fall out but, let one of them be seriously in the muck, and the others are there, spades in hand, starting to dig him out. No problem. No prevarication. No "serves you right", even it did. No question of him being voted out of next week's show.

The mutual support was there from the first episode, when a house-sitting Moxey flooded Nev's immaculate home with an overflowing bath. Eeh, I could just imagine Nev's Brenda's reaction. She's none too keen on the lads anyway, dragging her Neville along (and, no doubt, down as well) on their foreign forays.

Then Oz roared up in a 4x4, took one look and, all hands to the dehumidifier, the lads sorted it before Nev's return.

What wouldn't anyone give for a bunch of mates like that on their side in a crisis? I love 'em.

Where next, lads? Just let me know.