Swellboy on… not wearing pyjamas at school gates

A dinner jacket, on the other hand…

Image: Noël Coward, Getty Images

It was with interest that I learned of the no-pyjamas-at-school-gates controversy. Ever since a desperate headmistress wrote to parents pleading with them not to drop their kids off in sleepwear, the nation has talked of little else and even those of us whose children are past school-run age have become engaged in the debate.

If nothing else, it has made me aware of someone called Lizzie Cundy. At first I thought Ms Cundy was a scion of the tailoring dynasty that owns Henry Poole, but it seems to be a different spelling. She was recently seen dropping her children off in some skimpy pyjamas that looked like a bathing costume decorated with simian faces, and a towelling/fleece dressing gown with ears on its hood. Ms Cundy had clearly taken time over her outfit, as the bubble-gum pink of her training shoes almost matched the trim of her pyjamas and she had added a touch of glamour with that traditional bedtime accessory, a pair of aviator glasses.

It rather reminds me of how, as an undergraduate, I used to pay an early-morning visit to the local mini market wearing pyjamas, Tootal paisley dressing gown and crimson kid Grecian slippers from Maxwell’s (of Dover Street), in order to purchase my breakfast tin of lager beer. Getting dressed is a tiring business and, if you waste as much time as I do thinking about clothes, a time-consuming one.


In the time I take to consider the weight, texture, colour and weave of my tie choice for the morning ahead, a regular schoolchild would have had ample time to get up, bathe, dress, complete any unfinished homework, eat a bowl of Coco Pops (or whatever it is that regular schoolchildren eat), and be ready standing by the front door with the car keys.

Accordingly, when my children were still of an age that required their being delivered to their place of education, Mrs Swellboy hit upon the cunning plan of having me do the school run in the clothes I had put on the evening before. This was not a matter of reaching out from under the bedclothes for whatever crumpled leisurewear I had discarded at the foot of the bed the preceding evening, but rather a case of me giving the undertaking that if I happened to be out all night at a backgammon tournament I would take the children to school wearing my dinner jacket before returning home for a nap.

It was a good arrangement as far as it went. To be up all night in a backgammon tournament means playing well enough to have got to the final, and to be in a suitably positive mood to face the school run I need to have won. During the entire educational career of my children I wore black tie to the school gates just once.