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Another Little Chat With… Trevor and Simon…

In August 2007, my radio cohort Shack and I interviewed Trevor Neal – of Trevor and Simon fame – for BBC Tees. We couldn’t find Simon on that occasion, but Shack spent the next six weeks frantically texting Trevor until he finally relented and persuaded Simon to join us for a rematch. This remains one of my favourite-ever interviews…

We’re proud to be joined on the line by Saturday morning TV behemoths Trevor and Simon. Apologies for pestering you again, Trevor. I think Shack sends you a text every ten minutes these days, doesn’t he?

Trevor: Yeah, he does.

I don’t!

Trevor: He texts me every week and says (pathetically) ‘Do you want to come out for a drink…?’

Simon: I’d like to complain as well, did you call us moths?

I think we said ‘behemoths’.

Simon: Well, what kind of moths are they?

Hemoths are the opposite to female moths. They’re really butch moths. That’s how we think of you.

Trevor: Oh no, I’ve got it all wrong. I’ve spent all my life thinking I’m a mod, and I’m actually a moth…

So we spoke to Trevor a few weeks ago, but we couldn’t find you, Simon…

Simon: I know, I’m sorry. I went AWOL and messed you up. I was round at my mate Mark’s, which is where I am again tonight, but he lives in a cave and there’s barely any signal. Oh hang on… (embarrassed) sorry, Mark’s just come in and wants me to point out that he doesn’t actually live in a cave.

When we spoke to Trevor, he told us about Paul Simon’s appearance on Going Live after he’d been up all night with diarrhoea, and we talked about some of his other favourite guests. Can we continue that conversation with both of you? Who else did you like working with?

Trevor: (quick as a flash) Whigfield. She shocked me. We’re not allowed to swear are we?

Simon: Oh come on, we’ve got to tell this story. But there’s a rude word in it that we can’t say on air.

Trevor: It’s not THAT rude.

Simon: Well, let’s substitute another word in there, like… ‘poo’.

Trevor: Alright, so it was a bright, cheery Saturday morning, and Whigfield came in. And we said ‘Are you going to do the Don’t-Do-Duvets sketch with us?’ ‘Yeah, I’ll do that’. ‘How are you anyway, Whigfield?’ ‘Yeah, not bad’. ‘What’s it like to be Number 1 in the charts?’ ‘Oh… it feels like poo’.

Simon: No, no… you’ve misremembered that, we were just witnesses to it. The person that actually asked the question was Emma Forbes.

Trevor: Was it? Oh, I’m pleased about that, because I’d been wondering if I’d really asked Whigfield such a terrible question… (laughs)

We talked to Trevor last time around about DJ Mick McMax and Moon Monkey…

Simon: And Britain’s No 1 Instant Fish Snack in a Pot? I’ve still got the outfit.

So we hear!

Simon: In fact, I’ve got it on now.


Trevor: Simon’s got more of the clothes than me. He’s kept them all.

(Simon tries to respond, but his phone signal starts to fade) We’re starting to lose you, Simon. Are you really in a cave?

Trevor: Simon is actually a troglodyte.

Simon: Mark’s just come back in, he’s really getting angry about this cave business. Can we just say, live on the radio right now, that Mark does NOT live in a cave?

I’m sure it’s a lovely cave. I bet he’s got diamante stalactites.

Trevor: That sounds a bit like Paul Simon’s problem.

(All of us descend into hysterical laughter. Simon’s friend Mark probably has a chuckle as well, despite himself)

So are you writing together at the moment? Didn’t you write an episode of My Parents Are Aliens recently?

Trevor: We did, and we’ve just written an episode of a thing called My Spy Family, which is produced by the same people. It’s like My Parents Are Aliens, but the family are spies. Not aliens. It’s good actually, it’s very funny.

Simon: I’m going to have a genuine moan now. I was rejected today by the BBC.


Simon: Rejected. Trevor’s far more sensible than me, and wouldn’t dream of doing this, but I put myself up for the BBC Children In Need Celebrity Scissorhands challenge. I was going to spend three weeks learning how to cut Terry Wogan’s hair. But today I was phoned up by BBC3 and rejected, and guess why…?


Simon: I’m too old.


Simon: They won’t have anyone over the age of 35.

Can’t Trevor do it instead, then?

Trevor (laughs) Oh yes. I’m only 34.

There’s hardly anyone over the age of 25 doing kids’ TV any more, is there?

