My expat life in Istria
First official blog entry for ‘My Life’ covering my expat life in Istria. Website gets a name and moves closer to reality. Publishing deadline set and first real interview conducted. House-hunting guests arrive in the Little House and our own house-hunting project takes a new direction. Week ends with a great paella!
Monday, 18 July
Got back from UK trip for P’s Dad’s 90th birthday. UK weather something of a shock. Forgotten it could get so cold in the summer – when we left it was already 27°C just before 6:00 am and we arrived to 18°C in the UK! It was far too hot here, but England’s chill was far too cold. Never satisfied, am I!
Took netbook with me for trip and it was great. Created a production calendar and it looks like I’ve enough ideas already for at least six months – relief! Also came up with spot-on name for website: ‘Live Istria’. Must get P to check if the domain is still available.
On drive back from Venice airport P put the cat among the pigeons. Chatting about our ongoing house-hunting project (we’ve been looking for another rental property since the start of the year), he suddenly said, ‘How about buying the Babudri property instead?’ That was a real shock. We first saw it about a month ago and rejected it as unsuitable for renting – it’s a horrendous concrete block (see what I mean?) But it has amazing fantastic sea views, so would be the perfect location to build my dream house. I thought we didn’t have the money, but now with one small question, the possibility is out there. Scary !
Tuesday, 19 July
New guests in today, so had to jump to it straight away this morning, which was hard, being tired from UK trip. Spent morning working behind the Little House and took out three wheel-barrow loads of dead daisies. Hot, knackering work. Then I had to give the guests’ pergola a much-needed short, back and sides. Much better, but double knackered afterwards.
Picked cherry tomatoes and courgettes after lunch – there was a huge crop as we’d been away.
Guests arrived promptly at 4 pm, exactly as they said they would – excellent! They’re Tony and Ruth from Belgium. They’ve been coming to Istria for over 20 years, so probably know it better than me! Wonder if they’ll give me an interview for the website? (Becoming a really sad case – only seem to think of things in terms of website articles! ) They’re here house-hunting, so mentioned Tetida and Habito to them.
Had short website progress meeting with P after lunch. Decided to push some already written pieces out for later and add some others for launch, but we agreed the calendar. And, hooray – P checked and Live Istria is available, so we promptly bought it! A relief to have domain name sorted. Set 29th August as my publishing goal.
Wednesday, 20 July
Huge thunderstorm over night, but luckily the day dawned dry so I could get into garden. First real downpour we’ve had for over three months. Endless sunshine is lovely, but our irrigation system was struggling to keep the garden alive and the poor forests were beginning to suffer. A good drink’s what everything needed.
Wanted to attack the acres of dead white daisies in front garden this morning, but somehow ended up trimming wisteria round big pool terrace instead. But that’s often how it goes in the garden.
Then back at my desk – lovely and cool, a relief after climbing repeatedly up and down a step ladder in the heat. I find I keep fiddling with the calendar instead of writing articles and I realise just how hard it will be meet the looming August 29th deadline.
Gave P a prod about the Babudri property. The idea is to parcel the land into two plots, build our ‘dream house’ on the upper plot and an income-generating rental house on bottom. We don’t have the money to buy and build, so to fund it, we’ll need to sell our place for a reasonable price. That might take some time, and the challenge will be to bridge the financial gap. He’s going to run some spreadsheets to see if it’s feasible, but he thinks we might just be able to do it – if we tighten our belts.
Thursday, 21 July
Saw Tony and Ruth, seems their house hunt isn’t going well. Didn’t like anything they saw yesterday. Turns out they’re looking for a house to live in, not a holiday home. P wondered if they might be interested in the Losari house, even though it’s above their budget.
Called Azra about the Zbandaj house house to arrange a meeting with Miro, to check the house for us. Don’t want to find any nasty surprises, after we’ve bought it. He can only make Saturday at 8:30 in the morning. Oh well, just hope I’m awake.
RnS came for BBQ this afternoon with their daughter, Nina, and her husband, Max. P did most of the preparation work, so I stayed at my desk until lunch. All a big success: swam, ate, drank and played a silly game. Nina and Max, who own a nursery (for plants not children!), said that most of my plants are the same as grown in the UK – they just get a lot bigger here. They loved the garden, and with all the hard work, it’s lovely getting compliments.
Friday, 22 July
Finally attacked big daisies in front garden and tidied up wisteria. With all deadheads gone, everything looks so much better. Determinedly ignored the weeds.
Did first real interview for Live Istria this morning – rather scary, everything was suddenly so real. Went to Valamar (hotel chain) and saw Nives, about the Valamar Jazz Festival. It was like old times, going into an office building: they even had office cubicles (ahh, the nostalgia…!)
Discussed the Losari house with Ruth, she loved the look of it, so e-mailed them details. If they’re interested I’ll set up a meeting with Damir. Perhaps if I sell them the house, maybe he’ll pay me a commission?!
Big surprise – P has run the figures on the Babudri property and it looks possible … just! While it’s very unlikely we can sell our place anytime soon for the kind of sum we need, the market’s definitely beginning to pick up. With EU entry in 2013, it might be possible to get a good price in two to three years. If we cut back all non-essentials, we should be able to ride the gap. Decided to visit Badudri again to renew the faith.
Saturday, 23 July
Up early, and an hour’s weeding before I needed to leave for Zbandaj. Good news, Miro says the roof’s in excellent condition and the flat roof can easily be turned into a terrace. Wouldn’t give me any rough prices – wanted me to send a list. Sensible idea, as when I wrote it down, there were nearly 40 things to be done. My only concern now is the ‘modern’ extension – will we be able to get a tourist classification without a new building permit? Martina and Azra think I’m worrying about nothing – I hope they’re right. Off with Martina to see Tourist Classification lady on Monday morning .
Went to Babudri with P. Didn’t start well. Couldn’t park at house, got car stuck in hole and needed tractor to get us out. (Long story, for another day). Revisiting the property worth nearly killing the car: view even better than remembered and building site about perfect.
Despite deadline, knocked off early, as we were invited to dinner at FnV’s, with SnS. Did me the world of good to get out. Had great evening – drank far too much and Francois cooks the world’s best paella. Why don’t mine turn out as well? Vera suggested we look at WordPress for building the website. Haven’t heard of it, but will have a look.
Sunday, 24 July
Shattered! Promised P I’d take it easy today and not do any work in garden or on website. Was supposed to spend day with him, cook dinner together and just flop. As usual I screwed up – probably all the wine I drank last night didn’t help. Ended up in bed most of the day. Hope I’m a going concern again tomorrow.
The tale continues when I sell a house.
Read my blog in the right order – from the start in July