My Secret Life: India Hicks, interior designer, 42

The house/flat I grew up in ... was a 1704 Georgian mansion with a stone pediment in Oxfordshire. My parents were ... surprisingly different for sharing the same star sign. My father led a theatrical life making bold statements and my mother was beautifully quiet and serious. But they shared a keen sense of humour.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... Head Girl I suppose, and then I got kicked out of school for a minor incident involving some boys in my room.

If I could change one thing about myself ... it would be eating chocolate for breakfast.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... canasta and sewing on name tags.

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... being patient, suffering fools and public transport.

At night I dream of ... dachshunds. Lots of them, long-haired and black and tan.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... The cowlick in my hair. Very suitable for a 1960s bouffant hairdo, but it doesn't suit me.

My favourite items of clothing ... are my Nike running shoes which I need because I am training for the London Marathon.

I wish I'd never worn ... that awful bridesmaid's dress [India was a bridesmaid at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981]. Even with the excuse of the 1980s, it was ghastly.

It's not fashionable but I like ... dachshunds.

I drive/ride ... my speedboat named 'Spider Lily' after my Crabtree & Evelyn fragrance.

My house is ... brimming over with chaos. It was built in the 1960s, but we endeavoured to make it look like it was built in the 1860s. We haven't succeeded.

My favourite work of art ... the Rex Whistler panels in my mother's dining room. They were painted in 1937 for my grandmother Lady Mountbatten and she had the presence of mind to have them done on panels instead of directly on to the wall. During the war they were removed from Brook House in London shortly before it was bombed.

My favourite building ... Those memorable tree houses on St Lucia's Jalousie Plantation.

A book that changed me ... It didn't change me but it was an emotional roller-coaster: 'From A Clear Blue Sky' by my cousin Tim Knatchbull, about the assassination of my grandfather Lord Mountbatten in 1979.

Movie heaven ... I'm very restricted living on an island. As I go to England at least once a month, I watch all my movies on long-haul flights. My favourite is 'Doctor Zhivago'.

The last album I bought ... My 12-year-old keeps me up to date. Our shared favourites are Jason Mraz and the Black Eyed Peas.

My secret crush ... All I can come up with is Charbonnel & Walker violet creams.

The person who really makes me laugh ... is Tina Fey. I'm a huge fan.

My greatest regret ... is not passing my maths O-Level and therefore not being able to learn to fly a plane.

The last time I cried ... Every time I see my children leaving or arriving – which happens rather a lot as my two eldest children are at boarding school in England.

My five-year plan ... is to collect 25 ants of the same breed and successfully to get them into my six-year-old's ant farm without breaking their legs. It is driving us nuts.

My life in six words ... I've got two: happy and adventurous.

A life in brief

The granddaughter of the Earl and Countess Mountbatten of Burma, India Hicks was born in 1967. She is the daughter of the noted interior decorator David Hicks and Lady Pamela Hicks. After being educated at Gordonstoun, she became a model, an interior designer and later a best-selling author. With her partner David Flint Wood, she has four children and lives on a small island in the Bahamas. India is training for her third London Marathon. Proceeds to Whizz-Kidz, the charity for disabled children. Visit