Simon: I think it’s a policy. Years ago, the film Logan’s Run seemed like a joke…

You’re not suggesting that, when you turned thirty, Emma Forbes tried to kill you both?

Simon: I love the thought of Emma Forbes being the BBC’s hired assassin. She could stride around in a black latex outfit…

Trevor: Now you’re talking!

Stop it, or we’ll need to go and have a cold shower. Not together.

Trevor: Yeah, yeah, if you say so. Shack will be texting me next week saying ‘I’m having a shower now…’

What do you make of the current state of Saturday morning TV? It’s all cookery programmes these days, isn’t it…?

Simon: Apparently kids today just LOVE cooking. They can’t get enough of it. You ask any 8 to 10-year-old, and that’s the big deal for them now.

There should be something like Going Live again though, surely? You need a laugh on a Saturday morning.

Simon: I would hope so. I’m never awake, though. Why get up early on a Saturday?

Do you get up early on a Saturday, Trevor?

Trevor: I have to. I have a big, busy, noisy family. We don’t really watch Saturday morning TV any more, though. We used to… I think the last show we watched on Saturday mornings was Dick and Dom. The kids used to like it, and we actually went on it… they put us in a cage. But yeah, I’ve stopped watching because there just isn’t that kind of show any more.

How are your musical exploits going, Trevor?

Trevor: Very well! We played the Red Lion last week with our local punk covers band. And I’m doing the Bull and Gate in London on November 10th, with my other band, Sucker.

Do you go to any of his gigs, Simon?

Simon: Yes, I go to all of them.

When you say ‘all of them’, do you actually mean ‘none of them’?

Trevor: No, he does!

Simon: I do, I’m a loyal supporter! When these gigs go on, you usually get to see three or four bands, and often at least two of them will actually be alright .

(Laughs) Didn’t you come onstage at Glastonbury with Sucker?

Simon: I did! I shook my maracas and twisted my melons. All that kind of stuff. Technically, I was their manager.

Trevor: That’s how we got him the pass. He came on dancing in trainers stuffed into carrier bags, absolutely covered in mud.

Simon: I don’t have any Wellingtons or anything like that. It was a baptism of fire for me, in a flooded tent.

No musical ambitions of your own, Simon?

Simon: No… I like music, but I’m aware of my limitations. I really wish I could sing, but I can’t.

Trevor: Tell them about last weekend, though!

Simon: Oh yeah, I’ve just come back from Great Yarmouth, where we had the England International Pool Festival.


Simon: Yeah, pool. Like snooker, but smaller.

Are you pretty good, then?

Simon: (proudly) I’m excellent.

Trevor: He is very good. I don’t even bother playing him any more, it’s too depressing.

When was the last time you played each other?

Trevor: Oh, I can’t remember. I’ll have lost, though.

Simon: It’ll have been after a gig, when we’ve come back to the hotel at three in the morning. Too drunk to pot.

That’s a great potential album title! Thanks for joining us… we’ll leave you alone for a while now.

Trevor: No problem. I’ll wait for the next text in ten minutes time.

Thanks to Trevor and Simon! Their official website is HERE, and they do podcasts and everything.

A Little Chat With… Trevor Neal

Another little nugget transcribed from my radio archives, this time from August 2007. Trevor Neal is the Trevor-shaped half of Saturday morning TV gods Trevor and Simon, veteran pant-swingers of Going Live fame. Simon was meant to be joining us live on the phone as well, but proved elusive on the night. We managed to track him down in a cave a couple of weeks later, but in the meantime here’s our chat with the lovely Trevor…

It’s possible you get asked this quite a lot, but where’s Simon tonight?

I don’t know what he’s up to. Up to no good, I suppose. It just goes to prove, despite what people might think, that we’re not a married couple and we don’t spend every minute with each other! We’re very independent people and we even live in separate parts of the country…

Come off it, you’ve had a row and Simon’s gone off to sulk in the spare room.

You’ve seen through it! Hang on… Simon! Go back to your room. Go back now!

How did you two first start working together, did the double act exist before Going Live came along?

We met at university – that’s the true and rather boring answer. We were both doing a drama course in Manchester, and we found all the drama stuff a bit too heavy, so we thought we’d start up a comedy act. We went round the Student Union bars having a go at stand-up spots, and then we hung around Manchester trying to find venues to perform in. But this was before the comedy scene really exploded… now there’s at least one comedy club in every town, but back then there just weren’t any. So we went to London and did the circuit there, and Going Live came along after a couple of years.

Did you have to change your act at all for Saturday morning TV? Did it need cleaning up, or were you fairly wholesome to begin with?

