Rebecca Tyrrel: 'Jules Holland has morphed into an emblem of respectability'


Who knew that the first thing Jools Holland, who will present his 19th New Year's Eve Hootenanny on BBC2 tonight, does when he wakes up each morning is play the piano? Even before he has a tinkle he is tinkling the ivories – a revelation that so horrified Elton John that his reflex response on hearing it from Chris Evans on live radio was to speak for the nation by spluttering "Oh, fucking hell".

Holland's own swearing days are in the distant past. Long ago, presenting The Tube, he said the words "groovy fuckers", and was suspended for six weeks.

Back then, as Paula Yates' sidekick, the erstwhile keyboard player with Squeeze was nothing if not cool for cats. But time and middle age caught up with him, as they do us all, and at 53 he has morphed, in his jazzy, bluesy way, into an emblem of establishment respectability. When he married his partner Christobel, formerly wed to the Earl of Durham, in 2005, invitees included the Prince of Wales, who had asked him to his wedding to Camilla earlier that year. If, God forbid, something happened to the Duchess of Cornwall, someone who does not live her life like a candle in the wind, whatever that means, it would probably be Jools rather than Sir Elton, who would do the honours at the Westminster Abbey piano.

Speaking of honours, it is a mark of his journey from the scruffy punk rocker of the mid-1970s that five years ago he was appointed deputy lieutenant of Kent, which somehow seems worse than Johnny Rotten advertising butter.

Later, with Holland's vertical ascent up the social order, he could well be made an equerry or even a Silver Stick in Waiting. There must also be a fair chance that, on his accession, King Charles III will appoint him Master of the King's Music.

For now he continues to delight or irritate us with Hootenanny, and other households than mine will see in the New Year with a vicious scrap for control of the remote.

My husband has a liking for the show that would be inexplicable if it wasn't obviously designed to irritate me. If I lose tonight, it will mean that I shall simply go to bed and 2012 will start not with a Jools Holland piano solo but with seething resentment. Happy New Year.