BUILDING workers Stewart Keeble and Mick McGlade are taking a more than passing interest in the revival of 1980s hit TV series Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.

The two likely lads from Stockton were the real-life inspiration behind the hit series about British labourers working on German building sites.

Oz, Dennis and Neville left Newcastle for Germany in the early 1980s.

"That was the most annoying thing," said Mick, 53.

"We were all Stockton lads and they were all Geordies. Apparently, the writers did that because they felt no one would know where Stockton was."

Back in Stockton's Jocker's bar, near the hotel where Stewart, 48, used to interview labourers desperate to leave recession-hit Britain, he remembered how the idea for a TV series first came about through his friend, the late Mick Connell, who was friendly with Norton-born film director Franc Roddam.

"Mick and I went over to Germany in 1975, working for a Cockney company who were ripping people off left, right and centre," Stewart recalled.

"After two weeks we lost our wallets, we had no money and no one to turn to. So Mick phoned Franc, who said he'd send us some money to tide us over.

"Mick kept in touch with Franc, who was intrigued by the work set-up."

The scriptwriters, Whitley Bay-born Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement, visited Germany with Franc and Mick to research the series, which made stars of cast members Jimmy Nail, Tim Healy and Kevin Whatley.

The real-life counterparts of Oz and the gang were less than impressed with it.

"It was really exciting when it first came out, but it was an anti-climax for the lads who had been there," said Stewart, a bricklayer who now runs his own firm, Fairfield Builders.

"I couldn't relate to any of the characters. To me they were all boring, apart from Jimmy Nail.

"We were all good fun. We weren't a bunch of reprobates, but hard-working lads who wanted to make some money."

One thing that did make it into the series was the British workers' habit of calling Germans "Eric".

Stewart said: "If you said the word German, they would know you were talking about them. We decided to work out a nickname."

He also recognised the pine chalet that housed the Auf Wiedersehen Pet characters - a direct lift from real life.

One building site was in a mountain town where foreigners were a rarity. Mick recalled the mayor in full civic regalia turning out to meet them

"They hadn't seen any British since the war and we were building their school. It was fairy tale stuff," he said.

Not so funny was returning to see their chalet on fire - with their earnings hidden under the floorboards. With the ten men sharing the hut earning £500 a week, there was a tidy sum at risk.

Fortunately, the fire - caused by a colleague leaving a pan of oil on an electric ring - was put out in time.

Other stories are more risque, like the time they had a whip-round to send one labourer, a 40-year-old virgin, to visit a prostitute.

As Oz famously said in the series: "Sex is in its infancy in Gateshead."