The Five-O

Something downtown. Definitely downtown. A smallish hotel that was a bit off the beaten path, but needed staggering city views and lovely white sheets. The Rivington Hotel in New York welcomed 30 of us – an emboldened, diverse group of women. Pretty committed to championing one another, we were ready to rock & roll not only my 50th birthday, but also the leadership role they had taken in their IH businesses.

After our first lunch, in the corner of the room, bejeweled and bedazzled, sat a fortune teller. We took turns as she read our cards. Could she have looked into the future a few years ago and seen all this, I wondered?

That evening hidden in a cluster of Ambassadors, we smuggled in my 9 year old to join us for dinner and a movie. We were there for a private screening of Viceroy’s House, luxuriating in over-sized-velvet-tasseled-armchairs, with footstools and tiny 1940’s styled mini tables, with mini lamps, to rest our mini bags of popcorn and sweeties on.

Before the film began, I stood and explained that the reason I was called India was because my grandfather had been the last Viceroy of India, and I was the last grandchild. This film was about that time, part historical-record and part love story. My mother, who is seen throughout the film, then aged 17, had consulted on the film, aged 87. Her first bit of consulting, after taking a red marker to the script, was to suggest to Hugh Bonneville, playing the last Viceroy, that he shed a few pounds. “My father was very fit,” she told him in no uncertain terms, removing the crumpet from his tea plate.

Saturday morning was the chaos we imagined. Thirty women in a design studio battling over colors and leathers and trims and hardware. We had invited everyone to join in creating a special edition handbag.

In truth, I had expected much more hair pulling, fighting and screaming. We all acted in a rather civilized way. At one moment during the session when things were at their crazy peek, acid green leather was being matched with leopard skin and diamanté studs…I nudged one of the girls “Do you think you can sell that?” “Negative” was her response. Don’t panic, acid green was edited out. We’ll launch a pretty special bag.

After an afternoon of wandering the bustling streets, we came together for dinner on the rooftop of the hotel, as the whole of New York glistened below us. Here, really acting our age, we cut open balloons and main-lined helium. Several Ambassadors formally introduced themselves: a horse breeder from Lexington, a lawyer from Chicago, a pregnant young mum from California, and a former political lobbyist. I suspect she had never done this high on helium before.

Christopher Mason, a dear friend, fellow Brit and acclaimed roaster and toaster, composed a song for the evening, roasting me more than toasting me. Several speeches followed, and even some tears, mainly my own, because as I looked around that room I realized this was pretty flipping good – to spend the weekend with thirty truly extraordinary women and one small Domino.