The kind of comedy we did was pretty daft anyway, it was all very silly. I suppose there might have been the odd swear word, and a few slightly adult or political references… although having said that, I think we took a tape along to the executive producer of Going Live, and he said that – out of the half an hour of stuff that we showed him – there was only one joke that was suitable for the programme! (Laughs) And that was something about an egg and spoon race… we put an egg and a spoon on the floor and shouted ‘Come on! Come on!’ (pauses and sighs) I suppose it’s more of a visual gag, really…

So you never got into trouble for overstepping the mark on Going Live?

We did, we did… usually it was stuff that I’m not particularly proud of now. I’ve got my own children now, and I wouldn’t say the kind of things on TV now that I did then…

Like what? Spill the beans!

Well, we just got carried away with innuendo and ‘nudge nudge’ jokes, which I think is a bit silly now, looking back on it, but it did make people laugh. The one I really got told off for was… I was being Jimmy Hill, and the prop maker made me a very long chin. And it wasn’t a very good prop, and it didn’t look much like a chin. It was very… long and pink, and it was just…

(At this point your BBC Tees presenters start to titter uncontrollably)

…and I said that having a chin like this gets you into a very special club, it’s ‘Members Only’.


And it’s a terrible, cheap pun, and it was ten past nine in the morning. And, quite rightly, I got told off and told that if I ever did that kind of thing again we’d be pre-recorded and we wouldn’t be allowed to be live on television any more.

Who were the best celebrity guests to work with? We’re not sure if this actually happened, or if we’ve just dreamt it. Jason Donovan dressed as a dog…?

Yeah! Well, actually… not FULLY dressed as a dog, because he didn’t want to spoil his hair. So he put on most of the dog costume, but not the head. He just kind of flapped his arms. And he was accompanied singing ‘Hound Dog’ by Nigel Kennedy on the violin… it was kind of strange. But basically we’d be told who the guests were halfway through the week, and we’d try to write a sketch that included as many of them as we could.

Did anyone surprise you by being more into it than you’d expected?

Cyndi Lauper. She was excellent, she was very good. But anyone who joined in was good fun, really. Jonathan Ross was always a great laugh, he’d literally do anything and always seemed to enjoy it. Paul Simon… (laughs)… who we didn’t actually do a sketch with, but kind of wished we had… he just got hit on the head with a balloon by a small kid. And everyone sang Happy Birthday to him, because it was his birthday. But he looked really, really miserable, and we whispered to his manager that he didn’t look very happy. And he said ‘No, he’s not… he’s been up all night with diarrhoea…’

Oh dear! Talk about a Bridge Over Troubled Water…

(Laughs) I don’t think I’ve been impressed by celebrity status ever since.

So which were your favourite characters to perform? We’ve got ours, but you tell us yours first…

I used to like doing World Of The Strange, I don’t know if you remember them? Two guys that investigated the paranormal…

And saw the paranormal in EVERYTHING

Yes, in wrongly-priced plum tomatoes and things like that. I also liked doing the barbers – ‘we don’t do perms’ – in fact, we did a sketch once where Roger Daltrey came in, and he already had a perm! So we made him ask if we could do a perm in reverse. It was all very silly. And there were a couple of characters that I think we only did once, they looked like the twins from Village of the Damned, with blond hair and gabardine macs… and they sat in a disused submarine, and when the camera came close to them they just said ‘…want a nut?’

(lots of laughs)

…and there was no explaining that one really, but we liked it.

We loved MC Mick McMax and Moon Monkey, with Simon in a giant lycra outfit…

Yes! The Hotpot Pot Fish Hot Rave Club… or something. Sponsored by Pot Fish, Britain’s No 1 Instant Fish Snack in a Pot! It was great, that. We still get asked to appear in nightclubs and Student Unions, so Simon’s one-piece lycra outfit is being remade. He still occasionally dares to go into a nightclub wearing it. And I’ve updated DJ Mick McMax a bit…

He used to look a bit like Pat Sharp

Well, I couldn’t get hold of that wig, so I’ve reinvented him now. He’s all in white, with a white parka and tracksuit bottoms, and then… a kind of Jimmy Savile meets Paul Weller wig.

There’s a bit of follicular common ground between Weller and Savile these days, isn’t there?

I’m a lifelong Weller fan, so I won’t have a word said against him.

As he gets older, he also reminds us a little bit of Geoffrey Hayes from Rainbow.

