Talking blooms, rooms, breakfast and flower beds
YOU might know her as the smiling face of Herne Bay in Bloom. But Colleen Ashwin-Kean, the group's secretary, has more strings to her bow than a flower has petals.
The community stalwart left school at 15 with no qualifications and was married at 17 but carved out a successful career with services company Serco.
Now retired (well, sort of...) and running a guesthouse in Central Parade with her husband Eric, the grandmother of four has just collected her pension and free bus pass. But she has no intention of putting her feet up.
She told Ed Targett about her fascination with genealogy, her secret crush on Sir Paul McCartney and why her team of volunteers are about more than just blooming flowers.
To celebrate our anniversary, for the month of May only.
We are offering 3 for the price of 2, on any of our beauty treatments, to all our existing and new clients.
Treatments to be booked in the month of May.
Paid for on booking date or at the first treatment, in full.
Contact: 01227 208293
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
What is Herne Bay in Bloom? We are a group of volunteers with a committee of seven and a mailing list of 120 who are dedicated to brightening up the town. We give trees to schools, provide mini-allotments in the Memorial Park and have a lot of projects on the go. It's not all about flowers.
Allotments in the park? We call the mini-allotments behind the tennis courts our "kitchen garden". We have ten groups growing their own vegetables. The plants are in raised beds so they are easy to tend. If anyone wants to get involved they are welcome to get in touch.
How long have you been in the Bay? I moved to Kent from Darlington, in County Durham, in 1977 when my first husband took a job at the nuclear power station at Dungeness. I moved to Herne Bay in the early 1980s. The town was in a bit of a scruffy state at the time.
In what way? I just remember inviting friends for a birthday party and, as we walked along the seafront, I overheard one of them say: "It's awful here". They were right. The bandstand was derelict and the town looked a little grim. But it has come along so much since. I can never understand why people moan about it being overlooked by the city council.
Have you always worked? I left school at 15 and took an office job. But I married at 17 and had two children by the time I was 21. I didn't really get a career until they had grown up and I started working for English Landscapes. After they lost a big contract in Canterbury, I joined Serco and ended up as grounds manager, making sure everything from sports pitches to shrub beds were being looked after properly.
When did you start running your bed and breakfast? We bought the Evening Tide guesthouse eight years ago. I was working part-time and my husband Eric was at Hopper's Bakery, which was in a lot of financial trouble. So we decided to invest in the B&B and have enjoyed every minute since. We have won some great accolades.
Is it tough running a seasonal business? We have guests all year round. There are a lot of business people and contractors staying over the winter. There are also a lot of foreign students who come for home-stays in the Bay to learn English. Their teachers stay with us.
Any grandchildren? I have four, ranging from 18 months to 14 years. My daughter's husband is of Jamaican origin and my son's wife is from Thailand so we have a wonderfully international family.
What do you do to relax? I am fascinated by family history and am nearing the end of an 18-month course with the Institute of Heraldic Studies. I have also recently taken up tap dancing – just before my 60th birthday. I had always wanted to do it but never had the time or the money. Now every Thursday, no matter how tired I am, I head off for some tap. I always come back feeling really refreshed.
What was your first car? A pale yellow Triumph Herald with a lovely wooden dash and a sliding top so I could let the sunshine in. I was 28. I didn't learn to drive until shortly before I moved to Kent.
What was the first record you bought? I remember this very clearly. When I was nine I was very lucky and my parents bought me a record player. I had enough pocket money saved up to buy ten seven-inch singles, all of which I still have. The one I loved most was Tell Laura I Love Her by Ricky Valentine.
What were you parents like? My father worked for William Press Group as a project manager. He worked on the Sullom Voe oil port in the Shetland Isles. My mother was a full-time mum to three children. I am the eldest. She was also a very clever and handy dressmaker. When we had grown up she worked as an occupational therapist.
Have you ever seen a ghost? I don't think so, although I have often had a feeling that my father was there when I was doing the washing-up. I've been to a few clairvoyants and been told things they couldn't possibly have known.
Which three people living or dead would you invite to your dream dinner party? Ex-Beatles star Paul McCartney. I remember sitting on my bunk bed crying when I heard he had got married for the first time. And my mother and father, to hear some tales and to catch up.
Herne Bay In Bloom is appealing for ways to beat the hosepipe ban to keep the town looking colourful and is offering £50 for the best idea. E-mail entries to email@example.com or post them to Secretary, Herne Bay In Bloom, 97, Central Parade, Herne Bay CT6 5JJ. Closing date in Monday, June 25.