"A Lady of a Certain Age" as written by and Neil Hannon....
Back in the day you had been part of the smart set
You'd holidayed with kings, dined out with starlets
From London to New York, Cap Ferrat to Capri
In perfume by Chanel and clothes by Givenchy
You sipped camparis with David and Peter
At Noel's parties by Lake Geneva
Scaling the dizzy heights of high society
Armed only with a cheque-book and a family tree

You chased the sun around the Cote d'Azur
Until the light of youth became obscured
And left you on your own and in the shade
An English lady of a certain age
And if a nice young man would buy you a drink
You'd say with a conspiratorial wink
"You wouldn't think that I was seventy"
And he'd say,"no, you couldn't be!"

You had to marry someone very very rich
So that you might be kept in the style to which
You had all of your life been accustomed to
But that the socialists had taxed away from you
You gave him children, a girl and a boy
To keep your sanity a nanny was employed
And when the time came they were sent away
Well that was simply what you did in those days


Your son's in stocks and bonds and lives back in Surrey
Flies down once in a while and leaves in a hurry
Your daughter never finished her finishing school
Married a strange young man of whom you don't approve
Your husband's hollow heart gave out one Christmas Day
He left the villa to his mistress in Marseilles
And so you come here to escape your little flat
Hoping someone will fill your glass and let you chat about how


Lyrics submitted by Doublebasslegend

"A Lady of a Certain Age" as written by Neil Hannon

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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A Lady of a Certain Age song meanings
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  • +2
    My InterpretationI think this song is about a woman who is very cold and unwelcoming. She lives her life trying to do what is good for her, but doesn't care who she hurts in the process. The only seemingly good things she does seem to be purely administrative rather than because she has any goodness in her soul. She rides on the coattails of others to achieve comfort, rather than honestly earning it herself, and dwells on her past (artificial) status rather than acknowledge her descent into the 'little flat' she belongs in.

    In her old age, you would expect her to reflect on her life and realise the damage she's done to other people, but the tragedy is that she goes into denial or is perhaps oblivious because she lacks the capacity to do good. The closest thing we get to justice is the assurance that other people are better; her son visits her as a token gesture and her daughter rebelled against her wishes.

    So she sits alone trying to convince people she is younger than she is. If you listen to the tone and inflections in Neil's voice for each 'no, you couldn't be', the first time it sounds like 'you look about 70, but I'm doing the appropriate etiquette response', the second time is 'I might believe you, but I'm surprised/confused as I secretly though you were older' and is almost patronising, and the third time is almost sympathetic, like the 'nice young man' has just heard she has a horrible disease.

    Regarding her husband, in the past it was common for men to have a mistress, but putting that aside, it seems that the wedding was based on social status on both sides anyway, and the husband didn't really care about her either, so in a sense they deserved each other. I imagine the husband died a very lonely man.

    I've met this kind of woman before, several times. If I may stereotype for a moment, they are all women, had thin blonde hair, been alcoholics and very frail and thin looking, and sound like heavy smokers (think Dierdry from Corrie lol). I'm sure there are all sorts of people who fit this mould though, but that's how I imagine this woman to be due to my personal experience. The kind of things they've said are 'my workplace is my soap opera' and 'I have an honours degree' as an argument. Others are 'I am what I am' and 'I'm the Merry Widow' (upon hearing her estranged husband had died, meaning that she inherited everything because he had no will and they never divorced). So this song resonates with me.

    I think that rather than see this as a tragic story, it is uplifting for me to know that I am not the only one who has met this woman in many forms, and that there is someone else who recognises this villainous yet sorry character. Neil seems to deny the listener any hope of this woman's recovery from her wickedness, so I think that the song is a challenge for us to find the hope within ourselves that there are good people in the world, and be warned not to slip into becoming this 'lady of a certain age' ourselves.
    xaulon April 23, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNo comments? I love this song, the lyrics speak for themselves but it paints a really heart breaking picture of an old woman who had it all and lost it.
    Lazy_wolf_eyeson October 09, 2007   Link
  • 0
    MemoryStill remember when I first heard this live before VFTCM came out. It got to the "He left the villa to his mistress in Marseilles" line, and me and my mate just turned and stared at each other, jaws dropped. Simply an amazing piece of songwriting.
    Kinitawowion October 17, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe Peter, David and Noel mentioned in the song are Peter Ustinov, David Niven and Noel Coward who were famous for living in Switzerland to avoid taxes. Later joined by Richard Burton.
    Fi19on April 14, 2017   Link

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