(Laughs) Actually no, sorry, I can’t laugh at that. (Laughs) You can’t knock the Modfather, alright?

It must have been a crazy time for you, did you have kids following you down the street shouting ‘Swing your pants’?

Yes, and I still get it now! In fact, where was I… hang on… (sounds confused) sorry, I’ve had a day today, I’ve been preparing floorboards for staining and varnishing.

Living the dream, eh?

Yes, this is my life! I actually went to buy the woodstain this morning from a paint shop in Margate, and the people in there said ‘We don’t do duvets…’ Which was good, because I didn’t want any duvets, I wanted a big can of varnish. But yes, I still get ‘swing your pants’ shouted occasionally at me.

Do you still keep in touch with Phillip Schofield and Sarah Greene?

Well, we exchange Christmas cards and things, but the last time we all met up was for the Swap Shop Revisited programme at Christmas. And that was great fun, and it was nice to see them. But we don’t all live together in a big Saturday morning house or anything.

You keep saying this, Trevor…

Get back in the cupboard, Simon!

Are you in a band at the moment as well? Didn’t you play Glastonbury a couple of years ago?

That’s true! I’m in a punk band called Sucker. It’s all original stuff that we write using the three chords that we can play, in the true spirit of 1977. And it was a bit of luck really, but we did get to play the John Peel stage at the last Glastonbury. Admittedly it was half past ten on a Sunday morning, so there weren’t that many people about, but it was great. Fantastic to do.

Are you the frontman?

No, no… a bit of lead and rhythm guitar. I do one solo! But I’ve just started a second band, actually… I live in Broadstairs in Kent, and some mates down here have formed a punk covers band. And we’ve got our debut gig on Sunday at the Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate!

And who do you like on the current comedy circuit?

I really like The Mighty Boosh, they’re very funny. And I think Russell Brand’s very good as well. But I don’t get out to comedy gigs much any more.

That’s because you’re pure punk rock.

That’s it! I’m too busy going through my mid-life crisis!

Should we play a bit of Donovan to finish off?

Which one have you got, is it Sunshine Superman?

Jennifer Juniper!

Swing your pants…

Thanks to Trevor! The official Trevor and Simon website is HERE, and they do podcasts and everything. 

A Little Chat With… John Craven

In early 2007, me and my BBC Tees co-presenter Shack launched a radio feature called ‘Little Legends’… basically tracking down some of our childhood heroes and persuading them to chat live with us on the wireless. I thought it might be fun to transcribe some of these genial ramblings for the Wiffle blog, and so – kicking us off – a chinwag with Newsround and Country File broadcasting legend MR JOHN CRAVEN. Shortly before we spoke to him, John had been reunited on TV with his former Swap Shop colleagues Noel Edmonds, Keith Chegwin and Maggie Philbin for a special BBC2 theme night…

Hello John! It was really nice to see you on TV over Christmas, reunited with the rest of the Swap Shop team. Was it fun to do?

It certainly was. It’s quite amazing really that we’re all still alive, we’re all still in the business and we all still talk to each other! We keep in touch, and I have dinner now and again with Maggie or with Noel, and it was fantastic to get together again on TV. We all walked in the studio the morning it was being recorded, and they’d rebuilt the set just as it was thirty years ago, there was Posh Paws sitting on the desk, and when they played the theme tune we all just about burst into tears… (laughs).

I do remember the shock I got as an eight-year-old when, on the very last episode, you were revealed to be the master puppeteer behind the Lamb…

That’s right! (laughs) That all came about because something went wrong – as it often did – during the show, they couldn’t run something that they’d intended to, and we were told that they were coming back to the studio for ten minutes and we’d have to fill. And round the desk we used to have all these soft toys… so I grabbed one, popped under the desk, and stuck its head in the air so Noel could talk to this thing. And it was a lamb… so Lamb became a bit of a Little Legend! And he had to be adapted so I could put my hand up him properly…

You weren’t tempted to pass the duty onto somebody else after the first occasion?

No, I liked doing it! I should have been a bit more streetwise, I think, and patented Lamb. I could have made a fortune out of him…

Do we recall you as a Bee Gee at one point as well, or have we imagined that?

No, I walked down the staircase with a funny wig and sang Massachussetts. The things we did… and I was supposed to be the sensible news man on the show! Of course when Swap Shop first started, there’d never really been anything like that on TV before, a three-hour live entertainment programme. The longest running programmes previously had been the sports programmes, but there’d been nothing like this in the studio. So they were a bit concerned that three hours of froth would be a bit too much for the children, and they wanted a bit of grit as well… and I was dropped in as the grit. And although we kept that grit – we had people like Margaret Thatcher on after all – we had a lot of fun as well.

You’re from Leeds aren’t you…?

I am, and I very nearly worked for the BBC on Teesside at one point…


Yeah, because I started off my BBC career in Newcastle for regional radio… and I think BBC Radio Teesside, which was the forerunner of your station, started in about 1970. And I was invited to apply for a job there, but at the same time I was offered a definite job with the BBC in Bristol. So not wanting to take a chance I went to Bristol. But who knows what might have happened if I’d gone to Teesside instead…

There should be a plaque here to commemorate you…

Yes, “John Craven Was Almost Here”!

You must work with the current generation of young journalists at the BBC these days, do you meet people who have been inspired to enter the profession by watching Newsround throughout their childhood?

It’s actually true, that. And it’s great to know. A lot of people tell me they got their interest in current affairs from watching Newsround, and that watching me made them want to be a journalist or broadcaster. Which is nice, because at the time you don’t think that you’re having such an influence, it’s just a hectic job – it was a live show, we were a very small team, we had to put it together quite late with no time for rehearsal. And you’re so busy concentrating on getting it right and doing it properly that you don’t really think about the impact that it’s having on the other side of the screen. And so it’s great now that a whole bunch of people in their… I guess their thirties…?

That’s us, yes!

You’re all my children! (laughs)

Was it a tricky balance to strike? You want to get important news issues over to kids, but without patronising them…

That’s right. I didn’t want to appear to be like a teacher, which is why I rarely sat behind the desk… I always sat in front of the desk, or perched on top of it – which was a bit awkward at times when the scripts fell off my knee! But I wanted to be relaxed – maybe not quite as relaxed as they are these days, but then television has changed enormously since Newsround began. And so has Newsround itself, obviously. I was always a bit ‘Sit down, be quiet and listen to this,’ I think… (laughs)

Have you seen Newsround recently?

Yeah, I keep an eye on it from time to time. And I went back to do the thirtieth anniversary programme a few years ago. But mostly these days I’m in the fields in my wellies, and I don’t get to see much children’s television.

How long is it now since Country File began?

It’s coming up to twenty years. It started without me, and I joined after about eighteen months – I left Newsround on the Friday, and started with Country File on the Monday.

What made you fancy the move?

I think I was getting too old for children’s television. The old grey hairs were starting to come along, and it’s a very bouncing up and down business – you’ve got to be young and fit, and there doesn’t seem to be a role these days in children’s television for the‘uncle’ figure.

Which I think is a little bit of a shame… I remember when I was a kid, even the Blue Peter presenters – John Noakes and Peter Purves, must have been well into their thirties at that point…

Yes, and then you had people like Johnny Morris and Tony Hart, who were kind of grandfather figures, really – and I think that’s important for children.

Are you an outdoor kind of chap, then?

Oh yes, absolutely. Country File is a dream job for me.

Did you get marooned in snow anywhere last week?

No, we were lucky actually – we were in Ironbridge in Shropshire, and snow was forecast, but it seemed to go over the top of us and missed us completely. But I have been snowed in many times over the years.

I guess it’s an important programme to be presenting on TV these days, with environmental issues so prominent in the news…?

That’s right, and rural affairs as well, of course – with all the food scares we’ve had, and concern about the accountability of where our food is coming from… so yeah, it’s amazing that we can do all that and get nearly three million viewers on a Sunday morning.

It’s a great programme to start the day with. I watch it while I’m doing my ironing.

Do you really? (laughs). Well, we’re getting a magazine soon as well, you know… there’s a Country File magazine being published by the BBC from the Autumn, so look on your supermarket shelves for that…

Will you be contributing to it?

I hope so! I’ll have words to say if I’m not!

So Country File’s been on air for nearly twenty years, and Newsround for eighteen before that, do you have any other ambitions left to fulfil in the broadcasting world?

Well I don’t know, some people would say I’d not been very ambitious – if you include Swap Shop, that’s only three jobs in thirty five years! Although I was trying to think the other day actually, I’m not sure many other people have been on BBC1 almost every week for that length of time… and I’ve just signed another contract to do Country File for another year. We live from year to year in this business, don’t we?

Month to month for us John, if we’re lucky

(laughs) At least it isn’t day to day…

Country File is now on Sunday evenings on BBC1, and BBC Countryfile Magazine can be found at www.bbccountryfilemagazine.com. Thanks to John for the chat!